The testament to one man’s ego
Right beside the grand Wazir Khan Mosque you will see a walled well of Diwan Dina Nath. It is the only walled well inside the walled city of Lahore and carries an interesting story. Diwan Dina Nath belonged to a Kashmiri Pandit family living in Delhi. In 1815 Maharaja Ranjit Singh had invited Dina Nath to Lahore and offered him the post of mutsaddi, or writer, in the department of military accounts. In 1826, after the demise of Diwan Ganga Ram – one of Ranjit Singh’s courtiers – Dina Nath succeeded him as the head of military accounts department and keeper of the privy seal and in 1834 he became the head of the civil and finance office. Maharaja Ranjit Singh awarded the honorary title of Diwan to Dina Nath in 1838, which means the custodian of finances. Diwan Dina Nath, he was one of the signatories to the treaty which was made between the Sikhs and the British after the First Anglo-Sikh War, which was fought between the Sikh Empire and the East India Company between 1845 and 1846. Later, when a council was constituted in December 1846 for the governance of the Punjab, Raja Dina Nath was made its President, with the active support of the British. Raja Dina Nath died in 1857 near Kot Khawaja Saeed, at Lahore, Pakistan.
Haveli Dina Nath is a marvelous reflection of Sikh architecture and has a huge courtyard and it and the well of Dina Nath are part of the guided tour of Royal Trail.
During his service, while he built the Haveli Dina Nath, he also ordered the construction of this well. The well of a saint Hazrat Sayd Soaf was opposite to the location he chose for the well. Dina Nath wanted to build this well in antagonism to the previous well by the saint. Unfortunately, antagonism did not work. History states that Dina Nath was warned by many Muslim saints and leaders of the time to not to construct the well in opposition with the saint. Dina Nath did not pay any heed to all the advices and the construction of the well began. The labourers continued digging the ground for almost two hundred meters down but there was no water. The labourers refused to go down any deep and thus the well remained dry. Later a wall was built around the well and Dina Nath had to cut a sorry figure before the people. The well was never functional and is a dead monument now. At present the local authorities are carrying out the conservation of the well as it was much dilapidated and was never given any recognition despite a strong history. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture, a leading world class organization, is a part of the conservation process with the Walled City of Lahore Authority. The well was locked since ages but now after the conservation it will be opened to public as a tourist spot. The well was encroached upon by several shops which were removed in the year 2013 by the Walled City of Lahore Authority.
Dina Nath wanted to build this well in antagonism to the previous well by the saint. Unfortunately, antagonism did not work.
Near the same corner around Chitta Gate is the Haveli of Dina Nath. The haveli itself is a wonder with a strong history of the owner, Diwan Dina Nath. The Haveli is a huge place inside the walled city and can be accessed through the Phoolan Wali Gali, if you enter from Delhi Gate. The Haveli of Dina Nath at present is in a dilapidated form as the residents did not maintain it much. This Haveli needs to be conserved and restored immediately before it is further damaged. There are five families living inside this haveli at present. One of the owners is Mrs. Khawar. According to her the haveli was allotted to her father in law after partition and since then the same family is living there. This Haveli is a marvelous reflection of Sikh architecture and has a huge courtyard and it and the well of Dina Nath are part of the guided tour of Royal Trail.
These sites should be preserved and open for the public. I am glad that many people are visiting these sites these days, but more information needs to be put before the public in order to protect and promote the heritage.