Sunday pastime: Critical Mass explores 11th-century governor’s tomb

Group member delivers lecture on how Ayaz came to rule the city

Cyclists head towards the Shah Alam market (top left); the entrance of the tomb (above); a view of the minarets and dome (right). PHOTO: AMEL GHANI/EXPRESS

LAHORE: A group of cycling enthusiasts who identify themselves as the Critical Mass Lahore visited the tomb of Malik Ayaz near Rang Mahal this Sunday.

Ayaz was made the governor of Lahore following the city’s invasion by Sultan Mahmud’s forces in the 11th century.

As many as 20 cyclists started their journey from near Liberty Market. They rode cycles all the way to the tomb near Shah Alam market in the Walled City.

Though it’s difficult to locate the tomb because of commercial activity in the area on week days, the narrow entrance of the structure can be easily spotted on a Sunday.

At the tomb, Kaiser Tufail, who said he was a core member of the CML, delivered a lecture on how Ayaz came to rule the city. “Ayaz was a garrison commander in Sultan Mahmud’s army. He was made the governor because Mahmud did not want to stay in India,” he said.

“Ayaz was not a slave in the western sense of the word,” he said. He said slaves were treated differently in the region he came from. “He was like a domestic servant who found a place in the military due to his skill at the art of fighting,” he said.

Tufail said the Lahore had been burnt to ground in Mahmud’s invasion. “It was built afresh during Ayaz’s governorship,” he said. Ayaz was made the governor following the defeat of then ruler Anandpal, son of Jaipal, at the hands of Mahmud’s army.

Tufail said Anandpal had ascended to the throne after his father’s suicide. “Jaipal is believed to have immolated himself after he lost two battles to Mahmud’s armies,” he said. He said Jaipal had committed suicide in the area now identified as Mochi Gate.

During their conversations with The Express Tribune, the cycling enthusiasts seemed more interested in the journey than the destination.

“I joined the group a year ago. We cycle through different areas every Sunday,” said Yawar Hayat, who works at a software house. He said that apart from the interesting places he got to visit every week, the cycling provided an opportunity to divert his attention from his job for a while.

Another group member, Aneeqa Ali, said she had been associated with CML for three years. She said the CML had provided her with the opportunity to ride a bicycle on the city’s roads. “It’s not easy for women here to take up such activities on their own,” she said. “Onlookers don’t call out to you when you’re part of a group. You find folks staring at you but no one dares say anything,” she said.

Tufail said the group consisted of people from various professional backgrounds. “We usually have around 20 to 25 people in winter. In summer months the number of participants increases to between 40 and 50 people,” he said.He said the group had visited 27 Mughal era sites in the Walled City over the past few weeks. He said they planned to organise cycling trips to Salt Range and to Head Balloki in the coming months.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 1st,  2016.


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