N a n d n a : Al B e r u n i W a s H e r e

IMG_3664 copy
The western part of the now extinct fort. However, the runis of mosque on the right can still be seen. On the left the ruins of a Hindu temple are distinctly visible. Half of this temple has already fallen down. yet the remaining half is still intact. However, reconstruction / renovation of both the mandir and the mosque are immediately required; otherwise these old relics of the ancient world will remain a subject of history books only.
[A Note from WoP. Last month my friends Salman, a writer and  Nadeem Khawar, the contributing photographer of WOP; were exploring the ruins of an ancient fort. The fort existed since prehistoric times but now there are ruins only. These include a Hindu temple and a mosque but the most important aspect of their visit was the ancient seat of learning, the university at Nandna, for it was here that the famous Muslim scientist Al Beruni delved into experimentation in then the completely unknown realm of space & earth science.
The area in our present day Pakistan has always been a cultural cauldron, an area that has historically been hospitable (culturally and that means ethnically as well as ideologically hospitable to all). The Arians, the Greeks, Buddhists and lastly the Muslims settled in here, betook this as their homeland, and practiced their beliefs without any fear and angst.
Seen in this liberal and tolerant clima of present day Pakistan, it looks rather odd that groups like al-Qaeda and Taliban should have originated from this soil, the land where the soul of Lord Buddha still blesses through its various manifestations in the Gandhara valley civilization; a land where many mandirs, the worship places of a vast magnitude of humanity still exist, where Gurdwaras and Mosques stand side by side and there are even the worshipping places of the followers of Zarathustra, who fled from Iran when they faced persecution at the hands of Iranians who had become Muslims. It was here in this very land that all faiths mutually coexisted since centuries. Barring the tragic incidents of 1947 partition, there have hardly been any major Hindu Muslim or Muslim Christian riots here as we observe in India.
But unfortunately whatever be the reason, this monster of extremism is very much now, there in our NWFP and Swat. I hope and am dead sure as well that the armed forces of Pakistan will crush this menace for once and all; a menace which seems to be working on an agenda which is very foreign to the psyche, the traditions and the way of the life – our people have been practicing for centuries.Nayyar]

by Salman Rashid

The fortified temple complex of Nandna sits smack on the Nandna Pass; leading from the Salt Range highlands into the Punjab plains on the west bank of the River Jhelum. From times immemorial the pass, a natural and narrow cleft in the hills, has seen the passage of caravans of trade and invasions, and because of its location, it would only have been natural for a fortress to be raised in the pass not just to hold adventurers at bay but also to exact taxes from passing traders.

Having sojourned in Taxila, Alexander of Macedonia came through the Nandna Pass to the banks of the River Jhelum. This was in the month of May in 326 BCE. Here he fought his hardest battle against Raja Paurava (Porus in Greek) since the last confrontation against the Persians a few years earlier.

 IMG_3726 copy

Another View of the Nandna Fort Complex

In the year 1013, Mahmud the Turkish ruler of Ghazni came against Nandna. In those days, the fort  was in the possession of Jaipul II, the king of Lahore who held sway as far as Peshawar. Nidder (Dauntless) Bhimpal, the governor of Nandna, bravely held out for several days until the Turks sneaked around the surrounding hills and into the plains of the village of Baghanwala to the south of Nandna. With the water supply cut off, Bhimpal the Dauntless brought down his army to confront the Turks where the orchards of Baghanwala now ring with birdsong.

A hard contest was fought and Bhimpal’s tiny force was defeated before the arrival of reinforcements from Lahore. Mahmud did not destroy Nandna, however. We do not know why, but it may have been because Nandna was now a flourishing university whose renown spread wide across the land that caused Mahmud to restrain himself.

Four years later, in 1017, the celebrated geographer, historian, mathematician and linguist Abu Rehan Al Beruni, then living the life of a virtual prisoner in Ghazni was given permission by Mahmud to travel to the then India. The fame of Nandna drew him hither. He records in his Qanun al Masudi: ‘When I happened to be living in the fort of Nandna in the land of India, and I found a high mountain standing to its West, and also saw a plain to its South, it occurred to my mind that I should examine this method there.’ The method that he mentions was employing the astrolabe to measure the circumference of the earth.

Though such experiments had already been done even before Al Beruni, it was this remarkable man whose computations were the most exact: while others had been out by as much as a couple of thousand miles, Al Beruni’s error was a mere 143 km from the exact measurement that we know today. That was his great achievement.

IMG_3679 copy

This is the main view of the ancient Mandir located in the Nandna Fort. The view was captured by Nadeem Khawar while standing in the arch of the ruined ancient mosque also located within the Nandna Fort Complex.

The ruins that exist today represent a Vishnuvite temple built in the mid-10th century and a portion of a defensive turret. A ruinous mosque with its mehrab intact sits adjacent to the hulk of the temple. The hill across the cleft of the Nandna Pass still retains a semi-circular turret and parts of the fort’s defensive wall. On top of this hill is a bunch of Muslim graves that may recall the skirmish fought between the Turks under Kamruddin Kirmani who held Nandna on behalf of Iyultimish, the Sultan of Delhi, and Chengez Khan’s troops in the spring of 1221. The Muslims were routed. Shortly after, the Mongols too turned tail and fled. Their adversary was not Turkish arms, but the blistering Punjabi summer heat.

IMG_3752 copy

On the left hand side, where a man is standing, is the bastion of  Nandna Fort. Over the greener part of the hilllock, the wall of the extinct university can still be seen.

History does not tell us when the university at Nandna eventually stopped functioning and when the temple itself was deserted. But when in the 1580s Akbar the Great, and after him his son Jehangir, resorted to this region to hunt the Punjab uRial and ravine deer, the royal record of neither king makes any note of the fortified university on the hilltop.


Henceforth, all posts in this blog carrying texts either from Urdu or Punjabi carrying the special alphabets found in these and other vernacular texts like R (which sounds something between a slurring r and hard d and have no exact equivalents either in English or in other European languages) will be denoted through a capital R. As such it may stand in contrast to English grammar where a capital is either inserted in the beginning of sentence or stands before proper nouns with a capital. The people from south Asia might get its sound more easily from the word pahaR meaning the mountain.

Pakistan, A Treasure Trove of Wonders. But do we care!

The magnificent architecture: of the Shrine of Hazrat Shah Rukn-e-Alam in Multan attracts visitors from almost every corner of the world

Nayyar Hashmey

The Indus Valley occupies a unique place on the world map as the birth place of civilisation. Previously, it was one of the four principal sites where humanity got its birth. However, after explorations done at Mehrgarh by French Archeologist J.F. Jarrige, with amazement learnt the world, of a highly startling fact that first urban settlement on this planet rose in c. 7000 BC in the Kachhi plain of Balochistan. Then the rise of Muslims in the early eighth century in the region yielded a new form of architecture that has the potential even today to attract people from all over the world.

With such prideful history and heritage the country has the right potential to become world’s choice as a top tourist destination.

Till 2006 Pakistan had a regular inflow of tourists. Though meager, yet with a very poor infra structure, no publicity, no brand image and to that a highly unprofessional approach by tourism authorities especially the Babu’s of our tourism ministry and its ancillary corporations, even that meager amount of inbound tourism was not bad (while visiting Pakistan; in 2006, the foreign tourists spent over one million US dollars). However, tourism met a serious jolt when the US and the EU countries put Pakistan on a negative advisory list (even though the country from day one has been aligned to the west in its war against terror). Ever since then the tourism sector has almost come to a halt. Surprisingly countries like Sri Lanka and India where terrorism also takes its toll were not at all put to such restriction. (more…)

Indus Valley Civilisation: The Genesis of Pakistan!

A sculpted object from the ancient city of Mohenjo-Daro, now placed in the Karachi Museum.



by Shanti Menon


The link for railway from Lahore to Multan in Pakistan is 4,600 years old. In truth, the rails were laid down in the middle of the nineteenth century, but to build the railway bed, British engineers smashed bricks from crumbling buildings and rubble heaps in a town called Harappa, halfway between the two cities. Back in 1856, Alexander Cunningham, director of the newly formed Archeological Survey of British India, thought the brick ruins were all related to nearby seventh-century Buddhist temples. Local legend told a different story: the brick mounds were the remnants of an ancient city, destroyed when its king committed incest with his niece. Neither Cunningham nor the locals were entirely correct. In small, desultory excavations a few years later, Cunningham found no temples or traces of kings, incestuous or otherwise. Instead he reported the recovery of some pottery, carved shell, and a badly damaged seal depicting a one-horned animal, bearing an inscription in an unfamiliar writing. (more…)

Mehrgarh…The Lost Civilization [4 of 4]

Mehrgarh, 30 km west of the town of Sibi and 120 km southeast of Quetta in Balochistan province of Pakistan is important for its antiquity and for being among the earliest sites to show the development of civilised activity like agriculture.
We do not know whether Mehrgarh was a lone beacon of such activity in a “wilderness of hunter-gatherers” since no other such settlement has been found yet. It is, however, likely that it was not alone. There must have been other similar and as yet undiscovered settlements along the Indus valley that would later provide the foundation for the rise of the first civilization in the area, the Indus civilization.
The earliest human activity in Asia after Mehrgarh of which we have archaeological evidence, centered on Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, chief cities of the Indus valley civilization. An astonishing feature of this pre-Aryan urban culture was its advanced system of public sanitation.
There were numerous wells, bathrooms, public baths, sewers, and chutes for collecting trash. Streets were laid out in regular fashion, and houses were well built and ventilated. Image via http://www.andaman.org/BOOK/F1-IndusCivilization/indus.htm




by Mahmood Mahmood


One amazing bit of info about this town is that in 7000 BC it had a population of 25000 people, which was the number of people living in the entire Egypt in 7000BC. [8]

During excavations, the archaeologists discovered clay female figurines associated with fertility rites, and believed to have been worshipped by the natives. Similar figurines have surfaced in other archaeological sites in the province. Several of these statues are carved with necklaces, and have their hands on their breast or waist. Some have children on their laps. (more…)

Mehrgarh: The Neolithic Period (From 7th Mill. BC)


These houses were builyt by Mehgarh dwellers c. 8000 years BC

Here follows an account of Mehrgarh by pioneer French archeologist who explored the area from time to time, and was first to excavate the Mehrgarh site. Let us now see what does world’s top most researcher on Mehrgarh say about the archeological excavations at Mehrgarh — a breakthrough that bestows a totally singular position to Indus Valley Civilisation — the first civilized, urban settlement on face of this earth.

by C. Jarrige

In the fourth millennium and in the first half of the third, the Mehrgarh potters and those from other parts of Balochistan alike became known for producing very high quality ceramics which were either exported or copied in eastern Iran, southern Afghanistan, and even as far as present-day Tadjikistan, notably at the Sarazm site. These periods are also distinguished by the manufacture of human figurines of a high aesthetic quality, whose attributes seem to suggest references to an underlying mythology still unclear to us.


The Nausharo excavation, 6 km from Mehrgarh as the crow flies, revealed a dwelling-site contemporaneous and identical to the Mehrgarh, one between 3000 and 2500 BC and another, divided into three periods between 2500 and 1900 BC, characteristic of the urban civilization of the valley of the Indus, which is also referred to as the Harappan civilization, from the name of the eponymous site of Harappa. This excavation of Nausharo allows the Indus civilisation to be linked to the cultures which preceded it since the Neolithic and the ancient Chalcolithic times. The excavation of the Harappan layers led to the uncovering of a settlement which met the criteria of the urban civilization of the Indus, with discrete rectangular zones, and with the existence of baths and hydraulic features. The study of Harappan ceramics in Naushara has brought to light a clear stylistic evolution over time, thus contradicting the theories claiming that Harappan pottery had remained static for several centuries.

Starting from a period of about 2100 BC, which corresponds to phase-IV of Nausharo, ceramics and other objects begin to appear in the Bolan basin which are comparable to those from sites in Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and the east of Iran. Some of these objects had been found previously, notably on the upper levels of the great civilization sites of the Indus, such as Mohenjo-daro and Chanhu-daro. It had been thought that these were in fact remains which indicated the arrival of invaders from the West and from the North-West. Thanks to the Nausharo dig and to the discovery of necropolises (the Mehrgarh VIII cemetery) and of various sites on the edge of Nausharo or Mehrgarh, it is now clear that the “exotic” objects belong to groups who have co-existed with the “Harappan” populations, evidently peaceably. It can even be asserted that all these objects are an indication of the development of very important trading activities whose agents between the Indus valley and Mesopotamia were groups who controlled the routes for inter-Iranian exchanges around 2000 BC.


Between 1800 and 1900 BC, the urban civilization of the Indus disappeared to survive, in derivative forms, only in the territory of present-day India. The excavation of Pirak, a settlement of about ten hectares inhabited between 1800 and 600 BC, reveals the beginning of a new age. Several miniatures of horsemen and horses and of two-humped camels – animals unknown in the Indus civilization – symbolize important changes in society. The emergence of horsemen at Pirak, just like the discovery of horse skeletons at the time in the Swat in the north of Pakistan, is to be considered in the context of the arrival of new populations belonging, perhaps, to the very first Indo-Aryan groups mixing with a local community with an increasingly diversified agricultural economy. It has been noted that in fact the cultivation of rice, which demands the use of irrigation techniques, became predominant.

As for the structures where the interior walls are punctuated with rows of symmetrical marks, sometimes on four levels: these represent a style which was still found a few years ago in houses, particularly in Hindu areas, in this region. About 1200 BC, iron utensils and weapons would emerge.

Since the end of the expedition in 2000 to the Neolithic part of the Mehrgarh site, fieldwork has been halted to allow for deeper analysis of date and to write up publications. In 2003 there was an expedition to study the material at Mehrgarh, and the dig was scheduled to resume in 2004.


Courtesy: Guimet.com