Masti Gate — a forgotten heritage trail
Masti Gate’s name sounds quite mysterious and dreamy. This gate is one of the thirteen gates of the walled city of Lahore which were built by the Mughal Emperor Akbar. This gate, like few other gates, has a variety of interesting traditions about its name. Some historians claim that it was named after a royal guard Masti Baloch who served with great dedication and commitment at the gate. Being dutiful, he guarded the gate till his last breath and thus appreciating his services, the gate was named after him.
Another story associated with it says that the original name of the gate was ‘Masiti’ or ‘Masjidi’ Gate (Masit is mosque in local Punjabi dialect) which was distorted to Masti Gate. I believe more in this version and it makes sense to me because a few yards ahead of this gate’s location is the magnificent “Begum Shahi or Mariam Zamani Mosque” which is the oldest and first mosque of the Mughal era. I am sure that you will also find this tradition a better one.
Unfortunately, this gate does not exist now and even the place at which it was built is now a mystery. All the gates were demolished by the British and rebuilt again in early 1900s. Later again, this gate was pulled down by the British rule due to its derelict conditions. Instead of the gate a comparatively small doorway was built but now it has also disappeared.
A steep path known as Masti Ghatti (slope) goes down to link it with the main road. Through historic references we get to that during the Mughal rule the gate was connecting the Begum Shahi Mosque with the Akbari Gate of Lahore Fort. The royal females of the fort would use that gate to go to the Mosque and in between there was a garden. With the passage of time, the British made the road and after partition the road met an ill fate which was the development of the ugliest market of the walled city, the Rim Market. Today the foundations and location of the gate are lost because of this encroached market and connection of Akbari Gate with Masti Gate and Mosque is also disconnected.
If we go inside the gate through the narrow streets opposite the Akbari Gate of the fort, we see the real image of religious harmony. There is a mosque, a gurdwara, samadhi and temple. Remains of the temple “Hunnoman ka Mandir” or “Mai ka Mandir” and “Gurdwara Bhai Mani Singh” are still seen which are very close to the mosque. The ugly encroachments have also damaged the beauty of these places. A little inside the gate through the shoe market we see the Janam Asthan of Guru Arjun Ram. He was the fourth of the ten Gurus of Sikhism and was given the title of Sikh Guru on 30 August 1574. He was Guru for seven years. Ram Das was born in Chunna Mandi, Walled City Lahore on 24 September 1534. All these sites were well connected in the past and till now depict the harmony among the people living in those times. In many books we come across this fact that Hindu, Sikh and Muslim lived united and also participated in each other’s religious ceremonies.
As we move a little further inside the gate there is the biggest shoe market named Moti Bazaar. This bazaar is a whole sale and a retail market of all types of shoes. It can be termed as the biggest shoe market in Pakistan. An interesting locale near the Moti Bazaar is the residential area of the blinds called “Aniya di Katri” (land of the blind). There are more than ten blind families living inside this Katri even today, and it is an old settlement. A very narrow path leads you to this katri. Probably you will have to ask people there if you wish to visit it.
Another remarkable building inside this gate is the Chunna Mandi Haveli, also known as the Havelis of Jamaadar Khushaal Singh and Dhiyan Singh. These Havelis are a significant group of historic buildings in the Walled City and now turned into a college popular as the Government Fatima Jinnah College for Women. The building, with its spacious courtyard and Sikh imagery is one of the largest Havelis inside the Walled City of Lahore and used in many films and documentaries.
A main trail from the Begum Shahi Masjid leads to Chowk Surjan Singh from where you can go towards Rang Mehal Chowk and further to Sonehri Masjid and Wazir Khan Masjid. This is an interesting walk and the maze like streets will lead to you different parts of the city. The same trail can lead you to Delhi Gate’s Royal Trail from a quick route. Like other gates of the city, this gate is also renowned for its best quality food and connects with Taxali Gate as well. Local drinks like lassi, green tea, kashmiri tea, pathoora, special types of naan and roti are famous food items. There are also functional Akharas (wrestling arena) inside this gate. This is a local wrestling arena which is now hardly seen inside the walled city. Once these were functional in every gate but now it’s considered a vanishing sport.
This gate has lost most of the residential units and turned into a commercial hub. What remains of past we find there are surely mind blowing and I guess it will be a popular spot among tourists if the rim market is relocated from the main entrance of this gate. Also the monuments inside this gate need to be conserved and temple should be restored for the tourists. This gate is one of the important gates of the city because when the Mughals travelled to Lahore Fort they came through Delhi Gate and from Masti Gate they entered the Fort from Akbari Gate, which was the original entrance to Fort. With so many attributes and attractions, I suggest this is a must visit site and I hope that we see this gate again connected with the Fort in our lifetime.