- Do you know that the house of Sir Ganga Ram is still intact and located inside the Walled City? Right inside the heart of Taxali Gate Lahore is the house of Sir Ganga Ram now lying abandoned with a board on it that it is not for sale or any other use
- He is known as a promising agriculturist in history. He purchased thousands of acres of barren land in Lyallpur (now Faisalabad) on lease and by using engineering skills and modern irrigation methods, turned the waterless lands into fertile fields
Lahore is a modern city loaded with a rich and interesting history. It has kept the marks of great men in its folds for centuries. Sir Ganga Ram was one such man who contributed incalculably to Lahore’s development as a modern city and we can say that during his time the Lahore saw a new style of architecture and zenith. Millions of people are familiar with his name because of the Ganga Ram Hospital located in Lahore. The dilemma is that hardly few would know who he was. Sir Ganga Ram dedicated a major part of his life to Lahore as an engineer and a warmhearted charity donor. He supervised the construction of Lahore High Court, Cathedral and constructed the Aitcheson College. He also gave Lahore new water works in addition to many other buildings. For twelve years he was the executive engineer of Lahore, a period which has been called as “Ganga Ram period of architecture”.
Do you know that the house of Sir Ganga Ram is still intact and located inside the Walled City? Right inside the heart of Taxali Gate Lahore is the house of Sir Ganga Ram now lying abandoned with a board on it that it is not for sale or any other use. This house is amidst the music shops and on the ground floor of the house is also a music instrument shop. This yellow building is a marvel of architecture decorated with fine details and motifs. The problem is that there is no one to look after this place. It is locked since ages and no one can go inside the house. It should have been turned into a museum with the belongings, write ups and architectural drawings of Sir Ganga Ram. If it had been such a place, people would have been more familiar with Sir Ganga Ram and his services for Lahore. Many wonders you come across in Lahore and especially on Mall Road are the constructions of this intelligent and artistic architect, but how many of us know about him?
Here, let me take you to a brief history of this great honourable man. Sir Ganga Ram Agrawal was born in 1851 in Mangtanwala, a village of Punjab in Pakistan. His father, Doulat Ram Agrawal was a junior sub inspector at a police station in Mangtanwala. Later, he shifted to Amritsar and became a copy-writer of the court. Here, Ganga Ram passed his matriculation examination from the Government High School and joined the Government College, Lahore in 1869. In 1871, he obtained a scholarship to the Thomason Civil Engineering College at Roorkee. He passed the final lower subordinate examination with the gold medal in 1873. He was appointed Assistant Engineer and called to Delhi to help in the building of the Imperial Assemblage.
In 1873, after a brief service in Punjab PWD he devoted himself to practical farming. He obtained on lease from government 50,000 acres of barren land in Montgomery district, and within three years converted that vast desert into smiling fields, irrigated by water lifted by a hydroelectric plant and running through a thousand miles of irrigation channels, all constructed at his own cost. This was the biggest private enterprise of its kind, unknown and unthought-of in the country before. Sir Ganga Ram earned millions most of which he gave to charity. In the words of Sir Malcolm Hailey, the governor of Punjab, “He won like a hero and gave like a Saint”. He was a great engineer and a great philanthropist.
He designed and built General Post Office, Lahore Museum, Aitchison College, Mayo School of Arts (now NCA), Ganga Ram Hospital, Lady Mclagan Girls High School, the chemistry department of the Government College University, the Albert Victor wing of Mayo Hospital, the Hailey College of Commerce, Ravi Road House for the Disabled, the Ganga Ram Trust Building on The Mall and Lady Maynard Industrial School. He also constructed Model Town, once the best locality of Lahore, the powerhouse at Renala Khurd as well as the railway track between Pathankot and Amritsar. He built Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Lady Mclagan School and Renala Khurd Power House with his own money.
He is known as a promising agriculturist in history. He purchased thousands of acres of barren land in Lyallpur (now Faisalabad) on lease and by using engineering skills and modern irrigation methods, turned the waterless lands into fertile fields.
Let me tell you a sad and shocking incident. A statue of Sir Ganga Ram once stood on Mall Road in Lahore. Saadat Hasan Manto, the famous Urdu writer, in one of his stories on the frenzy of religious riots of 1947writes that an inflamed mob in Lahore, after attacking a Hindu residential area, ‘turned to attacking the statue of Sir Ganga Ram, the Hindu philanthropist. They first pelted the statue with stones; then smothered its face with coal tar. Then a man made a garland of old shoes climbed up to put it round the neck of the statue. The police arrived and opened fire. Among the injured were the fellow with the garland of old shoes. As he fell, the mob shouted: “Let us rush him to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital”.
Reading the above lines will give you goose bumps. Just imagine that a man who did so much for the people was not respected by our rigid minded mobs. Sir Ganga Ram cannot be separated from Lahore and its people. His hospital is serving the Lahoris and as a token of appreciation and respect we should keep his memories alive. His works, standing as symbols of peace are our pride.
He retired in 1903. He died in London on July 10, 1927. His body was cremated and his ashes were brought back to India. A portion of the ashes were consigned to Ganga River and the rest buried in Lahore on the bank of the Ravi.