Kuri Bagh of Lahore — a garden changed into a burial space

Have you ever heard of the ‘Kuri Bagh’ or ‘Daughter’s Garden’ located in Lahore? I am sure that this name would sound very interesting but probably most of you might not be familiar with this place. Lahore was once known as the city of gardens and ‘Kuri Bagh’ was one of the known gardens. In Punjabi language, kuri’ means girl or daughter and ‘bagh’ means a garden.

It is one of the vanished and forgotten places inside Lahore and the new generation does not know about its interesting history, location and the stories associated with it. The garden does not have a romantic story associated with it like the Shalimar Gardens. Instead it is associated with the tragic story of a father and daughter’s love.

If you wish to reach this place you get to the Yousaf Falooda shop in old Anarkali Chowk and from there walk towards the Jain Mandir where you will come across see the Munshi Chambers. From there you enter a narrow alley which would take you to this “garden of graves”. You can also ask any local about it and they would happily guide you to the place, but ask the aged only as the young might not be aware of it.

The house of General Allard, a French general who joined the army of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, had a garden attached to it

When I heard that the garden housed graves, the first thought that came to my mind was that the place must be haunted. Upon reaching there and asking people about any such mysterious story I didn’t find any ghostly element. Before visiting this place I visualized it as a dark damp garden with old trees whose roots are hanging out and two haunted white graves with shabby marble slabs, it is in ruins but not that dramatically.

This was the house of General Allard, a French general who joined the army of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh,. The house had a huge garden attached to it. Today this area, which was once a beautiful mansion, is one of the congested parts of Lahore and you will be stunned while imagining its past majesty.

Now let me give you a brief account of General Allard. As the famous Napoleon lost the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, some of his soldiers became discouraged and escaped to Persia. Among them were General Ventura, General Allard, General Avitabile and General Court. Interestingly General Ventura’s residence is also in Lahore which is now converted into the Civil Secretariat.

At that time, this area of Punjab was under the rule of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh. General Allard and Ventura came to Lahore and met the maharaja. In the first few meetings the maharaja was suspicious about the two generals and asked his men to keep an eye on them.

After several months the maharaja finally trusted them and assigned them to reorganise his special forces. Later General Allard was made head of the cavalry. The two French men were responsible for the 6000 strong Fauj-i-Khas which was the elite commando unit. The cavalry, called ‘Fransisi Sowar’, was originally formed by two regiments raised by Allard on July 16, 1822. Allard made fresh recruitments and selected the toughest men he could find. By 1825, the Fauj-i-Khas was a force of 6000.

From 1824 onwards, Allard secured the Anglo-Punjab border along the Sutlej, from the Himalayas down to Multan. This is the short but interesting story of General Allard.

According to historic references, General Allard married a niece of the maharaja named Bano. After that Allard along with his family, wife and daughters, shifted to another residence just outside the Secretariat building in Lahore. The entire area surrounding the general’s house looked like a cantonment and later the British did turn it into one. Today this area comes into old Anarkali. Historic references tell us that in those days, young deaths were very common due to seasonal diseases. The general lost one and according to some sources two of his beloved daughters when they were very young. To keep their memories with him, he buried them in the garden of his house. And the garden was named the ‘Daughter’s Garden.’ The name of his daughter, as per historic accounts, was Marie Charlotte and her tomb had these French inscriptions: “Cette tombe a ete construite en 1827 sur l’ordre du chevalier general Allard sahib bahadur pour sa fille Marie Charlotte que dieu lui aporte sa benediction an paradis.” The tombstone above the grave reads: “Marie Charlotte, decedee le 5me Avril, 1827, fille de M. Allard de St. Topiz Chivalier de la Legion d Honneur General de la Cavalerie”. It means: “This grave was built in 1827 by the order of Knight General Allard Sahib Bahadir, for his daughter Marie Charlotte. May God bless her in Paradise.”

Now you must be thinking that who is buried in the other grave inside that garden, as according to most of the references he had only one daughter, so I coming to that story.

Sometime after the death of his daughter, the general was sent to help General Avitabile in Peshawar where he felt ill and died in 1839. His body was brought back to Lahore with full military honor and was buried in the same garden next to his daughter’s grave. So that is the origin of the other grave in the garden.

At present this garden has been reduced to a small insignificant enclosure which is surrounded by huge buildings. It is also said that it was converted into the Kapoorthala House and the garden was sold by the Maharajah of Kapoorthala before 1947 and converted into flats. People used to call those flats ‘Kuri Bagh Flats’. Later the flats were bulldozed and the Income Tax Building was build there.

With these changes the ‘Kuri Bag’ was lost forever but I wish that it is restored and developed as a tourist spot as it holds an interesting history. But I guess it would be difficult to remove all the high rise buildings around the place. Even then the small garden with graves can be cleaned up and given a directional sign.

Published in Daily Times, September 8th 2018.