By M Amir Awan
It was after many years that I stayed in my native village in Soon Sakesar for three weeks. There being no newspaper, it became fairly trying for me to while away my time. Therefore, I decided to visit the area’s important cultural landmarks and meet one or two eminent intellectuals and archaeologists to explore the ancient roots of civilization in Soon Sakesar. Soon Sakesar is a highly fertile area and it can boast of eminent poets, editors, columnists, educationalists and archaeologists like Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi, the late Zaheer Baber, Pirzada Muhammad Bakhsh, Ahmed Saeed Hamadani, Baba Ghulam Sarwar and a host of others
To start with, I had a lengthy sitting with Mr Ahmed Saeed Hamadani at Naushehra in his office at the Shah-e-Hamadan Public School. Mr Hamadani is an educationalist, a retired principal, and the author/translator of some 15 books on Sultan Bahu, Tasawwuf and Sufism. Being a scion of a Syed family of Khutakka, Mr Hamadani is more inclined towards mysticism and has devoted a lifetime to research on Shah-e-Hamadan Amir Kabir Syed Ali Hamadani and Suktan Bahu. In the process, he visited almost all the shrines (Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim) in Soon Sakesar and around. He is not only a learned scholar but also a widely-travelled man. He can be genuinely called a mystic scholar. His research on saints and mystic scholars earned him eloquent appreciation from such renowned scholars as the German orientalist, Anne Marie Schimmel and others.
During our three-hour sitting, we discussed a wide range of topics, mainly focusing on the cultural roots and evolution of civilization in Soon Sakesar. Now forming part of District Khushab, Soon Sakesar once constituted the south-western frontier of the Gandhara civilization. According to Mr. Hamadani, Soon Sakesar has passed through five distint cultural phases – the Stone Age, the Hindu period, the Rise and fall of Buddhism, revival of Hinduism and the advent of Islam.
When asked about the disappearance of Hindu and Buddhist civilization, Mr. Hamadani said the Muslim antipathy towards idols led them to destroy any traces of these civilizations that happened to come in contact with. But despite the ravages wrought by men and time, one can still find some milestones of Buddhist and Hindu civilization. There are remains of a stupa near Koradhi on Kathwai-Sakesar Road and the red bricks stripped from a stupa and laid into the walls of a newly built hut near Kathwai rest house. The foundations of a well with a wooden frame were also discovered during excavation for the sinking of a well at Kathwai. The foundation and the wooden frame are stated to have been laid during Budhist era. During another excavation for a well near Sirhal village, a well’s frame, commonly known as “chak” and made of oil-soaked wood, was discovered. The oik-soaked frame was stated to be of Buddhist era. Buddhist stupas, monasteries and temples were laid waste both by Hindus and the Muslims. The Muslim hostility towards idolatry sounded the death-knell for Buddhist statues. Barring one or two, none of Buddha’s statues could be discovered from anywhere in Soon Sakesar.
As regards the landmarks of Hindu civilization, they can be seen at many places. The more prominent are Anmb Sharif and Nurshingh Phoowar at the bed of a nullah in Rakh Pail. However, the landmarks of Muslim civilization dating back to ninth and tenth centuries can be seen everywhere. When asked as to why have all the major landmarks of Hindu civilization failed to endure, Mr. Hamadani said the elimination of Hindu culture from Soon Sakesar was an event of a unique nature.
As the Muslims put the Hindu civilians and soldiers to the sword, their cultural signposts also gave in to the Islamic creed and culture. According to Mr. Hamadani, Soon Sakesar, surrounded by hills on three sides and located at the western end of the Salt Range, escaped the ravages of invading forces and hordes. Sometimes it proved a sanctuary for the inhabitants fleeing from the wrath of alien forces. The temples at Anmb Sharif, guarded by steep cliffs and deep nullahs on all sides, were a haven for the retreating Hindus. There are some villages line Anga, Dhadhar and Khura, which are of undated origin. Some archaeologists describe them to be of pre-historic origin. But their names bear the stamp of Hindu language and culture. For instance, Dhadhar has been derived from the Sanskrit word Dadher, the name of a skin disease. As the Hindu settlements were scattered here, it came to acquire the name of Dhadher.
Similarly, the remains of an ancient Hindu settlement known as Tulajha testifies to its Hindu origin. Tulajha has been derived from Tulla and Anjha which means “balance” and “qila” in Sanskrit, meaning thereby a balanced fortress. The “qila” has only a narrow entrance and is guarded by steep hills on all sides. The traces of a sewerage system can still be detected at the place. It testifies to the advanced level of the Hindu civilication of the times. Some plateforms made of big stones engraved with a cow and the Shivlanga could be found near Khura until recently. But those symbols of Hindu civilization have now fallen victim to human hands. The name of village Khura, too, is of Hindu origin. It has been derived from “Khaur” which means a pass in a hill. Khura provided a pass to the incoming hordes from the north or the south. Khura also means a settlement in a Hindu dialect. When asked as to how a dying Hindu civilizationgave in to Muslim philosophy, Mr. Hamadani attributed its extinction to the physical elimination of Hindu polity and soldiery at the hands of the Muslims.
The Hindus in Soon Sakesar came in contact with the Muslims only through a clash of arms. There is little to prove that Hindus in this area were mesmerized or influenced by magnetic Islam. Soon Sakesar is the only area which could be subdued by the sword in the face of the legendary Janjua fighters. Most of the Hindus were either put to the sword or flight. However, their remnants continued to inhabit the area until partition.