Wagah’s Pakistan-India Metaphor

One appreciates Wagah at many levels. This is the site of the daily flag ceremony at the Pakistan-India border. Pakistan Rangers and India Border Security Forces lower both Pakistan’s and India’s flags, two hours before sunset. We attended this ceremony on September 24th.  I found it fascinating. Moreover, I refer to it as Wagah’s Pakistan-India Metaphor.

Wagah’s Pakistan-India Metaphor

The border ceremony is a metaphor. The ceremony represents the partition’s tragic history, cautious cooperation, and ongoing tensions. However, the ceremony is also just plain fun! One easily overlooks the negative connotations to simply enjoy the experience.

Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
The approach. Pakistan has a huge flag in front of the assembly area!
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Ready for yet more security checkpoints. We had protocol. So, we made it in faster than most.

Border Ceremony Video Highlights – 6 minutes 30 seconds

 

For a quick look at the ceremony, check out this video. Amir (our guide) and I shot this six and a half minute video using my Samsung phone.

Pre-ceremony Reminds Me of a Sporting Event

The pre-ceremony reminded me of a sporting event. American football comes to mind.

Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Dinah and I wave our small Pakistan flags.
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Cheering crowds.
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Pre-ceremony entertainment. The man holding the flag was dancing with only one leg.
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Pakistani Rangers preparing for the ceremony.
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Billboard of India’s Border Security Force (BSF) on the India side.
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Big head dress!
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
This Ranger assisted us with protocol seating.
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
More preparation.

Ceremony Highlights

The ceremony starts with a flourish. Rangers march out toward the border gate. India’s BSF troops do the same. Especially impressive, the high steps. I wince thinking about it!

Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Ceremony underway. Note the cheerleader in the background.
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Impressive footwork.
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Just witnessing the high steps makes me wince!
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
The Rangers include women.
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Over his head!
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Yes, we had our own cheerleader.
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Ranger moving through his routine.
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
This shot’s focus is on the India-side crowd. Look at their varied expressions.
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Simultaneously lowering both countries’ flags.
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Staged interaction between the two countries.
Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Pakistan Rangers taunting India.

The ceremony ends with the simultaneous lowering of each country’s flag.

Wagah’s Pakistan-India Metaphor and the Partition

India and Pakistan have a complex relationship. It began with the Partition.

First, consider the British Raj. The British ruled India from 1858 to 1947. After World War II, Britain was weary and ready to end its colonial presence in India. Partition planning began whereby Pakistan was to become an independent country. Boundary planning intended to provide Pakistan as a Muslim country with Hindus and Sikhs remaining in India.

Unfortunately, the British rushed the border definition decision. Sir Cyril Radcliffe had just five weeks to define a border boundary between the countries. Moreover, the decision was casual. And, it was secret. People only found out about the border boundary two days after partition.

Chaos and violence ensued. Hundreds of thousands of people fled their homes to move into either Pakistan or India, based on their religion. Countless died. I have extended family members with heartbreaking familial stories. For example, a family member only taking their house key with them as they fled. They assumed an ultimate resolution to the situation. It never happened. Another family member volunteered to clean and make burial preparations for dead bodies arriving at the Lahore train station. I am sure many stories are the same on the India side of the border.

Epilogue for Wagah’s Pakistan-India Metaphor

Wagah's Pakistan-India Metaphor
Note the Indian BSF soldier holding a weapon behind me. He was on the Indian side of the border.

I don’t judge the tensions. I have many family, friends, and colleagues on both sides of the border. First of all, Pakistan is a new country. It is only 70 years old this year. It started with only what the British left. Pakistan had no industry. At the beginning, government workers did not even have pencils. Moreover, profound theology differences exist between Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs. To me, this seems more than just the American Methodists versus Presbyterians. Profound belief differences exist around the nature of deity, food, animals, and many other aspects of society.

Beyond these internal challenges, geopolitical forces did and continue to bring external pressure. Early on, the United States and Soviet Union struggled to gain the upper hand in influence on both countries. Since 9/11, the United States exerts severe pressure on Pakistan to contain terrorists. Notably, Pakistan saw its tourism industry devastated. Most of all, if any American thinks Pakistan does not try, think again. Security checkpoints abound. For example, every Pakistani carries a national identify card. (I received a tour of the identity card IT kiosk in one town. Impressive!) Furthermore, Pakistan absorbed countless Afghani immigrants. And, Pakistan prevented the Soviet Union from reaching a warm-water port.

In comparison, look at the United States. We currently struggle with Red versus Blue. Republicans versus Democrats. We even fought a Civil War over slavery. As I write this post, the United States just had its worst mass shooting in history. I hope Americans remain humble and appreciate the tremendous sacrifices and obstacles both Pakistan and India did and still face.


To Read More

For more on Pakistan, see my Pakistan Northern Areas blog post and Lahore’s Mughal Empire History Showcase blog post.

Be sure and check out my Trover and Twitter posts for more photos.

Lahore’s Mughal Empire History Showcase

History abounds in Lahore. Lahore’s Mughal Empire history showcase excels as windows to the past. It’s history-rich sites connects us to ancient times.

Lahore’s Mughal Empire History Showcase Locations

All sites are within the Lahore metropolitan area. Access is straight forward. Traffic can be bad during rush hours. However, even then patience suffices.

Mughal Empire History  Quick-Look

I dare not delve into detailed Mughal Empire history. However, a few key facts provide a quick-look perspective:

  • The empire started in the 1500s
  • It reached its peak in the 1600s
  • It started quickly declining in the 1700s and dissolved by 1857
  • At its height of power, the empire controlled almost 25% of the world’s GDP
  • Notably, Shah Jahan, one of Mughal’s emperors, commissioned the Taj Mahal construction

For more insight and details, see Mughal Empire history.

Iconic Badshahi Mosque Leads List of Lahore’s Mughal Empire History Showcase sites

Badshahi Mosque is iconic. Emperor Aurangzeb commissioned the construction in 1671. Construction finished in just two years.

Interestingly, Badshahi was the world largest mosque for 313 years. Today, it is the second largest mosque in Pakistan.

One enters Badshahi through its distinctive red sandstone entrance. As with any mosque, one removes their shoes prior to entering. Since I was still walking on a sprained ankle, I welcomed the comfort of wandering through the mosque in my socks!

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Badshahi’s distinctive red sandstone entrance. Note the marble plaque above the entrance. It lists the mosque’s full name  “Masjid Abul Zafar Muhy-ud-Din Mohammad Alamgir Badshah Ghazi”.

The courtyard is large and can hold up to 100,000 worshipers.

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Badshahi’s large courtyard accommodates 100,000.

As with the entrance, the Prayer Hall entrance has a red sandstone with white marble inlay.

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Prayer Hall entrance. Note the marble inlay.

The outer walls have large minarets while main building has four smaller minarets.

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
View of the Prayer Hall and one of the small minarets.
Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Long distance view of the mosque from the nearby fort. Observe both the larger and smaller minarets.

To read more, see Badshahi Mosque.

Ornate Wazir Khan Mosque

Shah Jahan commisioned the Wazir Khan Mosque in 1634. Construction completed in 1641.

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Wazir Khan Mosque courtyard.

The exterior is embellished with kashi-kari tile work.

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Exterior showing kashi-kari tile work.

I am not Muslim. However,  these two young men, below, invited me to sit with them in the Prayer Hall. So, I did. They spoke very little English. And, I do not speak Urdu. However, we enjoyed some time just being together. In the photo below, he is showing me photos of his children. We all have some things in common!

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
I sat with these two young men in the mosque. We did not speak the same language but we understood each other.

Wazir Khan is adjacent to the Kashmiri Bazaar. Combining the two into a sightseeing trip makes sense.

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
My nose buzzed with the smell of peppers and spices at the nearby bazaar.

To read more, see Wazir Khan Mosque.

Lahore’s Mughal Empire History Showcase- Lahore Fort

Lahore Fort is a sprawling site covering almost 50 acres. Several Mughal Emperors contributed to its construction. However, we only had time to see a few highlights. One can spend days here. But, Lahore’s climate is warm and humid – 90 to 100 deg F and greater than 50% humidity. So, we wilted quickly in the heat. As a result, that limited the time we wanted to spend wandering the fort grounds.

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Lahore Fort’s famous Alamgiri Gate as viewed from Badshahi Mosque.
Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Lahore Fort’s Alamgiri gate.
Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Amir, our guide, explaining the fort’s history to my wife.
Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Jahangir’s Quadrangle.

My fort visit involved countless selfie requests. I enjoy interacting with everyone. So, I usually try and say yes. However, our guide sometimes wanted us to keep moving to stay on schedule.

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Large group selfie! One man seemed to be their teacher. He wanted me to convey to the U.S. that Pakistanis are not terrorists!
Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Selfies sometimes occur in rounds whereby we have to use each person’s camera.

To read more, see Lahore Fort.

Shahi Hamman Bath

Shahi Hamman is a Persion-style bath built in 1635. The bath served as a waqf to financially support the Wazir Khan mosque. Modern day Iranian baths seem to be on the decline.

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Frescoes in the main dome.
Lahore's Mughal Empire Sites
Restored portion of the bath. The underground tunnels carried heat to warm the water and baths.

To read more, see Shahi Hamman.

Richly Decorated Tomb of Jahangir

Jahangir was the fourth Mughal Emperor. He ruled from 1605 until his death in 1627. Most noteworthy, his name means ‘conqueror of the world’. Political, economic, and architectural achievements characterized Jahangir’s reign. Also, he applied Islamic law in a progressive fashion, allowing people to retain their own laws and customs when it made sense. For example, he allowed Muslims and Hindus to retain their own laws with respect to marriage.

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Entrance to Jahangir’s Tomb.

The exterior is extensively decorated with pietra dura, an inlay technique using polished, colorful stones.

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Entrance into the main courtyard.
Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Main landscaped courtyard.
Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Looking from the tomb back toward the entrance.

Inexplicably, the tomb area had no lighting. So, we used our cell phone flashlights. Consequently, I shot the photo below with a flash.

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Jahangir’s Tomb.

Note the intricate inlay work. The inlay consists of actual colored stones.

Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
Inlay
Lahore's Mughal Empire History Showcase
One of the tomb’s external corridors.

To read more, see Tomb of Jahangir.

Lahore’s Mughal Empire History Showcase Legacy

The Mughal Empire leaves the world quite the architectural legacy. However, can we or should we learn anything from the empire? Theories abound on the reason for the Empire’s rapid decline starting in the early 1700s. Probably, several factors played a role. Political feuds, runaway expenses, external threats, and inability to change accelerated the decline. Perhaps, our lesson – we should not take our successes for granted.

Lahore’s Mughal Empire History showcase provides a treasure-trove of architecture and history.

For more on Pakistan, see my Pakistan Northern Areas blog post.

Be sure and check out my Trover and Twitter posts for more photos.