Black is the colour which is seen everywhere inside the walled city of Lahore during the month of Muharram. This part of the city becomes the heart of mourning and processions during this month and people from all over Lahore join these processions and majalis.
While going around in the narrow winding streets of the city, you will come across Majalis and Zuljenah. People living inside the walled city rise above sectarianism and join each other in this month. You will see all the people involved in Niaz and Sabeel on different points in the city, which is all black. People are wearing black clothes and have black flags on the roof tops. Noha khawani is heard from almost every house. On most of the corners of the streets you will see people cooking Haleem (a local food) for niaz purposes. These are all no doubt heartwarming scenes and it’s true that these scenes and activities raise our spirits.
On the 9th of Muharram, let me take you to the most significant gate of the walled city of Lahore which is the Mochi Gate. This gate of the city is located in south of the Walled City of Lahore and is seen between the Akbari Gate and the Shah Alam Gate of the city. Mochi gate is among 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.
Before I get on to the importance of this gate, let me tell you that like other gates, the name of this gate was also marred with the passage of time. Interestingly, several backgrounds are linked with the name of this gate. According to some historians the name of the gate is marred form of ‘Moti’. It is said in some historic accounts that 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 because of the guard the gate became 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). Even till today we find bazaars with the same names hence the second one makes more sense.
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. Mohallah Shian is the heart of this gate during this month. If you go inside Mohallah Shian you will be entranced by the Nohas and Manqabats and mourners in the streets, all wearing black.
Now let us come to the two main Havelis which are associated with Muharram and are located in this gate. These are the Nisar and Mubarik Havelis. Since ages, the main processions of Muharram originate from these two Havelis and then they make their way to Karbala Gamay Shah. The traditional Tazia Alam procession starts from Mubarak Haveli early in the morning of 10th Muharramm and ends at Karbala Gamay Shah in the evening after passing through its traditional route.
Every year, the route of the procession includes Imam bargah Ghulam Ali Shah, Chowk Nawab Sahab, Mochi Gate, Lal Khoo, Fazal Haveli, Takia Nathay Shah, Koocha Shian, Chuhatta Mufti Baqar, Old Kotwali, Kashmiri Bazaar, Dabbi Bazaar, Sunehri Masjid, Paniwala Talab, Chowk Nogaza, Chowk Tarannum Cinema, Chowk Tibbi, Bazaar Hakeeman, Chowk Novelty, Mohalla Jogian, Oonchi Masjid and Bhatti Gate.
Till today the same practice is carried out in Lahore and the processions from other parts of the walled city and Lahore also join this main procession. The largest procession comes out from Mubarik Haveli since ages. Nothing has changed this practice inside the walled city. The Ziarat of Tasbeeh is also done in the Nisar and Mubarik Havelis.
Another important haveli inside the walled city which has a relation with Muharram is the Haveli Alif Shah. This historic Haveli Alif Shahi is more than three hundred years old heritage house which was converted into an Imam Bargah in 1861.
It is said that this haveli is among the most respected Havelis of the Walled City when it comes to Muharram and Safar processions and Majalis. In this haveli the life during Muharram is completely different and people from all sects gather here during the processions and Majalis.
The processions from 7th till 10th of Muharram lead out of this Haveli inside Delhi Gate of Lahore. The Haveli is not as huge as Nisar or Mubarik Haveli but the true spirit of Moharram is seen there.
The Haveli’s courtyard is an Imambargah where you will see hundreds of mourners in Muharram and Safar. Everyone is dressed in black and it will make you experience the sense of mourning you might not experience anywhere else. The Majalis being held there are so strong that you are taken into the past and can feel the pain and sadness of Karbala.
Walled City of Lahore is known all over the world for the processions and rituals of Muharram. Inside Lohari Gate, the Chowk Jhanda gets a new life where all the metal workers sit. This bazaar becomes the nucleus of Tazia and Jhoola which are being made there. Other parts where the processions are seen include the Bhatti and Taxali Gates. Here all the people are seen busy in Moharram activities. People also shut down the shops for some time during the 9th and 10th of Muharram, out of respect.
If you ever visit the walled city during the month of Muharram, you will be taken into a different trance, an air of spirituality and mourning. Life is completely different there during this month. The most interesting and impressive aspect of the city is its harmony and people joining each other without the barriers of religions and sects.