What’s in a name?
Last year, some very dear friends of mine had gifted me with four volumes (bound in two) of District and State Gazetteers of the Undivided Punjab (Low Price publication), a province that covered the entire northwest tract of the country. Khushwant Singh writeschandigarh Updated: May 06, 2013 11:18 IST
Last year, some very dear friends of mine had gifted me with four volumes (bound in two) of District and State Gazetteers of the Undivided Punjab (Low Price publication), a province that covered the entire northwest tract of the country.
Published under the authority of the Punjab government in 1930, the gazetteer marks the entire array of the district and states gazetteers of the erstwhile province, published and revised during the years 1893—1933.
While browsing through the various aspects of each of the districts of the large province, one of the most fascinating pieces of information was the origin of the names of the towns or district headquarters. The discerning reader, I am sure, will appreciate this information which I reproduce in verbatim.
Lahore: Lahore takes its name from Lohawar — meaning the fort of Loh — the son of Rama, Luv. The name as per the gazetteer is not peculiar to the capital of Punjab, as there is a Lahore in Afghanistan, the seat of a Rajput colony, another in Peshawar district and yet another in Hindustan proper and a Lohar in the Mewar state of Rajputana.
It appears in Muhammadan writers under varied forms — Lohar’s, Loher, Lahawar, Lehowa, Lohawar and Rahwar. In the chronicles of the Rajputana, it is mentioned under the name of Lohkot and in the Deshvi Bhagalpur it is called Lavpur.
(Though legend attributes the founding of Lahore to the son of Rama, it is not probable that Lahore was founded before the first century AD as we neither find it mentioned in connection with Alexander, nor is it described by Strabo or Pliny. The first certain historical record is, however of Hiuen Tsang, who mentions it as a large Brahmanical city visited by Tsang in 630 AD on his way to Jullundhur).
Kasur: Tradition refers its origin to Kusa, son of Rama, and brother of Loh or Lava, the founder of Lahore. It is certainly a place of great antiquity; General Cunningham identified it with one of the places visited by Hiuen Tsang in the seventh century AD.
Delhi: Though the city is supposed to date to the 15th century BC and to have flourished subsequently under various names, it was not till the first century BC that the name Dilli first came up. The true derivation of the name is lost in the clouds of antiquity, but it is generally supposed that it was named after Rajah Dhilu, from which Dilli, Dehli and finally Delhi evolved.
Gujranwala: Gujranwala literally means the abode of the Gujjars. These were nomads or cattle grazers and were expelled many generations ago by Sansi Jats, the immigrants from Amritsar who founded 11 villages in the vicinity. Gujranwala is 42 kilometres from Lahore on the Grand Trunk Road and its founder was one Khan, who gave it the name Khanpur. But, the old name survived the change of owners.
Montgomery (Presently Sahiwal): The district of Montgomery was so named by way of a doubtful compliment to Sir Robert Montgomery, who was Lieutenant Governor of the province in 1865. The universally accepted vernacular form of the name is Mintgumri, although from a desire, apparently, to involve more than one ruler of the province in the doubtful compliment, the form Mintgumarency has also been perpetrated.
The only habitation in the neighbourhood before the foundation of the modern town was a small settlement of the local Sahu tribesmen called Sahiwal; even now the headquarter is generally referred to by this name among the Janglis.
Sialkot: The city, as per a Brahman belief, was founded by one Raja Sul or Sala, uncle of the Pandavas, whose heroic deeds are recorded in the Mahabharata. After his death, some 5,000 years ago, there is a story that the dynasty continued for some 1,500 years after which the country got flooded and remained one vast uninhibited region for the next 1,000 years.
Rawalpindi: Meaning the ‘village of Rawals‘ the present city occupies the site of an old village inhabited by Rawals, a vagabond tribe of oculists, diviners, necromancers and impostors.
Gurdaspur: Previously only a small village, Gurdaspur’s name is said to have been derived from Mahant Guriaji, who bought the village and named it after himself. The family came from a village, also called Gurdaspur, in Pathankot Tahsil, and it still owns the estate.
Ferozepur: The name Ferozepur obviously means the town of Firoz.
Its founder was probably Firoz Shah Tughlak, for the place must have
always been an important position on the line of communication between Delhi and Lahore. Another tradition, however, ascribes its foundation to
one of the Bhatti chiefs, namely Firoz Khan.
Kapurthala: It is said to have been founded in the early part of the 11th century — in the times of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni — by Rana Kapur, the mythical ancestor of the Ahluwalia family and a cadet of the royal Rajput house of Jessalmir.
The columnist is a Punjab-based author and journalist. He can be reached at