Thursday 26 December 2019

123 - Shiwala Teja Singh Temple in Sialkot

Sialkot is an ancient city and its history dates back to almost five thousand years. The Gazetteer of the Sialkot District of the year 1894-95, gives the following account of the settlement of this area:
In the earliest days we are informed the whole surface of the country was waste and studded with thick forests, but inhabited by a pastoral race, called Yahars or Yirs, who lived in juns or rude mat huts, chiefly along the banks of rivers. These tribes were numerous and powerful. Some time after the invasion of Alexander against Porus, it is said that large volunteer armies clocked into the province from remote parts of Hindustan. Among them arrived Shun, Hun and Dall the three reputed sons of the great Raja Rachor Rao of Rajputana, whose capitals were Ujain and Indore. The emigrants fraternised with the early settlers, and introduced the art of agriculture and the use of wells for irrigation. It is even computed that out of 500,000 warriors some 350,000 devoted themselves so diligently to the cultivation of land, that in 250 years after their arrival the whole country from Lahore to Mooltan and Kasur to Sialkot was cleared of jungle. These settlers were assisted by the original tribes. 
In another paragraph, the author further writes about the origin of the Sialkot city:
But of Sialkot we have information which carries us back to a very distant period. It is said to have been originally founded by Raja Sul of Pnadhu renown, hence called Sialkot, about 5,000 years ago, whose dynasty continued for 1,500 years. After the flood, the popular belief has it that the whole country remained on vast uninhabited region for 1,000 years. The first account of its restoration takes us to the time when Sialkot was a part of Kashmir, and Raj Sam Datt enjoyed unmolested rule for one century more. It as about this time when Vikramditya was monarch of Ujain, that Raja Sulwan (or Salivahan) built the fort and established the principality of Sialkot. He was of the Sia caste, mention of this is to be found to this day; some think Sialkot takes its names this way. 
It is said that Vikramaditya even visited Sialkot, and Sulwan refusing to go and meet him, a severe battle was fought in which the former lost his life, and Raja Sulwan exulting over his triumph, caused the era to be changed to that Saka. Raja Sulwan had two sons Puran and Risalu.
Raja Risalu lived to take more distinguished part in the events of these primitive times. About A.D. 360 one Raja Hodi (believed to be the chief of the Gakkhar tribe) had established himself in the country along with the banks of the Attock river, between Kalabagh and the Fort of Attock. He tool formal possession of all the country to the west of Jhelum, and and contracted an alliance with Risalu, whom he induced to give the promise of his daughter in marriage. On Risalu's failing afterwards to fulfil his promise, Raja Hodi brought a large force straight to Sialkot. The former, unable to oppose him in the field,  shut himself up in the fort, against which Raja Hodi expended all his skill for six months; he then gave up in despair and plundered the country, subjugating the Shun Dalls and Jats, who first fled, and then, uniting their forces, met him at a place called Sang Saugh (a large village 14 miles to the south east of Lahore, and the site of the famous Sangala of Alexander). Meawhile Raja Risalu's daughter being anxious for the marriage, made private overtures, which ended in Raja Hodi's successful elopement with her to his army at Lum, near Lahore. After a long altercation the quarrel was hushed up, and the lady was ever after called Sarang, from the place of reconciliation, which became a famed locality. The ruins of Sarang or Sarangni still lie in Sikh Manjah, close to Saurian, some 12 miles east and north of Lahore. The two Raja's became friends, and so pleased was Raja Hodi, that he gave the whole new country he had conquered to Raja Karm, the adopted son of Risalu, with the title of Maliki Mulk, and by this treaty Sarangiri and its dependencies were made over to Sia family. After the death of Raja Risalu, in A.D. 400, the country is said to have fallen under the curse of Puran for upwards of 300 years, lying totally devastated from famines and incessant plunder. In the year 790 A.D. the fort and city of Sialkot were demolished by a large army under Raja Niraut, supported by Ghandaurs of the Yusufzai country. They attacked Sarangiri scarcely leaving a vestige behind. After which for a long time period there is no news of Sialkot beyond that it remained a portion of the territories of Raja Bram Deo of Jammu, at first paying tribute, and then revenue, to the subaship of Lahore as an appanage of the Mughal empire. 
After the invasions of Mahmood Ghaznavi, Punjab came under the rule of different Muslims dynasties until 1760s when Sialkot and this part of Pujab fell to the Sikh misls. The Sikh rule lasted until the 1849, when the East India Company defeated the successors of Ranjit Singh and annexed the whole Punjab. The British Raj ended in 1947 and Sialkot became part of Pakistan. 

There are two places in Sialkot city, having some relation to its historic past. One of them is a huge mound, known as Sialkot fort. It has been the place of human settlement since ancient times and had been seat of governance during the past. 

The other one is a Hindu Temple, famous as Shiwala Teja Singh. Little is known about the history of this temple. It is generally believed that it is almost 1,000 years old. I am not sure if the existing building is also that much old, or it was built at the place of an ancient temple later on. Even no source provides any information that who was Teja Singh, after whom this temple is named. Anyway, this a historic place and one of the most magnificent temples in Punjab (Pakistan). It is located at:  32°29'26.97"N, 74°32'41.84"E. It was constructed at the highest point in the city, which itself was settled on considerably higher ground as compared to the surrounding area. 

At present the building standing high on a big platform, measuring almost 26m x 20 m, at least 2 meters high, surrounded by a small garden. The whole complex covers an area of half an acre. It is a lofty temple and despite the passage of a long time, still standing tall and inspiring admiration.

My school fellow Amjad Hussain was my host and guide in Sialkot. We set out early in the morning to visit the places on our "to-do list". The weather was cloudy but humid. The streets around the temple, clearly show that you are heading towards considerably higher ground. The garden inside the compound is beautiful and has many beautiful trees and plants.  

 Shiwala Teja Singh Hindu Temple, Sialkot. (24.07.2019.)

The beautiful spire of the temple. (24.07.2019.)

Stairs leading up the platform. (24.07.2019.)

Another view of the spire. (24.07.2019.)

Tariq Amir. (24.07.2019.)

The view from north eastern corner. (24.07.2019.)

The garden around the temple, adds to its beauty. (24.07.2019.)

The temple was built on the highest point in Sialkot. (24.07.2019.)

A passage in the garden(24.07.2019.)

A closer view of the spire. (24.07.2019.)

A view from another direction.  (24.07.2019.)

The spire has another structure attached to it towards the entrance.  (24.07.2019.)

The roof of this veranda is supported by strong pillars.  (24.07.2019.)

The central dome of this structure has collapsed. (24.07.2019.)

Another view of the pillars, you can see the circular opening inside these pillars.  (24.07.2019.)

Entrance of the temple.  (24.07.2019.)

Another view of the entrance.  (24.07.2019.)

The whole structure was built with bricks and perhaps lime was used as mortar.  (24.07.2019.)

The main circular dome was surrounded by smaller domes(24.07.2019.)

Amjad Hussain, our host and guide. (24.07.2019.)

In the above pictures, you can see the structure from different direction(24.07.2019.)

The interior of the temple. (24.07.2019.)

Statues of Hindu deities were probably kept here. (24.07.2019.)

Roof of the main temple room. (24.07.2019.)

Another view of the room. (24.07.2019.)

The area around the temple must be the oldest part of the city. You can still see the traces of of old times in the old houses. 

An old house near the temple(24.07.2019.)

Another view of the old house. (24.07.2019.)

In front of the entrance to the temple, we saw a very old house. A resident of the house told us that the house was 400 years old.

The ancestral home and birthplace of our national poet Allama Muhammad Iqbal is located just 300 meters from this temple. It is quite probable that he saw this temple many times and perhaps this temple inspired him to write this beautiful poem, title "A new Shiwala". The poem was published in his book "Bang-e-Dara" in 1905.

نیا شوالہ 

سچ کہہ دوں اے برہمن گر تو برا نہ مانے
تیرے صنم کدوں کے بت ہو گئے پرانے
اپنوں سے بیر رکھنا تو نے بتوں سے سیکھا
جنگ و جدل سکھایا واعظ کو بھی خدا نے
تنگ آ کے میں نے آخر دیر و حرم کو چھوڑا
واعظ کا وعظ چھوڑا چھوڑے ترے فسانے
پتھر کی مورتوں میں سمجھا ہے تو خدا ہے
خاک وطن کا مجھ کو ہر ذرہ دیوتا ہے

آ غیریت کے پردے اک بار پھر اٹھا دیں
بچھڑوں کو پھر ملا دیں نقش دوئی مٹا دیں
سونی پڑی ہوئی ہے مدت سے دل کی بستی
آ اک نیا شوالہ اس دیس میں بنا دیں
دنیا کے تیرتھوں سے اونچا ہو اپنا تیرتھ
دامان آسماں سے اس کا کلس ملا دیں
ہر صبح اٹھ کے گائیں منتر وہ میٹھے میٹھے
سارے پجاریوں کو مے پیت کی پلا دیں
شکتی بھی شانتی بھی بھگتوں کے گیت میں ہے
دھرتی کے باسیوں کی مکتی پریت میں ہے 

I have tried to translate this poem in the following words,  it is far from being a good translation, but will give some idea to people who do not understand Urdu.

New Temple

May I say truth O Brahman, if you don't mind
The statues of your temple have become old
You learned enmity with your fellows from these statues
The preacher also preached war and fighting
In despair, I left monastery and mosque
Ignored the sermons of the preachers and your mythologies
You think God is in statues of stones
To me every grain of dust of my homeland is god

Let's remove the curtains of strangeness
Make the parted ones meet and remove the distances
The dwellings in the heart are desolate for long
Let us make a new Shiwala in this country
Let the site be the loftiest among all the pilgrimage sites in the world
Let we raise its finial to the sky
Let us every morning sing sweet verses
Make all the devotees drink the wine of love
Power and peace is in the songs of devotees
The salvation of the earth dwellers lie in love

Recently I found on different news websites that on 25th of October, 2019, the temple was handed over to the Hindu community of the city for prayers, who number two to three thousands. Before partition the Hindus formed 22% of the total population of the city. It is a good news and finally the temple will be used for the purpose it was originally built and will give our Hindu neighbours a stronger sense of belonging to this community. I am sure steps like this promote peace, harmony and understanding between different communities.

Tariq Amir

December 26, 2019.
Doha - Qatar. 

Friday 13 December 2019

122 - The Capital of Raja Porus

Punjab is a land of ancient civilizations, its fertile land and perennially flowing rivers always made it an attractive place for people in search of a prosperous life. Its name was derived from the five rivers flowing in this region. But it is interesting to note that in ancient times Aryans called it Sapta Sindhu, the land of seven rivers. The seven rivers are Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, Sutlej and Sarasvati. The last one has dried up a long time ago. 

Anyway, these existing six rivers form five Doabs (land between two rivers); from west to east, Sindh Sagar Doab, Jech Doab, Rachna Doab, Bari Doab and Bist Doab. The first three are in Pakistan and the last one in India. While the fourth, Bari Doab, is divided between the two countries. 

These Doabs since the dawn of civilization, have been centres of important cultural and political activities. At the time of the invasion of Alexander the Great, Jech Doab was ruled by Raja Porus. After conquering the Gandhara region, Alexander entered the plains of Punjab, where Raja Porus was ready to give him a tough fight. This battle was fought somewhere near the eastern banks of the river Jhelum, hence called Battle of Hydaspes (Greek name for Jhelum). Alexander constructed a city, Nicaea, at the site of the battle. But that city has not been discovered or located as yet. Though some people believe that Mong, a village 5 kilometers north of Mandi Bahauddin is the place, where this battle was fought. Punjab as a whole has hundreds of mounds, which are sites of ancient cities and settlements that have not been explored or studied properly. One of those is located beside Lakhne Wala, a village near Mandi Bahauddin. It is known to be the likely place of the capital of Raja Porus. It is located at 32°36'59.35"N, 73°33'6.64"E. Just 5 kilometers to the northeast of Mandi Bahauddin. This is a huge mound, spread over an area of at least 50 acres. 

A view of the Lakhne Wala. (25.07.2019.)

A part of the mound is used as a burial ground. (25.07.2019.)

A view of the mound. (25.07.2019.)

Shrubs and bushes cover some part of the mound. (25.07.2019.) 

Another view of the cemetery on the mound. (25.07.2019.)

A view of the unoccupied area of the mount. (25.07.2019.)

This part of the mound lies in the vast compound of a small hospital. (25.07.2019.)

The basic health centre of Lakhne Wala. (25.07.2019.)

A beautiful garden in the hospital. (25.07.2019.)

A map showing the six rivers of the Punjab region and the five Doabs they form. (25.07.2019.)

The famous politician and a prominent lawyer Mr Aitzaz Ahsan, writes about the invasion of Alexander and his battle with Porus, in his book "The Indus Saga and The Making of Pakistan" in the following words:
A the time of the Greek invasion Indus had for some time been a part of the Achaemenid Empire of Iran, and thus a part of the central Asian politico-cultural system. In 513 BC, Darius I annexed Indus to the umpire of the Great Cyrus. Indus was cut off from India. While India largely remained at the food-gathering stage, the more advanced Indus valley gravitated once again towards the markets of the rich slav-owning societies of western Asia, Persia and Mesopotamia. 
It is little wonder, therefore, that after young Alexander of Macedon had humbled Persia under Darius III in 331 BC, he was compelled by the renowned wealth of the Indus satrapy to venture towards this rich outpost of the Persian empire. Alexander's journey was another manifestation of the innumerable ways in which Indus was already in contact with the peoples of western Iran.
Alexander crossed the mighty Indus in the Swat region and came upon Taxila. Here he obtained the willingly surrender of Ambhi, the King of Taxila. Ambhi's logic was simple: he yielded tribute, saying that since there was enough revenue for two kings, there was no gain in fighting over it. 
Raja Poros ruled a substantial principality from his capital near the modern-day town of Manid Bahauddin in the district of Gujrat. The subdivision of the district, Phalia, recalls Bucephalus, the steed of the invader, and a massive mound near the village Lakhnewal, close to the town, is claimed by the villagers to have been the site of Poros' capital. Foundation digging has yielded some artefacts and, if one stands upon it and stamps hard with one's foot, a hollow thud travels an amazingly long distance. Standing upon it, you can also discern the contours of the now discarded channel through which the river must have passed, providing a natural, semi-circular moat for the capital city. 
After the battle "What is clear from these traditions is that Alexander and Poros made an honourable peace and became friends. From the unanimous remark of these authors that Poros was reinstated in his state and the territories conquered by Alexander in India [meaning territories other than those ruled by Poros] were added to his dominion, it is also evident that the belligerents met together on a footing of equality before the issue of the battle could be precisely ascertained." 
Sometimes even a wrong turn brings forth positive results. This is what exactly happened when in search of the above mentioned mound I turned towards a village Shaheedanwali, just a couple of kilometers out of Mandi Bahauddin city at 32°36'43.70"N; 73°31'24.58"E, we found an ancient mound, beside Shaheewanwali village. A part of this too is currently being used as a burial ground. A mausoleum of a saint is also located on the mound including many huge banyan trees. This mound covers a large area over 35 acres, just 2.5 kilometers west of the mound at Lakhne Wala. In the absence of any proper excavation, no information is available about its history or significance. 

Banyan trees on the mound near Shaheedanwali. (25.072019.)

A graveyard on the mound. (25.072019.)

Most of the mound is covered with trees and bushes. (25.072019.)

 A resident of Shaheedanwali. (25.072019.)

Near the mound we found a man relaxing under a tree, with his dog fast asleep beside him. We approached him to find some information about the mound. He could not tell us much except that it was indeed an ancient place. However, he gave us a very interesting piece of information. He told us that two or three hundred years ago, Lilla qaum (nation or tribe) lived on this mound and then due to troubles with a neighbouring village they left the place and migrated beyond the river towards Pind Dadan Khan. That was a big surprise to me and he was not less surprised when I told him that I belong to the Lilla tribe and my family still lives in Lilla. 

Another view of the mound. (25.072019.)

A large graveyard exists on the mound. (25.072019.)

Mausoleum of Pir Miraan Ghulam Shah. (25.072019.)

Beautiful building of the mausoleum. (25.072019.)

The noble court of Pir Miraan Ghulam Shah(25.072019.)

The inner decoration of the mausoleum. (25.072019.)

The grave of the pir sahib. (25.072019.)

Looking towards the salt range. (25.072019.)

The whole mound area is strewn with broken bricks and pottery parts. (25.072019.)

Though so far no major archaeological discovery has been made, but the historian agree that the famous battle was fought in the same area. Perhaps some evidence still could be found of ancient cities if these all mounds are excavated and researched. The only physical evidence is a large monument built by the government of Greece near Jalapur in memory of the horse of Alexander the great, Bucephalas. This monument is located near Jalalpur at  32°39'53.30"N; 73°24'31.24"E

A statue by John Steell showing Alexander taming Bucephalus (Wikipedia)

Monument and research centre, at the place where Alexander the Great, camped for two months before the battle of Hydaspes. 

Alexander the Great is a very famous person all over the world. With some proper research and study of ancient sites, we can turn this area into a tourist attraction. But for that our archaeologists and historians need to do some research and the government should construct some monuments and provide basic facilities to the tourists.

Tariq Amir
December 13, 2019.
Doha - Qatar.