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A trip to Pindi’s Jain quarter

July 20, 2014

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One of the main entrances to the Bhabhar Khana, popularly known today as Bhabhra Bazaar. Iron gates – used by traders in the old days for security purposes – can be seen on some entrances even today.
One of the main entrances to the Bhabhar Khana, popularly known today as Bhabhra Bazaar. Iron gates – used by traders in the old days for security purposes – can be seen on some entrances even today.

According to historians, Rawalpindi before partition was a very diverse town; home to people from many faiths, such as Sikhs, Hindus, Parsis, Muslims and Jains. Even today, one can see the mark left by these old communities in various parts of old Pindi. The Bhabhar Khana is one such place, surrounded on all sides by Bhabhra Bazaar. The word ‘bhabhar’ is associated with Jain traders and merchants who lived in this neighbourhood before partition. The Gazetteer of Rawalpindi from 1893-94 puts the Jain population of Rawalpindi at more than 5,000. It is said that most of the Bhabhars in Rawalpindi were well-to-do and used to live here, but migrated to India after partition.

Intricate patterns and figurines adorn the outer walls and balconies of old houses inside the Bhabhar Khana. ... Shri Jain Girls School, established in 1935, was one of the most prestigious educational institutes for girls in Rawalpindi. Run by Jains, the school was open to students of all faiths. The name of the school is written on the front in Urdu, Hindi and English, a testament to the linguistic diversity of the city.
Intricate patterns and figurines adorn the outer walls and balconies of old houses inside the Bhabhar Khana. ... Shri Jain Girls School, established in 1935, was one of the most prestigious educational institutes for girls in Rawalpindi. Run by Jains, the school was open to students of all faiths. The name of the school is written on the front in Urdu, Hindi and English, a testament to the linguistic diversity of the city.
The Jain greeting ‘Jai Jinendra’ is carved into the outer wall of an old house. Jai Jinendra is a common greeting used across the Jain community which means "honour to those who have conquered themselves" and refers to Jina, the highest state of enlightenment one can achieve in the Jain faith.
The Jain greeting ‘Jai Jinendra’ is carved into the outer wall of an old house. Jai Jinendra is a common greeting used across the Jain community which means "honour to those who have conquered themselves" and refers to Jina, the highest state of enlightenment one can achieve in the Jain faith.
The Bhabhar Khana in the centre of the bazaar. It is said that before partition, there was pond in the centre of the Bhabhar Khana. The people living in this area are mostly Muslim migrants from India who came to Pakistan in 1947.
The Bhabhar Khana in the centre of the bazaar. It is said that before partition, there was pond in the centre of the Bhabhar Khana. The people living in this area are mostly Muslim migrants from India who came to Pakistan in 1947.

— Photos and text by Shiraz Hassan

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2014