Tuesday, January 8, 2013

From Pakistan with love for heritage!

An article that appeared in the Dawn Newspaper and reproduced in its online edition is given below. The call for preserving the ancient heritage of Pakistan which was nothing but an Hindu heritage is to be commended. What struck me most was the line that says that Porus defeated Alexander which even Indian historians of today are refusing to accept. The place where Porus defeated Alexander is known as Bhera. Added the info on Bhera from wikipedia at the end of this article. Certainly a welcome change of perception from our neighbour who shares our heritage.

Previous post on victory of Porus over Alexander:-





Endangered heritage


THE Indus Valley Civilisation, stretching over the area that today constitutes Pakistan, is probably the oldest known to mankind.

From the remote northern reaches of the Hindu Kush mountains to the Indus River delta in the south, and along the vast expanses of land on both sides of the Indus and its tributaries, exist traces of a rich past going back in antiquity.

Without doubt it is the largest ancient civilisation in the world, and yet no place else on earth is such amazing heritage under more threat than in Pakistan.

The earliest known 'food-producing' era (7,000-5,000 BC) was Mehrgarh in the 'kachi plains' of Balochistan. This is the oldest known 'settled village life' habitation, where crops were produced, skins tanned, copper mined and metal worked.

Life at Mehrgarh existed till 2,600 BC. It was roughly in  this time period (3,300-2,800 BC) that the Harappan cities along the Ravi came about. Mohenjodaro and other Sindh cities by then were busy trading towns.

Experts believe that the cities of Multan, Hyderabad, Lahore and Peshawar came about in this time period. Numerous smaller towns like Bhera sprouted up. All of them were on major trading routes.

Immensely rich that Pakistan is in its heritage, there seems to be a reluctance to accept this heritage. History in Pakistan, it seems, starts from the time the Afghan invader Mahmud of Ghazni pillaged the areas that are Pakistan and beyond. In hundreds of years of Muslim rulers, foreign invaders cemented the mentality that all cultures alien to the invader did not deserve consideration.

Pakistan, it could be reasonably argued, was born out of such a worldview. From this, right or wrong, flows the undeniable fact that culture is a low priority of Pakistani life. But then what is culture?

The poet Faiz summed it up succinctly when he said: "Everything that exists on the ground is our culture." This is exactly what Unesco's World Heritage Convention states, warning that human intervention, as well as natural causes, is destroying the heritage of the world, and needs to be reversed.

No place else is this more relevant than in Pakistan. We rightly vent anger and dismay at the destruction of the Buddha statues in Bamiyan in Afghanistan, yet what is happening in Pakistan is even more dire.

Mind you, before Pakistan came into being, the British also destroyed a lot of our heritage in the name of modernisation and security. The rest they stole for their museums in the name of 'human progress'. Such are the ways of rulers who have no accountability.

But we must be concerned with what is left. Here it must be pointed out that the Indus Valley was the place where Hinduism and Jainism emerged, and Buddhism flourished. From the Hindu Kush to the coast of Makran, from the mountains of Afghanistan to the plains of Punjab, thousands of monuments exist that were once part and parcel of our lives.

Today they are fast disappearing. Even ancient sites like Mehrgarh, Harappa and Mohenjodaro are starved of funds to preserve, let alone conserve.

As they shrink and get damaged by human intervention, Pakistan is losing its immensely rich heritage. That we do not love and cherish our past is surely reflected in our regrettable condition today. Without a past and a woeful present, one shudders to think what the future will be like.

One can dwell at length on the plight of cities like Multan, Hyderabad, Lahore, Peshawar and even smaller towns like Bhera. Lahore's walled city today is 70 per cent commercialised, with all its ancient walls knocked down to make way for commercialisation. When the Aga Khan Trust for Culture intervened, the trader-politicians of Lahore literally chased them out.

On the rebound, a former prime minister requested the Aga Khan to help conserve old Multan, and it goes to the credit of the Ismaili leader that he obliged.

One hears that the Punjab rulers are now making life difficult for the researchers in Multan. A potent combination of mercantile and religious interests is keeping the conservation of our past at bay. Of this there is no doubt.

Take a small town like Bhera, the place where Alexander clashed with the local ruler called the 'Puru', or Porus in its Latinised version.

Mind you Porus defeated the foreigner, even though respectable Western historians follow the Greek description of how their leader fared. But then Bhera * remains an exquisite walled city that is disintegrating. Ancient Hindu temples have been knocked down and the houses of members of a religious sect have been reduced to ashes. The once old centre of power is today a ghost town.

As an example take the condition of the magnificent Lahore Fort. It is slowly disintegrating because of neglect. Sadly, Unesco is only moved if 'officially' approached. The official world does not want Pakistan to have too many endangered sites, and in that they manage well.

Pakistan, the world and Unesco are losing out to such manipulation. Experience tells us endangered sites are saved when the 'relatively richer' sections of society stand up to save their world. To take from Pakistan is easy and has reduced the country to ruins. It is time they gave something back. The government one should not rely on. Only then will the future seem worth the fight.

The writer is a senior commentator with a focus on heritage and economics.


On Bhera, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhera

lies on the Jhelum river,

"Bhera" is a Sanskrit word which means: "a place where there is no fear".

According to the "Ancient Geography of India" by Alexander Cunningham, Bhera was once known as Jobnathnagar.[1]

" The modern town of Bhira or Bheda is situated on the left bank of the Jhelam; but on the opposite bank of the river, near Ahmedabad, there is a very extensive mound of ruins, called Old Bhera or Jobnathnagar, the city of Raja Jobnath or Chobnath. "
" At Bhera the Chinese pilgrim Faxian crossed the Jhelam in 400 AD. "

The Imperial Gazetteer of India records the History of Bhera -

" In the seventh and eighth centuries, the Salt Range chieftain was a tributary of Kashmīr. Bhera was sacked by Mahmūd of Ghazni, and again two centuries later by the generals of Chingiz Khān. In 1519 Bābar held it to ransom; and in 1540 Sher Shāh founded a new town, which under Akbar became the head-quarters of one of the subdivisions of the Sūbah of Lahore. In the reign of Muhammad Shāh, Rājā Salāmat Rai, a Rājput of the Anand tribe, administered Bhera and the surrounding country; while Khushāb was managed by Nawāb Ahmadyār Khān, and the south-eastern tract along the Chenāb formed part of the territories under the charge of Mahārājā Kaura Mal, governor of Multān[2] "
" About the same time, by the death of Nawāb Ahmdyār Khan, Khushāb also passed into the hands of Rājā Salāmat Rai. Shortly afterwards Abbās Khān a Khattak who held Pind Dādan Khān, treacherously put the Rājā to death, and seized Bhera. But Abbās Khān was himself thrown into prison as a revenue defaulter and, and Fateh Singh, nephew of Salāmat Rai then recovered his uncle's dominions.[2] "

The palace of Sopeithes which the Greek historian Arrian mentions as the place on the Hydaspes is supposed to be at Bhera[citation needed]. The Greeks refer to the Jhelum river as the Hydaspes River where Alexander fought Porus in Battle of the Hydaspes River in 326BC. It was at this battle that Alexander's famous horse Bucephalus was killed.

The Kukhran Khatris are a group of eleven specific clans of Punjabi Khatris who originally hailed from the town of Bhera in Punjab. Till the time of the partition of India in 1947 Bhera had a mixed population consisting of Hindu, Sikh and Muslim communities.

The demographic composition of Bhera was significantly altered however at the time of partition as almost the entire Hindu and Sikh Bhirochis migrated to India, some chose to stay back and converted to Islam.

The refugees who came to India settled in Delhi, Punjab and other cities of Northern India . N.Delhi continues to have a colony called Bhera town where a section of these refugees were resettle.

Bhera was also home to the Mohyal tribe who also claim Porus[citation needed].

It is also home to the Punjabi Muslim communities of Piracha and Elahis and the Hayats.

Bhera is a historical city. Mahmud of Ghazni In his attack on Waihind (Peshawar) in 1001-3, is reported to have captured the Hindu Shahi King Jayapala and fifteen of his principal chiefs and relations some of whom like Sukhpal, were made Musalmans. At Bhera a great many inhabitants, except those who embraced Islam, were put to the sword.


appalam vadaam said...

Dear Jayasree Mami,
Iniya Pongal vazhthukkal.

This article is bringing some interesting questions that has been going around for some years and given thrust by donno which political groups - the Aman ki Asha - the idea of a merged India and Pakistan - do the stars say that at all that these two countries can come together to bring about the glorious Bharat - like the way East and West Germany merged!

Jayasree Saranathan said...

//I have been following this blog for years now but I am very disappointed to see Mahatma Gandhi criticism in recent posts.//

Not possible in the foreseeable future. Infact things would aggravate in this decade - this is what I have been saying on the upcoming Moon dasa of India that is to last till 2025.