Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Minchinabad Mansion

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Minchinabad, that lies twenty-five kilometres northeast of Bahawalnagar on the highroad that once went on to Fazilka, has no claim to fame. But in the heart of this town of rural Punjab, there is a right lovely haveli. Having been built in the 1930s and known as Mahal Nagar Mal, it does not boast of great age, but it does vaunt fine taste and class. Since 1947 when one of the greatest trans-migrations of history took place and the real owners fled east across the new border, this mansion has been the home of a Sukhera family who came from the other side.
Façade of the main building. The marble arch of the entrance, richly worked in floral designs with figures of a flute-playing Krishna on either flank is strongly subcontinental. The feature of niche with deity as far back as the second or third century BEC. The roofline with its vases and arches is European in contrast.
 
Dilshad Hussain Sukhera, the elder, is now the keeper of the lore of the mansion. He relates that it was built by two brothers Nagar Mal and Bhajan Lal sometime in the 1930s - the exact year being unknown. Coming from a long line of assiduous merchants of the Agarwal clan that had business interests in distant marts, the brothers came in for a good deal of money when their father passed away. The fortune that became theirs, says Sukhera, was no less than twenty-five million rupees which, in the 1930s, was a royal sum indeed.
Such a fortune could easily have afforded a European architect - or even the best from amongst local experts. Unfortunately there is no information regarding either the builder or outlay for the building. Nor, too, have the Sukheras ever found any architectural plans or other papers related to this beautiful mansion. But they do know that the mansion was once surrounded by vast grounds and agricultural lands that have now been built over. Dilshad Hussain points out that the area where the mosque and row of shops stand across the busy road from the haveli was once occupied by the Agarwal family's servants' quarters and generator rooms. It would have been a well-heeled family to have maintained two petrol-driven generators to light up the haveli.

While traditionally all such properties that fall into the hands of immigrants of 1947 are allowed to go to seed and disintegrate so that they can sold off and ugly 'plazas' raised in their place, Mahal Nagar Mal has been well looked after by the Sukheras. Nothing has been damaged, not even the tiny sculptures of Krishna playing his flute, or the friezes that run just below the ceiling showing scenes from Hindu mythology. The only change since 1947 has been the cemented wall that now divides the central courtyard - an imperative that arose when the senior Sukhera died and the house passed down to Dilshad Hussain and his brother. It is promising that the Sukheras are aware of the aesthetic value of the building that is their home.

 Above the doorways of the first floor and just below the line where overhand of the top floor juts out, runs an ornate frieze repeating this theme of winged angles blowing trumpets or wielding spears and bows and arrows. Once again Nagar Mal's penchant for European artistry shows through.  

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 12:00 AM,

10 Comments:

At June 15, 2013 at 7:54 AM, Blogger Haroon said...

Your arrival in the blogosphere is much appreciated. Thank you for these posts. They are as wonderful as all your works. Hope to read more of Alexander's travels and the lost philosophers of our land here.

 
At June 15, 2013 at 7:57 AM, Blogger Haroon said...

Your arrival in the blogosphere is much appreciated. Thank you for these posts. They are as wonderful as all your works. Hope to read more of Alexander's travels and the lost philosophers of our land here.

 
At June 15, 2013 at 11:48 AM, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Thank you, Haroon.

 
At June 15, 2013 at 5:11 PM, Anonymous Saima Ashraf said...

Salman did you visit Fort by Abbasiz in Fort Abbas? It was fantastic one but now it is almost 'extinct' partly because of the ravages of time and people and mainly due to the negligence of concerned authorities.

 
At June 15, 2013 at 5:13 PM, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Salman Rashid Saima, It must have been in 1984 or thereabouts. Even then Fort Abbas was falling to pieces. I have long had it on my agenda to revist, but never got around. Now that I am back into motorcycling, I will do it in January. Terribly busy before that.

 
At June 16, 2013 at 12:41 AM, Anonymous Saima Ashraf said...

Nicely-writ!
Great to know the mansion.
Have you visited Fort made by Abbasis in Fort Abbas? It was lovely and one of the most representatives of Abbasis and their tenure. But now its almost no more partly because of the ravages of time and local people and mainly due to negligence of concerned authorities. Sometimes I personally feel that we as nation don't deserve anything good. I visited that fort that nothing brought with me except a deep sense of thanklessness and negligence as nation. People have stolen even the bricks of the fort and I wonder what they have made of those bricks.History is toppled down by the present and is looking towards future. Beauty of the fort has been damaged and overall it has dashed to the ground. I want you to raise voice to take care of that historical heritage.

 
At June 17, 2013 at 9:49 AM, Anonymous Mahwish Shaukat on FB said...

These hidden gems might be lesser-known but they are equally rich.... beautiful architecture with peculiar old signs and fascinating details .... next time when i will visit Bahawalnagar , will surely visit this place.... much appreciations for the owners who kept it so well ... Salman sahib thanks !

 
At June 20, 2013 at 3:32 AM, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Mahwish, It's nearer to Bahawalnagar. Ideally, travel from Lahore via Minchinabad, B'Nagar and on to B'pur. But this possible when you go on your own transport.

 
At June 20, 2013 at 3:41 AM, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Saima,Next winter, I'll get to F. Abbas. And hope to find enough to go on to write a yarn.

 
At June 4, 2014 at 8:15 PM, Blogger Tariq Amir said...

Your posts are very informative. But I wish you could post more pictures. Regards.

 

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