Mountain of Forty Souls


Balochistan is a country rife with tales of hidden treasures left behind by passing hordes through the long and creative years of history. From the arid wastes of Makran through the juniper-scented valleys of Kalat to the sun-baked hills of the Marri-Bugti area, echo tales of hidden riches. Some, therefore, believe that the name refers to that untold and undiscovered wealth in Hazarganji.
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HAZARGANJI

THE POSSESSOR OF THOUSAND TREASURES

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by Salman Rashid

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Some 20 kilometres south of Quetta, past Dasht-e-Bedaulat (‘Wretched Plain” — a misnomer now because electricity and tube wells have turned this once barren land fertile) there rises an imposing purple loom west of the road. Rising to 3,308 metres (10,850 feet) above the sea, this, in common parlance, is Chiltan. Ask any Brahui who lives in its shadow and he will call it Chehel Tan — Forty Souls. He will also tell you that the valleys below are called Hazarganji — Possessor of a Thousand Treasures.

Aside: Balochistan is a country rife with tales of hidden treasures left behind by passing hordes through the long and creative years of history. From the arid wastes of Makran through the juniper-scented valleys of Kalat to the sun-baked hills of the Marri-Bugti area, echo tales of hidden riches. Some, therefore, believe that the name refers to that untold and undiscovered wealth in Hazarganji.

But the Brahui will tell you another story. Long years ago, there lived a poor Brahui shepherd and his good wife who remained childless despite years of wedlock. Then, Providence gave them not one nor two, but fully forty children. Worried how they would feed this brood, the couple resolved to keep one and abandon the others in the forests of Hazarganji. Days went by and reports filtered in of the mysterious ravines being inhabited by a bunch of elfin children who enticed travellers away. No one could catch them and anyone who pursued them was forever lost in the unknown folds of Hazarganji. (more…)

The shepherd from Vijhara


The moral of the tale is that the men of of sense must never lend ear to women’s gossip. But that is not the true essence that hides behind the tale.
This is a tale of Punjabi resistance to the all-powerful Mughals. Here in the Laehnda, the rich and powerful Bandials and Tiwanas were the masters; the Ghanjeras were a tribe of lesser influence. And here was a Ghanjera who was courageous enough to make off with his stolen property from right under the nose of the most powerful emperor the Mughals were ever to produce.
And if a poor Ghanjera shepherd could be so, consider what the more powerful tribes could wreak upon the Mughals.
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PUNJABI‘S HORSE AND THE INDIAN KING

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by Salman Rashid

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Aali of the tribe Ghanjera was a shepherd from village Vijhara under the southern shadow of the Sakesar peak in the Salt Range. One day, he came across a pair of horse dealers with a very spirited filly. Knowing a good horse when he saw it, Aali purchased the animal to feed and train and make it the best in the Laehnda — the country where the sun sets.

And so, within the year, fed on the choicest fodder, almonds and butter, the animal grew into a handsome mare fit for a king. Even more, the mare could out-pace the best horses in the area and soon its fame spread far. Buyers came to Aali’s door, but the man was not selling for the mare was as a part of his own body and soul.

Over time, word of this priceless animal reached the court at Delhi and the ear of Emperor Akbar the Great. A posse was sent out to procure the mare at whatever price the owner demanded. And if he was not willing to sell, it was to be taken away by force. And so it was. Aali refused to be parted from his beloved mare and the emperor’s men simply deprived him, a mere shepherd, of it. (more…)

Who Owns Harand Fort? – Pakistan


Ruins of Harand Fort continue to mystify all those who take their chance to go there. First of all it gives an emotional look, as a symbol of our evolution and continuity. No matter what your pursuits and interests, you will fancy finding out so many things about the important monument of the past.
And, every time you leave Harand and look back to watch the fort receding in the distance, your mind is flooded with thoughts of its architects and inmates over a long period of time as it stands there lonely and mysteriously on the Suleman mountain, its importance lost in the hazy vistas of time.
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THE STORY OF A BEAUTIFUL PRINCESS AND ALEXANDER THE GREAT

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by S  A J Sherazi

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Perched in between legendary Suleman Range on one side and mighty River Indus on the other, ruins of original Harand Fort are situated in the area commonly known as Pachaddh. The Fort has seen a lot in the past and looks as if hiding thousands of secrets besides its historical and archaeological importance.

The Fort was originally built opposite historic Chachar Pass in Suleman Range to guard against the invaders. The fading signs of the edifice are still there in the forms of derbies and bricks scattered around the old site. Sikh Governor Sawan Mall used the material of the old fort rebuilt the Fort on a new location in 1831.

Present structure of the Fort – a valuable part of our heritage – is situated about 25 kilometres west of sleepy and rustic town Dajal in district Rajan Pur. The Fort is spread over an area of 50 acres. The outer wall of whatever is left of it is one kilometre long and was made of thin red bricks. There are 16 pillars. Main entrance is in the west and another one is in the east. What ever is left of the fort is a clear evidence of its past, solidity of masonry and quality of construction.

DESERT ROCK

The Satellite image shows the location of Harand Fort. The yellow lines are roads. Follow the yellow line going west from Dajal. The red rectangle shows the Suleman Range hills. The fort is located somewhere between these hills and the yellow road west of Dajal. For perspective, note the location of bigger city Ranjanpur as well as the airport at D. G. Khan.

Over 200 rodkohis (seasonal hill torrents) come out of this mineral rich Suleman Range, and if properly managed, could irrigate more than two hundred thousand acres of agricultural land, most of the Pachaddh area, but the scheme for flood distribution, canalization and construction of spill ways is yet to be approved. The water of these torrents causes colossal damage to life, crops and property in every monsoon season and flows unutilized. Lined up with Pillu trees, Dajil-Harand Road is broken-down and boulder like stones are spread around. It takes painfully long to cover the distance of just 25 kilometres. Ex-President Farooq Ahmed Khan Laghari who has his roots in the area, during his tenure managed electricity and telephone in the area but could not get the roads built that are necessary for the development of this historic belt.

History has it that Harand Fort was originally built by Hindu Raja Harnakish in the name of his son Hari Nand. The fort had seen three different periods: Hindu, Macedonian and Muslim.

VIEW OF THE FORT

As per the local lore, when young Alexander the Great, on his way home after conquering most of the known world, came in the area, Harand was under the rule of Hindu king who had beautiful daughter. Her name is quoted as Nowshaba.

She was talented, brave and daring princess. The princess was fond of hunting besides being strong and efficient administrator of her father’s state. Alexander heard about the princess and wanted to see the beauty queen personally. Alexander himself approached the fort in the guise of a ‘messenger of Alexander.’

Born in 356 B.C., full name Alexander III of Macedon, was the son of Philip II of Macedon and Olympias of Epirus. One of those extremely rare historical figures whose actual achievements have regularly outshined numerous fictional portrayals.
He came to power after the assassination of his father by the captain of his bodyguard. He promptly put down a series of rebellions around the Balkans and marched his army into Persia.
Alexander made his way through the Persian Empire, clashing with Persia’s forces and mercenaries. Along the way, he seized Egypt away from Persia and was declared pharaoh. After Alexander’s forces defeated the enormously numerically superior Persian armies and forced King Darius III to flee the battle, Darius was assassinated by a general who fled with him and Alexander seized control of the empire.
Later, Alexander’s forces marched into Bactria and India, where Alexander was forced to stop his expansion under the threat of revolt from his army, who were beginning to wonder if he truly would march to the very end of the world, circumstances permitting.

He was taken to the court of Hindu Raja where Princess Nowshaba saw the ‘messenger of Alexander’. She ordered that the messenger be immediately taken to royal guesthouse. In the guesthouse when Alexander introduced himself as a messenger, the princess smiled and pointed towards the wall where images of all contemporary kings including Alexander were hanging.

Iranian poet Nizami has written this incidence in Sikandar Nama adding that both got married. The veracity of the marriage or this incident is yet to be proved by historical evidence though. (Another tale says that Alexander also married the wife of defeated General in his war near Saga.) The third period of this historical monument starts with the arrival of Muslims in the area in early eighth century. The palm trees found in the region are indicated as an evidence of the arrival of Arabs’Army. Subsequently, all the adventurers who came this way – from Changez Khan to Muhammad Ghori – visited the fort and used it for their convenience, contemplating their next moves.

During Sikh rule, the fort was rebuilt on the present location for strategic reasons. This fort garrisoned the Sikh army to control the Baloch tribes. Later, the famous battle between British troops and Marri-Bugti tribes was fought here in 1867. After annexation of South Asia, the British used the fort as a cantonment. The British carried out limited excavation and historic artefacts recovered from the site were sent to British Museum in London. Presently, there is a small Levy’s post in the fort.

RUINS

All said and done, off the beaten track, ruins of Harand Fort still continue to mystify those who take their chance to go there. First of all it gives an emotional look, as a symbol of our evolution and continuity. No matter what your pursuits and interests, you will fancy finding out so many things about the important monument of the past. And, every time you leave Harand and look back to watch the fort receding in the distance, your mind is flooded with thoughts of its architects and inmates over a long period of time as it stands there lonely and mysteriously on the Suleman mountain, its importance lost in the hazy vistas of time.

As I drove back on a pebbled road, plied mainly by animal transports and occasional automobiles, I could not help thinking: Can the plight of the priceless site be brought to the echelons of power? Can some national or international agency be moved to act and save the place for coming generations before disappears totally? The remains of the monument have to be preserved and saved from total ruination, a danger they are facing at present.

More from S. A. J. Shirazi on Wonders of Pakistan

1. Hiran Minar 2. Around Abbotabad 3. The Wonders of Deosai Plains

S A J Shirazi is a Lahore based writer, blogger and speaker. Shirazi has authored two books (Izhar, Ret Pe Tehreer) and translated Din Mein Charagh by Abbas Khan into Light Within.
Source   Title image  Satellite image  Alexander’s image
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Blinded by Guilt


Refugees during the partition of India (in 1947). Photo: Creative Common 
The immensity of the guilt in perpetrators of crimes does bring wrath of God Almighty. It could be a physical disability caused to these men of evil doings. Divine retribution is a belief and a topic for teachers of religion to expound upon, yet it is the realisation within the misdeed of such men that creates hell in this life for them. 
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GOD STANDS IN CONGREGATION OF THE MIGHTY

AND JUDGES AMONG THE GODS.

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by Salman Rashid

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As you drive through Laliani en route to Kasur from Lahore, you pass by Adday vali Maseet — Mosque of the [bus/tonga] Stand. Today, few know that it was paid for by Zaildar Sardar Anant Singh, a Bhular Jat and a rich land owner of Laliani. The land was donated by the Sardar’s kinsmen, who had converted to Islam and the Sikh paid for the building. (more…)

Folk Tales of Pakistan: Sohni Mahiwal


Sohni, “the beautiful” with her pitcher, as visualized by a  painter

 

  • It’s dark and the river is in flood

  • There is water all around me

  • How am I going to meet Mahiwal?

  • If I keep going, I will surely drown

  • And if I turn back

  • I would be going back on my promise

  • And letting Mahiwal down

I beg you (O pitcher!), with folded hands,
Help me meet my Mahiwal
You always did it, please do it tonight, too

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I WISH, I TOO, WERE BACKED IN THE FIRE OF LOVE

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by Mast Qalandar
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Pakistan, like every other culture, has its share of folklore. In fact, a very generous share — particularly of the love tales

Folklore is a mixture of beliefs, facts and fiction. The stories are told and retold by successive generations, embellished by poets, sung and celebrated by common folks and enacted and filmed by entertainment industry. Over time, the facts and fiction get so interwoven that often it becomes difficult to separate one from the other.

It is always a poet, though, that immortalizes a love story. But a poet chooses to sing a particular story, and not the other, because of its inherent beauty and poignancy. While the Persian poet, Nizami, introduced Layla-Majnun to the world, Shakespeare immortalized Romeo and Juliet. Waris Shah cried a river over Heer and made her a household name in Pakistan and Northern India, and Sohni and Mahiwal first captured the imagination of Fazal Shah and, through his poetry, got embedded into popular imagination.

I chose the story of Sohni and Mahiwal for this post because I find it so touching, so tragic, and so real. Even though Sohni and Mahiwal lived, loved and died, relatively recently there is no one consistent account of their story. However, there is an unmistakable common thread that runs through the different versions.

Sifting through different accounts and glossing over some, here is, briefly, what I could gather of this beautiful and enduring story:

Sometime during the late Mughal period, there lived in a town on the banks of the Chenab, or one of its branches, a potter (kumhar) named Tulla. (The town is identified either as present day Gujrat or one of the nearby towns.) Tulla was a master craftsman and his earthenware was bought and sold throughout Northern India and even exported to Central Asia. To the potter and his wife was born a daughter. She was such a beautiful child that they named her Sohni, meaning beautiful in Punjabi.

Sohni spent her childhood playing and observing things in her father’s workshop. She watched clay kneaded and molded on the wheel into different shaped pots and pitchers, dried in the sun, and then fired and baked. Sohni grew up not only into a beautiful, young woman but also an accomplished artist who made floral designs on the pots and pitchers that came off her father’s wheel.

Sohni’s town was located on the trading route between Delhi and Central Asia, and trading caravans often made a stopover here. One such caravan that stopped here included a young, handsome trader from Bukhara, named Izzat Baig. While checking out the merchandise in town, Izzat Baig came upon Tulla’s workshop where he spotted Sohni sitting in a corner of the workshop painting floral designs on the pots. Izzat Baig was taken by Sohni’s rustic beauty and charm and couldn’t take his eyes off her. In order to linger at the workshop, he started purchasing random pieces of pottery. He returned the next day and made some more purchases at Tulla’s shop. His purchases were a pretext to be around Sohni for as long as he could. This became Izzat Baig’s routine until he had squandered most of his money.

When the time came for his caravan to leave, Izzat Baig found it impossible to leave Sohni’s town. He told his companions to leave, and that he would follow later. He took up permanent residence in the town and would visit Sohni at her father’s shop on one pretext or the other. Sohni also began to feel the heat of Izzat Baig’s love and gradually began to melt. The two started meeting secretly.

Izzat Baig soon ran out of money and started taking up odd jobs with different people, including Sohni’s father. One such job was that of grazing people’s cattle — mainly buffaloes. Because of his newfound occupation people started calling him Mahiwal, a short variation of Majhan-wala or the buffalo-man. That name stayed with him for the rest of his life — and thereafter.

Sohni and Mahiwal’s clandestine meetings soon became the talk of the town. When Sohni’s father came to know about the affair he hurriedly arranged Sohni’s marriage with one of her cousins, also a potter, and, ignoring Sohni’s protests and entreaties, bundled her off to her new home in a village somewhere on the other side of the river.

Mahiwal was devastated. He left town and became a wanderer, searching for Sohni’s whereabouts. Eventually, he found her house and managed to meet her in the guise of a beggar and gave her his new address — a hut across the river. Sohni’s husband, meanwhile, discovering that he could not win Sohni’s heart no matter what he did to please her, started spending more time away from home on business trips. Taking advantage of her husband’s absence, Sohni started meeting Mahiwal regularly. She would swim across the river at night with the help of a large water pitcher (gharra), a common swimming aid in the villages even today. They would spend most of the night together in Mahiwal’s hut and Sohni would swim back home before the crack of dawn. On reaching her side of the river, she would hide the pitcher in a bush to be used for her next trip the following night.

One day, Sohni’s sister-in-law (her husband’s sister) came visiting. Suspecting something unusual about Sohni’s nocturnal movements, she started spying on her. She followed Sohni one night, and saw her take out the pitcher from the bush, wade into the river and swim across. She reported the matter to her mother (Sohni’s mother-in-law). Both of them, rather than informing Sohni’s husband, decided to get rid of Sohni. This, they believed, was the only way to save their family’s honor. The sister-in-law quietly took out Sohni’s pitcher from the bush and replaced it with sun-dried, unbaked pitcher.

As usual, Sohni set out at night for her meeting with Mahiwal, picked the pitcher from the bush, as she always did, and entered the river. It was a stormy night. The river was in high flood. Sohni was soon engulfed in water. She discovered, to her horror, that the pitcher had begun to dissolve and disintegrate.

What shall she do now? Different thoughts rushed through Sohni’s mind. Abandon the trip? Or continue trying to swim without the help of a pitcher — and drown? Her inner struggle at this point is best expressed in a saraiki song made memorable by Pathanay Khan in his inimitable voice: Sohni gharray nu aakhdi aj mainu yaar mila gharrya

Roughly translated and paraphrased the song runs as follows:

Sohni (addressing the pitcher):

It’s dark and the river is in flood
There is water all around me
How am I going to meet Mahiwal?

If I keep going, I will surely drown
And if I turn back
I would be going back on my promise
And letting Mahiwal down

I beg you (O pitcher!), with folded hands,
Help me meet my Mahiwal
You always did it, please do it tonight, too

(The pitcher replies):

I wish I, too, were baked in the fire of love, like you are
But I am not. I apologize; I cannot help

Hearing Sohni’s cries, Mahiwal, from the other side, jumped into the river to save her. He barely managed to reach her. As the story goes, their bodies were washed ashore, and were found the next day, lying next to each other.

With their death, Sohni and Mahiwal entered into the world of legends and lore. And, in their death the sinners became saints.

The writer Mast Qalandar describes himself as a dabbler in everything – history, culture, education, poetry, armchair politics and, when sufficiently provoked, religion. He has lived mostly in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Peshawar and also in several nooks and corners of Pakistan. Currently he divides his time between Islamabad and New York. The story recounted here is one of the four popular tragic romances of the Sindh, and Punjab. Sohni lived in Punjab (now Pakistan) followed by Heer Ranjha, Mirza Sahiba and Sassi Punnun. The story is one of the most prominent examples of medieval poetic legends in thePunjabi, Seraiki and Sindhi languages.
Sourcce, Image
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 We at Wonders of Pakistan use copyrighted material the use of which may not have always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We make such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” only. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.
Published in: on 24/11/2009 at 11:04 am  Comments (5)  
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