Uch Sharif — II

June 30, 2014


Prayers tied up in threads, Uch Sharif. -Photo by Madeeha Syed
Prayers tied up in threads, Uch Sharif. -Photo by Madeeha Syed

(continued from 'Uch Sharif: Alexandria on the Indus')

Of these graves, the oldest, belongs to Jalal ud Din Surkh Posh.

This 14th century father-saint of South Punjab was once the citizen of Bukhara, until he decided to move on. Following the prophetic tradition, he left his Central Asian homeland and settled in Bhakkar. Soon after he had chosen this place as his home, the Soomro, Sayyal and Samma of the area opted for Islam as their religion and mapped the new geography of faith. They settled in areas like Kashmir, Bhanbhore, Jhang and went on to establish the town of JalalPur.

  A milestone 6km away from Uch Sharif.
A milestone 6km away from Uch Sharif.

Today, a few of his followers run the meditation houses in Thatta, while others have established spiritual centres in Brussels. Through the long-winding traditions of Pir Pehlwan Shah of Kurram Agency to Shah Jamal of Lahore, the disciples of Jalal ud Din Surkh Posh are strongly committed to Sufi Islam.

As mystics carry the cross for humanity, the colourful wooden columns at the tomb bear the burden of its heavily decorated roof. Every morning, the sun ray enters the building, takes on rainbow colours and captivates the devotees.

The ambience inside the tomb reflects the brilliance of architecture and dawns up on every visitor in a different shade. It is, by these graves, that one learns how need curates the believers and belief castes differing images of reality, all through the prism, called faith.

Around the grave of Jalal ud Din Surkh Posh, his kinsmen are buried in a manner which is organized yet divine.

Lined up with the adjacent wall, are the residential quarters, where visiting sufis stayed during their quest for the 'ultimate truth'. One of the residents was Bulleh Shah, who had a relatively long stay.

In the periphery of the mausoleum, the footprint of Hazrat Ali continues to attract the visitors. This revered artefact was brought in the 13th Century and is to date famous for its miraculous powers. The fresh petals and dull confetti, scattered around the venerated cast, translates into the age old conundrum of new wants and spent-out desires.

The outer walls of the tombs are painted blue, a typical color scheme of South Punjab that foretells Sindhi influence, and the frescoed ceiling inside is the signature of Abbasid architecture. Defying the summer sun that scorches the earth, the serenity of serving the mankind keeps the necropolis of these Bukhara immigrants calm and tranquil.

Also read: 'The legend of Rohi — I' and 'II'

The second tomb belongs to Jahaniyan Jahan-Gasht, the world-wanderer. Translating to literally and literary sense of the world, this traveller`s identity included 36 pilgrimage trips that he marched to Mecca.

It was during one of these journeys when he came across Lal Deedi in Kashmir. Deedi was a saint in pursuit of spirituality. Some historians believe that Lal Deedi was a devout Hindu and others record that she had embraced Islam but no accurate account is found in this regard. She was lucky to have lived in an age when religious self had not seeped into social behaviours and faith was hardly an identity.

Despite her belief, Lal Deedi is regarded as one of the greatest mystics from Kashmir.

  The tomb of Bibi Jawindi at Uch Sharif. -Photo by Humayun M.
The tomb of Bibi Jawindi at Uch Sharif. -Photo by Humayun M.

After Jahanian Jahan-gasht, she met Sheikh Hamdan and is said to have nursed and tutored young Nur ud Din Wali. To date, her verses (Vaakh) are part of Kashmiri folklore and local wisdom. Birds of the feather, probably, have flocked together since long. From the colour scheme all the way to the overall ambience, the tomb of Jahanian Jahan-Gasht, is in many aspects, a close look alike of the tomb of Jalal ud Din Surkh Posh.

After the revered men, there is a series of three tombs. First one in line is the mausoleum of Bibi Jawindi, the grand-daughter of Jahanian Jahan-Gasht and an acknowledged saint of her time. Her divine reputation transcended Indian borders and as a token of devotion from Persia, the cost of her tomb was borne by an Iranian prince.

The second tomb belongs to Ustad Abdul Aleem, the teacher of Jahanian Jahan-Gasht and the third houses Ustad Nooria, the architect who designed and built all these tombs, lending them their share of eternity.

The tombs at Uch Sharif are a meaningful manifestation of an age long gone.

While half of its structure has caved in, the other half derives strength from its glorious past and stands, in dignity. Besides being a rare fusion of splendour and destruction, these monuments also symbolize the nature of Rohi populace, who won’t abandon the engaging charm in their tone, despite the adversity that surrounds them.

Partly the decay of these shrines is attributable to time and partly it was God-sent. According to an old keeper, the structures have been adversely affected by recurrent floods; most devastating was the one in last century. Wrath of past monsoons can easily be traced by marks left by flood levels. The tomb compound of Uch Sharif is a desert, in essence, and the surroundings carry the feel of the forest brought up by colonization canals. The contrast ensures the spiritual vastness of the shrine does not escape and the man-made soothe of jungle does not intrude.

Every day, the place is filled by the hustle and bustle particular to pilgrims. Devotees show up with their load of expectations, gratitude and despair and end up tying them with the branches of leafy trees, resting against the walls and prostrating on the hot tiled floors. The crumbling bricks and the fading shadows await the miracles which just do not happen. Strangely, the conviction which marked the life of the saint, buried inside, is totally missing from the lives of all those who frequent his tomb.

Also read: 'When a mosque closes its doors'

Like most places that thrive on religious faith, this is all that makes up most of the Uch Sharif.

Before partition, the Urs at each Sharif was one of the most happening events of the area. It featured a fair that was attended by Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims alike. Post partition, the attendance was reduced to Muslims and off late, it is left to Barelvis alone.

The sleepy towns of Fazil Pur and Rajan Pur lie up for Kashmore and exist indifferently around the convergence of rivers. On the other side, the railway station of Feroza precedes the contented town of Khanpur Katora. At some point in its history, Khanpur was famous for its pottery but its recent claim to fame is the sweet, Khoya. The train, then heads to Rahim Yar Khan and the road leads to mysticism. In between, a track leads to Bagh o Bahar, where an unknown village had a forest, full of memories, irrigated by RD-60, a rather memorable distributary.

Before it shunts away from the river, the train halts at Rajan Pur for paying homage to a seven-language epic buried in neighboring Chachran Sharif. The polyglot, Khwaja Ghulam Fareed, was born in Chachran but is buried in Mithan Kot. Having spent most of his childhood, without parents, his verses speak of the calm of a mother and concern of a father.

When the sun sets on Chachran Sharif, and local musicians guide and track their instruments, the humming tune of Mendha Ishq Vee`n Tuu hangs heavy in the air. Far and away in Kot Addu, something stirs by Pathanay Khan's grave, probably the memory of the voice that was as sad as a train that whistled away through December morning.

Mendha Sanwal Mithra Sham Salona,

Man Mohan Jana`n Vee`n Tu

Mendha Mulk Maleer Tay Maroo Thalrda,

Rohi, Cholsitan Vee`n Tu

Jay Yaar Fareed Qabool Karay

Sarkar Vee`n Tu, Sultan Vee`n Tu