Wednesday, 27 April 2016
I was posted in Okara when I did this journey in 1999 with my good friend Husain Qazi. Lately this journey came up in Literature Festival Islamabad. Good memories.
Punjab is a gold mine for history seekers and curious travelers. You may find much more than what you hear or read. It pays to get out into the countryside and talk to ordinary people. What is more, people of the area are eager to help – on their own expense - when you ask anybody. One finds volunteer 'guides' who were forth coming with wealth of information. The distances in the hinterland are short but the landscape is so enormous that it had to be studied in parts like a large mural seen by a child.
Given the history and heritage, it is easy to fall in love with ‘out of the way’ town like Malka Hans. Once an abode of Waris Shah, who stayed here and composed universal romance Heer Ranjha, malka hans is still serene, tranquil and pollution free. Legend has it that Malik Muhammad (alia Malka) who was a member of Hans tribe founded the town some 700 years ago. Hans became powerful when Mughal King Alamgir conferred a vast land around Malka Hans on Sheikh Qutab Hans. In 1764, Muhammad Azam who was the descendant of Qutab Hans became head of the clan. Ran Singh Nakka treacherously took Muhammad Azam prisoner where he died in confinement.
Later, a great Punjabi poet Waris Shah - Shakespeare of Punjabi language - shifted his residence to village Malka Hans. Here he resided in a small hujra (living room) adjacent to the historic mosque that was constructed by Hans in 1340. Hafiz Ghulam Murtaza commonly known as Mian Wadda was the trustee of the mosque and used to lead the prayer when Waris Shah came here. In the absence of Mian Wadda, Waris Shah performed the duty of leading the prayer congregations.
It is this 'Hujra Waris Shah Da' that I had come to see in Malka Hans. Waris Shah had composed an illustrious Punjabi folk romance sitting in this hujra. The underground 8 x 6 feet hujra where the poet lived is still there though devoid of any furniture or things that could be related to Waris Shah to bring back the memory of the poet. The only sign showing that Waris Shah had been living here is a crudely written plaque with sketchy details about the poet. The classic work of Waris Shah echoes in the countryside and youth and elders sing with joy. One can find a number of folk vocalists singing Heer Waris Shah around the vast expanses of Punjab and other parts of the Subcontinent where Punjabi language is used. Many people remember major portions of his work by heart. Poetry of Waris Shah is written in easy language and can be understood by anyone with average language skills. The couplets are used as idioms and phrases in day-to-day life. The ancient mosque, now known as Mosque Waris Shah, with three green color domes and a hujra are venerated by literary figures, curiously conscious and devotees.
I could not see the book (Heer Waris Shah) written in longhand by the poet himself despite the best effort. There is another small room in the mosque premises with doorplate "Library Waris Shah" but that too was closed and the key could not be procured because "it had been misplaced". The monument is in the care and custody of Anjuman-e- Warisia. It is not being given the attention it deserves. The residents of this town celebrate Annual Jashne Waris when romantic and mystic poetry of Waris Shah is sung by folk singers. I was thinking as to how the plight of this priceless heritage could be brought to the echelons of power. The town is located 30 minutes drive away from Sahiwal and has a Town Committee, which has not been able to do anything other than brick lining in some of the dusty and dark streets in town. Conservation of legendary national heritage we are poised to lose forever is a difficult task for the civic body with little resources.
While travelling in the Gogera
historic trilogy, not only you travel in soot free and serene environment but you explore new vistas too. Interesting things come in the way, which normally remain hidden from common commuters in the area. Exploring this sleepy little agricultural town, you can also see the dilapidated relics of Parnami temple that used to be one of the central ashram of Parnami faction of Hindus. Mahant Darbara Singh had constructed this five-story majestic building of the temple over 200 year ago. Dust of ages has settled in deep layers on the pedestal where Smadhi of Dya Ram - the founder of Parnami sect used to rest in the main chamber of the temple. "Large number of Hindus had been visiting here before partition and there use to be a big annual mela in the month of Chetar," informed a Painde Khan who is using this place as a house. "I am paying rent to Auqaf for living in this Khandar," he complained a little wistfully.
This grand monument of the past with sold masonry and ornate designs wrought by artisans and artists centuries ago was one of the fine specimens of Hindu architecture. Termite is eating Wood but exquisite quality of woodwork on windows, doors and murals on the battered walls can still be seen. The thin red bricks excavated from this monument have been used in adjacent houses in the compound. And, sadly, the temple cannot be defined in the images. Auqaf does not appear to have any idea about what to do with these splendid remains of the Hindu architectural legacy, except perhaps recovering the rent from the tenants. "Last time Auqaf got the place cleaned was when Indian dignitaries visited the temple", told Painde Khan. Legend has it that there was a tunnel from this temple to Pakpattan, though I could not locate the opening of the tunnel because huge quantity of rubble lying everywhere in the courtyard.
Painde Khan had so much to tell. Listening to him, I felt drawn to the area and its people. There is so much to be seen, so much to be done. Above all, it has spirited, sincere and full-of-love people living without any hurry.
Labels: Travel Punjab
posted by S A J Shirazi @ Wednesday, April 27, 2016,
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