Loh and Lahore! A tale most controversial
Some places around us have the spirit of origin of existence and the geniuses of human growth. Such places are always striking for those who like to enjoy the nostalgia and old thoughts. I think Lahore can truly be regarded as one such a place in this world.
Having seen so many ups and downs of history and cultures, Lahore in itself is now a whole world carrying a multitude of the past and the willingness to excel in the future. From Rudyard Kipling to Abu-Rehan Al Bairooni, from Sikh to Victorian to Mughal era, from buildings, mosques and gardens to forts, the diversity of Lahore is sometimes unmatchable, yet the ecstasy is eternal. Lahore’s reputation for beauty fascinated the English poet John Milton, finding mention in his poem Paradise Lost “Agra and Lahore, the Seat of the Great Mughal” in 1670. During this time, the massive Lahore Fort was built. This is how Lahore was and still is.
When we come to the city of Lahore, one cannot ignore the mesmerizing love story of Rama and Sita. Sita gave birth to twin sons, Lava and Kusha, at the ashram and were educated and trained in military skills under the tutelage of Sage Valmiki. A legend based on oral traditions holds that Lahore, known in ancient times as Lavapuri (City of Lava in Sanskrit), was founded by Prince Lava, the son of Sita and Rama; Kasur was founded by his twin brother Prince Kusha. There is also a tradition that it was name after “Lohaar Chand” who was the nephew of prince Deep Chand. But let us concentrate to the myth of Loh or Lava.
History tells us that Lahore was called by different names in the ancient times. Religious history interprets Lahore as the city created by the son of Ram Chandar. The old writings tell us about the origin of a definitive city in the 10th century. There were no Muslim dwellers here before the 10th century. The city was of no historical significance before Mahmood Ghaznavi’s attacks in the 11th century. But Lahore’s star became truly ascendant in the Mughal era.
All historian list Lahore is one of the oldest cities in the subcontinent. To this date we don’t know when it was founded, but historians divergent views put it between almost 4000 to 2000 years old. Hieun Tsang, the famous Chinese pilgrim, visited Lahore in 700 A.D. and wrote about it in his journals. Oldest authentic surviving document was anonymous, written in 982 and translated in 1927 by Vladimir Fedorovich Minorsky. The document, now housed in the British Museum, is called Hudud i Alam, meaning regions of world. It described Lahore as a town with stunning temples, huge markets and spacious orchards. The famous second century Egyptian astronomer and geographer, Ptolemy mentioned a city between river Indus and patna that might be Lahore.
Today I have something for you relating to this fact that Loh was here in Lahore and Lahore being named after him. As you enter inside the majestic Alamgiri gate of Lahore Fort you will come across a dark room with the door opening leading to the several locked rooms. That is the Mandir of Loh or Temple of Loh. This temple is also known as Lava Mandir as Loh was also known by Lav. In the Deshwa Bhaga, Lahore is called Lavpor, which at once points to its origin from Lav, the son of Rama, while in the ancient annals of Rajputana the name given is Loh Kot, meaning “the fort of Loh,” which, again, has reference to its mythical founder, Rama’s son. To this day, Lahore Fort has a vacant temple dedicated to Lava (also pronounced Loh, hence Loh-awar or “The Fort of Loh”).
Interestingly Mr Arif Rehman Chughtai, an artist and known historian, gives an interesting insight in one of his blogs. He says that out of the blue, the Khulasah al-tawarikh of Subhan Rai, around 1692 linked the city of Lahore with Loh, the so called son of Ram. And as this notation was there, more people utilized the same to forward their point of view. According to him the famous book on Lahore by Thronton and Kipling does not mention the Mandir of Loh in 1860. Nobody else does. Then all of a sudden Judge Latif (a veteran British representative) writes about the Mandir of Loh. Thronton and Kipling places Lahore on the site of Ichhra, but Anjum Rahmani doubts that Lahore existed even at Icchra.
The remains of Hindu Lahore have never been discovered. To the memory of all historians, Lahore is essentially a Muslim city from day one. Yes the city of Loh did exist, but research points to it being somewhere in the hills of Kashmir. He says that for something to be 3000 years old, it has to be at least 40 feet deep, if not more. The remains of Ghaznavid period is mostly at 25 to 30 feet in the city of Lahore. The Mandir is at par with the street outside.
These are the different arguments that we come across regarding this Mandir. This temple like many other monuments is again controversial if associated with the naming of Lahore. We have seen the temple since ages inside Lahore Fort but never knew that this is the one after whom Lahore was named. Now interestingly let me tell you a few facts. This temple is not functional since ages. It is a no go area as visitors are not allowed in this part of Lahore Fort. Recently as the Royal kitchen was excavated during conservation process, the walls of the Temple were seen. These walls are yet to be tested but they surround the area around the temple and have fresco work on them. This does show that it might be the real temple of Loh as it is below the street level if we see it from the Royal Kitchen.
I also have another view about this temple. Maybe it was built ages ago and in real sense it is the reason of the name of Lahore, as if we go inside it we see the walls filled with material. I think it would have been a bigger temple and later the walls were filled or rebuilt to make it smaller and pack it in a small room. We see arches and strange patterns in walls of the Temple which suggest there were other structures as well or the temple was spacious. In my opinion, only research studies would clearly tell us about the existence of this temple and how the name of Lahore got associated with the name of Prince Loh. This is still a mystery but people know Lahore as the city named after Loh, the son of prince of Rama and Sita.