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.