Where and When Does Heeramandi The Diamond Bazaar Take Place?

Netflix’s ‘Heeramandi: The Diamond Bazaar’ follows the tug-of-war taking place between the courtesans of the titular place as the country finds itself in the heat of an uprising. The story begins with Mallikajaan, who rules Heeramandi with an iron fist, and branches out to all the courtesans who work under her and have to do whatever she wants or pay the price for their disobedience. Things start to take a turn when someone from Mallikajaan’s past arrives to claim what is rightfully hers. Her niece, Fareedan, had been banished from Heeramandi a long time ago, and her return marks the beginning of change for every courtesan. While the show relies a lot on its intriguing and well-crafted characters to spin an entertaining plot line, the setting of the story also plays an integral role in shaping the fates of the characters. SPOILERS AHEAD

Heeramandi Transports the Viewers to the British Rule Era

The events in ‘Heeramandi’ take place over several years, with the entire series taking place within the confines of British rule over Pakistan and India. The story begins in 1920, with the revolution against colonial rule brewing in the background. The power struggle in Heeramandi is also brought to the fore with one betrayal after another.

Following the first scene, which marks the beginning of Mallikajaan’s tryst for power, the show takes a time jump of twenty-five years, portraying the courtesan at the height of her power. The timing, which now places the characters in 1945, has a significant impact on how things eventually turn out for everyone. With the people rising against the British, the nobility starts to feel their insignificance in the coming world, which has a direct impact on Heeramandi’s women. The changing tides of time also push the women to break out of their shells as mere courtesans, and they become an important part of the freedom-fighting movement.

The timing, which is pretty close to India’s freedom in 1947, also gives more solid ground to the primary romance of the story (between Alamzeb and Tajdar) and makes the prospects of their union more believable, as compared to the relations between the courtesans and the men of nobility in the preceding decades. All of this eventually paves the way for the ending, which not only spells a new beginning for the country but also for the women of Heeramandi.

Heeramandi Recreates the Real Location in Lahore

While ‘Heermandi’ is a fictional tale of made-up characters, the titular location in the series is a real place in Lahore, Pakistan. Considered the country’s oldest red-light district, Heermandi, as portrayed in the Netflix series, was frequented by the men of nobility back in the day. Existing from the time of the Mughals, the place gained recognition from the courtesans who mastered the art of classical music and dance while entertaining the people associated with the royal court. Over the years, the place went through many ups and downs, but the iteration presented in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s series is an imitation of the one that was brought to life by Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

Currently, the place exists in a completely different form but still houses courtesans, though now being more commercialized in keeping pace with the times. The show, however, recreates the place and its aura with elaborate sets and costumes, bringing it and its courtesans to life in an enchanting and invigorating way.

The location binds the fates of the people inside Heeramandi with itself, with many of them spending their entire lives inside its doors and reveling in the influence it brings them, but also aching for something else, something more from their lives. While some have resigned to their fate, knowing the pre-written manifesto life spells for any girl born in Heermandi, there are others who are motivated, primarily by youth, to rewrite their fate and take control of it for once. In many ways, the place becomes the shelter that protects them as well as the prison that oppresses them, and it is this duality that sets the tone for the rest of the story and its characters, showing us that people and things can be more than what appears on the surface.

Read More: Heeramandi The Diamond Bazaar: Are Mallikajaan and Fareedan Based on Real Courtesans?