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Gujranwala Travel Information

Gujranwala is a city in Punjab province of Pakistan. It is also known as "City of Wrestlers" and is quite famous for its food. The city is Pakistan's 5th most-populous metropolitan area, as well as 5th most populous city proper. Founded in the 18th century, Gujranwala is a relatively modern town compared to the many nearby millennia-old cities of northern Punjab. The city served as the capital of the Sukerchakia Misl state between 1763 and 1799, and is the birthplace of the founder of the Sikh Empire, Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Gujranwala is now Pakistan's third largest industrial centre after Karachi and Faisalabad,[8] and contributes 5% of Pakistan's national GDP.[9] The city is part of a network of large urban centres in north-east Punjab province that forms one of Pakistan's mostly highly industrialized regions.[10] Along with the nearby cities of Sialkot and Gujrat, Gujranwala forms part of the so-called "Golden Triangle" of industrial cities with export-oriented economies.

Gujranwala's name means "Abode of the Gujjars" in Punjabi, and was named in reference to the Gujjar tribe that live in northern Punjab.[12][13] One local narrative suggests that town was named in reference to a specific Gujjar, Choudhry Gujjar, owner of the town's Persian wheel that supplied water to the town.[8] Evidence suggests, however, that the city derives its name from Serai Gujran (meaning inn of Gujjars)- a village once located near what is now Gujranwala's Khiyali Gate.

History of Gujranwala

The exact origins of Gujranwala are unclear. Unlike the ancient nearby cities of Lahore, Sialkot, and Eminabad, Gujranwala is a relatively modern city. It may have been established as a village in the middle of the 16th century.[14] Locals traditionally believe that Gujranwala's original name was Khanpur Shansi, though recent scholarship suggests that the village was possibly Serai Gujran instead - a village once located near what is now Gujranwala's Khiyali Gate that was mentioned by several sources during the 18th century invasion of Ahmad Shah Abdali.[8]


The birthplace of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, founder of the Sikh Empire.

The interior of the Sheranwala Baradari.
In 1707, with the death of the last great Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, Mughal power began to rapidly weaken especially following Nader Shah's invasion in 1739 and then completely dissipated from the Punjab region due to the invasions of Ahmad Shah Abdali who raided Punjab many times between 1747 and 1772 causing much devastation and chaos.[15]

Abdalis control over the region began to weaken in the latter part of the 18th century with the rise of the Sikh Misls (independent chieftainships usually consisting of the chief’s kinsmen) who overran Punjab.[15] Charat Singh, ruler of the Sukerchakia Misl, established himself in a fort which he had built in the area of Gujranwala between 1756 and 1758.[8]

Nuruddin, a Jammu-based Afghan (Pashtun) general, was ordered by Abdali to subdue the Sikhs but was driven back at Sialkot by Sikh soldiers led by Charat Singh.[15] In 1761, Khwaja Abed Khan, Abdali’s governor in Lahore, tried to besiege Charat Singh's base in Gujranwala but the bid misfired. The Sikh misls rallied to his support by attacking Afghan officers wherever they were found.[15] A fleeing Abed Khan was pursued by Sikh contingents led by the Ahluwalia misl into Lahore, where he was killed.[15] Charat Singh made Gujranwala the capital of his misl in 1763.[8][16]

In a 1774 battle waged in Jammu, Charat Singh of the Sukerchakia misl and Jhanda Singh of the powerful Bhangi misl, fighting on opposite sides, were both killed.[15] Before his death, Charat Singh had become master of large and contiguous territories in the three doabs between the Indus and the Ravi. He was succeeded by his son Maha Singh who added to the lands that Charat Singh had not only captured but also capably administered.[15]

In the Gujranwala area in the 1770s, the Jat Chathas of Wazirabad and Rajput Bhattis of Hafizabad (Muslims in both cases) offered ‘fierce resistance’ to the Sukerchakias, whose attack was aided by Sahib Singh of the Bhangi misl.[15] Describing the conflict, the (British) writer of the Gujranwala Gazetteer wrote that, besieged for weeks in his fortress, Ghulam Muhammad Chatha eventually surrendered after Maha Singh assured him safe passage to Mecca, but the promise was ‘basely broken’ when Ghulam Muhammad was shot and his fortress razed to the ground.[15] Rasoolnagar (Prophet's city) which belonged to the Chathas was renamed Ramnagar (Ram's city) to humiliate the Muslims.[15] The Gazetteer noted that the treacherous killing of Chatha and his resistance was remembered ‘in many a local ballad’ in Gujranwala.[15] The Bhattis of Hafizabad tehsil, who were Muslim Rajputs, did not cease their resistance to the Sukerchakias until 1801, when their leaders were killed and their possessions captured.[15] Some Bhattis fled to Jhang.[15]

Ranjit Singh, Maha Singh's son and successor who would later go on to establish the Sikh Empire, was born in 1780 in Gujranwala's Purani Mandi market.[16] Ranjit Singh maintained Gujranwala as his capital initially after rising to power in 1792. His most famous military commander Hari Singh Nalwa, who was also from Gujranwala, built a high mud wall around Gujranwala during this era and established the city's new grid street-plan that exists until the present day.[8] Gujranwala remained Ranjit Singh's capital until he captured Lahore from the Durrani Afghans in 1799, at which point the capital was moved there, leading to the relative decline of Gujranwala in favour of Lahore.[17]Jind Kaur, the last queen of Ranjit Singh and mother of Duleep Singh, was born in Gujranwala in 1817.[18]

By 1839, the city's bazaars were home to an estimated 500 shops, while the city had been surrounded by a number of pleasure gardens, including one established by Hari Nalwa Singh that was famous for its vast array of exotic plants.[8]


Estcourt Clock Tower, commonly known as Ghanta Ghar, was built in 1906.

Gujranwala's rail station dates from the British era.
The area was captured by the British Empire in 1848, and rapidly developed thereafter.[8] Gujranwala was incorporated as a municipality in 1867,[19] and the city's Brandreth, Khiyali, and Lahori Gates built atop the site of Sikh-era gates were completed in 1869.[8] A new clocktower was built in central Gujranwala to mark the city's centre in 1906.

Christian missionaries were brought to the region during British colonial rule, and Gujranwala became home to numerous churches and schools.[8] The city's first Presbyterian Church was established in 1875 in the Civil Lines area - a settlement built one mile north of the old city to house Gujranwala's European population. A theological seminary was established in 1877, and a Christian technical school in 1900.[8]

The North-Western Railway connected Gujranwala with other cities in British India by rail in 1881.[12] The major Sikh higher learning institution, Gujranwala Guru Nanak Khalsa College, was founded in Gujranwala in 1889, though it later shifted to Ludhiana.[8] The nearby Khanki Headworks were completed in 1892 under British rule, and helped irrigate 3 million acres in the province. Gujranwala's population, according to the 1901 census of British India, was 29,224.[12] The city continued to grow rapidly for the remainder of British rule.

Riots erupted in Gujranwala following the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in Amritsar on April 1919. These were some of most violent riots to the British massacre in all of British India.[8] Riots lead to the damage of the city's railway station and burning of the city's Tehsil Office, Clock Tower, Dak Bangla and city courts.[8] Much of the city's historical record was burnt in the attacked offices.[8] Protestors in the city, nearby villages, and a procession from Dhullay were fired upon with machine-guns mounted to low-flying planes, and subjected to aerial bombardment from the Royal Air Force under the control of Reginald Edward Harry Dyer.[8][20][21]

According to the 1941 census, 269,528 out of the Gujranwala District's 912,234 residents were non-Muslim.[22] 54.30% of Gujranwala city residents were Muslims prior to Partition, though non-Muslims controlled much of the city's economy.[8] Hindus and Sikhs together owned two-thirds of Gujranwala's properties.[8] Sikhs were concentrated in the localities of Guru Nanak Pura, Guru Gobind Garh, and Dhullay Mohallah, while Hindus were dominant in Hakim Rai, Sheikhupura Gate area and Hari Singh Nalwa Bazaar. Muslims were concentrated in Rasul Pura, Islam Pura and Rehman Pura.[8]


Tomb of Maha Singh, ruler of the Sukerchakia Misl and father of Ranjit Singh.
Following the Independence of Pakistan and the aftermath of the Partition of British India in 1947, Gujranwala was site of some of the worst rioting in Punjab.[8][23] Large swathes of Hindu and Sikh localities were attacked or destroyed.[8][23] Rioters in the city gained notoriety for attacks, with the city's Muslim Lohar (blacksmiths) particularly carrying out brutal attacks.[23] In retaliation for attacks against a trainload of refugees by Sikh rioters at Amritsar railway station on 22 September that resulted in the deaths of 3,000 Muslims over the course of three hours,[23][24] rioters from Gujranwala attacked a trainload of Hindus and Sikhs fleeing towards India on 23 September,[23] killing 340 refugees in the nearby town of Kamoke.[24] Partition riots in Gujranwala resulted in systematic violence against the city's minorities,[23] and may constitute an act of ethnic cleansing by modern standards.[23] Gujranwala became home to Muslim refugees who were fleeing from the widespread anti-Muslim pogroms that depopulated eastern Punjab in India of almost its entire Muslim population.[23] Refugees in Gujranwala were mainly those who had fled from the cities of Amritsar, Patiala, and Ludhiana in what had become the Indian state of East Punjab.[8]

The influx of Muslim refugees into Gujranwala drastically altered the city's form. By March 1948, over 300,000 refugees had been resettled in Gujranwala District.[25] Many refugees found post-Partition Gujranwala lacking in opportunities, causing some to move south to Karachi.[25] The refugee population mostly settled in localities that were mostly non-Muslim, like Gobindgarh, Baghbanpura and Nanakpura.[25]

Suburban districts were rapidly laid, including Satellite Town in 1950, which was designed mostly to house wealthy and upper middle-class refugees.[25] D-Colony was built in 1956 for poorer Kashmiri refugees,[25] and Model Town in the 1960s.[8] The city experienced strong industrial growth during this period. In 1947, there were only 39 registered factories - a number which rose to 225 by 1961.[25] The city's colonial era metal-working industry continued to grow, while the city became a centre of hosiery manufacturing that was run by refugees from Ludhiana.[25] The city's jewelry-trade had been run by Hindus but came under control of refugees from Patiala.[25]

Gujranwala's economy continued to grow into the 1970s and 1980s.[8] New development continues, such as the opening of a 5,774 foot long flyover that functions as an elevated urban expressway,[8] as well as the nearby Sialkot International Airport which serves the entire Golden Triangle region, and is Pakistan's first privately owned commercial airport.[26] Educations of higher learning have also been established in the city since independence. The Sialkot-Lahore Motorway, due to be open in 2018, will pass near Gujranwala.

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