The first thought that
came into my mind on posting to Okara can be described by four words:
milk, butter, mammals and farms. Peers also told me the same. Besides
Harappan ruins, I did not know the area. But one thing I did know, though,
was that I should be happy to say goodbye to the place. Two years later, I
felt drawn to the area and its people and it was very hard for me to part.
There is so much to be seen, so much to be done and above all spirited,
sincere and full of love people living in Gogera, Dipalpur and Pakpattan
historic trilogy. The distances in the hinterland are short but landscape
is so enormous that it had to be studied in parts like a large mural seen
by a child.
One of the first places I came to know after settling down is a village
Thatta Ghulamka Dheroka near Okara. The unique claim of the village to
international fame is the dolls and toys made by village women that are
collectors delight all over the world. Dolls made in the village have
travelled to International Dolls Museum in Amsterdam and also have been
put on display in the "Themepark" at EXPO 2000 in Hannover (Germany) as
one of the 767 worldwide projects - an example of thinking for 21st
century. Earlier, the dolls participated in International Toy Fair in
Nuremberg. These dolls show how culture goes beyond simple work of art and
becomes collaboration among applied and natural sciences as well as other
forces that affect our lives.
The murals are painted on the parameter mud walls in the village where
doll collectors and people interested in sustainable development and rural
heritage from different initiative groups come and stay as paying guests.
The village folks still consider cooing crows as symbol of the arrival of
the guests. Architectural competitions are held annually when best mud
house is selected. The Chief Harappan Explorer Dr. Mark Kenoyer had the
place on the jury in competition held last July. Two full time German
volunteers, Dr Norbert Pintsch and Dr Senta Siller, and village people are
working together to change the life and out look in this peaceful hamlet.
Whenever I visited the village, I saw something new, something different,
which the villagers do to make difference in a place where they belong.
For going too the village you pass through Gogera -- a place where Ahmed
Khan Kharral broke famous jail during War of Independent in 1857 and where
Extra Assistant commissioner Berkley was defeated and killed by the
East of Okara, there are four places, which provide you reason enough for
going there again and again: Malka Hans, Pakpattan, Dipalpur and Sher Garh.
Each one of these places holds thousands of intriguing secrets.
There are at least two folk romances that unfailingly echo in the mind of
any one who let his fancy and feet roam around this historic tract. Waris
Shah composed his classic folk romance Heer Rangha during his stay in
Malka Hans - 700-year-old town. 'Hujra Waris Shah Da' located in ancient
mosque constructed during the rule of Hans’s tribe and remains of
five-story temple of Parnami faction of Hindus in Malka Hans merit an
attention that is not being given. The temple cannot be described in words
or images. I sat on the heap of rubbles in the courtyard of the temple
where people dry grains, keep the animals, and wondered.
As per another famous lore, nearby town Hujra Shah Muqeem is the place
where Saheban is supposed to have visited and prayed "sunjain howan
gallian which Mirza yar phire" (the streets should be deserted for my
lover Mirza to roam around). The tale is mentioned in famed Punjabi love
story Mirza Saheban but there is no historic evidence that Jatti Saheban
came to the place and prayed. Both these romances are vital part of our
widespread 'oral literature' Recitation of Heer - in a single and vibrant
tone - is an amazing phenomenon. There is another love story set in Mughal
period living village Akbar near Gogera. A girl jumped into the grave when
people were burying her lover and insisted that she be buried alive with
him. The grave is still there on the citadel - accumulated derbies of ages
- in the village.
Pakpattan and Dipalpur are two of the oldest living cities of the South
Asia and strategic sites of the past. A complexity of ideas, directly
related to evolution of civilization in this part of the world, seems
encircling these places. Besides kings and sultans - from Sabuktigine to
Akbar -- great men like Ibn-e-Batuta, Amir Kusro, Gru Nanik and Waris Shah
visited at least one or both of these places. One of the thriving trade
routes of the past passed through Adjodhan (name officially changed by
Mughal King Akbar to Pakpattan due to its association with Saint Baba
Farid ud Din Masood Ganj Shakar). Now the original builders might not even
recognize these towns if they come back. These locations are not mentioned
in travel guide but any one who wants to re-live the past can
go there and know more about the archives.
In Sher Garh, you see a towering shrine of a saint Muhammad Ibrahim
Kirmani Daud-e-Sani Bandgi. Sit for a while in the restful compound of the
shrine and some body will offer you food and some other might tell you a
tale that the mason from Kasur who installed the heavy pinnacle on the
shrine asked Shah Abdul Mou'ali to give him the best buffalo in his heard
as charge of expert services to fix the pinnacle. The mason demanded this
when he was standing at the top of the edifice of shrine before putting
the final touches. Shah Abdul Mou'ali who was the direct descendant of the
saint obliged the artisan and only then he came down, happy. Those were
the days of commitments and reciprocal rights. Before turning to Sher Garh
from National Highway near Renala Khurd, one may visit still functional
Ganga Hydroelectric Station installed by the famous philanthropist and
engineer Sir Ganga Ram in the way.
My to-ing and fro-ing, at time zigzagging, to all these places and few
more in the trio introduced me to wonders and legions of what may be
called middle ground of cultural fusion of the present Punjab. The area is
gold mine for history seekers, spiritual and curious travellers. You may
find much more than what you hear or read. It pays to get out into the
countryside and talk to ordinary people. People of the area are eager to
help - on their own expense - when you ask any body. I found volunteer
'guides' who were forth coming with wealth of information from history to
myths prevalent in the area. But 'chaudhry map' is as vague about the
distances as is anywhere else in Pakistan. Where is Qaboola? Ask any body
when you are riding a bike with haversack and water bottle on your sides.
The replies will always be same: nearby.
The ionic counter point is the lack of attention in maintaining the bits
and pieces of unique heritage - the resource base of tourism. The neglect
may be attributed to lack of awareness, education, coordination between
authorities, economic constrains and or simply the natural hazards. The
magnificent vistas of a land of plans, fields and orchards have to be
opened to the rest of the world. There is a need for information in the
form of travel guide writing, pure travel journalism, travel book writing
and geographical description in form of maps. No ordinary coldness of
phrasing can express the surprise and delight, with which one makes
acquaintance with the sites. Their perspective gives you a wonderful sense
of being there. In fact, that is my recommendation: be there.