Doodh Patti

Travel, Food and and Khaalis Doodh Patti Mind {and Lahore}


Pakpattan - the name is enough to start the travelers, cautiously curious and devoted faithful dreaming. Already the magic words like sultans and saints are stirring in the head. Let your gaze slip over the dhaki - original citadel of Pakpattan - and the town will suddenly appear. The antiquity is its own message: the town is heritage, and heritage permeates the town.

Enter the once walled inner-city through one of the existing gates and you will find yourself in archetypal form of an ancient town - crooked and narrow streets, dense housing, intricate woodwork on Jharokas, bay windows and doors. So many historic cities have developed losing much of their original character in the process during modern times, but Pakpattan has survived remarkably in tact. It is the entire urban fabric of the place that is historic. Though, the major portion of the fortification wall has disappeared. At places, the wall has even been utilized as a part of the residences. Four gates (Shahedi, Rehimun, Abu and Mori) have survived out of six but they are all crumbling. Now extensive suburbs stretch from the foot of the wall all around. Thin red bricks from centuries old wall are seen used in the new houses all over the town. The portion of the settlement that sits on the mound can be compared with walled part of Multan City.

The remains of peripheral wall with ancient mystique define the inner portion that is totally pedestrian, vehicular traffic and modern development contained out of the wall. Homes have also retained their essential trait despite renovations to make them comfortable for modern living or to create additional space for more families. You can see the mythical woodwork, murals as well as tiled facades and colorful patterns in old havelies.

General Alexander Cunningham has recognized Pakpattan, anciently known as Ajudhan, as a town that appears in the work of Hellenic historians and other classic writers under the names of Ohydrakae, Sydrakae, Sudraykae and or Hydaekae. Two strategic roads of the past - one from Dera Ghazi Khan and other from Dera Ismail Khan - used to meet here. Great conquerors like Mahmud Ghaznavi, Taimur and traveler like Ibn-e-Batuta crossed Sutlaj from Pakpattan that had been principal ferry on River Sutlaj for centuries.

Medieval history of the town started when Amir Subuktagin subdued Pakpattan in 980 (AD) followed by Ibrahim Ghaznavi in 1080. Even today, the thought that Taimur during his invasion in 1398 spared the lives of those who had not fled the place, out of respect for the shrine of saint Baba Farid, inspire reverence.

The soul of the city is famous saint Farid-ud-Din Masud Ganj Shakar commonly known as Baba Farid. The saint was born in a village Kothewal (near Multan) in 1173 in a family that had migrated from Afghanistan. Saint, scholar and poet, Baba Farid traveled to Khurasan, Kirman, Badakhshan, Baghdad, Mecca Muazzma, Madina Munawara, Kufa, Basra, Damascus, Nishapur, Bukhara, Dehli and Multan before he finally settled in Pakpattan. Here he spent his life in spreading the light of divine Islam. It was due to the religious services and personal example of the saint that Islam spread in this part of the Subcontinent and many people including Hindu Jogi Birnath along with his followers came into the folds of Islam. The saint died in 1265 and his shrine was constructed by Khwaja Nizam ud Din Auleya in 1267.

Splendors of the 'Farid Complex' fire the imagination. The shrine - simple and destitute of ornament - stands next to the bigger shrine of his grandson Ala ud Din Mouj Darya, which was built by Sultan Muhammad Tughlaq. The main chamber of the shrine of Baba Farid has two doors - one in the East is called Noori Darwaza and the other in South in famous Baheshti Darwaza. Besides the principal grave of the saint, there is another grave in the chamber where his son Badr ud Din Suleman is buried. The ample, pure and unadorned architecture is very inspiring. Urs of the saint is celebrated in the month of Muharram but large of devotes stream into the shrine everyday. You can also see Qawwal groups performing and malangs falling in state of trance mostly on Thursdays.

Both the principal shrines are in good condition but the adjoining ancient mosque has decayed. Auqaf is constructing a new mosque nearby as a part of Farid Complex. Besides the shrines of Baba Farid and Mouj Darya, there are over twenty shrines of saintly persons in the town. Most eminent out of these is the shrine of Baba Aziz Makki.

There is a whole different world outside the shrine parameters. Cubbyhole shops selling deathbed spreads, flowers, big bangles and sweets (for niaz) known as Makhane and eating joints are lined up in both the streets leading to the shrine. Business in the streets is thriving because devotees 'must' take something home from the shrine. Sleazy sounding and persistent beggars flock around devotees heading for the shrine. People are seen distributing free food: cooked food is available for sale in large quantity round the clock. A philanthropist from Karachi is running a separate Lunger Khana at his own expense since 1995. Bustling with activity, the place seems to have its own culture.

How the name Ajudhan was changed to Pakpattan? It is a fact that name Pakpattan (meaning pure ferry) distinguished due to the home and last resting-place of Baba Farid. According to a local lore, Mughal King Akbar on the eve of his visit to the shrine to pay homage to the saint declared Pakpattan as an official name of the town. The thought that so many people including Ibn-e-Batuta, Guru Nanik Dev Jee and Waris Shah had visited the shrine evokes awe and aura of eternity.

Wandering about in the older part of town near the relics of Kacha Burj - defensive tower that was erected by Haibat Khan during the rule of Sher Shah Suri, you can think about the strategic importance of this town in the bygone era. But, during Mughal time when danger from the North reduced, the town lost its defensive significance.

Pakpattan was first declared district headquarters in 1849 when British rule established in the Subcontinent. The headquarters were later moved to Gugera in 1852 and then to Sahiwal in 1856. British also instituted Pakpattan Municipal Committee in 1868. Kasur-Lodhran section of Railway line was laid in 1910 and Pakpattan became an important station on the Railway map because of railway divisional headquarters and loco sheds. Though this section of railway line was torn apart and sent to Mesopotamia during Second World War and the town could not prosper as an agricultural market in those days. On July 1, 1990, Pakpattan was again declared district headquarters. This became the only district of the country without any tehsil until Arifwala tehsil was included in the district in 1995. In order to preserve the bits and pieces of history lying under the layers of time, the experts could carry out a survey to record the places having essential significance. The living heritage should be declared as 'protected area' - the concept that presently is not there in Pakistan.


posted by S A J Shirazi @ 5:09 PM, , links to this post

Hellenistic and Parthian Gandhara

Pervaiz Munir Alvi

Pakistan is home to the ancient Gandhara Civilization. Its Buddhist character, which this civilization is best known for, was first established in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when colonial British military men and archeologists discovered various ancient religious sites near the city of Taxila in the Potowar region of Pakistan.

However since independence of Pakistan, the late 20th century studies and research conducted both by the Pakistani and Western scholars have documented and confirmed that Gandhara Civilization was not always Buddhist in character but had also gone through some well defined Hellenistic and Parthian periods as well.

The Hellenistic period of Gandhara starts with the arrival of Alexander the Great of Macedonia in 329 B.C. After conquering Taxila in 327 B.C. he remained in the areas now constituting Pakistan for another two years until his return via Indus Valley, Arabian Sea and Makran Coast also in Pakistan.

The ancient Gandhara proper consisting of the Peshawar Basin of Kabul River and Upper Indus Valley, along with the sister communities of Udayana in Swat, Pakistan and Bactria in north east Afghanistan has come to be known as the Greater Gandhara. Prior to the Greek arrival, thanks to its location on the now famous Silk Road, the area had already become one of the economically most prosperous regions of the world. But the
Greek conquest brought such significant cultural, economical, political and religious changes to the Greater Gandhara region that historians and anthropologists are now more than ever inclined to call the three subsequent centuries following the Alexandrian invasion as Hellenistic (330 B.C.-129 B.C.) and Parthian (247 B.C.-224 A.D.) periods of today’s Pakistan and Afghanistan.

As a result of the Greek conquest politically the region became part of the Alexandrian  Empire stretching from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Indus Basin. Before his return Alexander installed his various generals as local kings of the conquered territories. A string of kingdoms were established from one end to the other end of the empire even though Alexander who died in year 323 B.C. did not live long enough to taste the fruits of his exploits. Soon after his death, a local upstart of humble origin named Chandra Gupta Maurya was able to set up a kingdom in the Indus Valley. Seleucus, a general of Alexander, unsuccessfully tried to win back the lost territories (306/305 B.C.) but the counterattacks of the Mauryans forced the Greeks to retreat towards Bactria. Later his grandson Ashoka stretched the empire from Afghanistan to Bengal with Pataliputra
(Putna, India) as its capital. Ashoka converted to Buddhism and under his patronage Taxila gained further prominence. But the Mauryan empire died with Ashoka in 231 B.C. and Greeks under the leadership of Demetrius made a come back to reclaim Greater Gandhara.

Economically the Alexandrian invasion brought trade routes from the Eastern Mediterranean to Gandhara-the gateway to China-under Greek control. The most significant change was the opening of a second trade route. Sea ports like Alexandria, Egypt and Barbarikon near Karachi, Pakistan became important economic hubs. Under Greek protection commercial ships from Alexandria via the Nile River, Red Sea, Arabian Sea and lower Indus River would travel all the way up to the present day city of Multan, Pakistan with goods en route to China; further adding to the prosperity of the Greater Gandhara.

Culturally and religiously the Greek arrival added one more layer to the Gandharan diversity. Even though under Ashoka Buddhism had officially arrived in Gandhara, but still with the exception of monasteries and rock edicts commissioned by him, there have been no discoveries of Buddhist iconology as symbols of popular religion of that period. On the other hand the popular artifacts discovered from various sites near Taxila, and identified as belonging to the period between 3rd. century B.C. and 1st. century A.D., show Hellenistic and Parthian but not Buddhist characters. 

These carved stone pieces such as dishes and slabs, statuettes and other objects were made of schist, phyllite and steatite and are now part of a larger Samuel Eilenberg Collection housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Carved Greek mythical gods such as Apollo, Aphrodite, Daphne; characters such as wrestler Heracles and Nemean lion; symbols such as floral wreaths and grape wines regularly appear in these objects. The Buddhist icons discovered from ancient Gandhara sites, under latest studies are now dated as belonging to the post Greek and Parthian 1st century A.D. and later periods.

Greek period is marked by the distinct Hellenistic styles of town planning, western art and architecture, coinage and iconology, Greek language and personal drapery. From Greeks the political control of Greater Gandhara successively passed on to the Shakas, Parthians and Scythians. Parthians who had established a vast Second Persian empire stretched from Caspian Sea in the north, Mesopotamia in the west and Indus in the east considered Greater Gandhara as their domain and essential to their control of East-West trading routes. In the Mediterranean region the political power had passed on to the Romans. Even though Parthians and Romans continuously fought with each other, together the two empires controlled the land and sea trade routes between Europe and China. Under Parthian rule the Greek style and symbolism in Gandharan artifacts
gradually fades out and is replaced by the Parthian cultural influence.

First century A.D. marks the end of Hellenistic and Parthian periods of Greater Gandhara. Kushans, a nomadic tribe from Central Asia took control of Greater Gandhara and Indus Basin and then marched on to the Ganges Valley in North India. Kushans unlike Greeks and Parthians patronized Buddhism originating from the Ganges Valley as the state religion and thus set in the Buddhist period of Greater Gandhara that lasted until 6th and 8th centuries A.D. in present day Pakistan and Afghanistan respectively.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 8:00 AM, , links to this post

Sindhia Mein Sikandar by Salman Rashid

Sindhia Mein Sikandar by Salman Rashid – Episode - 3

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 2:32 PM, , links to this post

Moving the mountains

Porters are the backbone of most climbing expeditions, trekking and adventurous exploration into the mountains all over the world. The agile, tireless, hardworking people, primarily from local communities, ferry massive loads of gear on their backs. Like the more familiar Sherpa people of the Himalaya, the Pakistani porters are respected among fraternity of mountain lovers as some of the best porters in the world. They are dedicated and know where the crevasses and icefalls are, how to acclimatize, how much food and fuel to haul up the hill, when to push on, when to rest. They are unsung heroes of high-altitude mountaineering. Without their labour, many a base camps would never have been established; many a summit would never have been conquered.

I had lived some of my life in the base camps of majestic mountains in Northern Pakistan; with mountaineers, explorers and adventurers from all over the world and porters from Pakistan. During my to-ing and fro-ing in mountain areas, I have befriended many local porters. Some are still on my contact list but I have had the fortune to know Pinion Shah, best in his trade a little better.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 8:00 AM, , links to this post

Built Heritage

Traveling through Pakistan countryside away from the main highways, it is best to keep remember that petrol stations are few and far between on relatively deserted roads. Also the road, drive slowly and keep close to the edge of your road when encountering large trucks. Watch out for animals transport and animals on the road. Be sure your motor vehicle is roadworthy. You do not want to suffer a breakdown anywhere back o’ Bourke, ie, away from civilization. Or else be ready to what happened to us while going to see the mosque in Bhong.

After having famous ‘Doodh Mesu’ from a hotel in Sadiq Abad, we turned off the Road towards village Bhong. In the areas as the harvest approaches, the traveller, especially in the irrigated tracts, ride through endless expanses of waving crops of different shades of colour, out of which the villages seem to rise like islets in an ocean of green. After the harvest all is changed: the dull brown of the fields is relieved by the trees, solitary or in groves and avenues, and by the hamlets and village ponds. Or one sees the haystacks and threshers kicking off dust.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 8:00 AM, , links to this post

In Karachi

A man peels Neem twigs at a sidewalk in Karachi. Branches of the Neem tree are commonly used as traditional toothbrushes for medical purposes. – Photo by Reuters


posted by S A J Shirazi @ 7:00 AM, , links to this post

In Shalamar Garden

Have a party with Squirrels at Light Within

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 8:00 AM, , links to this post

Cholistani Rut and Rang

The women folk in drab landscape of desert wearing nath (nosegay), katmala (necklace), kangan (big bangles), pazeb (worn on toes), bright color, and vivid pattern lehngas of 20 yards and high cholis may one day become part of history. Maybe not so in near future! Sofi poet Khawaja Ghulam Farid, who spent 18 years of his life wandering about in Cholistan, admiring its beauty and people wrote, "But what tongue shall tell the glory of it, the perpetual strength of it, and sublimity of its lonely desolation! And who shall paint the splendor of its light." The poet was passionately found of desert milieus that are hard, dry and at first repulsive. His fascination for Cholistan was so rich that his poetry has woven melodious aura all around Rohi -- as the desert is called in a local dialect. He has set the standards for desert wanderers. I can tell you something of what I have seen during my intermittent stay - from 1977 till 2000 - in the desert, but I cannot tell you the grander of the desert, nor the glory of colors that wrap the burning sand. The awesome vistas and richness of the desert are beyond description. Cholistan is a land of legends, myths, velor, romance, folk melodies, heritage and regal elegance.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 8:48 AM, , links to this post

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