Its amazing how things and places we consider not worthy of a second look or visit were once a jewel in the crown of the city of Lahore. The enigmatic Landa Bazaar is one such place. Its a place which evokes feelings of disgust and filth at worst and apathy at best. But contrary to its current value, when the bazaar came into existence it was quite a spectacle.
Its story starts with a controversial character of Lahore by the name of Mian Mohammed Sultan or Mian Sultan Contractor who rose to a position of favor with britishers and became a very rich man by wining public works contracts from them. He became a controversial character for, apparently, he would demolish dilapidated mosques and shrines to use their bricks in construction of buildings. So much so that many people started saying openly that the curse of Allah would eventually befall him.
Famous as a wrestler during Ranjit Singh’s rule he was introduced to public works contract supervision through a friend and from there on, never looked back.Very soon he became the Sultan of Lahore and an extremely rich man. He was even granted the contract to build the Lahore Railway station. He also built a Serai right outside the Delhi gate which became famously known as the Sultan ki Serai and built shops around the Serai as well.
Then in 1876, the Prince of Wales, Edward the VII, visited Lahore. For his reception, he refurbished the entire area of Railway station and Naulakha bazaar for the prince had to take this route to reach the Government house. The shops he had made next to his Serai were developed into a proper bazaar. To populate the bazaar he invited traders from inside the Walled city to set up their shops free of charge. He spent a handsome amount to beautify the bazaar specially installing heavily carved wooden ‘chajas’ on the shops. The entire reception specially the beautifying the bazaar were noticed and officially appreciated by the British.
Pretty soon, due to its narrow and claustrophobic lanes, the same grand bazaar that was built for the reception of the prince of wales came to be known as the ‘Lunda Bazaar’ or the crippled bazaar; the birth of one of the most prominent and recognizable names of the Lahore city. Over the years, the name has been corrupted to Landa bazaar. Unfortunately, along with the name, its essence and importance have been corrupted too. And just like the Bazaar, its founder Mian Sultan lost his fortune as well and died a poor man. Maybe the curse of God caught up with him and his bazaar.