Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Sassi da Kallara

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They call it Sassi da Kallara, or simply Kaalar, and connect it to the popular legend of Sassi, the washerman’s daughter of Bhambore in Sindh, who here becomes a princess, and Punnu, the prince of Kech (Makran), who is transformed into a camel driver. Standing on the crest of a crumbly clay and sandstone ridge on the banks of the seasonal Leti Kas (Stream) in the extreme northwest corner of Talagang tehsil, the stubby ruin is visible from a distance. Built with large kiln fired bricks (440 mm to 480 mm x 260 mm x 50 mm), it is the only Hindu Shahya temple in the Salt Range to use this material. All others being constructed with porous, fossileferous limestone.

Situated at the very edge of the crumbly hill, the building raised above a high plinth of limestone blocks, is entered from the east via the remains of a portico that fell away years ago. Indeed, the erosion that undermined the entrance now threatens to sweep away the entire building. Inside, the floor of the cella has been partially dug up, very likely by treasure hunters. The walls, fortunately, are intact, above which the original roof has been replaced by a cement and steel dome - the brave attempt of some concerned archeologist to preserve the deteriorating structure.

While Kaalar largely follows the pattern of decoration of the other Salt Range temples, there are two unusual elements seen in this building. In the interior, just below the squinches above which the dome springs, there runs a band of chequer motifs all around, while on the exterior the elaborate and beautiful two-depth rosettes. The rosette, it needs be said, is believed to be a manifestation of the sun brought to the subcontinent by Persian sun worshipping travellers or immigrants as early as the beginning of the Christian era. To the Hindu stone mason this must have seemed a pleasing embellishment regardless of its extra-Vedic origin, and one to be incorporated into the grand design of temple ornamentation. Strangely, it yet remained restricted to this temple alone.

The three external facades are decorated in the prevalent style of the period with a niche topped by a trefoil finial that experts believe to be a rendition of the Buddhist stupa. This is flanked by square pilasters topped with ornamental capitals. Above these, all around the building, runs a band of triangular motifs over which there is an arrangement of semi-circular representations of stupas interspersed with chequer designs topped by a band of bold rosettes. Above these, and rising to the top of the building, is an interconnected and coherent repetition of yet more miniature stupa renditions, three leafed clovers and other curvilinear forms.

At the bottom of all this, just above the plinth, is a band of broad petalled flowers. Together with the rosettes, the chequer design, the use of kiln fired bricks, this feature makes the temple of Kaalar remarkable and unique among the Salt Range temples.

The open hill top is strewn with the ruined foundations of houses and pottery shards. A date, if one can at all be assigned, comes from the find of a single coin of King Venkadeva who ruled in the latter years of the 8th century AD. Such an early date seems unlikely. The building probably dates from the 10th century, when coins of Venkadeva were still legal tender in the country.

Book is available at Sang e Meel (042-3722-0100), Lahore

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 00:30,


At 14 November 2013 at 14:05, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How did Sassi, from so far south, get connected to this neck of the Salt Range?

At 14 November 2013 at 16:57, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

No connection. Just a name.

At 2 April 2015 at 11:04, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How to reach this place? What is easiest way to get to Kaalar from Rawalpindi? Detailed direction required.

At 2 April 2015 at 13:04, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Reach village Pachnand via Talagang and then ask directions for village Shah Mohammad Wali. The temple is just outside the village, but you'll have to ask someone to take you to the bottom of the hill standing above Leti Kas.

At 3 April 2015 at 10:46, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Salman bhai. I guess one can reach Sah Muhammad Wali via Tamman also from Talagang? By the way do you have coordinates for the monument? It will be easier to find it with coordinates.

At 4 April 2015 at 14:50, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Sorry sir. No coordinates. I got my GPS in 2006. Never returned to Kaalar since. And yes, you can also get to Shah Mohammad Wali from Tamman.

At 9 December 2015 at 10:30, Blogger Nasser Mahmood said...

Salman bhai, in your book "Gujranwala the glory that was" on page 30, foot note 2, you mention about Village Haveli Mehan Singh, 8kms outside Gujranwala town. Where exactly is this village and how to reach there?

At 9 December 2015 at 10:32, Blogger Nasser Mahmood said...

Salman bhai, in your book "Gujranwala the glory that was" on page 30, foot note 2, you mention about Village Haveli Mehan Singh, 8kms outside Gujranwala town. Where exactly is this village and how to reach there?

At 10 December 2015 at 16:51, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

Nasser Mahmood, the village itself is known as Haveli Mehan Singh. Ask for it in Gujranwala. If you still have difficulty, please let me know and I'll get exact directions from a friend.

At 11 December 2015 at 14:52, Blogger Nasser Mahmood said...

Salman bhai, the only place I could locate was Qila Mehan Singh in south west of Gujranwala. It is locally called Qila Mian Singh. Is this the place you are referring to in your book?

At 14 December 2015 at 15:40, Blogger Nasser Mahmood said...

Salman bhai, the only place I could locate is Qila Mehan Singh, which is locally known as Qila Mian Singh. Is this the place you referred to in your book? If not, kindly provide detailed direction.

At 19 December 2015 at 10:10, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

That's the place. They now pronounce it that way.

At 22 December 2015 at 10:07, Blogger Nasser Mahmood said...

Thanks a lot Salman bhai. That will help.


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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

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