Shifting Sher Garh

Posted on October 2, 2006
Filed Under >S.A.J. Shirazi, Culture & Heritage, History, Travel
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Guest Post by S A J Shirazi

An old sleepy and dusty village Sher Garh (lion’s den) lies about 20 minutes drive away from Renala Khurd near Okara. The coins found at Sher Garh prove that the place was inhabited at the time of Kushan dynasty.
Though “the name Sher Garh was given by the Governor of Molten, Faith Jang Khan after the name of Afghan King Sher Shah Sure,” wrote Abbas Khan Sarauni in his book Tarikh Sher Shah Suri (History of Sher Shah Suri).
On the old bank of River Beas, it is a typical Pakistani village where farmers live like rustics in the face of urban attractions. Even the electricity and telephone are a recent phenomenon. But the village has never been out of limelight. Besides heritage conscious people from all over the world, the village is venerated by a large number of devotees. Reasons, a massive mud fort and mosque which were built in the period of Afghan Sher Shah Suri. And, it is the last resting place of Saint Muhammad Ibrahim Daud-e-Sani Kirmani Bandgi.

If one wants to absorb the sense of history, Sher Garh is a place to visit. Director Syed Noor has set his film Chooriyan (Bangles) in the background of this village. One has to possess a sensibility shaped in granite not to be moved by the village of past age that has not changed much in last 400 years. In the periphery few van (salvadora) trees, may be as old as the village stand witness to the bygone era. The village is experienced changed due to awareness about various things and agricultural advancements but at a snail speed

Saint Muhammad Ibrahim is regarded as one of the famous saints of central Punjab. His forefathers migrated from Kirman (Iran) and settled in Seetpur (suburbs of Multan) where Muhammad Ibrahim was born. The family later moved to Sher Garh when Mir Chakar Rind was ruling in the area. The Baluch hero Mir Chakar Rind having refused to help Sher Shah Suri joined Humayun when, after a long exiled Mughal emperor recaptured Delhi and ousted Afghan Suris in 1556. The emperor as a reward conferred a vast jagir including Sher Garh (also horses and slaves) upon him. He ruled this chieftaincy till he died in 1565.

Farishta has written, “Mir Chakar Rind was a holder of jagir and commanding hordes of warriors in Punjab.”

Muhammad Ibrahim completed his education in Basirpur and Lahore. Contemporary of saints like Musa Pak Shaheed and Sher Shah of Multan, he got his spiritual blessings from Saint Syed Hamid Ganj Buksh in Uch Sharif before he set about preaching Islam in Central Punjab. Komal Singh Maghyana, a famous landlord of his time who used to keep 1000 buffaloes (hence Maghyana) was one of the first who embraced Islam. Mulla Badauni wrote, “Hundreds of non-Muslims used to convert to Islam on the hands of Muhammad Ibrahim every day.”

Sher Shah Suri built a fort in Rohtas against Gakhars. But why the Governor Fateh Jang Khan built the mud fort near strongly defended and fortified places like Dipalpur and Pak Pattan? “t might have been built to guard against thieves and robbers,” says Muhammad Abbas Kirmani, the direct descendent of the saint, once told me. There is no trace of the fortification in the village. The mosque that was built in the middle of 10th century in the village was a fine specimen of Islamic architecture. It had large (100 x 25 feet) main chamber, five doors, five dooms and a wide compound with a well for abolition. The mosque had 30 feet high octagonal minaret in each corner. During the Sikh rule, the mosque was desecrated and damaged and it decayed completely in 1958. Now a new mosque has been built in red bricks at the same place. There used to be a library containing rare books and manuscripts that too was destroyed by the Sikh rule.

It was the shrine of Saint Muhammad Ibrahim that I had come to see at Sher Garh. Among the cluster of old and new houses inside the village is a dominant building of the shrine which is enclosed in a court-yard. It was constructed by Shah Abdul Maa-ali– the nephew of the saint. Upon entering the doorway to the shrine compound, I was taken aback at the sheer tranquility and beauty of the place. This grand edifice with solid masonry and ornate design wrought by artisans and artist centuries ago is one of the fine specimens of Muslims architecture. There are many graves of descendants and devotees and another smaller shrine in the enclosure. People were having food at lounger (community kitchen for free food) in one corner of the courtyard.

Constructed of narrow red bricks, used in upright courses to ensure additional strength, the shrine is located at the vantage point in the village. Being at the raised ground it looks higher than its actual height. The fine quality of marble has been used outside where as inside is decorated with intricate Kashi work.

A devotee was reciting Holy Quran in the main chamber. The shrine is in the care and custody of the Auqaf, though the department has not been able to repair even the gold plated pinnacle that needs immediate attention.

The first impact that this monument gives is an emotional one for it is a symbol of cultural identity – a part of heritage. It also has architectural historic, documentary, spiritual and symbolic values.

I managed to arrange impromptu meeting with Muhammad Abbas Kirmani, a progressive farmer, who had graduated from Government College Lahore in 1930. Muhammad Abbas is remarkably alert at the age of 84. Sitting inside the room of his home adjacent to the shrine, Muhammad Abbas Kirmani told me about the family history. He also talked candidly about every thing from agriculture policies to old customs to modern culture. I could not see the hand written Holy Quran, though. “It is taken out on the eve of annual mela which is held on March 13,” he said. Besides my differences of opinion on few of the things he said during our frank conversation, I was impressed by the amount of interest he had in variety of issues of the society, his force of conviction in arguments and intellect.

As I drove back on a single way metallic road through the green fields of sugarcane, piled mainly by animal transports and milkmen on the motorbikes, I could not help thinking: I shall have to go back to Sher Garh again. May be to see the annual mela (fair) next March.

One response to “Shifting Sher Garh”

  1. Umera says:

    I really love your posts as they have excellent imagery and are extremely informative. They always want me to visit the various parts of Pakistan that you so vividly describe.

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