To the end of Punjab

Published Dec 05, 2012 06:54am

In a rugged and remote part of the Potohar Plateau, a lonely road winds through scenic barani villages, quaint railway stations and uncharted historical sites. Starting from Talagang, this narrow thoroughfare goes beyond Soan Valley into Attock District and ends at Makhad Sharif on the banks of River Indus – the last town in Punjab.

[Click on images to enlarge]

An 80-kilometre stretch of road is surrounded by barani lands. Water is scarce and life is dependent upon rainfall here.
An 80-kilometre stretch of the road is surrounded by barani lands. Water is scarce and life is dependent upon rainfall here.

The history of Islam in this region dates back to the battle between Mahmud Ghaznavi and Anand Pal in 1008 A.D. The battle ended in the total defeat of Rajput confederacy and India lay at the mercy of Muslim invaders.

A view of Tamman village – the seat of political power in the region. It rose to prominence when Sardar Muhammad Hayat of Tamman became the railway minister in Ayub   Khan's cabinet and later served as an advisor on political affairs to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.
A view of Tamman village – the seat of political power in the region. It rose to prominence when Sardar Muhammad Hayat of Tamman became the railway minister in Ayub Khan's cabinet and later served as an advisor on political affairs to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

The Mughal emperors traversed through this region on their way to their summer resort in Kashmir and considered the area not worth holding and administering.

Road leading to Makhad through the Tamman village.
Road leading to Makhad through the Tamman village.

In the twilight years of Mughal rule, the region served merely as a road by which the invading armies of Nadir Shah and other Afghan warriors advanced to Delhi.

Remains of an old sarai (inn) near Injra village built by the Mughal emperor Babur.
Remains of an old sarai (inn) near Injra village built by the Mughal emperor Babur.

An open well alongside the sarai.
An open well alongside the sarai.

Hundreds of stairs that lead to the bottom of the well. The cemented walls displaying graffiti are obviously not how they were originally intended to be.
Hundreds of stairs that lead to the bottom of the well. The cemented walls displaying graffiti are obviously not how they were originally intended to be.

The 18th century saw steady growth and advancement of Sikh power and by the time Maharaja Ranjit Singh was in power, the entire area came under Sikh dominion.

In 1904, the area gained prominence as the British declared Attock a full-fledged district. Post Independence, in 1985, Chakwal became a district when Talagang, Chakwal and three other tehsils were merged.

Agriculture in the area is dependent upon rain. Annual rainfall is very little, therefore the name 'barani' for this region and the principle crops are wheat, grains, mustard and peanuts.

Rich culture and traditions, with abundance of folklores are the hallmark of this land. Music at weddings, which lasts throughout the night, is in the form of 'dhol sharna' (sharna being a variant of shenai). The bridegroom party dances to the mesmerizing beats and return with the bride at early dawn.

Injra railway station, built by the British during the later part of the 19th century.
Injra railway station, built by the British during the later part of the 19th century.

Office of the Injra station master.
Office of the Injra station master.

The vintage receiver and teletype instruments are still being used.
The vintage receiver and teletype instruments are still being used.

While on the other hand, deaths are observed by a demonstration of solemn mourning by sitting on the floor for three consecutive days and a custom of 'vaen' (an emotional expression of loss and sadness) is carried out by the mourners.

Almost all graves in the area have a vertical slab at either end, while a woman's grave can be distinguished by an additional smaller slab in the centre.

A view of Makhad Sharif. The town would completely submerge in water if the proposed hydroelectric Kalabagh dam is constructed.
A view of Makhad Sharif. The town would completely submerge in water if the proposed hydroelectric Kalabagh dam is constructed.

In the past, Talagang and surrounding villages were known to produce an elegant gold embroidered shoe for the wealthy, as well as a humbler sandal for the poor.

Pachnand and Multan Khurd are known for producing a pleasing hand-woven saddle cloth known as 'khes' which has multiple uses.

An ancient Hindu temple on the bank of Indus in Makhad.
An ancient Hindu temple on the bank of Indus in Makhad.

Not much is known about the origins of this temple. The fading Sanskrit written on the structure doesn't help either.
Not much is known about the origins of this temple. The fading Sanskrit written on the structure doesn't help either.

Tamman being the seat of power is mostly inhabited by Awan Sardars who are descendants of Qutb Shah – a general in the army of Mahmud Ghaznavi. The word Tamman in its literal interpretation means 'tribal center'.

The wild and rugged area of Makhad is situated in the south-west corner.

The shrine of Syed Abdullah Gillani, Noori Badshah in Makhad.
The shrine of Syed Abdullah Gillani, Noori Badshah in Makhad.

When the Indus Valley Flotilla (a steamship company in British India) was operational, Makhad served as a terminus for ships. Karachi Port was connected to Jhirk, from where trade ships sailed right up to Mithankot and then to Makhad.

Indus at Makhad, as the myth goes, is so deep that seven lengths of charpoy's twine were once knotted to a stone and lowered in the waters and still, the river bed could not be fathomed.

The shrine at Makhad is to the memory of Syed Abdullah Shah Gilani, Noori Badshah – a historic figure that links with the line of the Naqib of Baghdad.

Intricate work on the walls inside the shrine.
Intricate work on the walls inside the shrine.

A local myth at Makhad is that Indus was once a roaring and troublesome river for the people and it is only after Pir Noori Badshah prayed with his hands placed in its waters that it calmed down and started flowing silently.

Silent waters of Indus separating Punjab from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Silent waters of Indus separating Punjab from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.


Taimoor Farouk is a freelance journalist.


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Comments (35) Closed




Mohammad Rafay
Dec 05, 2012 07:28am
Superb! well written
Shiekh Chilli.
Dec 05, 2012 07:54am
great pictures. Just a quick footnote for your readers, Punjab was known as Pencab in the early days and prior to the arrival of Islam, Punjab was known as Madra Pradesh, sanskrit for central province whilst present day Afghanistan and parts of Tajikstan was known Uttara Pradesh, sanskrit for northern province.
kdspirited
Dec 05, 2012 03:15pm
Kalabah Dam is for the greater good of the nation. A neccessity now more than anything else. But it would be a shame if it is at a cost of small villages and townships such as these. I hope we can all agree to a more formidable solution for the greater good of our nation and its citizens. Great Article
Meherban Irtaza
Dec 05, 2012 03:13pm
Nice work Welldone...But we still need a dam. Mirpur was a historic city too before Mangla :)
Ali Shah
Dec 05, 2012 09:53am
absolutely loved it
Karachi Wala
Dec 05, 2012 03:18pm
Mr. Shiekh Chilli, I am not sure if it was intentional or not, but your footnote about the name of Punjab sounds like, if new name was forced by the Muslims. I myself have heard/read different accounts regarding the origins of the names of different parts of India. These days, it has become fashionable to put the blame of anything controversial or in bad taste on the Muslims. Some of our friends from across the border either start or 2nd any such claim without solid evidence. I am sure Muslims of India must have done some good as well. Seldom one hears about the good that may have carried out by either new comers or local converts. It seems only person who comes across as tolerable, is Jalal ud din Akbar. I wonder if, to gain any legitimacy, in thoughts and practice one has to emulate King Akbar.
AZ
Dec 05, 2012 02:21pm
The government and the contractor are both in on the ride. It is the people who are "smash it up to bits".
Sanjar
Dec 05, 2012 07:54am
Makhad from Talagang is 85 Km
Ammar
Dec 05, 2012 08:14am
superb!
Ahsan Ahmed
Dec 05, 2012 08:07am
Agreed it was a great piece - almost made me think that I was Punjab 1000 years ago. Thumbs up to the writer. More of same is required of danwn.
Hina Nawab
Dec 05, 2012 10:20am
Thanks a lot.Loved every line of it,keep us informing about the beautifies and hidden gems of Pakistan.
Shubs
Dec 06, 2012 06:26am
Why the negative tone? Where in Shiek Chilli's note does it say that the name Punjab is 'derogatory', or is considered offensive in any way? Should a recounting of historical facts be limited by political correctness? The chip, unfortunately, seems to be on your shoulder, Karachi Wala.
Capt C M Khan
Dec 05, 2012 10:42am
Excellent work..thanks
Masood Abbas
Dec 05, 2012 07:34am
Awesome trip!! How far Makhad is from Tala Gang interchange on M2?
Sriram
Dec 05, 2012 07:16am
Beautiful pictures.
Hayat
Dec 05, 2012 12:18pm
Thanks a lot for this beautiful journey
Sanjar
Dec 05, 2012 07:58am
Well done Taimoor, an excellent exposition of an area less known to our countrymen. Photos are vibrant.
raika45
Dec 05, 2012 12:31pm
No offence meant, but the road shown in the first picture is nothing but a thin layer of asphalt with stones layered on the surface.Being in the trucking business, 20 toner trucks passing over this road will smash it up to bits.Especially when it rains.Are your road contractors taking your government for a ride?
Jawaid Islam
Dec 06, 2012 06:16am
Enchanting narration Taimoor. Do more of this.
Saad Hayat Tamman
Dec 05, 2012 08:26am
Excellent. Thank You.
Razi A. Shah
Dec 05, 2012 02:35pm
What a surprise. My birth place.
Imran
Dec 05, 2012 05:26pm
Its very unlikely that heavy duty trucks will be using this road. This is probably just a country road. Most of the traffic uses the Islamabad-Peshawer motorway. Look it up on Google earth.
mak
Dec 05, 2012 05:55pm
Decide . Be or not to Be
Promod
Dec 05, 2012 06:05pm
Mr. Farouk, do you know if the place shown as Dalelpur in Chakwal distt.(google earth) is the same place earlier known as Kawaan da pind?
Sofia
Dec 06, 2012 10:36am
These are so beautiful,Love the writing
Razi A. Shah
Dec 05, 2012 07:52pm
As the author said, most of the land is "Barani", no irrigation. I am not aware that Kalabagh Dam would help irrigate these lands, but if the Dam did, most of the lands are owned by few, big landowners, who will benefit the most.
Razi A. Shah
Dec 05, 2012 08:02pm
I lived around these roads. Once in a while some Car, Bus or a Truck would come on these roads. These roads were not made for regular traffic. They generally went to some big landowners village. They used to say British made these roads for so and so because he supplied so many soldiers to the British in wars. But anyway it has taken me to the memory lane.
Razi A. Shah
Dec 05, 2012 08:17pm
Magic of internet.
Yawar
Dec 05, 2012 11:31pm
It is easy for me or anyone else to talk of the greater good of the country when we are not directly affected. In any case for the sake of progress there should be a law of "eminant domain" where the parliament should have the right to determine what is in the overall interest of Pakistan and be able to authorize any action based on a popular vote as long as all those affected are appropriately relocated and fairly compensated.
Khan
Dec 06, 2012 01:52am
Simply Beautiful please continue publishing more pictures of Punjab and other parts of Pakistan.
Khan
Dec 06, 2012 01:55am
No offence meant but in your country are all roads are build like highways? The road in picture is located in far flung area in a village
Shiekh Chilli.
Dec 06, 2012 02:08am
Beta karachi wallay I've hit a raw nerve in you. That was not my intention. Firstly, as a Pukka Punjabi I take great pride in my Punjabi ancestors and my Punjabi heritage. Whether my Punjabi forefathers were Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or Sikh I still honour them and take pride in their achievements. By the by , I take special pride in my Punjabi Muslim heritage because it contributed greatly to our rich Punjabi heritage. Imagine, can there be Punjabiyat without Punjabis like Bulleh Shah or Baba Farid or Faiz Ahmad Faiz or Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan or Mohd Rafi. Furthermore today, scores of Punjabi youngsters are waking up today and taking pride in our rich Punjabi history, especially the time of King Porous or the epic battles as told in the 'Mahabarratta' or during the great days of the University of Taxila where the Sanskriti language took shape or during the great era of Greek rule in Punjab or the great Punjabi confederacy of the Sikhs whose Punjabi rule stretched from Tibet to the gates of Kabul. By the way, Punjab had many names. It was called Sapta Sindhu by the early Aryans, Penta potamia by Greeks and even Panchnad or five rivers. Also for those interested, the closest language to Sanskrit is old Punjabi still spoken in some villages in Malwa and North Western Punjab.
Ara
Dec 06, 2012 02:54am
That is the only thing we can afford. You should travel on a bus to some hilly areas, where, when a bus overtaking another bus, has its outer wheels on the edge of the slope, and half of the wheel is hanging out. Well, if you don't like it, you can pay for it to be upgraded. One road at a time.
Ara
Dec 06, 2012 03:01am
On Google earth it appears to be about one inch. Depending on how wide is your screen and what resolution you are using.
Seriously!
Dec 06, 2012 12:39pm
Beautifull Pakistan! InshAllah ... One day I can take my kids back and show them the beauty that Allah blessed us with; which we spoilt for ourselves! May Allah give us hadayt!