Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Hajira: mystery in the Salt Range

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A little way northward of the village of Maira Tharchak in the heart of the Salt Range there sits a solitary cubicle measuring roughly five metres square. Constructed of dark limestone, its walls taper inwards near the top which is roofless.


The building has three doorways; the closed west wall being simply marked by a mehrab inside. The building is plain inside and out: there is neither inscription nor painting, nor indeed the stone mason’s mark. In the northeast corner of the interior sits a rude pile of undressed stone to mark a burial. This is apparently a later accretion added by someone who found the empty building handy to inter their dead.

The upper parts of the four corners have corbelled squinches meant to give an octagonal form to the square plan upon which the circular drum of the intended dome could sit. It is clear however that the dome was never constructed, Time, it seems, was not on the builder’s side.

In the open area immediately around the building there are some fifty odd graves adorned with thick slabs of limestone similar to the one used in the building. There is no lore or legend attached either to the graveyard or to the building that locals know as Hajira – a name that has no meaning in the Potohari dialect.

For archaeologists there are some telltale features that place this building in the early Muslim period. The reinforcing horizontal timber beams above the doorways and in the squinches (where chucks are also seen) are indications that builders in this early period erroneously thought such reinforcement essential to strengthen the dome. The form of the squinch itself is the one used in the early 13th century.

Who raised this enigmatic building, when and for what purpose and who were the people buried under the stone graves outside is a tantalising question. We have no direct answer; only a hypothesis.

In February 1221 Jalaluddin, the king of Khwarazm in Central Asia, fleeing before the Mongol juggernaut led by the invincible Chengez Khan fought his last action on the west bank of the Indus River. Despite the tenacity of his army, Jalaluddin was routed and barely made away with his life by forcing his horse to leap into the river from a height of about ten metres. In the bargain he surrendered his entire family to the savagery of the Mongols.

On the east side of the Indus, the fugitive was by and by joined by those of his soldiers who were fortunate to escape the field. As he was rallying his army, he was confronted by the local ruler, Rai Sangin Khokar. Peace was made against the common Mongol foe and in order to cement it, the Rajput gave the Central Asiatic prince a young relative in marriage.

Meanwhile, across the river Chengez Khan received news of this alliance and sent out a small force to rout it. History does not tell us if a skirmish took place, but we know that Jalaluddin fled headlong in the hope of getting aid from Sultan Iyultimish in Delhi. Unrequited he returned to his Khokar ally again until another Mongol raid forced him to escape south to Multan and forever leave the Salt Range.

In all the Khwarzmian remained in the Salt Range for about a year. When he first came across, surely he had in his retinue many wounded soldiers some of whom may have died. Could it be then that the graveyard holds their remains? And could it be that Hajira was raised for the burial of a close aide who may have eventually recovered from his wounds?

But the hapless and cowardly Jalaluddin left no record. And until proper archaeological investigation is done, we may never know the answers.

How To Get There. From Kallar Kahar adda (the crossing where buses halt and local taxis wait) take the road northwest to Bharpur. About 10 km from Kallar Kahar, take the fork left (west) for Chinji and go 15 km to village Maira Tharchak. Hajira lies 1 km north of the village. En route to Maira the road crosses the Ghambir River which floods only in summer rains when it should not be attempted. Otherwise it is an all-weather blacktop road.

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 12:00 AM,

8 Comments:

At May 1, 2013 at 1:35 AM, Blogger momers said...

Can you confirm if this is the location? I will add it to the maps for easier search and access.

This is the link: http://goo.gl/nEv9h

 
At May 1, 2013 at 1:58 AM, Blogger momers said...

This is the village at the 15km mark you mentioned. North of this village I havent been able to identify any square building such as this nor signs of gravestones. Am I looking in the right place?

 
At May 1, 2013 at 2:08 AM, Blogger momers said...

Ahaaaa! Found it!

http://goo.gl/DqPXJ

The little square?

 
At May 4, 2013 at 12:33 PM, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Momers, I cannot see the image at all. I'm away. Have to get back to Lahore to find it on my own computer and then respond.

 
At May 18, 2013 at 3:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG, I Want this for living.

 
At May 18, 2013 at 6:17 PM, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Go ahead. But you won't have a roof above your head!

 
At October 20, 2013 at 3:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

AOA. Welldone Sulman Rashid
I am a school teacher in this area Nagri . Yes this building is a mistery. You have seen the so nice cutting of stones.and its strong structure with the passage of hundred years it is standing with no roof.one thing more this whole area has very old background.the bones of an elephant were found in lower side. north . Some local people search old coins and treasures.they dig here but no treasure found. Some years ago a worship place was found near this area and a stone with writing in very old unknown language.then Late Prof. Ahmad Hasan Dani and a team with foreign researchers came here and collected the materials but no more info in this regard.near this 2 km fasals are available .one Phd. Researcher Ghayoor Abbas from Pun jab University came here and collected some bones he was telling that the bones are ten million years old.
Thanks for visiting here and one thing that another road which is more safe from Talagang to chinji 26km(chingi in google map) and from chinji to Thirchak 20km.

 
At February 28, 2014 at 10:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are grate thinker really and like you so much ...Shahid Baba ji

 

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My Books

Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand


Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

Books at Sang-e-Meel

Books of Days