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HOW OLD IS LAHORE?

HOW OLD IS LAHORE?

In 1959 the department of archeology carried out an archeological strata analysis of a site inside the walled city. A 52 foot deep sample was taken and three layers with proof of dwellings were found. The lowest, at 45 feet, had ‘fine brick earlier occupation compacted soil’. The estimate was that this was a 3000 year old dwelling. Experts had then suggested a much deeper sample needed to be taken from some other sites.
The origins of Lahore can go as far back as time can be traced. Documented evidence of Lahore’s existence before Buddhist rule is few and far between. But based on folklore, Lahore existence can be traced as far back as 5000 BC.
It is estimated, that over 5000 years ago, the famous Hindu poet and sage, Valmiki, composed the famous Hindu epic Ramayana in Lahore. It tells the story of Ram and his wife Sita, who is abducted by Raavan. Ramayana, or the journey of Ram, explores human values and portrays ideal characters like ideal husband, ideal wife, ideal son and so on.
Due to an intrigue by his step mother, Ram, the prince of Ayodhya, is exiled into forest for 14 years with his wife Sita. There, Sita is kidnapped by the demon king Ravaan and taken away for he wants to marry her. A fierce battle ensues between the forces of Ram and Raavan in which Raavan is killed and Sita is freed. Following the victory, Ram completes the exile of 14 years and returns to Ayodhya where he is crowned the king. But tragedy strikes again and Sita’s chastity, during her captivity under Raavan, comes under scrutiny. To escape countless accusations, Ram advises her to another exile. It is during this exile that Sita meets Valmiki and narrates her entire story. That is when Valmiki decided to tell the story of Ram and Sita and wrote the Ramayana.
In Ramayana, During her second exile, Valmiki locates a pregnant Sita in the Ravi area that ‘curls around the mound that has been inhabited since centuries’. According to academics and historians, this location is where the Lahore fort stands today and location of Sita is identified as the entrance of the Haathi dawaza of Lahore fort.
During her exile, Sita gives birth to twin brothers, Loh and Kasu. Loh is the prince, who brought into existence a proper city, which was named after him and came to be called Lahore. This story is substantiated by the fact that the Samadhi of Loh, unbeknown to the residents of this great city, still exists inside the Lahore fort.
Based on when Valmiki penned the Ramayana and on existing archeological analyses, one can say that the first dwellings appeared in the city anywhere between 2000 to 5000 BC. There is certainly a need for a genuine archeological research to determine our past. But one thing is for sure. As the location of major portion of the Rig-Veda, the ancient Hindu shatras was composed on the banks of river Ravi, one can say the Hindu religion, in large part, sprang up and was nurtured by the people of this city. Moreover, this great city played an important role in spreading Buddhism in the sub-continent as well. Not that the Buddha ever came here but it is claimed by certain historians that Chandra Gupta Maurya, the grand father of King Asoka, came to Lahore and spread Buddhism after leading a revolt triggered by the murder in 318 BC of Raja Porus. The kingdom included the entire Indian sub-continent and almost entire Afghanistan of today. Even in Sikhism, Lahore has a special place for it was here that the Sikh religion reached its zenith apart from being the capital of the Khalsa kingdom. And who doesn’t know that Hazrat Ali Hajveri is one of the first sufi saints to visit Indian subcontinent to spread Islam and he chose Lahore to do so. It is also a fact that the very first mosque of Punjab was built in Lahore when Subuktagin attacked Lahore in 977 AD. It is perhaps Lahore’s relationship with various religions that even today, when other parts of city can be held hostage by extremists, the old Lahore and old Lahoris reject extremism for they still espouse the spirit of inclusiveness.

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