How a saint is born
03 September 2014
Wahndo in Gujranwala district is famous only for lawlessness. But there is, near this town, the small village of Kotli Maqbara with an imposing domed Mughal structure in the fields outside the habitation. The ground floor is plain while the basement has three graves. Its minarets recall those of Chauburji in Lahore and, therefore, give us a date of construction.
In November 1991, when I was working on my book on Gujranwala, I thought I had discovered a monument that had escaped the official eye. But my mentor Dr Saifur Rahman Dar told me that this building was mid-17th century and housed the mortal remains of Divan Abdul Nabi Khan, the governor of Wazirabad, successively under Shah Jehan and Aurangzeb.Read more »
Rainbow above Thungal
02 September 2014
Rainbow above our camp near Thungal. More images in The Apricot Road to Yarkand
Odysseus Lahori one year ago: What the mullah wants
Monastery of the Fount
01 September 2014
The decades between 1840 and 1870 were frenetically busy for archaeologists across the Indian subcontinent. The Yusufzai plain, spreading between Peshawar in the west, the barrier of Malakand Pass in the north and Indus River in the east, had shortly before been discovered to be the epicentre of what became known as Gandhara art. Inevitably, archaeologists were drawn to this fertile area where virtually every hill abounded with ancient ruins.
North of Mardan town, on the highroad to the Malakand Pass, east of the tiny village of Takht Bahi rose an isolated hill with a crest peppered with stonework peeking out of accumulated earth washed down from the surrounding slopes and overgrown vegetation. The first archaeologists, engaged in only a cursory examination, concluded that this was a site of an ancient Buddhist monastery. The little that the team saw was misunderstood. The circular bases of the domes above the shrines were taken to be pedestals of stupas and other buildings construed to have served as grain silos. But no mistake was made about the quadrangular stupa court with its surrounding arrangement of chapels.Read more »
Odysseus Lahori one year ago
31 August 2014
My name is Salman Rashid and I am 2300 years old!
India the fertile
30 August 2014
Just to refresh the readers’ memory: In antiquity, the land of India was essentially the valley of the Sindhu River. That is, it was what is today Pakistan. The Aryans were overwhelmed by its great rivers and sang hymns to them. The Rig Veda, truly the most beautiful composition of poetry ever composed by humans and one which loses none of its magnificence even in translation, celebrates the rivers.
We read of the Sindhu to which its tributaries flow “Like mothers to their calves, like milch-kine with their milk, so, Sindhu, unto you the roaring rivers run/You lead as a warrior king your army’s wings what time you come in the van of these swift streams.” (Rig Veda, Hymn No. 75).Read more »
Inana or Nani
29 August 2014
There is in south-east Balochistan, on the banks of the Hingol River, a shrine called Bibi Nani. Muslims resort here to celebrate and worship a saint of whom only the vaguest of stories are told. Hindus, on the other hand, believe that the spot marks one of the places where the goddess Durga’s body parts were flung to the earth when she died. They call it Sri Mata Hinglaj. At any given time, followers of either religion can be met with at Hinglaj; both sides wonderfully tolerant of the other’s practices and worship.
There is another Bibi Nani shrine 10 kilometres west of Sibi, at the foot of the Bolan Pass. Here, too, a vague story of her and a pious brother is told. Having come to this country, she and her brother invited the heathens to Islam. But the king took rather unkindly to them and sent out his soldiers to bring them to him in chains. The brother walked into a rock face and disappeared, leaving only a copious spring to mark the spot. We don’t know how the sister Nani met her death and was buried on the banks of the Nari River.Read more »
28 August 2014
Modern roads all over the world follow alignments that go back thousands of years. Likewise, between Lahore and Multan, National Highway 5 (N-5), follows an ancient line along which humans travelled, certainly as far back as the time when Harappa flourished 6,000 years ago. On this road, so far as I know, there are no notable remains going back any more than 500 years. But surely, lying under the cultivated fields and the foundations of modern housing, there would be some remarkable finds waiting to be uncovered. On this road, one monument dating to the reign of Akbar the Great, is Sarai Chhimba.
Now, in the 16th century, Multan and Lahore were both capitals of important provinces of the Empire. In order to facilitate the frequent traffic of important officials passing between the two cities, the emperor ordered caravanserais at a distance of roughly every 35 km — the length of an easy day’s journey. Sarai Chhimba, lying about 25 km south of Thokar Niaz Beg in south Lahore, was one.Read more »