Heera Mandi

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The Heera Mandi (Diamond Market), also called Shahi Mohallah (Royal Neighborhood), is a famous red-light district of the old Taxali Gate of Lahore, Pakistan.[1] A red-light district is an area where prostitutes work.

Early history[change | change source]

The Heera Mandi was first called the 'Shahi Mohallah' or Royal Neighborhood in the 17th century. It was called that because many princes and nobles of the Mughal dynasty used to come there.[2] At that time there were only Tawaifs (dancing girls) and courtesans there. They were there to amuse the people.[3] During the rule of the Sikh king Ranjit Singh, prostitution also was common.[4] Many brothels were opened there.[5] Ranjit Singh renamed this place 'Heera Mandi'. It was named for an officer, Heera Singh, who lived there. Some historians think that he named it for the beautiful girls (prostitutes) who lived there. They were like precious diamonds.[5]

British times[change | change source]

When the British Raj came to power in this region, Christian missionaries asked for the Heera Mandi to be moved away. They thought the activities there were 'sinful'.[6] The British government tried to move it, but they were forced to move it back because people did not like this idea.[7] Later, after the 1870s, the British also added some special brothels there for British soldiers.[5] This area was made famous in Rudyard Kipling's novel Kim (printed in 1901).

Modern times[change | change source]

After Pakistan became independent in 1947, the Heera Mandi went on as before. Later, under the harsh Islamic puritanical rule of the military dictator General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, a big operation was started to 'clean' the area from prostitution and crime.[7] Many brothels were moved or closed by force.[7] However, once again, people did not like this move. Many of the brothels and other businesses were re-opened.

Even though prostitution is supposed to be illegal in Pakistan, the Mandi still exists. It is also famous for some very good food shops nearby, where many people including foreign tourists come to just eat and watch the shows.[8]

References[change | change source]

  1. W Grimes, 'In the shadows of a city of pleasure' article in the New York Times, August 20, 2005
  2. Hakim Ahmad Shuja, Old Lahore, memories, pub 1969; reprints 1989 and 1992
  3. Isobel Shaw in 'Pakistan handbook' 1988
  4. M Shafiq, 'Old Lahore, 2001
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Shafiq, aa
  6. ZS Butt 'Heera Mandi, Scarlet Secrets of Lahore' in the Express Tribune, August 20, 2010
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Butt, aa
  8. Grimes, aa