Heeramandi, Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s latest magnum opus, has been creating quite a buzz. But did you know that the series is based on a true story? Heeramandi brings to life Lahore’s oldest red-light district once again. This is the story of the courtesans of Heera Mandi, an area popular for following the tawaif culture. The series is set to release on May 1 on Netflix and people are waiting to witness SLB’s magic. It features a strong female star cast including Manisha Koirala, Aditi Rao Hydari, Sanjeeda Sheikh, Sonakshi Sinha, Richa Chadha, and Sharmin Segal.

But before you watch the series, read the fascinating story of Heera Mandi, the diamond market.

the real story of heeramandi
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Heeramandi, the oldest red light district of Lahore, Pakistan

Heera Mandi was earlier known as Hira Singh Di Mandi, named after Hira Singh Dogra, Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s prime minister from 1843 to 1844. Heera Mandi or Hira Singh Di Mandi was a food grain market in the shahi mohalla, also home to the courtesans of the area. The Mughals established the mohalla in the 15th-16th centuries and it became the centre of the tawaif culture in the city. From being well respected to having strong political connections, these courtesans of Heera Mandi had everyone in their pockets. The Mughals procured women mostly from North India for their entertainment through dance forms like Kathak and Mujra.

But these women didn’t just dance. They were well acquainted with poetry and were known for their etiquette. Many nobles sent their sons to kothas to teach them etiquette and how to live in society. But soon after the British set foot in Heera Mandi, the place lost its charm and esteem. Brothels were set up all over Heera Mandi to entertain British soldiers. The place became a popular prostitution hub and a lot of courtesans left town.

The mandi still exists next to the Lahore Fort but its practices ceased long ago. It is now a popular tourist spot to enjoy street food, old havelis, sightseeing, and exploring the local bazaar. 

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Related: 15 Women In History That You Need To Educate Your Daughters About

 

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