Heera Mandi (Punjabi: ہیرا منڈی) literally meaning "Diamond Market", also known as Shahi Mohalla (meaning: The Royal Neighbourhood) is a red-light district and a bazaar in Taxali Gate, Lahore (Punjab), Pakistan.
"Actually this mandi is named after Heera Singh, who was the son of a minister of Ranjit Singh's court. Heera Singh was also a minister of Sher Singh's court during the Sikh period." The market was originally the center of the city's tawaif culture in the Mughal era. However, under the British colonial period it became a hub of prostitution. Within the market, women and khusras' (transsexuals) offered traditional and classical dances. From the British colonial period till today, it remained a centre of prostitution in Lahore under the veil of dances, such as mujra, a branch of classical South-Asian sensual dancing. Many Hijras (transsexuals) frequent the area and are involved in this dance culture.
During any day the place is much like other Pakistani bazaars and is known for its good food, wide range of Khussa (traditional Mughal footwear) and shops for musical instruments. The place is also considered as a symbol for the city of Lahore and sometimes the words 'heera mandi' themselves are considered to be offensive in formal talks.
Heera means diamond in Urdu and was supposedly used by locals to describe the beauty of the girls in the market. The people called the courtesans "heeras" or diamonds. The name eventually stuck and the market was traditionally called Heera Mandi ("Diamond Market").
Beginning of prostitution
The brothel houses were first developed by the British in old Anarkali Bazaar for the recreation of the British soldiers during the British Raj. After that these were shifted to Lohari Gate and then to Taxali Gate.
After Pakistan became an independent nation in 1947, many governments have made efforts to curb prostitution at the Heera Mandi area of Lahore.
"During the Zia era, a rigorous operation was conducted against these vendors of pleasure, because these 'musicians' were actually running brothel houses in the guise of music and dance. Of course, the operation didn't root out this iniquity and instead it scattered all over the city."
In recent times, the area has become known for prostitution and crime again.
- Zohaib Saleem Butt, "Heera Mandi: Scarlet secrets of Lahore", The Express Tribune newspaper, Published 20 August 2010, Retrieved 18 February 2017
- Grimes, William (July 20, 2005). "In Shadows of a City of Pleasure, Courtesans Grow Old". The New York Times newspaper. Retrieved 18 February 2017.
- Saeed, Fouzia (2001). Taboo!: The Hidden Culture of a Red Light Area. Karachi: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-579412-5.
- Saeed, Fouzia (2006). "Chapter 6: Good women, bad women: prostitution in Pakistan". In Gangoli, Geetanjali; Westmarland, Nicole. International Approaches to Prostitution: Law and policy in Europe and Asia. The Policy Press, University of Bristol. pp. 141–164. ISBN 1-86134-672-7.*Brown, Louise (2006). The Dancing Girls of Lahore: Selling Love and Saving Dreams in Pakistan's Pleasure District. Harper Perennial. ISBN 978-0-06-074043-6.
- Khan, Noor Mohammad (2009). Some Time On the Frontier-A Pakistan Journal. CreateSpace. ISBN 1-4404-1597-8.
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