About 12 kms south of Chakwal lies the historical town of Bhaun, formerly known as Bhavan, famous for its splendid temples, highly-revered shrines and Havelis with exquisitely carved doors and remarkably built wooden balconies indicating the owners’ affluence and aesthetic sense.
The Hindus predominantly concentrated the town before partition. But, later they migrated to India, while Muslim immigrants from India settled in their Havelis and mansions.
Bhaun was a very important trade centre and the Hindus ruled the roost in this town. They left behind a host of temples and Havelis, having a simple architecture, which was a blend of local and Kashmiri style, with very little ornamentation. These temples are different from those at Ketas and Malot that have Kashmiri style of architecture and are lavishly ornamented. Some of the temples at Bhaun are adorned with paintings, while some are immensely towering and conspicuous from a distance.
THE TEMPLE TOWN BHAUN
Note for WoP readers: The following write up is based on content taken from the worldwide web (mainly the source has been great-chakwal.blogspot.com). Neither do I own this article nor do I vouch for its authenticity. Although I tried my level best to get some authentic info on Bhaun and its history, its heritage, yet I couldn’t find much on this subject.
Bhaun is small, yet an enthralling place, with many of the most attractive and unchanged spots in the town, and these spots can be explored while walking. As you take a step further, by turn of every street, every pathway there are so many tiny lanes and narrow alleyways, each ready to divulge its history to you, its magnificent past, its meteoric rise and its gradual fall.
Marble Plate fixed at the former Arya Samaj Bhaun which is now a Govt Primary School.
In pre-partition days Bhaun used to be a village, inhabited mainly by the Sikhs and the Hindus. The village had 5 Mandirs 2 Gurdwaras, 5 water ponds and many many other points sacred to the Hindus.
But the history of the erstwhile tiny village of Bhaun cannot be completed without a mention of Bhaun’s great son Mohan Singh Oberoi. Oberoi was born here and when he was a mere six months old babe, his father, a contractor in Peshawar, died― leaving his mother with few resources. After attending school in his village and nearby Rawalpindi, he passed the Intermediate Examination in Lahore, but was unable to continue attending classes because a lack of finances.
Instead, he learned typing and shorthand and, in 1922 started his hotel career with an income as low as Rs50 as a billing clerk at Shimla’s the Cecil.
While working there, within two years he motivated and helped Cecil’s manager, Ernest Clarke in purchasing the Carlton Hotel (renamed Clarkes) in Shimla. Ten years later in 1934, upon Clarke’s retirement, he gathered all the family resources to purchase the same hotel.
He was a quick learner and took many additional responsibilities. The manager of Cecil, Mr. Clarke and his wife Gertrude took a great liking to the honesty of a hardworking young Mohan Singh Oberoi and decided to hand over the responsibility of managing Hotel Carlton now renamed as Clarkes to this impressive young man.
During their six months absence, M. S. Oberoi doubled up the occupancy to eighty percent which gave them enough reason to offer the hotel – on a decided amount to him as they wanted to return to England.
After continuous hard work for five years, on 14 August 1934, Oberoi became the sole and absolute owner of Hotel Carlton, Shimla. He subsequently named it after his boss Mr. Ernest Clarke. Young Oberoi could not have hoped for a better present at his thirty fourth birthday.
After India’s independence, Oberoi built additional hotels, while expanding his base holdings.
In 1948, he established East India Hotels, now known as EIH Ltd., whose first acquisition was the Oberoi Grand Hotel in Calcutta. In April 1955 he was elected President of the Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India, and in 1960 was named President of Honour of the Federation for life.
Oberoi also participated in legislative politics by winning elections to India’s Rajya Sabha for two terms, from April 1962 to March 1968 and from April 1972 to April 1978. He was elected to the fourth Lok Sabha (Lower House) in April 1968, and remained a Member of that House till December 1970.
In 1965, in partnership with international hotel chains, he opened the Oberoi Intercontinental in Delhi, India’s first modern five-star, world-class hotel.
Calling Rai Bahadur M.S. Oberoi, a ‘great entrepreneur’, president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) said, “He was a living legend and an extraordinary titan in his field. An icon, an institution and an inspiration to first generation entrepreneurs. He built his empire brick by brick. Apart from a great charming personality, he commanded a lot of respect.”
Back to Bhaun’s not that well recorded history:
In his booklet ‘An Historical Introduction of the Bhaun Town’, Safdar Faizi writes, “General Cunningham visited Bhaun during 1870-80 after which he compiled a report for the Archeological Survey of India. During his visit to the town, he recovered 285 old coins which provided the evidence that the town had existed since many centuries before. General Cunningham also wrote in his report that Bhaun was on the way when you enter Punjab from the northern side i.e. from Attock District and then after crossing River Sawan in Neela, you reach Bhaun and then to Bhera.
During British rule and prior to the creation of Pakistan in 1947, the majority of the population in Bhaun were Muslims, yet the economic and social hold was in the hands of the Hindus. There are still ten Hindu temples in the town which remind us of the town’s Hindu past.
Pre-partition the town was centre of economic activities and though not declared yet as a Mandi. It was a big trading centre for Dhan, Vanhar and Soon areas. A special judge with the powers of Magistrate used to hold his court in Bhaun and even it was functioning in 1857.
In an article titled “Bhaun losing its architectural heritage” published in the daily Dawn dated 29 Jul 2003, Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro writes, “About 12 kms south of Chakwal lies the historical town of Bhaun, formerly known as Bhavan, famous for its splendid temples, highly-revered shrines and Havelis with exquisitely carved doors and remarkably built wooden balconies indicating the owners’ affluence and aesthetic.
In 1947, the Hindus left the town leaving behind a host of temples and mansions (Havelis), having an architecture which is a blend of local and Kashmiri style, with very little ornamentation. The temples are different from those at Ketas and Malot which are lavishly ornamented. Yet some of these are adorned with paintings, while some are immensely towering and conspicuous from a distance.
Due to neglect by the authorities as well as by the general public all the temples, the gems of our heritage, are in shambles. Two temples in Chaddran Mohalla are in dilapidated condition. In one of the temples, Kashmiri immigrants are living. They have damaged the temple by defacing some of the figures depicted on the walls, while its western wall has caved in. Then a nearby temple is being used as a store where household belongings are kept.
A furlong or so from these temples is the temple of Madho Sain Kalan, which is fast coming apart. Ironically, the temple has been turned into a cattle pen. As soon as you enter the temple, you find cows, buffaloes and goats in its courtyard. One also finds heaps of haystacks stored for the livestock. Regretfully the people have taken away the ornately carved door of the temple.
Apart from the temple of Madho Sain Kalan, two temples are located in Madho Wali Ban (Talaab). These were damaged after the Babri Mosque incident. Traces of the paintings can still be found on both temples. In addition to these, there are more than four temples still in and around Bhaun.
There is a dire need that the authorities concerned make concerted efforts to save these fabulous pieces of architecture from further decay. The restoration of these temples and Havelis’ will help our younger generation to see the past glory of our Hindu heritage in Pakistan.
If the authorities concerned do take some pains, they can also make this place a stopover for tourists heading towards Kallar Kahar and Ketas.
Tourism has attained the status of an industry abroad, and countries chalk out strategies for its promotion. In some very prominent countries in western Europe such as Austria, Switzerland and Italy, their economies depend on tourism. But, unfortunately, it is the most neglected sector in our country.
In another article Mr Kalhoro writes:
TEMPLES TELL A TALE OF NEGLECT
Two temples situated at Madh Wali Ban (pond) in Bhaun, are attributed to Shri Hanuman, a Hindu monkey god. The temple on the bank of the pond is huge and fast coming apart. It is bigger than the nearby temple, which lies behind the government primary school. Both temples were built in 1894.
According to eminent expert Prof Anwar Beg Awan, the temples were built in the same period Ram Das built a temple in Chddaran Mohalla. The temple that is more towering was greatly damaged by fanatics after the Babri Mosque incident. It was noted for its paintings, which were destroyed when the people set it on fire. Exteriorly, panels were created on each side to depict a pair of fish, which is the special characteristic of the Hanuman temples. The traces of the paintings on the each side are still visible.
According to Prof Awan, there also exited a complex, which could not withstand the vagaries of the weather. The complex included the houses of the caretaker of temple and of a Sadhu. There was also a Mahman khana (guest house) attached to the temple.
Apart from this temple, there lies another temple behind the government primary school. Though small in size, it is beautifully built, but is in a derelict condition. This temple also contains separate panels created for depicting a pair of fish on each of its sides. From inside, it is decorated with paintings, some of which depict Hanuman with his disciples.
A closer look at the paintings shows repeated depiction of peacock and parrot. On one of the panels, parrots are seen drinking water. On the other panel, one can see Hanuman playing Sitar that demonstrates his keen interest in the music. On the same panel, one finds Hanuman sailing with his adherents. Another one shows peacocks.
According to Prof Awan, the distinctive features of the Hanuman paintings are the depictions of the peacocks, parrots, lions and fish that could be found on all the temples located in Bhaun. It is also interesting to find the illustration of the palm date tree. Barring the figurative representation, the temple also features floral design. (published in the daily Dawn dtd 25-08-03)
In another article published on Sep 27, 2009 (Name of the author could not be traced, however, his email address is mentioned at the end. It is titled “Bhaun’s fading vestiges of its Hindu Past”. Bhaun formerly known as Bhavan (meaning house or mansion) was predominantly a Hindu town before Partition. Its temples, Gurdwaras, shrines and havelis with their exquisite doors and wooden balconies still bear testimony to its religious past.
However, our Muslim brothers who moved in after the Hindus left, have tried to disown our country’s prestigious heritage by defacing and damaging the vestiges of a past which is part of our history.
Bhaun, 12 kilometers south of Chakwal, used to be a very important mandi (market) town dominated by the Hindus. They built temples and havelis of great architectural value presenting a blend of local and Kashmiri style, with very little graphic decoration. These temples are different from those at Ketas and Malot that in pure Kashmiri style are rich in adornment. Some of the temples are adorned with paintings.
There are 10 temples in and around the town of which eight are attributed to Hanuman, a Hindu god. Two temples located in Chaddran Mohalla date back to 1894 and are in a shambles. One of the temples, built by Ram Das, is now occupied by Kashmiri immigrants who have defaced some of the figure paintings on the walls. Its western wall has caved in. The facade of the temple bears the image of Hanuman. A nearby temple is being used as a store where household belongings are kept. A furlong or so from these temples is the Madh Sain Lokan temple that is in a poor condition. Apart from these, there are two temples at Madh Wali Ban, both devoted to Hanuman. One of them is a very tall one.
When the Babri Mosque was felled by Hindu fanatics, our local fanatics set it on fire damaging its painted interior completely. The temple used to be famous for its paintings. On its exterior panels depictions of a pair of fish showed its Vishnuite attributes. The traces of paintings on each side are still visible. There used to be a wall around it that was also destroyed by people venting their anger on brick and mortar. There is another temple behind the government primary school. Though small in size, it is beautifully built but, like the temples discussed above, is in a poor condition. It contains separate panels created for depicting a pair of fish on each of its sides. On the inside, it is decorated with paintings, some of which depict Hanuman with his disciples.
A closer look at the paintings reveals repeated depiction of peacocks and parrots. On one of the panels, parrots are seen drinking water. On the other panel, one can see Hanuman playing the sitar and sailing with his disciples. It is also interesting to find the illustration of the date palm tree, an essentially Muslim feature. These temples also have floral designs. Like the temples, the havelis and mansions belonging to the Sikh and Hindu communities still dominate the landscape of the town.
Almost every narrow alley in the town boasts of buildings of historical significance. One such building near the Qazian Wali Mosque, locally known as Marri, is noted for its elegant balconies. This three-storey building was built by Rai Bahadur Sardar Jai Singh who worked as a contractor in Iranian city Zahidan during the rule of Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi I from 1925 to 1941. One can safely say that it could have been built in 1930. Architecturally, the building is divided into three storeys or parts, of which the ground floor was used as veranda with a row of richly carved columns running all around it. In front of the veranda there is a courtyard mainly used by women for dishwashing, laundry and drying grain? Men used it as a place for sleeping in dry weather.
The first floor was reserved for junior members of the family and some visitors. The second floor was used by the senior members of the family or by married couples, while the third floor was occasionally used whenever there was a long spell of dry weather. It had a pavilion for enjoying the evening breeze. Marri housed a total of 14 small and big rooms, some of which were discreetly decorated. The remarkable feature of Marri was its balconies, one each on the western and southern faces.
In addition to this magnificent structure, there lies another one behind the Ram Das temple in Chaddran Mohalla known as Janj Ghar (a building reserved for marriage gatherings). A person called Bikarma Jeet built it in the early 19th century. Janj Ghar had about 18 rooms. There is a need to preserve and renovate these fading vestiges of glorious past.
The writer is Staff Anthropologist at PIDE and Ph.D Scholar at Taxila Institute of Asian Civilizations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org published in the daily Dawn dated September 27, 2009 (END of article).
According to an old historical treatise named Chach Nama originally written in Arabic and then translated into English, Sindhi and Urdu languages, it is believed that this town is named after Raja Bhaun, who was the grandson of Raja Dahir, who was defeated by Muhammad Bin Qasim in Sindh. Name of the son of Raja Dahir was Jai Sina. After death and defeat of his father he fled to Kashmir with his family.
He was a relative of Raja of Kashmir whose name was Muktapida (Lalitaditya I) the younger brother of Chandrapida and Tarapida. Datt (as mentioned in the book Rajatarangini on Kashmir history by Pundit Kalhana. There he complained to the Kashmir Raja about severe cold unbearable to the Sindhis. So the King gave him a Jagir in area of lower Kashmir. At that time lower Kashmir included the present Rawalpindi Division of Punjab as well..
From Kashmir Jai Sina son of Raja Dahir came to Dhani area with his family and other relatives including one Raja Bhaun. The book “Ratta Romal by Safdar Faizi” describes the whole detail of that event which also includes other important historical events of the town i.e. about the reigns of Mehmood Ghaznavi, Jalal-ud-Din Khawarzam Shah, Shamas-ud-Din Altamash and Saif-ud-Din Hassan Qarlugh.
Bhaun remained the capital of seven kings of Qarlagh dynasty. Qarlagh sultans (Kings) also built here a strong fort. Until the end of Sikh regime that fort remained functioning and till date traces of the fort walls can be found.
The great Sikh ruler Raja Ranjeet Singh is reported to have come to Bhaun during 1810. Here he made some arrangements for collection of revenues from Dhani area Chaudhries. He also got a good lot of horses.
During Sikh period, several names of the Muslim scholars are found who belonged to Bhaun. One of them was Qazi Mohzam, a great Muffassir of the Holy Quran. Unfortunately his book could not be preserved, for in an incident of fire caused by the Sikhs, the holy book in Persian was burnt.
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