Akbari and Heera Mandi are the core of the old city of Lahore.
History of Heera Mandi mean?
Heera Mundi in Urdu means ‘Heera’ Singh’s market’. It is also referred to as ‘Shahi Mohalla’ or the royal court. It has been traditionally been a place of revelry, dance, and concubine culture since Mughal times.
What happens at Heera Mandi Shahi Mohalla?
The question on every Pakistanis mind is, ‘bhai, heera mandi mai kya hota hai?’ (bro, what happens at heera Mundi?).
YouTube is full of police excesses videos with Heera Mundi girls and transvestites. What Pakistanis really want to ask is whether there is prostitution at Akbari and Heera Mundi Lahore — the answer is yes — but no any more than any other township around Lahore. In any case, the prostitutes and sex workers of Lahore have moved on to electronic platforms and social media sites like Tinder, Facebook, Whatsapp, and Instagram, etc, therefore, the perverts don’t need to lurk around Heera Mandi anymore.
All the pervs can get heera Mundi prostitutes’ and pimps’ contact numbers by a simple google search. The heera Mundi rates can be settled through DM and simple chats.
Tour of the Old Walled City of Lahore
Take a Guided tour to androon Lahore (old city) if you really want to experience something unique, with its history.
Map of Old City Lahore
The general map of the old city Lahore (androon Lahore) and pictures are posted in this blog for your reference.
Things to see inside Walled City Lahore
Lahore is the life of Pakistan. These are the must see things in Lahore Old City:-
- Akbari Market
- Shahi Hamam
- Wazir Khan Mosque
- Heera Mandi
- Badshahi Masjid
- Narrow lanes
- Kite flying in Basant spring time
- Minar e Pakistan
- Food Street
Our trip was more about history, culture, food, and architecture.
Our tour started when we parked our car in front of Badshahi mosque.
Click this to get the route to Heera Mundi Lahore.
Minar e Pakistan Rickshaw ride
Our guide was waiting for us in an open-top colorful rickshaw. He took us around the walled city to see its various gates and we also had a grand view of Minar-e-Pakistan and Badshahi mosque from an overhead bridge.
We were then dropped off at the Delhi gate (Eastern side) of Lahore Fort.Dehli gate, built in the 18th century is one of the 17 gates surrounding the old Lahore city.
Shahi Hamam was the royal Spa for the royalty of Lahore.
Certain portions of the hammam (Turkish bath) were demolished for the purpose.
From here we walked across the old city.
Our first stop was the Hammam of the Mughal period built in 1635. This Turkish-like bath was built by the then Governor of Lahore Ilm-udding Ansari to clean up the people of the walled city. It functioned as a waqf (funds generator) for the Wazir Khan mosque nearby.
This bath had a Jama khana (changing area), neem (warm water), and garm (hot bath) areas. There were separate sections for men and women. This hammam was a sort of club for the local people, where they gathered in the evening for a chat and a massage. Sunlight from the rooftop bathed the inhabitants below. The restoration work by Agha Khan Foundation was very modern.
From the roof of the hammam, we could see the spice market established by Emperor Akbar in 1600 to trade with the Europeans. British India Company had a great appetite for spices and Lahore was the center of this trade. It’s after the British Annexed Bengal that the British Empire started dictated their terms of trade in spice.
Narrow Lanes of Old City Lahore
Then we went around the narrow lanes of the old city where at some places, only one person could pass.
We went there during the 12 rabi ul Awal holiday, so all the streets were decorated beautifully.
While walking on the main street, you can see the well-preserved Havelis (mansions), that belonged to the Hindus traders. They were quite similar to the beautiful mansions of Rawalpindi like Rai bahadur soojan Singh .
We then came across a courtyard that used to hold live music sessions in the Mughal days. It was open to the public then.
Musical Instruments Bazar
As expected, closeby was the music Bazar, which was supposed to have the various musical instruments and dance accessories for the entertainers of the royal courts. Since this trade was strangulated during Zia’s regime, none of that was visible anymore.
Heera Mandi Dances
Our guide informed us that the Heera mandi (red-light district) closeby still caters to tourists and their requests for exotic dances. Heera Singh was a royal in Ranjit Singh’s court.
One session of song and dance from a famous ‘bazar-e-husn’ lady could cost upwards of 50,000 Rupees. This Bazar has been catering to royal tastes since the 15th century. People are not interested in old cultural dances like Kathak and thumri anymore, he said, and demand the latest Bollywood numbers.
So much for culture, huh?
Wazir Khan Mosque
Our next stop was the majestic wazir khan mosque to see its beautiful frescos’.
There was another recently built golden mosque in the vicinity but after seeing the beauty of wazir khan, we decided not to go there.
Food Street Walled City
Our tour ended at a colorfully decorated building complex near food street.
We ended back where we had parked our car.
I got my inspiration to document Heera Mundi and Akbari Mandi Lahore from the book ‘dancing girls of Lahore’ by Louise Brown. Then I got myself a sketch art piece of a Dancing girl, which is surprisingly hard to get. Paintings of androon Lahore are even harder to get. I am not the only one inspired, Sanjay Leela Bhansali is also producing the film “Heera Mundi”.
For all those interested, the oldest sources (Al-Biruni 11th century) record Lahore’s old city name a ‘Luhawar’t or Lahawar. Legend has it that Lahore’s old city was named after a prince ‘Lava’.
Things not to miss at Lahore
Two more things that you should not miss in Lahore are
- Wagah border ceremony and
- Dhol ke dhamal in Shah Jamal’s shrine. Here the dhol beats of the hearing impaired dhol maestro Goonga Sain are mesmerizing.
Do watch the video.