Lahore – A city of culture and tradition
Lahore is a city brimming with culture and tradition. Its history contains everything from the promotion of languages to heroic conquests and religious fervor. To this day there are many historical places of worship that remain here.
The shrine of Hassu Teli is one such place. Its existence is not known by many people today as it lies in the center of a group of run-down houses. Walking from the street through the corridor, one can glimpse the shrine from behind the huge old trees that add to the character of the place. The vivid gold and red of a flag can also be seen here. The flag signifies the shrine of a Shaheed. Walking around to the entrance of the compound I beheld the shrine itself: a small square structure painted a pale green with a dark green dome on top of it. The entrance to the shrine is also bordered with dark green, overall creating an atmosphere of serenity. We happened to visit on a rainy day and everything sparkled as the light hit the water coating its surface.
Hassu Teli is quite famously known as the saint of oilmen since his last name ‘Teli’ comes from the word ‘tel’ or oil. Taking off our shoes, our socks drenched in the cold rainwater, we went into the garland covered interior of the shrine. Offerings, in the form of turbans and garlands left by newly married couples in hopes of a happy life, hung from the walls and were decorating the grave itself. Shafts of light enter the space through triangular openings in the walls and the wooden frames of the blue painted windows. The inside of the dome is painted in brightly colored designs and writing.
Our next stop happened to be the shrine of Abdul Jalil Chaurhar Bandagi. The 15th century saint is buried in a beautiful shrine near the busy Mcleod Road. The street itself is named after him as the Muhallah Chauhar Bandagi. Entering through the green gates of the compounds we saw the small quadrangular building of the shrine with a dome on top, overlaid with emerald green tiles that reflected the light of the sun as it broke through the clouds.
Right next to the shrine, within its compound, is a giant tree under the shade of which lie the tombs of the companions and relatives of Hazrat Chauhar Bandagi. There also lay a decoration of sorts made with several tiers covered with dias. Going inside the shrine, we were awestruck by the exquisite artwork. The circular inside of the dome is inlaid with delicate patterns made from Multani mirror-work. The caretaker of the shrine switched on the lights for us to see how they reflected off the mirrors giving an ethereal appearance to the place.
Another place I visited on that day was the Mubarak Haveli. The Haveli is located within the Mochi gate of the Androon Shehr. It was built over the course of three years during the time of the Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah by Mir Bahadur Ali, Mir Nadir Ali and Mir Bahar Ali, the sons of a well-known ‘tabeeb’ or healer. Covered in webs of stories and myths, the Haveli is a mystifying place. It is also one of the places where the legend of the Koh-i-Noor diamond, translated as ‘mountain of light’, rears its head. Most importantly, this Imambargah is one of the most iconic buildings of Shia Islam situated in Lahore today.
After navigating the treacherously winding gullis of Old Lahore, we finally reached the massive wooden gates of the haveli, painted a dark green and studded with golden decorations. We witnessed people passing in the streets bowing in respect before them. Upon entering we were led to a room to meet the ‘lady’ of the haveli who welcomed us with open arms and invited us to sit upon the colourful darris decorating the floor. She told us that they had gatherings, religious and celebratory, on Thursdays in the Haveli and it was only on these days that she herself came to the Haveli.
As luck would have it, we had visited on a Thursday. We listened attentively as the ‘lady’ regaled us with stories of the Haveli telling us of the legends surrounding it and the history of the place. After the Haveli had been built and the three brothers had moved in, Bahadar Ali’s wife gave birth to a son which was seen as a forecast of good things to come and thus the Haveli got its name of ‘Mubarak’ or Blessed. The Haveli was later branched off into different families giving rise to the Nisar Haveli.
During the Sikh period the streets of Old Lahore were subjected to looting and plunder. During this time the Sikh ruler, Maharajah Ranjit Singh, took over the Haveli for himself and his guests. It so happened that the while fleeing from Kabul the Afghan king Shah Shuja and his family came to Lahore and became Singh’s guests here. However, they soon found themselves to be his captives and were only released in exchange of the renowned Koh-i-Noor diamond.
The lady showed us portraits of her ancestors and gave us permission to roam around as she sent the caretaker, who she called Khan, with us. The central courtyard had a tiny water pool at its center, with lamp posts at its four corners, and immediately in front of the room we had sat in was a tall white-washed wall with several green doors set in it.
These led to a large space that housed many religious relics and a raised platform used for worship. Taking off our shoes, we went in and enjoyed the quiet peace and rich history of our surroundings. We were also shown to a room that is told to have housed the Koh-i-noor while it was at the Haveli.
Written and Pictures by Amna Khan