Many of you must have visited the Royal Trail or Shahi Guzargah which is inside Delhi Gate of Lahore. It has one of the most significant monuments of Mughal, Sikh and British era. At the end of the beautiful streets on the Royal Trail, which is known as Gali Surjan Singh, there is an Imam Bargah or haveli known as Haveli Alif Shah. This historic haveli is more than three hundred years old and was converted into an Imam Bargah somewhere in 1861. This haveli is said to be among the most venerated havelis of the walled city during Muharram and Safar processions. The life here during Muharram is completely different from other days and people from all sects visit it. The processions from 7th till 10th of Moharram come out of it even though this haveli is smaller than Nisar or Mubarak Haveli. The haveli’s courtyard is an Imam Bargah where you will see hundreds of mourners during Moharram and Safar. They are all dressed in black as is the custom during those times. The Ashura processions in the walled city shaped up in the early 1800s when Syed Ghulam Ali Shah, popularly known as Gamay Shah, started a mourning march from Mochi Gate in the company of the pious woman Mai Aghia The haveli and Imam Bargah’s interior has the symbols of coffins, Tazia and Zuljanah. This is an old tradition. The processions from this haveli are leading since 1861 when it was converted into Imam Bargah. These processions then join the main procession of Muharram that leads to Nisar and Mubarak Havelis inside Mochi Gate and then to the Karbala Gamay Shah for Sham-e-Ghareeban. There is also an interesting history of Muharram processions inside the walled city of Lahore. The historical references and books say that in the past the Sikhs and Hindus also participated in the processions of Muharram by setting up sabeels and food stalls all around the procession route. Lala Mela Raam and Bhai Jawahar Singh were the known ones and a huge sabeel and food stall was set up by Hindus and Sikhs at Chowk Peer Nau Gaza as well. The Ashura processions in the walled city shaped up in the early 1800s when Syed Ghulam Ali Shah, popularly known as Gamay Shah, started a mourning march from Mochi Gate in the company of the pious woman Mai Aghia. These processions of Ashura date back to times right after Karbala but they took up the shape of a proper procession later in Lahore. The hearsay goes that when Gamay Shah and Mai Aghia started their mourning by roaming around the city the people complained about them. Apparently, Gamay Shah and Mai Aghia started these march and mourning when Maharaja Ranjeet Singh was ruling Lahore. At that time a few people went to the maharaja, complaining about the procession and mourning of Gamay Shah. The maharaja then called Gamay Shah over to the royal court and punished him by imprisoning him in the dungeon inside Lahore Fort. The story states that the maharaja could not sleep that night due to nightmares and horrific thoughts. The next morning he along with his courtier Faqir Syed Aziz-ud-din went to Gamay Shah and asked him the reason behind this mourning. Gamay Shah asked the maharaja if the latter could overcome the grief of losing his Guru and other people who were killed brutally by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir. Te maharaja was astonished at this reply and said ‘no’. Gamay Shah then explained to the maharaja that he could not forget the violence and brutality of Yazid towards the grandson and family of the Holy Prophet in Karbala. He added that the marches and mourning during the month of Muharram were to express grief over the martyrdom of the Holy Prophet’s Family. The maharaja was convinced and he apologised from Gamay Shah and released him from the prison. Maharaja Ranjeet Singh began to respect Gamay Shah after this and, eventually, the small procession changed into a bigger one. Gamay Shah is said to have died a year after this incident and was buried at the same place where he lived and meditated. Later the place was made as Karbala Gamay Shah when Nawab Ali Raza Qazalbash and Sir Nawazish Ali Qazalbash purchased the land, built the Shrine of Gamay Shah and devoted rest of for the Imambargah. Since then, the Qazalbash family has looked after Karbala Gamay Shah. The Walled City has changed over the passage of time but the route of this procession remains the same as set by Gamay Shah and Mai Aghia. Till today the route starts at Nisar Haveli on 9th Muharram, and moves through Mubarak Haveli, Mohalla Chehl Bibian, Imambargah Syed Wajid Ali Shah, Chowk Nawab Sahib, Koocha Qazi Khana, Imambargah Maulvi Feroz Ali, Koocha Miskeenan, Mohalla Peer Gillanian, Imambargah Syed Rajab Ali Shah, Chauhatta Mufti Baqir, Chowk Kotwali, Kashmiri Bazaar, Sonehri Masjid, Dabbi Bazaar, Gumti Bazaar (Rang Mahal Chowk), Said Mittha Bazaar, Tehsil Bazaar, Bazaar Hakimaan, Ucchi Masjid and Bhaati Chowk, concluding at Karbala Gamay Shah on the eve of 10th Muharram. Later, a chehlum procession originates from Haveli Alif Shah on the 20th of Safar that marks forty days since the date of Hazrat Imam Hussain’s martyrdom. Another charm of the haveli is the tree which is painted red and called the Nochandi Jumerat (Thursday) tree. The elders of the haveli believe that if a girl is not getting married or facing problems in getting a suitable marriage proposal she must pray there on the first Thursday of an Islamic month. The elderly ladies of the haveli say that after getting married the girl is supposed to feed the people there with langar (free food) there, and put red paint on the tree and burn a few oil lamps. Girls come there with their mothers and grandmothers. This haveli was restored by the Walled city of Lahore authority in 2011 when they were rehabilitating the royal trail. It is a tourist site as well and the residents are very welcoming. If you want to visit this haveli go to Gali Surjan Singh inside Delhi Gate and ask anyone about it. Published in Daily Times, September 24th 2018.