Gujranwala is a city in Punjab, Pakistan, that is located north of the nearby provincial capital of Lahore. The city is Pakistan’s 7th most-populous metropolitan area and its 5th most populous city proper. Founded in the 18th century, Gujranwala is a relatively modern town compared to the many nearby millennia-old cities of northern Punjab. The city served as the capital of the Sukerchakia Misl state between 1763 and 1799, and is the birthplace of the founder of the Sikh Empire, Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
Gujranwala sits at the heart of the so-called Rechna Doab – a strip of land between the Chenab in the north, and Ravi River in the south. Gujranwala is also part of the Majha – a historical region of northern Punjab. The city was built upon the plains of Punjab, and the surrounding region is unbroken plain devoid of topographical diversity.
Gujranwala is 226 metres (744 ft) above sea level, sharing borders with Ghakhar Mandi and several towns and villages. About 80 kilometres (50 mi) south is the provincial capital, Lahore. Sialkot and Gujrat lie to its north. Gujrat connects Gujranwala with Bhimber, Azad Kashmir, and Sialkot connects it with Jammu. About 160 kilometres (99 mi) southwest is Faisalabad. To its west are Hafizabad and Pindi Bhattian, which connect Gujranwala to Jhang, Chiniot and Sargodha.
Gujranwala is now Pakistan’s third largest industrial centre after Karachi and Faisalabad and contributes 5% of Pakistan’s national GDP. The city is part of a network of large urban centres in north-east Punjab province that forms one of Pakistan’s mostly highly industrialized regions. Along with the nearby cities of Sialkot and Gujrat, Gujranwala forms part of the so-called Golden Triangle of industrial cities with export-oriented economies.
The exact origins of Gujranwala are unclear. Unlike the ancient nearby cities of Lahore, Sialkot, and Eminabad, Gujranwala is a relatively modern city. It may have been established as a village in the middle of the 16th century. Locals traditionally believe that Gujranwala’s original name was Khanpur Shansi, though recent scholarship suggests that the village was possibly Serai Gujraninstead – a village once located near what is now Gujranwala’s Khiyali Gate that was mentioned by several sources during the 18th century invasion of Ahmad Shah Durrani.
Following the 1707 death of the last of the great Mughal emperors, Aurangzeb, and the subsequent decline of Mughal power, various Sikh states came to control the region around what is now modern Gujranwala. Charat Singh, ruler of the Sukerchakia Misl Sikh estate and the local Muslim chief Muhammad Yar joined forces to defeat Nader Shah’s 1738 invasion of the region, which would later culminate in the sacking of Delhi.
Charat Singh had a fort built in the area between 1756 and 1758, which was laid siege to in September 1761 by Khwaja Ubaid, Governor of Lahore. He then elevated the city to status of capital of his Misl in 1763. Charat Singh’s grandson Ranjit Singh was born in Gujranwala in 1780 in the city’s Purani Mandi market, and would later established the Sikh Empire that would control Punjab until the arrival of the British.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh maintained Gujranwala as his capital initially after rising to power in 1792. His military commander, Hari Singh Nalwa, built a high mud wall around Gujranwala during this era, and established the city’s new grid street-plan that exists until present day.Gujranwala remained Ranjit Singh’s capital until he captured the nearby old Mughal capital of Lahore from the Durranis in 1799, at which point the capital was moved there, leading to the relative decline of Gujranwala in favour of Lahore. Maharani Jind Kaur, the last queen of Ranjit Singh and mother of Maharaja Duleep Singh, was born in Gujranwala in 1817.
By 1839, the city’s bazaars were home to an estimated 500 shops, while the city had been surrounded by a number of pleasure gardens, including one established by Hari Nalwa Singh that was famous for its vast array of exotic plants.
The area was captured by the British Empire in 1848, and rapidly developed thereafter. Gujranwala was incorporated as a municipality in 1867, and the city’s Brandreth, Khiyali, and Lahori Gates built atop the site of a Sikh-era gates were completed in 1869. A new clocktower was built in central Gujranwala to mark the city’s centre in 1906.
Christian missionaries were brought to the region during British colonial rule, and Gujranwala became home to numerous churches and schools. The city’s first Presbyterian Church was established in 1875 in the Civil Lines area – a settlement built one mile north of the old city to house Gujranwala’s European population. A theological seminary was established in 1877, and a Christian technical school in 1900.
The North-Western Railway connected Gujranwala with other cities in British India by rail in 1881. The major Sikh higher learning institution, Gujranwala Guru Nanak Khalsa College, was founded in Gujranwala in 1889, though it later shifted to Ludhiana. The nearby Khanki Headworkswere completed in 1892 under British rule, and helped irrigate 3 million acres in the province.Gujranwala’s population, according to the 1901 census of British India, was 29,224. The city continued to grow rapidly for the remainder of British rule.
Riots erupted in Gujranwala following the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in Amritsar in April 1919, and were the most violent reaction to the British massacre in all of the Indian Subcontinent. Riots lead to the damage of the city’s railway station, and burning of the city’s Tehsil Office, Clock Tower, Dak Bangla, and city courts. Much of the city’s historical record was burnt in the attacked offices. Protestors in the city, nearby villages, and a procession from Dhullay were fired upon with machine-guns mounted to low-flying planes, and subjected to aerial bombardment from the Royal Air Force under the control of Reginald Edward Harry Dyer.
According to the 1941 census, 269,528 out of the Gujranwala District’s 912,234 residents were non-Muslim. 70% of Gujranwala city residents were Muslims prior to Partition, though non-Muslims controlled much of the city’s economy. Hindus and Sikhs together owned two thirds of Gujranwala’s properties. Sikhs were concentrated in the localities of Guru Nanak Pura, Guru Gobind Garh, and Dhullay Mohallah, while Hindus were dominant in Hakim Rai, Sheikhupura Gate area, and Hari Singh Nalwa Bazaar. Muslims were concentrated in Rasul Pura, Islam Pura and Rehman Pura.
Following the Independence of Pakistan and the aftermath of the Partition of British India in 1947, Gujranwala was site of some of the worst rioting in Punjab. Large swathes of Hindu and Sikh localities were attacked or destroyed. Rioters in the city gained notoriety for attacks, with the city’s lohar blacksmith guild known for its particularly brutal attacks. In retaliation for attacks against a trainload of refugees by Sikh rioters at Amritsar railway station on 22 September that resulted in the deaths of 3,000 Muslims over the course of three hours, rioters from Gujranwala attacked a trainload of Hindus and Sikhs fleeing towards India on 23 September, killing 340 refugees in the nearby town of Kamoke. Partition riots in Gujranwala resulted in systematic violence against the city’s minorities, and may constitute an act of ethnic cleansing by modern standards. Gujranwala became home to Muslim refugees who were fleeing from the widespread anti-Muslim pogroms that depopulated eastern Punjab in India of almost its entire Muslim population. Refugees in Gujranwala were mainly those who had fled from the cities of Amritsar, Patiala, and Ludhiana in what had become the Indian state of East Punjab.
The influx of Muslim refugees into Gujranwala drastically altered the city’s form. By March 1948, over 300,000 refugees had been resettled in Gujranwala District. Many refugees found post-Partition Gujranwala lacking in opportunities, causing some to move south to Karachi. The refugee population mostly settled in localities that were mostly non-Muslim, like Gobindgarh, Baghbanpura and Nanakpura.
Suburban districts were rapidly laid, including Satellite Town in 1950, which was designed mostly to house wealthy and upper middle class refugees. D-Colony was built in 1956 for poorer Kashmiri refugees, and Model Town in the 1960s. The city experienced strong industrial growth during this period. In 1947, there were only 39 registered factories – a number which rose to 225 by 1961. The city’s colonial era metal-working industry continued to grow, while the city became a centre of hosiery manufacturing that was run by refugees from Ludhiana. The city’s jewelry-trade had been run by Hindus, but came under control of refugees from Patiala.
Gujranwala’s economy continued to grow into the 1970s and 1980s. New development continues, such as the opening of a 5,774 foot long flyover that functions as an elevated urban expressway, as well as the nearby Sialkot International Airport which serves the entire Golden Triangle region, and is Pakistan’s first privately owned commercial airport. Educations of higher learning have also been established in the city since independence. The Sialkot-Lahore Motorway, due to be open in 2018, will pass near Gujranwala.
Gujranwala’s oldest precincts were laid according to the new city plan devised by Hari Singh Nalwa, following Ranjit Singh’s establishment of Gujranwala as his capital in 1792. A street plan based mostly on a grid plan was implemented, with bazaars intersecting one another at 90 degree angles. Some of the blocks are rectangular in shape, resulting in a polygonal shaped old city. This old city was then enclosed by a high mud wall with gates, and a fort that was built immediately north of the old city. The city’s Sheranwala Bagh was also expanded under Hari Singh Nalwa’s direction.
Gujranwala’s old city is centred on the Shahi, or “Royal,” Bazaar. The old city is home to many of the city’s pre-Partition houses of worship for Hindus and Sikhs. The Hindu Devi Talab temple was once famous for its large water-tank, and remains in good condition despite being used as a residence for a family who fled Patiala. The Sikh Gurdwara Damdama Sahib is located near the Devi Talab temple, is important in Sikhism for its association with Baba Sahib Singh Bedi, a Sikh saint. An old gurdwara is also located near the Chashma Chowk intersection near Shahi Bazaar’.
Gujranwala grew rapidly following British rule, and connection of the city to the railways of British India. The city grew outside of the city’s walls, requiring new bazaars to be laid – which were done in a radial plan centred on the old city. Some historic structures like the Haveli of Sardar Mahan Singh were torn down by the British, and replaced with other structures. The city’s Brandreth, Lahori, and Khiyali Gates were built atop the city’s demolished original gates, while Mahan Singh’s haveli was transformed into a public square named Ranjit Ganj. The city’s boundaries remained mostly west of the railways line prior to 1947.
The Civil Lines neighbourhood was built for European residents approximately one mile north of the old city. The area was characterized by bungalows, large and verdant lawns, and shady tree-lined avenues. Civil Lines is where the city’s Presbyterian Church was built in 1875, while the city’s Theological Seminary was established here in 1877. The Christian Technical Training Center followed suit in 1900. The city’s elite Hindus and Sikhs eventually also settled in small numbers in Civil Lines. Several of their mansions still remain in the area including those of Charan Singh, Banarsi Shah, as well as other buildings such as Islamia College and Khurshid Manzil.
Growth occurred mostly in areas northwest and southeast of the city immediately after independence until 1965 along routes emanating from old Gujranwala. Satellite Town was established on the southwest side in 1950. Areas northeast and southwest of the city were the sites of most growth between 1965 and 1985. Growth grow outwards mostly evenly after 1985 until present time. Much of the growth has been unplanned due to poor enforcement of development guidelines and lax enforcement of property laws.