My travel buddy and I had been planning on going for the Walled City of Lahore Authority’s (WCLA) ‘History by Night’ tour for a while now but something or the other would always come in the way. However, this weekend we were successful in acquiring the tickets for their last tour before Ramzan and my wishes to see the historic Mughal monuments at night came true. The entire night was a royal experience to remember despite the limited time frame.
The tour began from ‘Firangi Darwaza’ located on Food Street side, with the tour guide seeking permission from the Shahi Darbaan of the Lahore Fort Compound. Entering the gate, we first headed towards the tomb of Allama Iqbal. The soft, yellow lighting complemented the red stone of the tomb softly illuminating it. After a brief speech on Iqbal by our guide, the tour group moved towards the grand Badshahi Masjid. However, to our disappointment, we did not enter the mosque and observed its beauty from outside. Given how majestic the mosque looked from the outside, one can only imagine how its courtyard must look in the moonlight.
Our next stop was the Roshnai Gate, where the guide tested our historical knowledge and asked the tour group to name the Walled City’s 13 gates. My friend, a history buff, named them all and was applauded by everyone.
From there we moved towards the Hazoori Bagh, which I was seeing from inside for the first time. This kind of marked an anti-climax for me – the Hazoori Bagh Baradari, built by Maharaja Ranjit Singh was beautiful and marvellously symmetrical like all other Mughal monuments. A flute player was sitting there, playing old Pakistani filmi songs and after posing for a group photo, we were asked to sit on Shahi Rickshaws.
The rickshaw then took us to Ranjit Singh’s Samadhi, where were all instructed to be respectful and not taking any photographs. A large part of the samadhi was under construction so we saw it fleetingly. From there the shahi rickshaws took us to the Lahore Fort’s famed picture wall, as an old raunchy Punjabi number of Madam Noor Jahan played on the stereo.
The picture wall is still under restoration and in my opinion looks grander in the daylight. However, it is possible that one restored, it will look glorious at night too.
Our next stop, the Sheesh Mahal, was the highlight of the trip. No words can do justice to the beauty of the structure at night especially with all the artificial candles lighting up the area. Musicians playing the tabla, sarangi, and sitar were sitting in one corner adding a royal Mughal touch to the entire setting.
The compound which houses the Sheesh Mahal is the epitome of Mughal architecture and truly showcases Mughal aesthetics. The ambience of the place transports you to Mughal’s royal phase and you just think, what it must have felt during that era. How this place looked like, when its lights, music, the running fountain, the real gems and stones and ‘starry-sky’ inside the Mahal were all intact and in original condition, man, it would have been serenely stunning.
After admiring the intricate detailing of the mahal, we sat down on Qaleens with Farshi Takiya and was served with traditional refreshments including NaanKhatai, Murraba and Sandal Sharbat. While sitting there, my friend decided to make the experience more Mughal as he played the famous movie, Mughal-e-Azam, on his mobile phone and went straight to Madhu Bala’s legendary song Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya, and that is how we gave tribute to both Mughals and Madhu Bala in the same frame.
Waiting for around 20 to 25 minutes, the dance Kathak dance performance started although I am not an expert of Kathak but I did enjoy the beautiful performance
Following that, we were taken to the fort’s Summer Palace which was cold and dim-lighted as expected. The only new thing for me was that there are stairs leading to the lower basement of Lahore Fort, after much debate, we decided not to descend those stairs and went out from Haathi-Paer stairs.
From there, we once again sat on the shahi rickshaws which were to take us back to the starting point. Surprisingly, the drive back was one of the most memorable moments of our tour. During the short drive the driver played Madam Noor Jahan’s famous song Sun Wanjli Di Mithari Taan Way from the movie ‘Heer Ranjha’ and in those surroundings, it was even more beautiful. After the other riders got off the rickshaw, we requested the driver to give us another round of the compound with the same song. The four-minute drive with the combination of Madam Noor Jahan’s beautiful vocals, Lahore Fort and its lights, the softly illuminated Hazoori Bagh, and the minars of Badshahi Mosque along with dome of Ranjit Singh’s Samadhi, and the hint of a light breeze was rhythmically memorable.
The overall tour was splendid and kudos to the team of WCLA for introducing such recreational activities. The large crowd which was part of the tour was the only downside to an otherwise wonderful trip.
Pictures Credit: Sulman Ali