Arts & Culture in Lahore

Arts & Culture

Lahore's culture is unique. Known as the Cultural Capital or Heart of Pakistan, the city was the seat of the Mughal Empire and the Sikh Empire as well as the capital of Punjab in Mahmud Ghaznavi's 11th century empire and in the British Empire.

Lahore has played an important role in Pakistani history. It was in this city that Pakistan's independence declaration was made. It was the largest city in the newly formed Pakistan at the time of independence and provided the easiest access to India, with its porous border near the Indian city of Amritsar only 30 miles (48 km) to the east. Large numbers of Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims lived closely in Lahore before the independence of Pakistan. The city suffered revolts, demonstrations and bloodshed at the time of independence due to the enmity between Muslims and Hindus at the time and the uncertainty which loomed over the fate of Lahore even after India and Pakistan became independent. Lahore's culture, its history, institutions, food, clothing, films, music, fashion, and liberal community lifestyle attract people from all over the country.

The people of Lahore celebrate many festivals and events throughout the year, blending Mughal, Western, and other traditions. Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha are celebrated. Many people decorate their houses and light candles to illuminate the streets and houses during public holidays; roads and businesses may be lit for days. The mausoleum of Ali Hujwiri, also known as Data Ganj Bakhsh (Persian/Urdu: داتا گنج بخش) or Data Sahib, is located in Lahore, and an annual urs is held every year as a big festival.

Basant is a Punjabi festival marking the coming of spring. Basant celebrations in Pakistan are centered in Lahore, and people from all over the country and from abroad come to the city for the annual festivities. Kite-flying competitions traditionally take place on city rooftops during Basant. Courts have banned the kite-flying because of casualties and power installation losses. The ban was lifted for two days in 2007, then immediately reimposed when 11 people were killed by celebratory gunfire, sharp kite-strings, electrocution, and falls related to the competition.

The Festival of Lamps, or Mela Chiraghan, is an important and popular event in Lahore. This is celebrated at the same time as Basant, every spring on the last Friday of March, outside the Shalimar Gardens. The tomb of Allama Iqbal.

The National Horse and Cattle Show is one of the most famous annual festivals, held in spring in the Fortress Stadium. The week-long activities include a livestock display, horse and camel dances, tent pegging, colourful folk dances from all regions of Pakistan, mass-band displays, and tattoo shows in the evenings. On August 14, the people of Pakistan celebrate the day Pakistan gained its independence from the British Raj. There are lots of celebrations in Lahore; the streets are full of people singing and dancing. Parades of the Pakistan Army and Pakistan Air Force are held early in the morning. Concerts are held with many pop and classical singers.

The World Performing Arts Festival is held every autumn (usually in November) at the Alhambra cultural complex, a large venue consisting of several theatres and amphitheatres. This ten-day festival consists of musicals, theatre, concerts, dance, solo, mime, and puppetry shows. The festival has an international character, with nearly 80 percent of the shows performed by international performers. On average 15–20 different shows are performed every day of the festival.

Lahoris are known for their love of food and eating. While Lahore has a great many traditional and modern restaurants, in recent years Western fast food chains, such as McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Domino's Pizza, Subway Sandwiches, Dunkin Donuts, Nando's and Kentucky Fried Chicken have appeared all over the city. Recently the food streets in the historic locales of Lahore (Gawalmandi, Anarkali, and Badshahi) have attracted tourists. Food streets have undergone restorations and are cordoned off in the evenings for pedestrian traffic only; numerous cafés serve local delicacies under the lights and balconies of restored havelis (traditional residential dwellings). Some of the trendiest restaurants in Lahore are concentrated on the M M Alam Road in Gulberg. Here, dozens of high-class culinary outlets, ranging from Western franchises to traditional, ethnic, or theme restaurants, attract all classes of Lahore's citizens. New restaurants are constantly opening, and the business is extremely competitive. Many boisterous restaurants of Lahore are open late into the night. Some branches of Pizza Hut and McDonald's are open 24/7; McDonald's and KFC also offer a home delivery service. Lahore also boasts a unique restaurant housed in a 300-year-old Kothi-style dwelling of a famous artist which was once a brothel. At different times in the life of this property, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, and Muslim families have owned it. Another famous Lahore landmark is the Pak Tea House in Anarkali, long a favoured haunt of intellectuals and artists. Lahore remains a traditional center of Pakistani Chinese cuisine, demonstrated through the large presence and popularity of Chinese restaurants in the city.

The alleys and lanes of these bazaars are full of traditional wares like leather articles, embroidered garments, glass bangles, beaten gold and silver jewelry, and creations in silk. Anarkali is named after the famous courtesan of Akbar’s time, Anarkali (Pomegranate Blossom). The grave of Sultan Qutbuddin Aibak, who died falling off his horse while playing polo, is located in Anarkali on Aibak Road. Rang Mahal is part of old Lahore and today's houses a largest wholesale and retail cloth markets in Punjab. Lahore's technology markets include the Hall Road, Pakistan's largest electronics market adjacent to the Mall Road, and the Hafeez Centre, Asia's largest computer market, located on the Gulberg Main Boulevard. Pace, a shopping centre, is also located on the Main Boulevard beside the Hafeez Centre. Other well-known and popular shopping areas are the Liberty Market in Gulberg and at the Fortress Stadium, as well as malls in Gulberg, Model Town, M M Alam Road, and Cantonment. Apart from these, shopping areas are being developed in many of Lahore's new suburbs such as Bahria, Lake City, and Cantonment.

Lahore offers a variety of nighttime activities. There are popular shisha bars (offering the flavoured tobacco pipes commonly found in Middle Eastern nations), attractive food outlets, and musical concerts and shows. Alcohol is available to foreigners who request it at certain hotels, but is generally not sold in public. Lahoris are known for their exquisite taste in food, so the market has produced some of the most versatile, classy and inviting restaurants in the world. The blend of food and music at some uniquely expressive locales is exceptional. There are many shopping areas which remain open late into the night, offering an atmosphere of lively hustle and bustle (not to mention numerous bargains). There are scenic parks that are frequented by joggers, couples, children, students and seniors. Bagh-e-Jinnah (formerly known as Lawrence Gardens) is one such place; it has a large variety of gorgeous plants, trees, long and varied pathways and creative light effects. The younger crowd is generally more attracted to shops and restaurants near Gaddafi Stadium, Fortress Stadium and Gulberg. Most of the food chains are also here. The city has many significant connections with Sikhism and played an important part in the history of the Sikh Gurus. Guru Ram Das was born at Bazaar Chuna Mandi, Lahore in 1534 A.D. Guru Arjan Dev got the foundation stone of Harmandir Sahib, laid by a Muslim Saint Hazrat Mian Mir Ji of Lahore in December 1588. Guru Arjan met an untimely death when he was tortured on the orders of the Emperor Jahangir in 1606 in this city. The Gurdwara Dehra Sahib and the Ranjit Singh Samadhi are located in Lahore.


  

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