Bazaars of Lahore: The urban “kaifiyat”

Zara Farooq

Kaifiyat

Kaifiyat: The almost intoxicated state of feeling something

What is the urban? It is a kaifiyat¹. To understand the real meaning behind this word one must develop a narrative. Let’s start from the start. Where does it all begin? Where did we lose our identities in the struggles of reaching the imagination of the modern city? Or do we still have it somewhere in us, somewhere in the streets, somewhere in those bazaars².

Oh the magnificent Lahore! How can one ever get past the chains of historical heritage tied with this place? This anchor at some instances roots it to its authenticity but at other times becomes the weight that rules out the truth; its urban reality. The social structure of Pakistan like any other place in the world struggles between two things; the image it is trying to present within the urban parallels and the actual face it carries on the inside. The trace of such an accusation of hypocrisy is difficult to nail through the narratives of history. However one can see this social fracture through various urban manifestations.

Bazaar

Bazaar: The syntax of the exchange of energies

One such domain is the bazaar. At a glance a bazaar might seem merely a marketplace however when looked upon closely it represents many more layers. Bazaar is the narrator of the urgency an urban space carries. This place becomes the container of energies and acts as the prime source of the almost mystic idea of exchange of knowledge and human conditions. The idea of understanding human conditions comes from the urban colloquial of behavioral correction³ that is embedded in the existence of the city of Lahore. Struggling between the social routine and the yearning for qualifying for an urban identity is where the fracture of opposing ideas exposes itself. This urgency of fixing the gaps of the-not-quite and the not-at-all is the urban integration of behavioral correction.


[1] Kaifiyat (Urdu): to understand the deepest meaning of this word one must follow the poetic abstraction behind the idea of the intoxication from within. This is then linked with a trance like state of mind that comes forth from the frozen instance of feeling something profoundly

[2] Bazaar(Urdu): The place of exchange of energies

[3] The idea of taming the madness and humanizing the truth of existence


Integration has become one of the biggest attributes towards human lifestyle and its urban manifestation. This idea has been adopted and merged into human behaviors which generates its need to build up junctions or as some may call social nodes. If space of any dwelling is taken into consideration, the thing that comes forward is that the connections within it give birth to nodes in terms of interactions which develop to become the representation of that time and place. With these routings a lifestyle develops and shapes the idea of the accepted image of the communal life. Knitting this theme together in a spatial order is where the example of bazaar surfaces.

Tazaad

Tazaad: The paradox or dichotomy of a thought

Bazaars have been the witnesses of all these layers of discrepancies throughout time and history. They have seen the true face of the human desires and desperations. This innocent yet monstrous idea of the human deprivation is the most vulnerable in these spaces of exchange. This is where the urban⁴ forms the most intimate relationship with its dwellers. The exposed vulnerability is the tragic paradox of the kaifiyat that dictates the right of being present in the city. Farooq Ahmed Nasir describes this duality in his poetic piece⁵ bellow.

Figure 01 Source: Radiance Magazine

From the power of the craft of Azar’s tool⁶

On the edge of being, but still trapped in stone

The city that still beats alive in my eyes

Still living in the trance of those dreamy faces

I am the heritage of the old generations and still today

In the hell of holding the thread of passing moments

The broken letters of goodbye wrote down a prayer

I am still in the fading mirage of that prayer

My own shadows divide my unity

I, the traveler of darkness, am trapped in this house of light

My house destroyed by unforgiving time

Once the great god of all, now caged in a mausoleum

The tale of this duality of trapping the heritage as the tombstone of a city’s pride cages the thought of progression. Simultaneously the fleeting moment of connecting to the identity of tomorrow obscures the truth of what existed before. The bazaar freezes both instances of time frames; the leaning yesterday and the blur tomorrow. Freezing time allows the ghosts of uncertainty to come out. This is the lens used here to understand the magnificent city of Lahore.


[4] The complex meaning behind understanding cities as not boundaries but as the sentiment of representation

[5] Nasir, Farooq Ahmed. “Untitled.” Radiance Feb. 2004: 13. Print.

[6] Azar’s tool: referred to the historical tool used by Abraham’s father to carve out idols


The bazaars of Lahore

Rooting the spatial parameters of the bazaars in Lahore start from the very heart of this pulse of urban devices. The old walled city with its narrow streets and stacked buildings map a network of many corridors of markets. The intimacy in this scale of humanized bazaar represent an intimacy of spatial language that signifies the urban time of that place. Dating them back to the Mughal rule of poetic exchange of merchant goods one sees the relationship of commodities on the personal scale of the streets in combination with dwellings.

On a microscopic exploration of these bazaars shows the details and nooks of interactions that personified the tactile level of desire. This desire came new to the identity Lahore was carving from the tool of the qualification of the metropolis. The snaking pathways of the engine of these bazaars is surrounded by towered houses (refer to Figure 2) that further project balconies over these activities. The eyes of the buyers get even more desperate with the desire by visually connecting to the fervent life of what lies in that frozen escape below. This relationship further obscures itself when is scrutinized from the perspective of the outsider. The walled city came with a privilege to afford the right to this space. The outsider doesn’t get the access to this language of the urban lunacy as naturally as the one who can gaze out of their windows to peek in the life they crave for.

Figure 2 . The mist of celebration after the decorations of the annual bazaar through a street in the walled city of Lahore Source: Zara Farooq

The bazaars in the walled city run as small nodes of electric activities in the bigger grid of bazaars. The experience of this kind of densely accumulated space and time makes it the example of a bustle that is trying to knit itself backwards in time to be able to tell the tale of how the glorious days unfolded through antiquity. Being that puzzle piece in the urban chronicle it automates the user to be set on that frequency of functioning.

The incarnation of human desire can be traced best from the famous red light district of Lahore, Heera Mandi (refer to Figure 5). This bazaar from the old walled city exploits the way the history has been the constraint yet the witness to the activity of prostitution and at the same time has tried to leave all the tales in the boundaries of the bazaar. The quantified activity of this place occurs on the inside only and as soon as the feet of the actors leave the process their narrative erases the occurrence of ever being part of that place. The interest in such an act arrives from the social structure itself where the tradition of conservative assertion judges the acts as black and white⁹. Partly the outcome of such a plan doesn’t stop the act of the black but merely generates an assumption of ignoring its existence out rightly. This fracture betrays the urban truth of that’s particular time. Only the spatial and mystic implication attached to the bazaar acts as a vessel containing the authentic revelation of the temporal being. The non-bazaar abstraction elevates everything else and puts it in the mausoleum of the heritage. However the intimacy in these bazaar spaces, influences the person through its familiarity and somehow manages to leave traces of the bazaar within the urban users themselves.

Figure 3, 4 The projections of windows in the streets of the walled city bazaar spaces. Source: Zara Farooq
Figure 5. Small artifacts left on the windows of the red-light district brothels in Heera Mandi. Source: Zara Farooq Competing materials in a fracture in Lahore. Source: Zara Farooq

It is this experiential development which can only be achieved through the understanding of the site’s activities and its conflicts. This is the contextual stimulus which instigates the built forms to morph in its need and to even seize its existence if needed by the user. The paradigm of dwelling through the connections and public spaces have been labeled as the most permanent ways to bring about an urban change in the community and at the same time existing themselves as the most temporal structures.


[7] Walled city of Lahore was the forted citadel made to be protected and governed as one of the first planned developments in the vicinity. Today it still sits in the heart of Lahore as the most densely arranged part of the city aging back to the great Mughal rule

[8] Heera Mandi: Meaning literally diamond market is the most well-known red-light district in Lahore’s central walled city

[9] The political mindset after the decade long rule of Zia-ul-Haq changed drastically along the conservative Islamic sharia laws. Being still a nascent state Pakistan got damaged a lot because of this series of events and completely changed the way politics shaped the social structure and thought process at that time.


On the other hand the contemporary bazaars that run on the periphery of the city quantify other types of social insecurities. Using the filter of today’s time the marketplaces carry within themselves a need to be able to come above the future. Using glass and aluminum to construct huge structures that bound the six lane roads throughout the “new” city show the way the users of this kind of bazaar carry the madness of fixating on the desire to find meaning in the idea of the urban narrative that links the country to the global network of cities. The understanding of this global system begins by the establishment of the denotation of the cities. Cities no longer govern on the city vs rural scape. Today, the cities run as the representation of the urgency a society cannot depict on its own. This is where the bazaar becomes the only mirror that can reflect upon this theme.

The abstraction of this thought is based on the abstraction of the contrast between the two examples from Lahore. The tension of the opposing yet symbiotic ideas represent the paradox within societies of being the contemporary urban forces driving the socio-economic actors vs the traditional heritage in relation to urban scapes and its translation. One way to approach this idea is through architecture. This can be done by dissecting the field of study and de-layering its evolution in time. The message that is conveyed by the given site can be observed as an architectural pattern of the morphing details of the bazaar. This pattern can thus become a chain of actions exhibited in each and every detail of the built form much like how the urban structure actually works to communicate one meaning and every act that forms the shape of the urban are all trying to achieve that very goal. This interpretation can then be seen as a translation of the society in some ways.

Mela to Bazaar

Mela: The temporal festivals scheduled for a particular place and time

The plasticity of the ideas behind this theme of study denotes a new kind of intervention prototype where the separation of the society is studied through the canopies of the urban detailing. It is vital to understand the development the growth of the idea of bazaars here. The organic lifestyle used to feed on the self-sufficient systems. The only commotion in commerce these organic dwellings had were in form of seasonal festivals more commonly known as the melas in the subcontinent.

Figure 7. Bangles from Jashan-e-Bahara in Lahore. Source: Zara Farooq

These festivals where the buyers and sellers came on the same layer as the cultural exhibits presented the model for the urban bazaar today. The frozen life of such a place comes with a temporal nature of its existence. It is because of this temporality that the significance of such a place finds more corners in the hearts of its users. To understand this sentiment one must adapt to the yearning and preparations of these anticipated events that would change the scape of the dwelling for the days it used to be alive. Many examples of melas still exist throughout the city of Lahore including the famous Jashan-e-Bahaar which is called the Festival of Spring. The temporality of this event is marked with various events like kite flying and other fervent activities. Lahore has become the representation of this event; the sensuous land of the energies and zeal of its people.

Figure 8. After the celebrations of the Jashan-e-bahara Source: Zara Farooq

Over the time of the conservative Islamic government, the Sharia law started hailing such events to be against the heritage of the country. This along with the dangers of kite flying were used as the rationale to formulate a ban on this festival. This loss can not be understood on the real magnitude of its significance of being the candid escape for the people of this city.

Figure 9. Frozen piece from the streets of Heera Mandi. Source: Zara Farooq

The other side of the narrative takes the perspective of understanding the growth of this temporal mela into the idea of the urban marketplaces. The rural populations from the outskirts of Lahore depended on these scheduled melas to fulfil their desires of escape. Slowly as Lahore started acquiring the urban nature it started offering more channels for the trapped energies in the form of bazaars. This is the reason why the villagers would travel hours on foot to go to the city to visit these bazaars. It is vital to keep the abstraction of the idea of bazaar and what it offers to the human needs. Part of the magnetism for the city of Lahore was diffusing out to the escapes it was withholding within its parameters. To understand this feeling the word kaifiyat qualifies the stage again. The social structure of Lahore functions in a way that it constantly iterates itself to be able to run away from the inhibitions that don’t let the free urban life to thrive. This is why it seeks these edges of existence and almost existence through what the city can offer. The addiction to be lost in a crowd of unfamiliar faces is somewhat the concept behind understanding this feeling. This intoxicated state of mind lets one shed the safe and the accepted personas and reach for the process of self-morphology. Jalaluddin Rumi talks about this push to explore the fear to be able to discover the truths about existence.

“Forget safety.

Live where you fear to live.

Destroy your reputation.

Be notorious.”

Jalaluddin Rumi

Lahore with its broken bones still shines in this tragedy because of the light that emits out from these fractures. It’s based on these dichotomies that Lahore forms its reality of struggle. This is the character of the urban; the allowance for struggle. A constant run for finding niches to be able to fix pieces of the self that cannot be digested by the social system. These niches then always retain these pieces to create a syntax that can only synthesized by understanding this language of the city, which in this case is specified on the domain of the bazaars of Lahore.

The word bazaar itself has evolved over time. Originating from the Persian roots the meaning of this word was centered on the idea of marketplace. However in the context of Lahore and more specifically after the attachment of this word with prostitution bazaars including Heera Mandi this word started acquiring a negative connotation. This can be seen to the extent of associating women as ‘bazaaru’ if their moral ways are immodest for the standards of the social framework. It is important to trace this judgement and its subjection of women as being one of the easiest ways for the society to transfuse rejection of any sort.

The concluding question leaves one on the verge of finding the actual face of the people of Lahore through these urban manifestations. The sensitivity towards such disciplines creates a syllabus of dichotomies and their opposing parallel creating narratives throughout the idea behind the city. Here bazaar has been used as the prime source of this study. The deep layers of this thought can only be quantified through reflection of the problematic that we have adapted very well to ignore in the context of the ephemeral bazaars of Lahore.

Bibliography

Nasir, Farooq Ahmed. “Untitled.” Radiance Feb. 2004: 13. Print.

Rūmī, Jalāl Al-Dīn, and Coleman Barks. The Essential Rumi. San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1995. Print.

Mehrotra, Rahul, Felipe Vera, Diana L. Eck, Dinesh Mehta, and Dipti Mehta. Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral Megacity. Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2015. Print.

Tabassum, Tanima. Analyzing a Traditional Neighborhood Pattern of Old Dhaka: A Case of Tantibazaar. State University of Bangladesh. N.p., n.d. Web.

Brown, T. Louise. The Dancing Girls of Lahore: Selling Love and Hoarding Dreams in Pakistan’s Ancient Pleasure District. New York: Fourth Estate, 2005. Print.

Durrani, Tehmina. Blasphemy: A Novel. Rawalpindi: Ferozsons, 1998. Print.

[1] Kaifiyat (Urdu): to understand the deepest meaning of this word one must follow the poetic abstraction behind the idea of the intoxication from within. This is then linked with a trance like state of mind that comes forth from the frozen instance of feeling something profoundly

[2] Bazaar(Urdu): The place of exchange of energies

[3] The idea of taming the madness and humanizing the truth of existence

[4] The complex meaning behind understanding cities as not boundaries but as the sentiment of representation

[5] Nasir, Farooq Ahmed. “Untitled.” Radiance Feb. 2004: 13. Print.

[6] Azar’s tool: referred to the historical tool used by Abraham’s father to carve out idols

[7] Walled city of Lahore was the forted citadel made to be protected and governed as one of the first planned developments in the vicinity. Today it still sits in the heart of Lahore as the most densely arranged part of the city aging back to the great Mughal rule

[8] Heera Mandi: Meaning literally diamond market is the most well-known red-light district in Lahore’s central walled city

[9] The political mindset after the decade long rule of Zia-ul-Haq changed drastically along the conservative Islamic sharia laws. Being still a nascent state Pakistan got damaged a lot because of this series of events and completely changed the way politics shaped the social structure and thought process at that time.

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