Guest Post: Decaying heritage

Posted on August 7, 2006
Filed Under >S.A.J. Shirazi, Architecture, Culture & Heritage, History, People, Travel
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By S A J Shirazi

An old sleepy and dusty village Satghara lies about 20 minutes drive away from Okara in the quiet backwaters of Punjab.

The coins found at Satghara prove that the place was inhabited at the time of Kushan dynasty. On the Southern bank of River Ravi, it is a typical Pakistani village where farmers live like rustics in the face of urban attractions. Though in a state of total neglect it has never been out of limelight.

Besides heritage conscious people from all over the world the village has been visited by many prominent Balcoh leaders. The reason they say is that its a “tukia nwab chrakr ki,” the last resting place of great Baloch hero Mir Chakar Rind.

If one wants to absorb the sense of history, Satghara is just the place. A monument of departed greatness the relic belongs to a celebrated hero who now rest helpless and neglected in this silent place for removed from the noisy haunts of men. In the periphery few van trees, may be as old as the relics, stand witness to the bygone era.

For Balochis the sixteenth century was a very eventful period. They fought series of wars amongst themselves. These tribal conflicts not only cussed large scale blood shed but also resulted in mass migrations to Punjab Sindh and Gujrat.

Mir Chakar Rind is considered one of the greatest Baloch heroes. He is the center of Balcohi love lore and war ballads. He lived in Sevi (modern time Sibbi) in the hills of Balochistan and became the head of Rind tribe after his father Shiahak. A natural leader and great warror, Mir Chakar Rind was a man with resolute determination. A class of Baloch even regards him as invested with saintly virtues and mystic powers. After the end of the thirty year war against Lasharies he migrated to Punjab between 1518 to 1519.

Why Chakare-e-Azam as he was known preferred to settle in central Punjab so far away from Sibi is not known. Once at Satghara, he constructed a new hamlet near an old village. He built a fortification wall around the village and watch towers in 15 squares kilometers area encircling the fort for early warning against impending dangers.

It was from this place that he refused to help Sher Shah Suri. His forces under the able command of his son Mir Shahdad, joined Humayun when after a long exile the Mughal emperor recaptured Delhi and ousted Afghan Suries in 1556. The emperor as a reward conferred a vast Jagir including Satghara (also horses and slaves) upon him. He ruled this chieftaincy till he died in 1565.

It was the tomb and fort of Mir Chakar Rind or whatever is left of it that I had come to see at Sathghara. The fort is large. Actually the wall once encircled the entire village. The two gateways with flat bands and pointed arches still survive though badly damaged. The wooden doors have disappeared. With growth in population the village has grown and spilled out of encircling wall long ago. The cluster of brick houses inside the wall is an eyesore.

Constructed of narrow red bricks used in upright courses to ensure additional strength; the wall is about 25 feet high and at least three feet thick. Despite the solidity of construction no where does it retains the original shape and is in urgent need of repair. Some of its most salient portions exist between the tomb and the first gateway. As I walked along the wall I could see massive cracks running from top to bottom. Salinity is also creeping up the walls. Beside one of the door ways a sign board reads that the Archealogy Department protects at the site.

How seriously the warning sign has been taken by the villagers is quite evident. The red thin bricks of the centuries old protected monument are used in almost every house in the village. At places the villagers have utilized the fortification wall as part of their houses. Major portion of the wall and what would have been the living quarters of the family of Mir Chakar Rind have all lost. The courtyard of the tomb has shrunk due to encroachments and presently it is being used as “shamlat deh” for keeping the animals.

The followers who had accompanied Mir Chakar Rind to Satghara built the tomb. Today there is no Baloch living in the village. The neglected tomb is dilapidated and the surviving history is falling fast into decay. Presently even the watchman has not been employed by the Archaeology Department to look after the site.

The main chamber of the once majestic and imposing tomb is octagonal in plan. The roof decorative work and plaster have vanished. Cracks have snaked in all direction on the walls. The rain water gathers in the roofless main chamber and stays there till it is dried by the sun. The water is destroying the foundations of the crumbling edifice.

There are seven rough mud graves inside the chamber. A small tablet distinguishes the central grave. It reads:

Askari Aaramgah, Mir Chakar (Khan) Rind, Satghara, Okara, Munjabib Young Baloch Welfare Society, Ravi Road Lahore

Even the name of the great hero on the tablet is not written correctly similarly the large plaque provided by the Archaeology Department is full of mistakes.

The tomb was desecrated and its roof demolished by Maharaja Ranjit Singh who on his way to Multan had stayed in Satghara about 180 years ago. It has never been repaired even since Governments Archaeology Departments (federal as well as provincial) visiting elite police, (there is a police station too in the village) district administration or locals no body seems to be concerned about the state of this important monument.

The first impact that this monument leaves is an emotional one for it is a symbol of cultural identity and a part of heritage. It also has architectural historic documentary spiritual and symbolic value. The remains of the monument have to be preserved and saved from total ruination a danger they are facing at present.

As I drove back on a single way metallic road, plied mainly by animal transports and milkmen on the motorbikes, I could not help thinking: can the plight of this priceless site be brought to the notice of echelons of power? Can some national or international agency be moved to act and save the place for coming generations.

S A J Shirazi is a Lahore-based writer. See more at Shirazi’s blog ‘Light Within.’

4 responses to “Guest Post: Decaying heritage”

  1. Dr Shah Murad Mastoi Rind Baloch says:

    I personally visited satgharah at OKARA…….I saw tomb of my Grand Pa MIR CHAKAR KHAN RIND. It is not well maintained indeed.

  2. muhammad aslam gabdu says:

    dear sir
    being a collector radio carbon test-14 is occasionally
    needed to know the exact age of an precious stone
    item so please inform me if the required facility is
    catered to needed like me with its exact charges

    with thanks
    muhammad aslam gabdu

  3. Raza says:

    Very well written and presented. The neglect that we see here is not just a localized problem, its nationwide. The government is one thing, the worst part is that most of our people don’t really care about our heritage too. You see lovers etching or chalking up their names on historic buildings or other enthusiasts who just want people to know that they too have visited this place, leaving behind their names on the walls. To me, crumbling state of these buildings is not as bad as the desecration I just described above. Crumbles at least give these buildings a certain charm and a feeling of being historic because as we all know when our government (or the responsible department) does do any restoration, it is of an overzealous kind which in an attampt to preserve such historical places, completely takes away from the authenticity of the original grandeur.

  4. jugnoo says:

    Well i wanted to see ALL THINGS OF PAKISTAN but couldnt do so. Well nice way to represent our cultural heritage

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