Heeramandi- a timeless journey to explore Fashion and Dance

Let's take you on the journey of Heeramandi, which was inspired by the rich Indian heritage and indeed had a rich cultural history, is celebrated for its music, dance, and poetry. A vibrant hub where artists thrived and creative expression flourished.

Aditi Nag
New Update

The recently released movie 'Heeramandi' captivated the audience with its spellbinding fusion of exquisite outfits crafted so meticulously that it delves deep into the rich heritage of Heeramandi. Let's know about the story. During the Mughal era in Pre-independent India, Heeramandi lies in the heart of Lahore. Initially, a grain market was named after Raja Heera Singh. This place has to say a lot of tales that are unveiled. The diamond bazaar was a place that resonated with history, tradition, and artistry. Steeped in culture, this vibrant district has long been synonymous with exquisite craftsmanship, timeless fashion, and captivating performances. From its humble origins as a marketplace for artisans and courtesans to its cultural hub evolution, Heera Mandi inspires awe and admiration.

Roots of history and origin


The story revolves around the Tawaif of Pre-independent India. Heeramandi also known as Shahi Mohalla flourished as a center for music, dance, and poetry. The tawaif were revered for their artistic prowess. By the time it transformed, Heeramandi converged as a place of beauty, talent and luxury. Meanwhile, various social, economic, and political factors may have contributed to its transformation into a centre for prostitution.

Heeramandi Outfit Inspiration

Heeramandi received the limelight due to its elegant collection of outfits comprising shararas, ghararas, anarkali, sarees and lehengas, voluminous skirts with fitted bodice cholis, and structured jackets that depict the status of the woman in society. There were 200 outfits designed for this ultimate masterpiece by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The designer duo Rimple and Harpreet Narula revealed that they took 2 years to design these breathtaking outfits and the estimated cost was 2-3 crore. With the vision and keeping in mind the theme, the designers had to work on the “historical backdrop and location” for the series to make the outfits.


Talking about the pre-independence era, the outfits and jewellery were fabulous. And that has been taken over through time. The designer's vision had clarity and that was presented in such a way that the audience couldn't take their eyes off. Costumes are the most significant tool and hence we can see the close resemblance between outfits and jewellery designed and portrayed in Sanjay Leela Bhansalis' movies. Heeramandi draws inspiration from ancient legends like Anarkali, Umraojaan and Pakeezah, infused with the essence of its narratives. This influence further reflects the modern time cinematic adaptions featuring iconic characters such as Mastaani, Chandramukhi, and Bahaar Begum that resonate with audiences across generations. 


Central to Heera Mandi's appeal are the iconic Anarkali dresses, named after the legendary courtesan Anarkali herself. These dresses, characterized by their flowing silhouette, intricate embroidery, and vibrant hues, symbolize grace and sophistication. Inspired by the Mughal era, Anarkali dresses evoke a sense of timeless elegance, with each stitch telling a story of heritage and tradition. And later in 2007, Anarkali made a comeback in the 'Aaja Nachle' movie starring Madhuri Dixit.

From delicate zardozi work to elaborate gotta patti embellishments, Anarkali dresses from Heera Mandi showcase unparalleled craftsmanship. Heavy zari work, sitara work, thread work and stone work were also crafted. The fabrics range from luxurious silks to lightweight chiffons, each chosen for its quality and drape. Fabrics of tissue and sequins were also used. The shiny shimmery fabrics are mostly used in rich royal colours, giving evidence to the regalness of the era. Colours like blood red, golden, dusky pink, white, royal blue, and dark violet added glam. These dresses come to life in a kaleidoscope of colours, reflecting the richness of Heera Mandi's culture.


Heavy golden mangtika, Nath of different sizes, Jhumar or side mangtika are the main elements of jewellery, accompanied by either pearls or studded with gems. Rani haar and Jadau haar with heavy earrings or Jhumkas were paired with the outfits. Hand accessories included huge rings, bangles with kadaas, baajhubandh or armlets and haathphool. Anklets or payal, heavy pazeb made of gold or silver and studded with kundans and ghunghroo are considered significant symbols for dancers. Flower garlands or Gajaras were the evergreen element to accessorise the outfits and are still on trend.

Rimple and Harpreet said, "Our design ethos is deeply rooted in our cultural heritage and personal experiences, particularly our connection to Punjab and our family’s history in Gujranwala. Growing up surrounded by the stories and anecdotes of that time, shared by our grandmothers and aunts, has deeply influenced our creative vision. While we may not be able to physically visit that era, these narratives provide us with a unique opportunity to interpret and reimagine the past in our artistic way.”

Dance and Music in Motion


Exploration of Heeramandi is incomplete if we miss the most historic element that is Kathak and poetry. Originally Kathak was originated and practised in Gharanaas of India. The Jaipur gharana, the Benaras gharana and the Lucknow gharana. Performed in temples of North India but Kathak found its home in the courtesan quarters of Heera Mandi, where it flourished as a refined form of storytelling through movement. The intricate footwork, graceful spins, and emotive expressions, Kathak embodies the essence of classical Indian dance.

Heera Mandi's impact is still felt today in the fashion and entertainment industries, reaching far beyond its ancient streets. Its rich history serves as an inspiration for designers, who incorporate ancient themes and techniques into contemporary shapes. Similar to this, Kathak dancers never stop innovating, fusing modern choreography with classical elements to keep the art form relevant in today's society.

anarkali Heeramandi Sanjay Leela Bhansali Umraojaan Pakeezah