Smell of spicy food, mixed with the odor of open sewage lingers all around you as you walk through tapered streets of the Taxali gate. Shops lit by colorful lights, cannot help but to catch your attention to them. The Taxali gate is not popularly known for its color, but otherwise known for the red light district it resides in its heart. Heera Mandi/Shahi Muhala as they call it popularly remains to taboo this area from rest of Lahore. As you walk deeper into the streets of taxali gate, the lights and glitter begins to diminish and more shadowed streets appear. Balconies are occupied by women, whose faces express that they have been standing in these balconies for everyday of their life.
In Mughal era, heera mandi was famous for dancing and music. What pulled the noble and the aristocrats to these streets was the visual and musical treat, the culture that lingered through the air. It’s said that the nobles used send their children here to learn culture and etiquettes from these courtesan women. The famous historical character Ameeran or more popularly known as Umrao Jan was an example of the courtesan women who inhabited the streets of Heera mandi. It wasn’t originally called heera mandi, whereas it was named so by the Sikh emperor Ranjeet Singh, as a tribute to one of his ministers Heera Singh.
It was not until the establishment of British rule that these streets were polluted by brothels and prostitution. The East India company wanted leisure and entertainment for there officers who were living so far from their homes. So slowly they poisoned these streets and its culture and with passage of years it was all gone. But this is one part of the Taxali gate, but the colors of Taxali gate even today pull people to itself. The famous Phajja siri paya and shabuddin halwai are still a delight for food lovers from all over the world. The famous Pan of Taxali is still mouthwatering as it even was during the Mughal era. The famous sheikhpurian bazaar even today, a century later is till famous for hand made khusaaz. The say the best khusaaz of Pakistan are still made here. Also the Taxali hearts the best shops for musical instruments, which signify its traces to the rich musical and artistic culture it once had. Heera mandi is one part of Taxali gate and its culture. But it will never diffuse the Colors of Taxali gate.