THE WATCH-LIONS OF LAHORE
NO NEED FOR DOGS
One big difference between the East and the West is the love of dogs. The West drools over it’s dogs. The dogs can slip in bed with the owners, the owners can kiss and let the dog lick their faces; as well the dogs are shampoo(ed) and combed and what not? Cuddling a dog is extreme fun for the West. In the East the dog is not considered much. Yes, the dog is there, but not as much loved as a watch animal for safety purposes, if ever used. In fact in our culture, the dog is considered ‘mac-roo’, and that literally mans an unclean animal. It is on record that Emperor Aurangzeb tried his best to clean Lahore city of street dogs. And there we remember the Walt Disney’s tale of the ‘Lady and the Scamp’.
When Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi conquered Lahore, and Ayaz Al-Najim made it a city of culture, there were many issues here. The requirement was to have Watch animals in Lahore. The soldiers were limited in number and had to take care of their posts. The jungle near Shahdara was a thickly populated one, with various animals. The Punjabi Lion was very much there. This lion is typical of this area and shown in drawings as of different kind. The African lion was never here. In fact there were a species of wild cats, which were considered very ferocious, and are still there in the area of Chakwal. Ayaz Al-Najm imported Lion-tamers from Ghazni to the city. Cubs were captured from the Shahdara jungle, as well as lions were mated in captivity. A lion menagerie was very much there. The Lions of Shahdara Lahore were the Watch-lions of the Lahort Fort.
Of course the historian Baihaqi tells us all this, but there had to be proof on the matter too. The earth of Lahore reveals many things, which we cannot even imagine. Abundance of sea shells are there, deep down the Earth. River rocks, a sand strata which tells us of the Noah flood in Lahore. And plenty of bones. Vast number of skeletons are discovered in the process, and not as in graves, but in mass burials, due to public illness or the causalities of battle itself. But the most amazing thing is abundance of bones of lions in the earth. And there we have definite proof of the use of lions as Watch-lions in the city of Lahore.
The most amazing spectacle of course would have been lions marching in Royal processions, and that at times headed by the sister of Ayaz Al-Najm herself, who had come from Ghazni to keep her brother, Governor Ayaz, company. What grand days those must have been? A Lahore we cannot even imagine.