By Raiq Qureshi

LAHORE, Dec 01 (APP):Anarkali Bazaar, one of the oldest bazaars of South Asia, had two parts: Old Anarkali and New Anarkali — the old Anarkali is known for traditional stuff of foods while the New Anarkali is famous for traditional stuff of items such as dresses, shoes, jewellery, bangles, sports goods and handicrafts.

Within the New Anarkali, there are individual market areas such as Bano Bazaar, Dhoni Ram Lane and Paan Gali. It is also popular among women for items such as clothes, bangles, henna, shoes and other accessories The bazaar, located in central Lahore, the second most populous city of the country, is famous due to its architectural heritage from the Mughal and British colonial eras.

Stepping into the bazaar, the streets become more crowded while passing of motorbikes present a picture of its own. There is blend of length and breadth of Pakistan welcoming all the visitors with smiling faces, attracting them towards their products — the negotiation between the shopkeeper and customers is a worth watching scene.

But what makes Anarkali special is its authentic look and atmosphere. It is a place that captures the indigenous bazaar life of Lahore. A street vendor sells dates close to a local mosque with a blue dome (“Neela Gumbad”) that is a local landmark. Women customers with plastic bags stop at a popular restaurant to enjoy some “dahi baray” (a traditional yogurt snack), “fruit chaat” (spiced fruit salad) or fresh fruit juice.

Some historians have raised doubts about the accuracy of the story of Anarkali, and her tomb as there is nothing mention of her in the Emperor Jahangir’s autobiography and other royal accounts from that period. But according to others, the Bazaar was named after a slave girl who was immured by Mughal Emperor, Akbar for having an affair with his son, Salim.

The bazaar is spread around the tomb of anarkali which is not far from here and the surrounding areas are known by the tomb of Anarkali. It is said that Salim wanted to keep the place around the tomb alive. Therefore, he laid the foundation of bazaar so that people could remember the place and history of the area.

A page copied from an old book on Lahore by Syed Mohammad Latif describes the story of how Akbar allegedly ordered the immurement of Anarkali when he saw a reflection of her smiling at Salim (afterwards Jahangir) in a mirror.

She was made to stand at a designated spot, and bricks were laid all around her until the space was completely enclosed. The note claims that Salim grieved over Anarkali’s death, and when he became the emperor, he had an immense superstructure built over the sepulcher.

On the top of it are inscribed the 99 names of Allah, and on the side, a Persian couplet purportedly composed by Jahangir: “Ah! Could I behold the face of my beloved once more, I would give thanks unto my God until the day of resurrection.”Anarkali is said to have died in AD1599.

However, in recent times, modern shopping malls have opened in the city with designer of shalwar kameez boutiques to western brands and restaurant chains. The places are popular among the nouveau riche, also colloquially known as the “burger crowd”.

Half of the shop owners are working here for generations as their forefathers had business or shops and now they are looking-after the legacy. Along the shopkeepers, many street vendors are also selling their products with efficiency and profitable talent.

Talking to APP, Sagheer sahib who has been selling sweet yams here for almost last three decades said that as far as the maintenance of this historical bazaar is concerned the then Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto took keen interest in the beauty of the Bazaar. He said that the then Chief Minister of Punjab Pervaiz Elahi also addressed the difficulties of the market to keep the bazaar on the track. However, since then, no one has got the time to visit and check the standards of facilities here, he added.

M. Wazir who has been working in the market for about 55 years said that he has seen many political families coming to the bazaar for shopping such as the family of Nawab Amir Mohammad, Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chaudhary Brothers because it was the only full-fledge bazaar at that time and even today.

Whatever is the history behind but one cannot surf the bazaar in one whole day.

The bazaar makes you to fell in love with old patterned shops and people working there.

The jubilancy of first time visitors seeks the attention of everyone as one can see them enjoying every moment.