The thirteen gates of the Walled city of Lahore are no less than a wonder. The stories hidden in these gates are another unique feature apart from the architecture and street life. Each block, nook and corner of the Walled City holds the stories of past glories and upheavals.
Today as the month of Muharram begins, let me take you inside an exciting gate of the walled city - the Mochi Darwaza (Gate). This gate of the city is located in south of the Walled City of Lahore, between the Akbari Gate and the Shah Alam Gate.
Mochi gate is also one of the thirteen gates of the Walled City of Lahore which were built during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Akbar along with a thirty feet high fortified wall for guarding the city.
Like many other gates, the name of this gate was also marred with the passage of time. Several traditions are connected with its name. According to some historians, the name of the gate is a deformed version of ‘Moti’. Pandit Moti Ram, a guard in the reign of Akbar used to watch over the gate and remained attached to his post till he died and to honour his dedication, the gate came to be known as Mochi Gate.
Some historians affirm that ‘Mochi’ is the marred form of Urdu word ‘Morchi’ which means 'trench soldier'. It is further supported by the fact that the different streets (Mohallahs) which still bear their old names like Mohalla Teer-garan (arrow craftsmen), Mohalla Kaman-garan (bow craftsmen). We still find bazaars with the same names hence the second argument makes more sense.
Like few other gates of the walled city, this gate was also razed to the ground during the British period and historians say that it was never built again when the other gates were rebuilt by the British. The British established a garden beside the road which has been the scene of many historical meetings and processions held by different political parties and other groups. Now the marks of the gate are hard to locate because of changes in the land use and additions of structures and houses.
In this gate you will see that a large part of the residential area has been converted into commercial markets and walking inside the Mochi Gate trail, you will come across big markets like Bazaar Kamaan Garan, Dana Market, Baraa Market, Alamgir Market, and Itefaq Market which by design connects with the Shah Alam.
Now let me take you to another interesting aspect of Mochi Gate which is the month of Muharram. This is the only gate of the Walled City Lahore which is known for its ages old association with the religious processions during the month of Muharram. Throughout the month, you will see the residents wearing black and ‘Alam’ and black flag on houses. Especially if you go inside Mohallah Shian you will be captivated by the Nohas and Manqabats and mourners in the streets.
The two main Havelis namely Nisar and Mubarik Havelis are also located in this Gate. The main processions of Muharram go out from these two Havelis and then they make their way to Karbala Gamay Shah following the ages old route of the procession. The Ziarat of Tasbeeh is also done in these havelis and people from all over Lahore gather in these havelis for Majlis and Muharram processions.
A few steps away from Mohallah Shian there is a Khoya Bazaar and the Mosque of Mullah Muhammad Saleh Kamboh who was a teacher of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. This mosque was once as stunning as Wazir Khan Mosque but due to negligence and lack of maintenance, it has lost its majesty.
However, few remains of the fresco are still visible on its outer walls and inner chambers. Another Mosque worth mentioning is the Mosque of Mullah Majeed near Nisar Haveli inside Mohallah Chehal Bibian. Mullah Majeed was a foreign trader who often visited Lahore for business and being religious and to invest his earnings in a noble cause he constructed this mosque.
Once you are inside this gate you will come across exceptional street names like Gali Bandooq Sazan, Noor Gali, Koocha Kaman Garan, Gali Rani Gul begum, Koocha Chabak Sawaran and many more.
You will also find a lot of dried fruit markets, sweet shops, eatables and many other shops inside this gate. Das Kulcha with Lonchara is the mouthwatering and most unique breakfast of the walled city and is only available here in Mochi Gate. You will get enticing and delicious meat kebabs in this gate.
The famous Fazal Sweets shop is also here whose owner had migrated from Kashmir to Lahore in 1933 in search of a better future. There is Muhallah Sadakaraan where one of the great classical singers of the subcontinent Ustad Chotay Ghulam Ali Khan once lived, but the house does not exist today.
The famous haveli of Nawab Mian Khan is also located inside the Mochi gate and can also be accessed from Shah Almi Gate.
This massive Haveli was built in Emperor Shah Jahan`s reign by his Prime Minister Nawab Saadullah Khan. It was completed during the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb by the Nawab's son, Mian Khan, who was the then Governor of Lahore. When the British took over Lahore in 1849, they converted Rang Mahal into a Mission School which is still seen today and the famous literary person Mr. Mustansar Hussain Tarar also studied at this school.
Mochi gate is no doubt an important gate and if you want to see the real spirit of Muharram you can feel that inside this gate and its narrow winding streets which are open for all. This place will show you how the different religions and sects live there in harmony without any religious prejudices.