To the south-east of Lahore is the Ganda Singh-Hussainiwala border post, which is the combined name of two neighbouring villages – one on each side of the Pakistan-India border. Yet they are spiritually joined by centuries of tradition.
On the Pakistani side beyond Kasur on the road to Ferozepur, right near the border post is the village called Ganda Singhwala. Across that dividing ‘line of hate’ as the villagers call it, is the Indian village of Baba Ghulam Hussainiwala. The story of both these villages needs to be told so that we today understand the manner in which Punjabi villages are woven to their neighbouring ones, creating a unique and ancient societal fabric knit by both love and hate, depending on past history. In this piece let us, first, dwell on the story of the village of Ganda Singh.
The British named this village after a highly decorated soldier given the title of a Sardar Bahadar and by the name of Risaldar Major Ganda Singh Dutt. He served in the 19th Bengal Lancers, which was famous as Fane’s Horse, because Captain Walter Fane raised the regiment in 1860 to serve in the Second Opium War in China. This regiment finally captured Beijing, and once back in British India was renamed 19th Bengal Cavalry and served in the Second Afghan War. In the First World War it fought in France, followed by numerous battles in Palestine. In 1947 the regiment was known as the 18th King George V’s Own Lancers. Today Pakistan Army’s 19th Lancers, an elite armoured regiment, is that very regiment.
Ganda Singh Dutt was born in 1830 and belonged to the famous Rajput Mohyal’s Dutt ‘gotra’. He joined the East India Company Army in 1852 and served it for 50 years. He enlisted as a ‘Dafadar’ and received the Indian Order of Merit (IOM) for saving the life of Sir Robert Sandeman during the 1857 Mutiny at Lucknow. In the Second Anglo-China War he saved the life of Sir Charles MacGregor. Much later during the Battle of Kandahar, because of his exceptional bravery he was promoted to become an Honorary Captain, and ADC to Lord Roberts of Kabul and Kandahar, who was the then Commander-in-Chief of the British Indian Army. It was Lord Roberts who named his village as Ganda Singhwala and awarded him a very large tract of land near it.
A bit of history about Mohyal Rajput clans. The Mohyal Rajputs have seven ‘gotras’, they being the Balli, Bhimwal, Chhibber, Lau, Vaid, Mohan and the Dutt. The Dutts are a unique Saraswati Brahmin warrior clan that over the centuries have excelled in bravery and spiritual purity. In Hindi the word ‘datta’ means a charitable person while in Sanskrit it means the ‘sun’. So the very name ‘Dutt’ speaks for itself, especially given their Brahmin origins. A few of Dutts, who lived in the lower western parts of Kashmir, Haryana, Sialkot, Lahore and Sheikhupura, converted to Sikhism and Islam. But their Hindu origin and honourable charitable ways did not stop them from becoming a major contributor to the Islamic fight against tyranny that the Battle of Karbala stands for.
The Mohyal Dutts were also part of the famous ‘Battle of the Ten Kings’ – ‘Dasanrajan’ - as given in the Vedas, which was fought on the banks of the River Ravi. For that matter the famous ruler Porus was a Mohyal Dutt. The Greek invader Alexander trusted them above his own conspiring soldiers and they escorted him back right up to Alexandra, where he died. So it was that a part of the Dutt clan settled on the edges of Arabia and traded with the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him). On his urging Rahab Sidh Dutt promised to protect Hussein, his grandson, and in the process sacrificed his seven sons in the Battle of Karbala fought in 681 AD. Even today the place where they lived in Baghdad is called ‘Al-Hindiya’, and is a major part of the oral history of the Mohyals.
So it was from such a rich tradition that Ganda Singh came. As he had no son he passed on his heritage to his daughter Bhagan Devi, whose sons, grandsons and great grandsons went on to build major Indian businesses, including the Amritsar Sugar Mills, the Amrit Bank and a lot of the Dutts joined the Indian armed forces rising to high positions. The family of Indian film stars Sunil Dutt and his son Sanjay are also Mohyal Rajputs who originally belong to the Jhelum village of Khurd, where Raja Porus is claimed to have been born. All these Dutts are called Husseini Brahmins, and during the month of Moharram they recite verses about the Battle of Karbala by going from village to village.
Now let me dwell on the tradition behind the Hussainiwala village. Though named in British days after Pir Ghulam Husseini, who was a descendant of Pir Wahun who lived near Nankana Sahib in the beginning of the 11th century when the Dutts had moved there after losing battles against the Afghan invader Mahmud of Ghazni. The ‘pir’ Wahun was a chess trickster and he fixed a bet against Shiv Dutt, the chief of the Dutts. The wager was that if Dutt lost he would convert to Islam, or else lose his head. When the ‘pir’ lost again and again and was unable to fulfil his part of the bet of the head of his wife and two sons, Shiv Dutt forgave him on the understanding that he would for generations be a follower of Hussein (AS).
When the Dutts moved to their village now called Ganda Singh after the Mughal emperor Babar vowed to kill every Dutt left alive, the family of the Pir Hussaini also moved to the next village. It was then that the famous words came about: “Wah Dutt Sultan, Hindu ka Dharam, Musalman ka Iman” (Oh King Dutt, believer of Hinduism yet faith of a Muslim). During the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, a fierce Dutt lady by the name of Karmo Duttan, held her court punishing robbers in Amritsar’s main market. Even today that place is called ‘Karmo de Deodri’.
Over the last 70 years most of Mohyal Dutts moved to India, though the few Muslim ones stayed back. When Imran Khan sought donations for his cancer hospital, it was Sunil Dutt, the Indian actor and a Mohyal Rajput Husseini Brahmin, who was the first to donate a huge amount. He wrote in the donation book: “For the suffering people of Lahore, my life is always available”.
So we have the twin villages of Ganda Singhwala and Husseiniwala, both perched near each other on two sides of a dividing line. Yet spiritually they will always remain close to one another. It was for this reason that the great Punjabi patriot Bhagat Singh and Raj Guru, who belonged to Husseiniwala, preferred to be cremated there. There is much more to that meeting point than meets the eye.
Published in Dawn, December 31st, 2017