Bhati Gate - The gem of walled city of Lahore - Image by odaiwai
From the western wall of the old city of Lahore, you can enter into ‘Androon Lahore (Inner Lahore)’ through the famous and historic ‘Bhati Gate’, which is truly the gem of walled city of Lahore. Bhati Gate is considered as one of the oldest entry points into the walled city. This gate was named after ‘Sandal Bar’ who was associated with the name of ‘Rai Sandal Khan’ who belonged to ‘Bhatti’ clan of ‘Rajput’ tribe. Bhati Gate was also a main factor through which the most of northern and southern causeways were regulated during the Ghaznavid period. In the Mughal era, Emperor Abu’l-Fath Jalal ud-din Muhammad Akbar made significant expansion in the city towards the east and divided it into nine districts or Guzars, Bhati Gate and its bazar marked the boundary between Guzar Mubarak Khan (east) and Guzar Talwarra (west).
Bhati Gate passed through many historic glories. Nowadays, it is considered a center of food and other markets but once, it was also a remarkable place of learning, literature and arts. You can still find such glorious traces after crossing through Bhati Gate of Lahore. If someone wants to taste the real cultural flavor of old Lahore, this is the best place, I bet. Narrow and swiveling but stunning and marvelous architecture of this part of walled city of Lahore will tell you the story of its grandeur past.
Bhati Gate itself was built in a Gothic style of double arches having verandas and barracks on its both sides. The original height of Bhati Gate is 187 ft. Like other gates, the major function was to safeguard the city and it was originally made with wood and iron. After giving access to the city in the morning, Bhati Gate was closed in the evening. Its original design and style truly reflected the greatness of ancient kingdoms.
Bhati Gate has also the affiliation with the greatest Sufi Saint of Lahore and probably of the region of Punjab; Hazrat Abul Hassan Ali Hajvery (more commonly known as Daata Ganj Baksh). He came from Ghazni to Lahore in the eleventh century A.D. and he made his station near to Bhati Gate. Now just outside, the tomb of this righteous devout is located, which is known as ‘Daata Darbar’. Bhati Gate was reconstructed during British Raj. Although, many sensitive and delicate features of this enormous architecture were demolished during its rebuilding. Before the partition of the Indian sub-continent in 1947, this area was also known for entertainment and theatrical activities. Many well-known wrestlers also belonged to this part of old Lahore. Nowadays, Bhati Gate is distinguished for its 24/7 food market and for its political significance. We’ll try to highlight some recognized and memorable buildings which are placed near Bhati Gate and in its surrounding area for your interest.
Data Darbar Complex, which is actually the shrine of Hazrat Ali Hajvery (Data Gunj Bux) is the most talked about and phenomenal feature of Bhati Gate. This place attracts millions of pilgrims and devotees every year, who come here in search of benediction and blessings. On special occasions, the shrine is decorated with lights, dinner is prepared for hundreds of people and visitors dance while musicians play Sufi music and Qawwalis for hours.
Faqir Khana or Fakir Khana – Also known as Koocha Fakir Khana is a private museum owned and curated by a Sikh family who are residing here for the last two centuries. Fakir Khana is an accumulation of the largest collection of private artifacts and antiquities in South Asia including treasures of art, paintings, sculptures, manuscripts, Chinese porcelain, Persian carpets and countless other masterpieces.
Oonchi Masjid is another notable feature of Bhati Gate which is located on Lakarhara Street. It was built on a towering platform and due to which it is known as ‘Oonchi or Unchi’. It was built in the reign of Akbar the Great and associated with a water-carrier of Akbar’s time.
There is another famous sitting spot of intellectuals, poets, thinkers and writers inside Bhati Gate which is known as Bazar-e-Hakeeman or (Hakeeman wala bazaar). In old times, this place was reserved for Hakeems who used to sit here to make cerebral and literary discussions. Today, it is center of many trades and businesses.
Gone are the days of the real esteem and stature of the architecture of Bhati Gate which is gem of walled city of Lahore and its other neighboring historic structures. They are losing their dignities gradually because of the corrosion caused by the negligence of the authorities. Many among us are completely unaware of such splendid and prodigious treasures. Mere voices to save them from degradation have even become fruitless. We are drowning our unique cultural assets of Lahore in the eternal crepuscular due to our heedlessness. I am afraid, soon, there will nothing remain with us, to pass on to our generations, which could be perceived for the outer world as ‘Lahori heritage’.