Walls of the temple revealed during the excavation From Rudyard Kipling to Abu-Rehan Al Bairooni, from Mughals to Sikhs to Afghans and the British, from buildings, mosques and gardens to forts; the diversity, heritage and culture of Lahore is incomparable. Many historians among us claim that Lahore is an ancient city but its origin is still a myth. They list Lahore as one of the oldest cities in the subcontinent, but do not know when the city was founded, with some historians saying almost 4000 years old and others, 2000. Inside the Temple of Loh Old writings tell us about the origin of a definitive city in the 10th century. There were no Muslim dwellers before the 10th century. The city was of no historical significance before the attacks by Mahmood Ghaznavi in the 11th century and his footprints can be seen as the Tomb of Ayaz stands inside the Rang Mahal Chowk. Hieun Tsang famous Chinese pilgrim visited Lahore in 700 A.D. and wrote about city in his journals. Oldest authentic surviving document was an anonymous document written in 982 and translated in 1927 by Vladimir Fedorovich Minorsky. This document described Lahore as a town with stunning temples, huge markets and spacious orchards. This document at present is in British Museum England. Ptolemy, the Second Century famous Egyptian astronomer and geographer mentioned a city between river Indus and patna that might be Lahore. So Lahore is old but how old, is still a mystery! A legend based on oral traditions holds that Lahore, known in ancient times as Lavapuri (‘City of Lav’ in Sanskrit), was founded by Prince Lava, the son of Sita and Rama whereas the city of Kasur was founded by his twin brother Prince Kusha According to some historic accounts, Lahore was established in 1000 BC when Prince Loh was born. Prince Loh has a deep connection with Lahore; these historians claim. So when we talk about Lahore, we cannot ignore the mesmerizing love story of Rama and Sita. It is said that Sita gave birth to twin sons, Lava and Kusha and a legend based on oral traditions holds that Lahore, known in ancient times as Lavapuri (City of Lava in Sanskrit) and was founded by Prince Lava, the son of Sita and Rama whereas the city of Kasur was founded by his twin brother Prince Kusha. Now let us come to the the facts that support Lahore’s origin in 1000BC and being named after Prince Loh. For this I will take you to the Lahore Fort which has been demolished and built several times. When you visit the fort, you should go to the area that leads you to the giant and majestic Alamgiri Gate which was built by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir. While you are there near the gate, the area on your left has several chambers and one of them opened with a dim light coming through the openings on the ceilings. This is the Mandir or Temple of Prince Loh. According to historic references this temple is also known as Lava Mandir as Loh was also known by Lav. Inside the Temple of Loh Most of the historians and researchers claim this small room among other chambers that connect with the Alamgiri Gate of Lahore Fort as the Temple of Loh and some say that he was born there. It is a small dark room and opened for the tourists. If you take a guide at Lahore Fort you will be able to see it and get to know the history in detail. Now let me take you to another aspect of this temple which is controversial. A known historian and painter Arif Rehman Chughtai provides an interesting research in one of his blogs. He says that out of the blue, the Khulasah al-tawarikh of Subhan Rai, around 1692 linked the city of Lahore with Loh, the so called son of Ram. According to him the famous book on Lahore by Thronton and Kipling does not mention the Mandir of Loh in 1860 rather nobody else does but all of a sudden Judge Muhammad Latif, a veteran British representative and a renowned historian writes about the Temple of Loh. Thronton and Kipling places Lahore on the site of Icchra Lahore, but Anjum Rahmani doubts that Lahore existed even at Icchra. The remains of Hindu Lahore have never been discovered. To the memory of all historians, Lahore is essentially a Muslim city from day one. Yes the city of Loh did exist, but research points to it being somewhere in the hills of Kashmir. He says that for something to be 3000 years old, it has to b at least 40 feet deep, if not more. The remains of Ghaznavid period is mostly at 25 to 30 feet in the city of Lahore. The Mandir is at par with the street outside. But here I think that like the ground levels were raised at many places in the city, it could be true that the Temple of Loh was there but with the passage of time the area around the temple was raised. Let me tell you that this is not a functional temple, it must have been functional during the Mughal or other rules but now it’s idle. Another wall of Temple of Loh Another finding I would like to share here is the excavation of Royal Kitchen at Lahore Fort which is very close to the Temple and Alamgiri Gate of fort. During the excavation when the conservationists reached the point where there is Temple of Loh, they found a structure and fresco work. This can be claimed as the remains of the Temple of Loh as many layers have been added to the Lahore fort with the passage of time. This does show that it might be the real Temple of Loh as it is below the street level if we see it from the Royal Kitchen. I also have another view about this temple. Maybe it was built ages ago and in real sense it is the reason of the name of Lahore, as if we go inside it we see the walls filled with material. I think it would have been a bigger temple and later the walls were filled or rebuilt to make it smaller and pack it in a small room. We see arches and strange patterns in walls of the Temple which suggest there were other structures as well or the temple was spacious. In the Deshwa Bhaga, Lahore is called Lavpor, which at once points to its origin from Lav, the son of Rama, while in the ancient annals of Rajputana the name given is Loh Kot, meaning “the fort of Loh,” which, again, has reference to its mythical founder, Rama’s son. To this day, Lahore Fort has a vacant temple dedicated to Lava, also pronounced Loh, hence Loh-awar or “The Fort of Loh”. So according to this myth and tradition the place of Lahore fort could be the fort of Loh in the past. Close view of the door I guess that these are different arguments that we come across regarding the Temple of Loh and like many other monuments of Lahore this one is also controversial. But in most of the writings on Lahore we get to know that Prince Loh laid the foundations of this city. Well this is an unresolved mystery and an interesting place to visit inside the fort. Published in Daily Times, October 23rd 2018.