LANDA BAZAAR AND SULTAN’S SERAI
THE STORY OF MUHAMMED SULTAN CONTRACTOR
Amazing personalities of Lahore
The story of an orphan boy of about 12 years of age, who supposedly came from Kashmeer and settled in Lahore with his mother (research proves that his ancestors were actually from Lahore itelf). He did all sorts of menial jobs, and at first could not achieve success in any field. He was the first to start manufacturing soap in Lahore. He even practiced wrestling for a living. Mahrajah Sher Singh had rewarded him for a victory, with the present of a horse. Due to a known official contact, he gradually turned to contractorship, and as it is said, eventually became a real Sultan of Lahore. The marriage he solemnized of his step-brother Mian Abdur Rahman (born of a Lahori father) on which four lakh rupees were spent was considered no less than the marriage of Prince Nau Nehal Singh in the past. The brother left Lahore for Kabul and died there. The intricate reception he arranged for the Prince of Wales Albert Edward on 18th January, 1876 AD, by placing heavily carved wooden ‘chajas’ on all the shops in his ‘Landa Bazaar’ is on record as being an exceptional gesture. The beautiful water well known as ‘Thanda koh’ he made in his Serai for drinking of water by ordinary people was appreciated by all. All this made him stand tall with people. There are two views on him; one positive, one negative. And probably both are true in a way. In a ruthless spree of greed, he bought one monument after another, and demolished same again in the name of bricks. On the other hand he gave charity to all deserving persons, built public buildings, mosques, and worked for the welfare of the people. And instead of a bloated ego, he had plenty of humility, and even refused some fancy titles from British over lords. But can he be blamed alone for demolishing these buildings? After all it was the colonial rule, and he was under command instructions to do things. It was not in his power to refuse same. And what about the attitude of those Britishers who had sold these beautiful monuments to the contractor for bricks alone? A rag to riches tale and back is the story of his life. Muhammed Sultan died on 4th February, 1876 AD in penury, only 16 days after the Prince of Wales passed his show (his last show in all ways, on which he spent a considerable time in preparation) near the Railway Station, and was buried in the graveyard of Miani in Lahore. A misunderstood man who inherited a question mark to his life in history.
A FAMILY TREE BY YAHYA CHUGHTAI ARTIST
In Landa Bazaar we visited the house of Yahya Chughtai, an artist and draughtsman with the King Edward Medical College, Lahore, and a descendant of Muhammd Sultan himself. Our enquiry about Muhammed Sultan was extensive and he wrote the following family tree for us in 1977 and that is remarkable too:
MIRZA ABDULLAH BAIG HUKUM LAHORE (GOVERNOR)
MIAN PIR MUHAMMED
MIAN QADIR BAKSH
MIAN MUHAMMED SULTAN AND MIAN ABDUR RAHMAN
ELAHI BAKSH MUSAWAR AND IMAM BAKSH MUSAWAR
We reproduce the family tree given to us by Muhammed Yahya. I do not think anyone has ever researched the real background of Muhammed Sultan like this.
LANDA BAZAAR AND SULTAN’S SERAI
Frequented by millions in a year, hunting for old clothes as well as iron and its related things, the two keep the name of this contractor alive. But so does the Railway Station, the work of a remarkable man. And all this on the Chowk of Prince Dara Shikoh as well as his havelli. Dara Shikoh too was a Governor of Lahore, once upon a time and his memory is long gone too. But the memory of the Sultan persists to this day for his work which was really immortal in many ways.
There is a photograph in our archives, attributed to him. We will reproduce that eventually.