Thursday 30 June 2022

160. Temple of Kalyan Das Suri, Rawalpindi.

Before independence and the partition of the country in 1947, Hindus formed one-third of the population of Rawalpindi city. They were an influential community and constructed beautiful houses, many of which still survive and remind us of the multi-religious society of the past and the rich cultural and architectural heritage of the pre-partition era. 

Besides beautiful houses, they built many temples, one of them is the famous Kalyan Das Temple in Kohati Bazar, it is located at  33°37'19.31"N,  73° 3'47.79"E. It is a majestic building and a masterpiece of Hindu architecture. 

Currently, the temple houses a special school for visually impaired children, named Government Qandeel Secondary School. The headmaster of the school was a very amiable gentleman and welcomed me warmly. However, due to some regulations, he did not permit me to take pictures, instead, he suggested to take permission from the concerned department. Which I did, a couple of days later. 

The building of the temple is in the middle of the compound and presents a breathtaking view. Its lofty spirals rise to a great height and give it a majestic look. The building around the temple is a modern structure and serves as classrooms for the students. 

I sat in the room of the headmaster for a while, waiting for the formalities to be cleared. During this time I had had opportunities to interact with some students and teachers, the experience was heartwarming. The courage and discipline of the students and teachers impressed me. At this moment the headmaster sahib requested me not to take pictures from inside or too closely. Soon I discovered the reason. The school building was undergoing repair and renovation work and the construction material was obstructing the view of the temple. Anyway, I avoided closer shots. However, some pictures available on the net show, beautiful paintings on the inner walls of the temple. 

Temple of Kalyan Das Suri, Rawalpindi. (01.02.2022.)

According to an article published in Tribune on March 25, 2022, written by Imran Ashgar, the foundations of the temple were laid in 1850 and it was completed in 1880. It carried great importance for the Hindu community of the city. It was a big complex and served the needs of worshippers and pilgrims from other areas. 

The main spiral, surrounded by four smaller spirals gives a fascinating view of the temple. It is definitely one of the oldest structures in the city and if properly taken care of, can survive for a long time. The school for children is indeed doing a great service to the community but can be relocated to another better and bigger building. But heritage and history cannot be recreated or relocated. I strongly feel that this building should be preserved, as a part of our history and heritage and should be promoted as a tourist attraction in the city. 

Tariq Amir

June 30, 2022.
Doha - Qatar. 

Saturday 25 June 2022

159. Lockhart Memorial, Rawalpindi.

Rawalpindi was an important military station during the British Raj, due to its proximity to north western frontier, and the headquarters of the Northern Command of the British Indian Army. After the defeat of Khalsa Raj in 1849, this area came under the British rule. After the independence the city was made the General Headquarter of Pakistan Army. Hence it is also known as garrison city. 

Rawalpindi, due to its long association with military, has many installations, buildings and monuments related to the armed forces. One of them is Lockhart Memorial in Roomi Park, in the Sadr Area. It was built in the memory of General Sir William Stephen Alexander Lokchart GCB, KSCI, who was a British General in the British Indian Army. He was born in Scotland in 1841 and died in Calcutta in 1900. During his career he served in the army with distinction. He also served as the commander in chief of the Punjab command. In 1898 he was made the commander in chief of the British Indian Army.

He died in 1900 and his colleagues and admirers set up a memorial in his memory at Roomi Park in Rawalpindi. An obelisk, is a tall, four sided, narrow tapering monuments which ends in a parymid like shape. An obelisk is an invention of ancient Egyptians and they made huge obelisks all over their country. In Pakistan, as far as I know, there are at least three obelisks, at Multan, Margalla pass and this one. The location of this obelisk is at  33°35'57.31"N,  73° 2'36.11"E

Lockhart Memorial, Roomi Park, Rawalpindi. (28.01.2022)

Photo by Wikipedia. (28.01.2022)

Another view of the memorial. (28.01.2022)


The Lockhart memorial in Roomi Park, Rawalpindi. (28.01.2022)

The memorial is located in a park, covering an area of approximately 3 acres. It is a beautiful and a popular recreation place in Rawalpindi.

It is an important historic memorial, and its significance also lies in the obelisk being one of just three obelisks in Pakistan. The biggest of all the three is, however, the Nicholson Monument at Margalla Pass. But few people know about its existence and fewer still give it any attention. 

Tariq Amir 

June 26, 2022.
Doha - Qatar

Wednesday 22 June 2022

158. Forgotten Gurdwaras of Rawalpindi City

Before 1947 Hindus and Sikhs formed a large proportion of the population of Rawalpindi city and owned most of the property in the city. Large Havelis, beautiful houses, and bazaars remind us of their presence in that era. Earlier this year I made several tours of some old parts of Rawalpindi and was amazed to find some masterpieces of old architecture. Lahore is famous for its walled city, but areas around Shah Chan Chiragh have hundreds of houses that are great examples of our rich architectural heritage. I think an organization on the lines of the Walled City of Lahore Authority should be set up to take care of and promote this rich heritage.

During my tours, I was surprised to find a very large number of Hindu Temples which are mostly hidden in narrow lanes and overcrowded houses and encroachments. But that will be the subject of another post. In this post, we shall visit a few gurdwaras which are not quite famous and are almost forgotten. But before going further, I would like you to take a look at the following table to acquaint yourself with the demographics of the city and the surrounding areas before 1947. The figures are taken from the official census report of 1941.




















































Rawalpindi region was dominated by the Gakkhar tribe for a long time. Their recorded history starts with the arrival of Sultan Mahmood Ghaznavi and during the many time of many royal dynasties they controlled this area well into the 18th century. In 1765 Gakhar chief Mukarrab Khan was defeated by Sardar Gujar Singh a Sikh Sardar of Bhangi misl. Soon the whole area went under the control of the Sikhs. The Sikh domination lasted until 1849 when the British annexed Punjab. During this time Sikhs settled in this area and had a significant presence until 1947.

I visited a few gurdwaras early this year. Two of them are quite famous and I already have written posts on Gurdwara Singh Sabha and Gurdwara Narankari. In this post, I shall share some information about a few other gurdwaras. 

1. Gurdwara Bhai Mani Singh / Damdama Sahib

Bhai Mani Singh was a close companion of Guru Gobin Singh, the tenth and the last Guru of the Sikhs. He was born in 1644 in Multan and died in 1738 in Lahore. He was a great scholar and warrior. He served many gurus and spend his life in the service of the Sikh community. Caught in the political turmoil during the decline of the Mughal Empire, he was martyred by the governor of Lahore, Zakaria Khan in Lahore in 1738.

He is greatly revered by the Sikhs for his services and martyrdom. This huge gurdwara was probably built in his memory during the early decades of the twentieth century. Now dozens of families are residing in this gurdwara complex and seldom allow anyone to enter. Overall the building is in shambles. It is located at  33°37'0.40"N,  73° 3'17.03"E, at the junction of Jamia Masjid Road and Hamilton Road. 

After I published this article, some friends and readers suggested that the above-mentioned gurdwara is not gurdwara Bhai Mani Singh. It is actually Gurdwara Damdama Sahib, which is built by the famous Sikh personality of Kallar Syedan Baba Khem Singh Bedi (1830 - 1905). The problem is that the occupants do not let anyone to enter the premises, so no plaque or writing could prove its true identity, even if such writing exists. Anyway, I am sharing this new piece of information with my readers and hope to find some conclusive answer to this question. So far I feel that probably it is Gurdwara Damdama Sahib, built by Baba Khem Singh Bedi. Thank you Mirza Beg sahib and Immi Gul sahib for your guidance and assistance. 

Gurdwara Bhai Mani Singh or Damdama Sahib , Rawalpindi. (25.01.2022.)

Gurdwara Bhai Mani Singh or Damdama Sahib, Rawalpindi. (25.01.2022.)

Gurdwara Bhai Mani Singh or Damdama Sahib, Rawalpindi. (25.01.2022.)

Picture of the gurdwara, provided by Salman Khalid. (2021)

2. Gurdwara Baradari

The area around the shrine of Shah Chan Chiragh is probably the oldest locality of Rawalpindi city. The shrine itself is almost 400 years old. A gurdwara is located about fifty meters north of the shrine at  33°37'8.00"N,  73° 3'34.45"E. The current building of the gurdwara seems to be built in the third or fourth decades of the previous century. At present, the building is used by many families, who have divided it into many sections. Though they allowed us to enter but, some occupants were naturally not feeling comfortable. I am not sure, how old is this gurdwara or why it is called baradari. Perhaps an older building existed at this place before it was reconstructed later. 

Entrance of the gurdwara Baradari. (25.01.2022.)

ਗੁਰਦਵਾਰਾ ਬਰਾਦਰੀ
Gurdwara Baradari

Another view of the entrance from the street. (25.01.2022.)

3. Gurdwara Sri Guru Nanak Satsang

This gurdwara is situated about one kilometer northeast of Shah Chan Chiragh, in a locality still called Kartar Pura. The name suggests that in the pre-partition time it was inhabited mostly by the Sikhs or they formed a considerable part of the population. Luckily the date of construction is given, which is Samvat 1991, which corresponds or 1934 AD. The well-planned streets and the construction style of the houses also indicate that its origins are not very old. 

Despite having a fairly accurate location of the gurdwara it proved to be a little difficult to find it. It is a beautiful building and does not look like a traditional gurdwara. More details are given in the commemorative plaque below. The gurdwara is located at  33°37'26.97"N,  73° 3'46.93"E.

Facade of the gurdwra Sri Guru Nanak Satsang. (28.01.2022.)

Above is the ground floor of the gurdwara. The entrance is on the left side, the door covered with a curtain. The plaque is behind the cot, that's why we could not find it earlier, despite coming twice to this small street. We could see it only when I asked the owner about the plaque. 

Another view of the gurdwara. (28.01.2022.)

ਸ੍ਰੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਨਾਨਕ ਸਤਸੰਗ ਕਰਤਾਰ ਪੂਰਾ
ਇਸ ਗੁਰਦਵਾਰੇ ਦਾ ਬੁਨਿਆਦੀ ਪਥਰ 
ਜੇਠ ਸ: ੧੯੯੧ ਮੁਤਾਬਿਕ ੨੦ ਮਈ ਸਨ ੧੯੩੪
ਸ੍ਰੀ ਮਾਨ ਸਰਦਾਰ ਬਹਾਦਰ ਸੋਹਨ ਸਿੰਘ ਜੀ ..................... ਜੀ
ਰਯੀਸੇ ਆਜ਼ਮ ਰਾਵਲਪਿੰਡੀ ਨੇ ਰਖਇਆ

سری گورو نانک ست سنگ کرتار پورہ
اس گوردوارے دا بنیادی پتھر
جیٹھ سمت 1991 مطابق 20 مئی سن 1934
 سری مان سردار بہادر سوہن سنگھ جی ۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔ جی
رئیسِ اعظم راولپنڈی نے رکھیا

Sri Nanak Sat Sang , Kartarpur
The foundation stone of this gurdwara was laid on
Jeth Samvat 1991, corresponding to 20 May, 1934.
By Sriman Sardar Bhadar Sohan Singh ji ................... Ji
Raees-e-Azam of Rawalpindi.

The well of the gurdwara is still functioning. (28.01.2022.)

An adjoining house. (28.01.2022.)

Another old house in the street. (28.01.2022.)

The following three pictures were provided by Salman Qamar, who belongs to Gujranwala and has an interest in history and heritage. 

4. Gurdwara Lalkurti
Almost nothing is known about this gurdwara, which is located in Lalkurti, Rawalpindi. As the name suggests, it was developed by the British Army in the 19th century and even after independence remained an important part of cantonment area. It is a simple house, unlike traditional gurdwaras. It was probably used by the Sikh servicemen in the British Army. A Hindu temple also exists close by. The gurdwara was close at the time and nobody knew who controls this property. The temple is also not accessible. The gurdwara is located at  33°34'57.21"N,  73° 3'28.42"E

There is also some confusion about this place. A mark on google maps suggests it is a gurdwara. But as the occupants do not let anyone to enter it, so nobody is sure. I shall continue my research on this topic and request my readers also to share any information on this topic.  

A gurdwara in Lalkurti, Rawalpindi. (27.01.2022.)

Sikhara or spire of the temple. (27.01.2022.)

A beautiful old house, in front of the temple. (27.01.2022.)

I have four more gurdwaras in Rawalpindi city on my list. Hopefully, I shall visit them soon and add the information to this article. You are welcome to make your contribution and inform us about these gurdwaras or any other not listed here. 

5. Gurdwara Akalgarh
6. Gurdwara Istri
7. Gurdwara Khem Singh Bedi
8. Gurdwara Damdama Sahib

Tariq Amir
June 22, 2022.

Sunday 13 February 2022

157. Gurdwara Singh Sabha (Rawalpindi)

In my previous article, I took you on a visit to a historic gurdwara in Rawalpindi, gurdwara Narankari. In this article we shall visit another famous gurdwara of Rawalpindi, it is known as Gurdwara Singh Sabha. This gurwara is located in Raja Bazar, a very busy area. Currently a school Zia ul Uloom for boys is established here. The gurdwara is located at 33°36'54.6"N 73°03'21.3"E.

Singh Sabha was a reform movement and was launched in 1870s. The purpose was to restore the prestige of the Sikh religion, which the Sikhs felt was lost after the fall of the Sikh state in Punjab. Sikhs were converting to other religions and the Sikh community felt the need to start a movement to present the Sikh religion in its true and original form. Proselytizing campaigns of Arya Samaj was particularly targeting Sikh converts and attacks on Sikh religions continued. 

The first Singh Sabha conference was held in Amritsar in 1873. The movement gradually became popular and by the end of century had over 100 branches all over Punjab. The movement faced opposition from many Sikhs, who held different views on some issues facing the community. However, the movement gradually became successful in its aims and met the biggest success in 1925 when its followers regained the control of Sikh gurdwaras from mahants and other elements not truly adherents of Sikh religion. For more details kindly check Wikipedia

The passage to gurdwara is almost hidden behind shops and a mosque. A part of the mosque is extended into the premises of the gurdwara. Most of the old sections have disappeared and in that place, new structures of the school rooms have been built. However, the main Darbar Hall still exists and tells the story of its past. But the courtyard in front of the hall is covered with a new concrete structure. 

The main building, Darbar Hall. (25.01.2022.)

The Beutiful veranda of Darbar Hall. (25.01.2022.)

Old wooden doors. (25.01.2022.)

The writer. (25.01.2022.)

੧ ਓ

ਸ੍ਰੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਸਿੰਘ ਸਭਾ ਰਾਵਲਪਿੰਡੀ
ਇਸ ਗੁਰਦਵਾਰੇ ਦਾ 
ਬੁਨਿਅਦੀ ਪਥਰ
ਪੋਹ ਸੁਦੀ ਸਪਤਮੀ ਸੰ ਨਾਨਕ ਸ਼ਾਹੀ ੪੫੮
੩੦ ਦਿਸਮਬਰ ਸੰ ੧੯੨੭ ਪੋਹ ਦਿਨ ੧੬ ਸੰ ੧੯੮੪
ਸ਼੍ਰੀਮਾਨ ਸਸਰਦਾਰ ਮੋਹਨ ਸਿੰਘ ਜੀ ਰਈਸ
ਰਾਵਲਪਿੰਡੀ ਨੇ ਰਖਆ

اک اونکار
سری گرو سنگھ سبھا راولپنڈی
اس گوردوارے دا
بنیادی پتھر
پوہ سُدی سپتمی نانک شاہی 458
30 دسمبر 1927،  27 پوہ دن 14 سمت  1984
شریمان سردار موہن سنگھ جی رئیس
راولپنڈی نے رکھیا

Guru Singh Sabha
The corner stone of this gurdwara was laid by Shriman Sardar Mohan Singh ji of Rawalpindi,
in 458 Nanak Shahi, Samvat Poh 14, 1984;  30 December, 1927 AD, 

੧ ਓ
੧੦੦੦੦ ਸ੍ਰੀਮਤੀ ਮਾਈ ਕਰਤਾਰ ਦੇਈ ਜੀ ਨੇ
ਆਪਣੇ ਸਵਰਗਵਾਸੀ ਪਤੀ
ਚੌਧਰੀ ਕਰਮ ਸਿੰਘ ਜੀ ਸਿਆਲੀ ਦੀ ਯਾਦ
ਵਿਚ ਸ੍ਰੀ ਗੁਰੂ ਸਿੰਘ ਸਭਾ   ਰਾਵਲਪਿੰਡੀ ਨੂਂ
ਅਰਦਾਸ ਕਰਾਈ ੧੨ ਅਗਸਤ ੧੯੨੭

اک  اونکار
10000  روپے  شریمتی  مای  کردار  دئی  جی  نے
آپڑیں  سورگباسی  پتی
چودھری  کرم  سنگھ  جی  سیالی  دی  یاد
وچ  سری  گرو  سنگھ  سبھا   راولپنڈی  نوں
ارداس  کرائی ،    12  اگست  1927

Rs10,000 Shrimati Mai Kartar Dayi, rendered service to Guru Singh Sabha, in the memory of his heavenly abode husband, Chaudhry Karam Singh ji Siali. On 12 August, 1927.

Darbar Hall. (25.01.2022.)

Prakash Asthan. (25.01.2022.)

Palki in the storeroom. (25.01.2022.)

A structure at the premises, known to be a Hindu temple. But probably a Smadhi. (25.01.2022.)

Entrance of teh school. (25.01.2022.)

Once a hub of great activities this historic place is almost lost to time and its vagaries. Now seldom any visitor comes to this place and returns with a heavy heart. I wish, we could have preserved this and many other such places for our neighbours and also for our future generations to see, how was our past and how our future can be. 

Tariq Amir

February 14, 2022.