The foundation stone of Faisalabad’s iconic clock tower was laid down in 1903 by the British lieutenant governor of the Punjab, Sir Charles Rivaz
It is generally accepted that Faisalabad (previously known as Lyallpur) is popular due to its clock tower (locals refer to it as Ghanta Ghar) and eight bazaars (markets), along with its textile industry. Although the clock towers were also constructed in other cities of the Punjab such as Multan, Sialkot, and Samundri, the clock tower of Faisalabad is the most famous.
The city was planned on the pattern of the Union Jack — the national flag of the United Kingdom (then the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland) — and eight radial bazaars were extended from the clock tower. The inscription at the bottom of the clock tower reads that the building was laid in loving memory of Queen Victoria by the loyal inhabitants of Chenab Colony.
The bazaars were designed in such a way that the clock tower could have been seen from all the bazaars even from their ends. The way the bazaars are intertwined and linked together with the clock tower right in the centre is just marvellous.
Interestingly, some commentators of the presidential system of Gen Ayub Khan, the first military dictator in Pakistan, drew a parallel between his presidential system and the city. They argued that in the system under the president was as prominent as the Ghanta Ghar.
Others have equated the Ghanta Ghar and its eight bazaars, mainly due to the way they were designed, with military force. They argue that military dictators concentrate powers in their hands and remain the central like the Ghanta Ghar. In other words, all roads lead to the clock tower as all decisions are either taken or manipulated by the dictator.
Due to such comparisons and its unique design, the Ghanta Ghar is not only the centre of the city but also the centre of all the activities that occur in the city. For instance, during the election season, each of the political parties tries to hold a rally at this spot. The same is the case with protest demonstrations. The rallies and processions of varying religious groups for various purposes are also held at the Ghanta Ghar. In addition, the mayor of Faisalabad delivers his speech and hoists the flag at this site.
The eight bazaars are named after the directions they lead towards. They are Kutchery Bazaar, Chiniot Bazaar, Aminpur Bazaar, Bhowana Bazaar, Jhang Bazaar, Montgomery Bazaar, Karkhana Bazaar, and Rail Bazaar. Products are brought to these bazaars for sale and purchase — each bazaar has a separate types of products.
However, only a few people know that this is not the first Ghanta Ghar that was built in the city. This fact was first reported by Salman Farooque, a young journalist. Later on, this was verified by some members of the Irrigation Department, including its former-employee, Muhammad Shafi Gujjar. He, during an interview, said that the first clock tower had been built by the British in the vicinity of the Irrigation Department office.
It was built for multiple purposes: first, the clock, installed on the tower used to ring every hour to update the people of the area about the time; secondly, that the tower had an arrow at its top about which some people say that it was directed towards the city while the others argue that it was directed towards the Holy Ka’aba to guide the Muslims for the direction during their prayers. The British also used to ring the bell installed on the tower to gather the people of the area either to collect taxes from them or to communicate any important message.
In addition to this, a rain meter were installed on this building to measure the intensity of the rain. The information gathered was later on disseminated to the inhabitants of the area.
The Irrigation Department offices, railway lines and railway stations were built later. Gumti and Qaisari Darwaza were the first two monuments that were built by the locals mainly to honour Queen Victoria on her birthday.
However, the Muslims protested that these monuments only represented the Hindu community. They then decided to build a monument to represent the Muslim community to honour Queen Victoria. The British administration then convinced the Muslims to collaborate with the other religious communities to build a monument — the second (and the current) clock tower. That is reflected in the four different inscriptions on the bottom of the clock tower — these inscriptions represent the Muslims, the Sikhs, the Hindus, and the Christians.
Its foundation was laid on November 14, 1903 by the British lieutenant governor of Punjab, Sir Charles Rivaz, and Mian family of Abdullahpur. The task of constructing the Ghanta Ghar was handed over to the Municipal Committee and the funds were generated by imposing tax on the agricultural land at a rate of 18 rupees per square of the land.
The second and the current Ghanta Ghar, without any doubt, is one of the oldest monuments still standing in its original state from the period of the British Raj. However, the first Ghanta Ghar that was constructed alongside the Irrigation Department offices is in a dilapidated condition. In January 2014, the Lyallpur Heritage Foundation had selected 45 historical buildings in the district for preservation. However, the Irrigation Department Ghanta Ghar was not on the list. The people at the helm of the affairs should take concrete measures to restore the historical monument to its original state and to preserve it for future generations.
The writer has a PhD in history from Shanghai University and is a lecturer at GCU, Faisalabad. He can be contacted at [email protected] He tweets at @MazharGondal87