Wednesday 28 October 2015

Rohtas: Gurdwara Choa Sahib, Gurdwara Mata Kaur ji & Tomb Of Khair un Nissa

Rohtas is a village in district Jhelum, just 10 kilometers south of Dina a town on GT road. It is famous for the fort built here my great king Sher Shah Suri in mid 16th century. I too knew Rohtas only for this fort. While trying to find more about the fort I found that besides this great fort, Rohtas has some other historic monuments as well. 

Two of those three sites are historically and religiously very important Gurdwaras of Choa Sahib and Mata Kaur Ji. Hence it is a significant place for Sikhs from religious point of view. The third is a tomb built during the Mughal era of a princess, Khair un Nissa. 

After entering the fort through Khwas Khani gate I and my cousin Nasir Mehmood reached the populated part of the fort. Here, we asked people about a Sikh Gurdwara, they told us to see Bhola, who runs a tyre repair shop under a tree, near a mosque. Bhola turned out to be the caretaker of Gurdwara Mata Kaur ji. It is a small beautiful gurdwara, it has recently been renovated by a persona Gurbachan Singh. Who lives in some foreign country but frequently visits this place. He has appointed Bhola as the caretaker. The gurdwara is small one room building but very beautifully decorated. 

Now something about Mata Kaur ji. She was born in Rohtas in 1681, into a religious family and had great devotion for Guru Gobind ji. Her father wanted her to marry guru ji. But as Guru Gobind ji was already married, so she decided to serve and accompany him throughout his life. Observing her great devotion, Guru ji declared her the mother of all Khalsa. Thus she has a very respectful position in Sikh faith and all Sikhs consider her as the mother of their nation. She led them through many crises and died in 1747. (For more details, see Sikhiwiki)

Gurdwara Mata Kaur ji, before renovation. (Picture:

Entrance of the Gurdwara Mata Kaur ji, (18.08.2015.)

Ceiling of the gurdwara Mata Kaur ji. (18.08.2015.)

Engraving of Hamandir Sabhib. (18.08.2015.)

Decoration on the left wall. (18.08.2015.)

A picture of ten Sikh Gurus. (18.08.2015.)

A picture of ten Sikh Gurus. (18.08.2015.)

Ghulam Mustafa, aka Bhola, the caretaker of the Gurdwara Mata Kaur ji. (18.08.2015.)

Bhola opened the door of the gurdwara and let us enter and take pictures. He took off his shoes at the door and we also followed him and entered the room after removing our shoes. The gurdwara is a small but very beautifully decorated room. With beautiful tile works on the walls and roof, and also many pictures of Sikh holy places and gurus. The gurdwara is located at  32°58'5.66"N,   73°34'41.48"E.

Now something about Bhola (in Urdu and Punjabi means, simple or naive). Though not rich or well educated, he is a gentleman. I did not see an iota of greed or cleverness in his conduct. He performs his duty of taking care of the gurdwara Mata Kaur ji, with honesty and sincerity. But I shall write more about him later on. He can be contacted at

Our next point of interest was an old historic gurdwara associated with Baba Guru Nanak Dev ji, who was born in Nankana Sahib in 1469 and died at Kartarpur, near Shakargarh in 1539. Guru Ji spent his whole life in preaching love of humanity, tolerance and harmony between the followers of different religions. To learn and preach he travelled extensively all of India and beyond. He is said to even visited Makkah and Medina also. During one of those travels he came to Rohtas. The place where he stayed and prayed became holy for Sikhs and they constructed a gurdwara to commemorate his visit. Sikhs occupied Rohtas in 1765 and probably they constructed a simple gurdwara soon after that. But the current building was constructed in 1834, during the rule of Maharaja Ranjit Sikh ( 

Gurdwara Choa sahib is located just outside the Talaqi gate of Rohtas Fort, at  32°58'16.49"N;  73°34'23.75"E. So when we reached the fort. We told our guide, who was lurking in the parking lot and immediately offered his services to us, to cut his lecture on the legends of Rotas fort short and take us straight to the gurdwara. While passing through Chand Wali gate and seeing the haveli of Man Singh and Rani Mahal we proceeded towards Talaqi gate. The whole path from Rani Mahal on wards to the gate, almost half a kilometer was totally covered with wild thorny plants and bushes. I expressed my doubt and repeated my intended destination, but the guide assured me that we were on the right path. When we reached Talaqi gate, we indeed saw the gurdwara right in front of us. But there was a precipice staring at us with sheer fall of at least 30 meters or perhaps more. We had no other option but to return back. The return journey in the hot suffocating weather itself was a big challenge. 

After seeing a few more parts of the fort, we again came to Bhola and asked him to take us to the Gurdwara Choa sahib. He readily agreed. We came out of the fort through Khwas Khani Gate and turned left on a track, along the walls of the fort. The gurdwara is exactly 1 kilometer from the gate. The path is very bad and stony. Bhola told us that it was reasonably good, but recent heavy rains have damaged it. We had to park our car half way to the gurdwara. The building of the gurdwara is in a reasonably good condition. Bhola told us that Sikh Yatrees occasionally come to visit this place. Especially on a annual festival they come in hundreds. 

The gurdwara is located between river Ghan and the Rohtas fort. It has three storeys. Though there are no religious articles of Sikh faith in gurdwara but it is in good condition and sometimes Sikhs come here to visit it and offer their prayers. However, the sarovar beside the gurdwara is not in a very good shape. Bhola holds the keys of this gurdwara and took us inside. 

View of the Gurdwara Choa Sahib from Talaqi gate. (18.08.2015.)

Three storey building of gurdwara Choa sahib. (18.08.2015.)

View of Talaqi gate from the gurdwara. (18.08.2015.)

Sarovar (sacred pond) of the gurdwara Choa sahib. (18.08.2015.)

View of the sarovar from the roof of the gurdwara. (18.08.2015.)

Ground floor of the gurdwara. (18.08.2015.)

View from the first floor. (18.08.2015.)

After the partition, a water pump was installed here. Now that has been shifted to its own building nearby. (18.08.2015.)

A closed door of the gurdwara Choa sahib. (18.08.2015.)

A corridor on first floor. (18.08.2015.)

 A view of upper floors. (18.08.2015.)

 A view of upper floors. (18.08.2015.)

A view of upper floors. (18.08.2015.) 
North eastern corner of the gurdwara. 

View from the north. (18.08.2015.)

View from the north. (18.08.2015.)

Gurdwara Choa sahib with Talaqi gate in the background. (18.08.2015.)

Now it was almost 1230 and the real feel temperature was 48° C. By then I and my companion Nasir, were so completely exhausted that it became extremely difficult for us to go back to our car just half a kilometer away. A little ascend of 25 meters became a big challenge for us. Bhola was just smiling at our condition and advising us not to go on an adventure in such a weather. But that advice came too late. We twice sat under the shadows of bushes and drank whatever little water we had. 

To drop Bhola, we again entered Rohtas and asked Bhola to find cold lemon water for us. As I was not in a mood to drink just water or even my favourite drink Pepsi. He said in that case we should go to his home. After a little hesitation and on his insistence we went to his home which was close by. It was a loadshedding (power cut) time, but the interior of the house was more comfortable than outside. Luckily power came in ten minutes and in the meanwhile Bhola's wife brought a jug full of cold Rooh Afza with the addition of lemon. Needles to say that that was the most delicious drink that I ever have had in my life. We stayed there for almost half an hour. Bhola and his wife insisted on preparing lunch for us, but after thanking them properly for their hospitality we took our leave. If anybody go to Rohtas, I suggest to take Bhola as a guide and I also request the visitor to thank Bhola on my behalf and give him a message that I have not forgotten his hospitality. Ghulam Mustafa (Bhola) can be contacted at +92 332 583 2019.

Though by this time little strength was left in our lazy bodies, but I thought it would be a mistake not to touch our third and the last target and that was the tomb of Khair un Nissa. To our good luck that was the easiest to reach. As our small car easily reached the tomb. I could not find much detail about the tomb of Khai un Nissa, except that she was a princess of the ruling Mughal family and died on a journey and was buried here. The tomb is located at  32°58'40.43"N;  73°34'51.30"E
Entrance of the Tomb of Khair un Nissa. (18.08.2015.)

View of the tomb from the south side. (18.08.2015.)

A tower beside an old graveyard. (18.08.2015.)

 View from the south east. (18.08.2015.)

View of the grave yard from the platform of the tomb. (18.08.2015.)

A distant view of the Rohtas Fort. (18.08.2015.)

One of the four cupolas. (18.08.2015.)

A cupola and the stairs passage. (18.08.2015.)

Another view of the tomb. (18.08.2015.)

A closer view of the tomb. (18.08.2015.)

The first look of the tomb completely surprised me. First I was not expecting to find such a great building and the second surprise was that such a magnificent building has been completely abandoned by the concerned government departments. Perhaps that is the reason that this tomb draws so little an attention of the general public. The building is is in a reasonably good condition but due to the negligence of the authorities is occupied by squatters. Who have put an rusting iron gate on the main entrance and locked it. Other passages are also blocked. Once there must have been a beautiful garden around the tomb. Its boundary wall is still visible around it. All I can say is that please someone do something to preserve it. 

Please comment and if possible provide some details about the tomb of Khair un Nissa. 

Tariq Amir

October 28, 2015.
Doha - Qatar. 

Rohtas Fort

Rohtas fort is one of the largest and probably the most majestic fort in Pakistan. Famous king Sher Shah Suri (1486 - 1545 AD) had it constructed it during his reign from 1540 - 1545 AD. Sher Shah Suri was son of a jagirdar in Bihar. But due to his talent and hard work he gradually increased his power and finally defeated Humayun in the fateful battle of Chausa on June 26, 1539. During the next few months he relentlessly pursued Humayun across Hindustan, up to Multan and chased him out of Hindustan altogether. 

But he was well over of the fact, that Humayun was not sitting idle in Persia and making all kinds of plans and doing all his efforts to take his throne back. His brothers were still ruling Kabul and the Mughals thus had a foothold just across the Khyber Pass to attack Hindustan. To preempt any such attack and to subdue the local population Sher Shah Suri decided to construct a fort at Rohtas. 

Rohtas fort has an area of approximately 194 Acres and a perimeter of 4.5 kilometers, is surrounded by massive walls with 12 gates. Construction of such a huge fort took 8 years and was completed during the reign of Suri's son Islam Shah.  I first visited this fort 10 years ago on March 5, 2005. That was a pleasant spring day. Weather was ideal for such an excursion. I and my friend Muhammad Munir came from Islamabad to see this historic fort.

Muhammad Munir & Tariq Amir. (05.03.2005.)

Kabuli Gate. (05.03.2005.)

Baoli in Rohtas Fort. (05.03.2005.)

View of the well from below. (05.03.2005.)

Stairs of the Baoli, carved into solid rock. (05.03.2005.)

A view of a mosque in Rohtas Fort. (05.03.2005.)

My second visit to this fort was two months ago on 18 August, 2015. However, this time the purpose of visiting Rohtas was not just exploring this fort, but also to see three other historic places in and around this fort. Those are Gurdwara Mata Kaur Ji, Gurdwara Choa Sahib and the tomb of Khair un Nissa. But that are subject of my next post. 

It was a sweltering day of August. I and my cousin reached Rohtas fort at 0930 and already it was unbearably hot and humid. Except the village inside the fort, most parts of the forts were giving a deserted look. I do not remember the actual temperature but the real feel temperature was 48˚ C. This hot, humid and suffocating weather tested our physical strength to the full. Our guide was also of the opinion that that was the hottest day of the season. 

After ten years I saw just one difference. The size of the population and number of houses in Rohtas village has increased. Which is adversely effecting the condition of this fort. Encroachments along the wall, especially near Kashmiri gate are plying a big role in deteriorating the general condition of this magnificent fort. 

While leaving my home in Lilla, P.D. Khan in the morning I realized that I had forgotten my camera in Sargodha the previous day. So I had no option but to depend on the camera of my Note 4. At least I am not disappointed with the result. 

While coming from Dina, first we have to cross a bridge over Kahan river (or stream), appropriately named Sher Shah Suri bridge. Shortly after crossing the bridge the road leads into the fort itself. This is the main entrance of the fort from eastern side. This road further leads to Sohail gate on the western side and out of the fort. These two gates are the most imposing and in much better condition as compare to other gates. Khwas Khani gate is actually a double gate. That means after entering the first gate, we find another just behind it. 

View from the road before entering the Khwas Khani gate. (18.08.2015.)

Khwas Khani gate, the main entrance. (18.08.2015.)

View of Khwas Khani gate from inside. (18.08.2015.)

Second gate behind Khwas Khani gate. (18.08.2015.)

Rohtas village, inside the fort. (18.08.2015.)

Road leading to the interior of the fort. (18.08.2015.)

A room above the Khwas Khani gate. (18.08.2015.)

On top of the right bastion of Khwas Khani gate. (18.08.2015.)

Kashmir Gate. (18.08.2015.)

Shah Chand Wali gate. (18.08.2015.)

Grave of Shah Chand Wali. (18.08.2015.)

Area between the double gates of Shah Chand Wali. (18.08.2015.)

Internal door of the Shah Chand Wali Gate. (18.08.2015.)

Internal door of the Shah Chand Wali Gate. (18.08.2015.)

View of the Chand Wali Gate from the other side. (18.08.2015.)

A part of western wall. (18.08.2015.)

Haveli of Man Singh. (18.08.2015.)

Another view of the Haveli of Man Singh. (18.08.2015.)

Rani Mahal. (18.08.2015.)

Rani Mahal. (18.08.2015.)

Phansi Ghat (Execution platform). (18.08.2015.)

View towards south west. (18.08.2015.)

Langar Khani Gate. (18.08.2015.)

View from Langar Khani Gate. (18.08.2015.)

View from Langar Khani Gate. (18.08.2015.)

Talaqi Gate. (18.08.2015.)

Talaqi Gate. (18.08.2015.)

Sohail Gate. (18.08.2015.)

One of the bastions of Sohail Gate. (18.08.2015.)

Other bastion of the Sohail Gate. (18.08.2015.)

View of the Sohail Gate from inside. (18.08.2015.)

US Aid for the repair of Rohtas Fort. (18.08.2015.)

Baoli in the fort. (18.08.2015.)

Full length of the Baoli. (18.08.2015.)

Another view of the Baoli. (18.08.2015.)

Baoli in the backdrop of the fort walls. (18.08.2015.)

I must say that to properly explore this fort one needs a whole day. And it is a physically challenging job as well. Weather should be your most important factor while making any plan to visit it. The general condition of the fort is though not good, but some important parts and especially some gates are in a good condition. Apparently some repair work is also done from time to time. A baoli has recently been repaired. Similarly a platform around Rani Mahal was repaired or reconstructed just a couple of years ago. However, a large part is occupied by the village or occupied by wild bushes. 

It is not easy to properly maintain such a huge fort. It needs a lot of resources and expertise. Which considering our interest with historic heritage is almost impossible to provide. However, some steps can be taken to save it from damage. One such step is to stop the encroachments, especially along the wall near Kashmiri gate. Similarly construction of new houses inside the fort should not be allowed. 
Recognizing its historic and architectural value, UNESCO has declared this fort as a world heritage site. 

 Tariq Amir

October 28, 2015.Doha - Qatar.