Etymology of Lahore

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Accounts and texts concerning the origins of Lahore have been referred to in various times throughout history. To date, there is no conclusive evidence to establish as to when it was precisely founded or the exact origins of its placename etymology. However, some sources say the name of the city derives from "Loh" or "Lava", the son of Rama in the ancient Hindu epic poem, the Ramayana. The city has been named and referred to by a variety of similar names by other geographers, historians and researchers in their works of the ancient times.

Mythological references[edit]

In the Deshwa Bhaga, Lahore is called Lavpor, which at once points to its origin from Lav, the son of Rama whose Lava temple still is located empty inside the Lahore Fort, while in the ancient annals of Rajputana the name given is Loh Kot, meaning “the fort of Loh,” which, again, has reference to its mythical founder, Rama’s son.[1]

Muslim conquest era[edit]

Turning to the Muslim period, the best authorities on the early Muslim conquests of India, are the historians of Scindh (Sindh), for it was in that quarter that the first storm of those conquests under the Khalifat burst. Fatuhul Baldun, believed to be one of the earliest Arabic Chronicles, which gives an account of the first conquests of the Arabs in Syria, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Persia, Armenia, Transoxiana, Africa, Spain and Scindh, calls Lahore by the name of A’lahwur. The book, which is the work of Ahmad bin Yahya, surnamed Al-Biladhuri, who lived at the Court of Baghdad towards the middle of ninth century of the Christian era, in the Khalifat of Al-m’tamid-Billah, is frequently cited by Ibn-I-Haukal, Al Masudi and other ancient Arabic geographers.[2]

Islamic caliphate references[edit]

During the caliphate of Usman, Hakim, son of Jahalla-al’abdi, was sent to the confines of Hind ‘in order to acquire knowledge and bring back information.’ In the beginning of the year 39 A.H. (659 A.D.), during the caliphate of Ali, son of Abu Talib, Haras, son of Marral ‘Abdi, proceeded. With the sanction of the Khalif, to the same frontier, as a volunteer. He reached Kekan in Scindh, was victorious and made captive, but was subsequently slain. In the year 44 A.H. (664 A.D.), and in the days of the Khalif Mu’awiya,” continues our author, “Mohallab, son of the Abu Safra, made war upon the same frontier, and advanced as far as Banna (Bannu) and Alahwar (Lahore) which lie between Multan and Cabul. The enemy opposed him and killed him and his followers. Abu Rehan Al-Biruni, in his celebrated work, the Kanun, speaking from his personal knowledge of the country at the time of Mahmud’s invasion, towards the close of the tenth century, mentions, in his description of the Himalayan mountains, that “they can be seen from Tacas (Taxila) and Lahawar (Lahore). Rashid-ud-Din, in his Jamiut Tawarikh, completed in A.H. 710, or A.D. 1310, calls it Lahur, “than which,” he says, “there is no stronger fort.” Al Biruni also mentions Lahore as a province, the capital of which was “Mandhukur” on the east of the river Irawa (Ravi). Baihanki calls it “Mandkakur”. Lahore is also called by the Mahomedan historians Lohar, Loher and Rahwar, the origin of the last name being explained by the fact of its situation on the great imperial roads to Cabul, Kashmir and Agra.


The great traveller Al Idrisi, of Morocco, in his work the Nuzhatulmushtak-fi-Iftikharul Afak, writing in the ninth century, calls it Lohawar. The termination "Awar" is a corruption of the Sanskrit word Awarna, meaning fort, and is affixed to many Indian place names, such as Sanawar, Bijawar, Peshawar. Lohawar would, thus, simply mean “fort of Loh,” and the name would establish its identity with the “Loh Kot” of the Hindu Puranas. ” M. Reinaud, in his Fragments, and Elliot, read it as Lauhaour, Lohaovar, Loharu and Lahor. Amir Khusrow, of Delhi, writing in the latter part of the thirteenth century, calls it Lahanur in his well-known work the Kiranus-sa’den. He says:- “From the confines of Samania to Lahanur, There is no walled (city) but Kasur." Mr. Thornton suggests that Lahanur is a corruption of Luhanagar, nur being the Dakhani form of nagar, as appears from the names of other towns, such as Kalanore and Kananore.


In whatever form it may have been written by the early writers, it is manifest from the above summary that the name, Lahore, has clear reference to its mythical founder, and that founder was, in all probability, Loh, the son of Rama.[3]