Saturday, February 14, 2015

Graveyard Square

About two decades back the Islamabad Lahore motorway came into existence which revolutionized the journey from Rawalpindi to Lahore thus brining relief to the commuters and opening a new chapter in the logistics of Pakistan. The motorway also brought with it speedy faster and comfortable travel by luxury coaches which were once considered to be the domain of the aristocrats. These luxury coaches which ply between Rawalpindi and Lahore have a mid way stop over at BHERA service area adjacent to the BHERA interchange.

As a reason of this stop over BHERA has become a household name for the commuters travelling between Rawalpindi and Lahore but many people do not know the importance of BHERA and the cultural and historical significance of this sleepy secluded historical town.
"BHERA" is a Sanskrit word which means: "a place where there is no fear".
BHERA is located on the mid of Lahore-Islamabad motorway (M2) at the left bank of river Jhelum near Southern Salt Range in Sargodha district. BHERA is surrounded by green fields and its importance increased due to the Motorway stop over at BHERA. During the MUGHAL period, caravans from Central Asia, Kabul, Qandahar and Peshawar used to cross the river to go to Lahore, Delhi and other parts of South Asia and Kashmir used to reach BHERA alongside the river.
The current site of BHERA was built by Sher Shah Suri during his rule in mid of 1500. BHERA town is divided into small residential area called Mohallah most famous mohallas are Sakhy Pir Azam Shah Sab who was descendant of Sheikh Baha-ud-Din Zakariya, a pious saint of his time he was famous for his generosity to people and titled "Sakhy" means Generous. The other mohallas are Shah Naseeb Deryai, Hakeeman Wala, Imli Wala, Shesh Mehal, Pirachagan, Sethian wala, Sahnian wala, Khawjgan, Pakistani, Chah Bohrri wala, peeli kothi and Mohallah Qaziyan wala.

BHERA is like old Lahore or Peshawar giving a historical background with its narrow streets and markets telling a tail itself. There are heaps of ruins of old BHERA and remains of its markets and streets can still be seen on the other bank of River Jehlum.

According to the "Ancient Geography of India" by Alexander Cunningham, BHERA was once known as JOBNATHNAGAR.

The Greeks refer to the Jhelum river as the HYDASPES River where Alexander fought Porus in Battle of the Hydaspes River in 326 BC. It was at this battle that Alexander's famous horse Bucephalus was killed.
Sher Shah Suri was the founder of the present day city. When he visited the old city, he was distressed to see the condition of the city. He camped at the left bank of river Jehlum, near Qaimnath's hut, and constructed the first building there. He also constructed the Shahi Jamia Mosque in the new city, which rivals the Shahi Jamia Mosques of Delhi, Agra and Lahore in beauty. Sher Shah Suri made a road, along which he built an "Eidgah" and water tanks for the weary travelers.

1300 years ago, many Muslim saints passed by BHERA which became famous in the whole of Asia. Businessmen and scholars arrived first and then many Afghan and Central Asian conquerors such as Mahmud Ghazni, Shahab ud Din Ghori, Mughal Babur and Ahmed Shah Abdali attacked or passed through the city in their campaigns.

BHERA earned a great status during the Mughal rule. Mughal emperor Zaheer-ud-din Babur mentioned this 
town in his famous book, Tuzk-e-Babri. The town had to face destruction when Sher Shah Suri (1540–1545) defeated Humayun and the Pathan forces took their revenge on the then pro-Mughal town of BHERA.

BHERA declined in importance due to the gradual shifting of the course of Jhelum river, due to which the town lost its access to trade as the result of its in accessible location on the bank of the river.

Captain DEVAS came to BHERA and with the help of the local architect DHANCHAND KOHLI rebuilt eight Gates of the city facing different directions. These were named MULTANI Gate, LAHORI Gate, Kashmiri Gate, Kabuli Gate, PEERANWALA Gate, CHINIOTI Gate, LOHARANWALA Gate and HAJJI GULAB Gate. Only four gates have survived to date, PEERANWALA Gate, HAJJI GULAB Gate, LOHARANWALA Gate and Kabuli Gate which too are in a state of disrepair now. During the reign of MUGHAL emperor Akbar, BHERA regained its former glory and was one of the 40 cities of MUGHAL India having a royal mint for minting gold and silver coins.

The town of BHERA used to have a boundary wall and eight gates. Unfortunately, there is no official or public awareness about this great city of the past.
New City BHERA is now on a road to progress and prosperity and many settlements have sprung up at the junction of BHERA-Bhalwal Road and BHERA Jhawarian Road.

Apart from the above history and geography which can be easily obtained from the net, there is a very peculiar geographical landmark of BHERA which very few people know that this is the only city in Pakistan or rather in the world that the town square or the main central road intersection is surrounded on all four sides by graveyards thus it can be called the graveyard square and once in NEELAM GHAR this question was also asked which place in Pakistan has graveyards on all four corners of the road.
A beautiful mosque can also be seen on the left of the graveyard square as you come from the motorway towards BHERA but the history relating to the construction of the mosque is not clear and shrouded in mystery as some attribute it to SHER SHAH SURI and some to the MUGHALS.

About 6 kilometers away is the town of MIANI which is also known as LOON MIANI because of the processing of salts from the nearby salt mines which also boost of eight darwaza’s but only three are in presentable condition the rest being subjected to the norms of vandalism and pilferage for which we take pride as a Nation.
The ministry of tourism cultural and archeology which have gone into a deep sleep have to be awaken from this hibernation and slumber before these cultural heritage becomes oblivion because of apathy and neglect.
Dr. Babur Zahiruddin.   



Many of you must have visited Faisalabad which is known as the Manchester of Pakistan and is on number one priority list of places to visit for many begum sahibha’s when they have to buy clothes, hosiery and linen for their daughter’s dowry.

My teaching assignment this time took me to Faisalabad as I was excited to visit this city because the last time when I visited Faisalabad it was in 1973, when I was a student at King Edwards Medical College Lahore, when I along with a group of friends on motorbikes started from Lahore to Faisalabad and it took us about 3 ½ hours to reach Faisalabad at that time.
This time starting my journey from Islamabad toll plaza via the motorway took me about 3 hours plus to reach Pindi Bhattian interchange and another 50 odds minutes to reach Faisalabad via the dual carriage way.
Comparing this journey to the journey which I undertook in 1973, made me smile over the misplaced chivalrous adventures which I under took when I was young lad of 20 years.
Faisalabad is no more the old Faisalabad which I visited about four decades back as much has changed as regards the roads, flyover bridges and modern buildings which have sprung up like concrete monsters in a green jungle.
The modern day Faisalabad has a changed look as regards the houses, suburbs, modern housing colonies and the opening of sales and display centres of the leading brands of Pakistan but what has not changed is the old land mark of Faisalabad commonly known as Ghanta Ghar means Clock Tower.
The Faisalabad Clock Tower is an icon of Faisalabad, Punjab, Pakistan, and is one of the oldest monuments still standing in its original form belonging to the period of the British Raj. It was built by the British, when they ruled much of the South Asia during the nineteenth century.
The foundation of majestic Clock Tower was laid on 14, November 1903, by the British Lieutenant governor of Punjab Sir Charles Riwaz the biggest local landlord belonging to the Mian Family of Abdullahpur. The fund was collected at a rate of Rs. 18 per square of land. The fund thus raised was handed over to the Municipal Committee which undertook construction to complete the project.
This structure was built over an old drywell which was abandoned because of some curse on the dry well but on my sleuthing there was nothing to corroborate or substantiate this mystic folklore.    

The Faisalabad clock tower stands in the centre from which radiate eight roads which is in the shape of the Union jack. There are four big bazaars and four small bazaars and a goal bazaar which goes round the whole of the eight bazaars thus having two circular bazaars which navigate round the Faisalabad clock tower in concentric circles.
The locals refer to it as "Ghanta Ghar" گھنٹہ گھر  in Urdu which translates into Hour House in English. It is located in the older part of the city. The clock tower is placed at the center of the eight markets that from a bird's-eye view which look like the Union Jack flag of the United Kingdom. This special layout still exists today and can be viewed using the latest software from Google Maps.
During festivals of Eid and Independence Day the mayor (nazim) of Faisalabad delivers a ceremonial speech at this site and hoists the Pakistan National flag at full mast.
Faisalabad formerly known as Lyallpur, is the third largest metropolis in Pakistan, the second largest city in the province of Punjab after Lahore, and a major industrial center in the heart of Pakistan. The city was renamed "Faisalabad" in honour of King Faisal of Saudi Arabia.
Also known as the Manchester of Pakistan, Faisalabad remains an important industrial city west of Lahore. The city-district of Faisalabad is bound on the north by the districts of Hafizabad and Chiniot, on the east by Nankana Sahib, on the South-East by Okara, on the South Sahiwal & Toba Tek Singh, and on the west by Jhang.
The city is at a road and railway junction, which has played an influential role in the development of Faisalabad's trade and economy. The surrounding countryside, irrigated by the Lower Chenab River, has seen expanded production of cotton, wheat, sugarcane, vegetables, and fruits, which form 55% of Pakistan's exports. The city is an industrial centre with major railway repair yards, engineering works, and mills that process sugar, flour, and oil seed. These mills produce includes superphosphates, cotton and silk textiles, hosiery, dyes, industrial chemicals, beverages, apparels, pulp and paper, printing, agricultural equipment, and ghee (clarified butter). Faisalabad is also the site of the prestigious University of Agriculture, founded in 1909.

There are two more interesting historical sites adjacent to the Faisalabad clock tower one is the Qaisary Gate which has a commemorative plaque at the top of the gate which reads “In Commemoration of the 60th year of reign of her imperial majesty queen Vitoria and second is the Gumti bazaar structure.              

The Qaisery Gate is the gate leading in to the eight markets with the Faisalabad Clock Tower at the centre. It was built in 1857, under the commission of the British Raj in Lyallpur which is now modern Faisalabad. The entrance itself is made of reinforced concrete and painted pale yellow and light brown to give it a Mughal look. The gate original markings are still viewable at the top with the name and the date when it was constructed.
The gate is directly in front of the Faisalabad Gumti bazaar in the older part of the city. The gate and the Gumti is located on Railway Road, a large market for bathroom furniture and houses many banks.
The Gumti Water Fountain is a monument in Faisalabad, preserved from the British Raj era. It was built during the early nineteenth century and was a general meeting place of the city folks for local town meetings.
Today the structure still exists and has been turned into a roundabout for traffic with the water fountain still working at the center.

Structures like the Faisalabad clock tower the Qaisery gate and the Gumti bazaar round about are the icons and landmarks of Faisalabad but the archival documentation of these structures is not adequate and whatever available information is not up to the mark hence it is the duty of the archaeology department of Pakistan and also the conscious and patriotic Pakistani’s to come forward to make these icons and land marks of Pakistan a “MUST VISIT” part of the itinerary for foreigners and Pakistanis a like from all five provinces of Pakistan to visit such places and tell others also about the rich cultural heritage we have.

I as an ecologist and social activist am trying to do my patriotic duty to the best of my ability by visiting and writing about these places and trying to do my part as a patriotic Pakistani. 
I would now like to pose this question to you have you done your part?
 Dr. Babur Zahiruddin