Chakwal’s oldest village losing its historic sites


One of the Maari (grand house) built by a Sikh family before partition. — Photos by the writer
One of the Maari (grand house) built by a Sikh family before partition. — Photos by the writer

To the south of Chakwal lies its oldest village Bhoun. Stretching on both sides of Chakwal-Sargodha Road, the village still holds its cultural touch where Jalsa (bulls’ contest), Chhat (a traditional game of weight lifting) are still in vogue alongside modern day life.

The village is dotted with numerous historic sites including grand houses, havelis, ponds, temples and old trees.

Before partition, Bhoun’s population was predominantly Hindu whose major source of income used to be trade and they were well off.

The village remained the largest trade market of the district for decades.

Chakwal’s renowned historian late Professor Anwar Beg Awan who also hailed from Bhoun traces the history of Bhoun in Maha Bharta.

He says there is a reference to Bhoun in the epic book written in 3122BC, calling it the capital of Daroopad Nagar which was a state of present day Punjab.

But Mr Beg was also of the view that Bhoun was the name of one of the sons of Raja Dahir who laid the foundation of this town.

Over a 100 years old Banyan tree on the main road in Bhoun village.
Over a 100 years old Banyan tree on the main road in Bhoun village

“The Glossary of Tribes and Castes testifies that Bhoun was the son of Raja Dahir,” says Prof Awan in his book Dhan Malooki.

According to him, Bhoun came into existence some 700 years ago. As the town was established by Hindus, it still retains the ruins of Hindu temples.

Although the havelis and other grand houses are still in good shape as they were occupied by the Muslim migrants, temples have been ruined and ponds have vanished.

The vast land associated with ponds and temples have been occupied by the influential residents of the village. Muslims razed some temples to avenge the demolition of Babari Mosque.

The Janj Ghar (Janj House) built by Bikram Jeet about 200 years ago still stands with its grandeur being intact. Mohammad Imran, the current owner of this grand house, has been offered the price of his choice but he refused to sell it.

Haji Nazar Mohammad, in his late 90s, a resident of Vahali village who spent his childhood with Hindus and Sikhs of the village
Haji Nazar Mohammad, in his late 90s, a resident of Vahali village who spent his childhood with Hindus and Sikhs of the village

Janj Ghar has 12 rooms and two verandas built opposite to each other. The house was built masterly. Splendour and attraction emanate from its every brick. After seeing this grand house one can say that its owner Bikram Jeet was not only a rich person but was also endowed with aesthetic sense.

The Marri, another grand house having 14 rooms and balconies, with wooden ceilings and pillars having beautiful paintings.

According to Prof Baig, the Marri was built by Rai Bahadur Sardar Jai Singh who was the father of Gen Arora (Indian army chief at the time of 1971 war) in the third decade of twentieth century. Marri is currently owned by Wali Mohammad Khan, a man who came from Saharanpur of UP (Indian state) at the time of partition.

Prof Beg says that famous Datt family of Indian film industry also belonged to Bhoun but their ancestral houses have vanished. Some other historic havelis are also being owned by immigrants who are trying their best to retain their real shape.

According to Prof Beg, the famous Oberoi family of India also hailed from this village. He says that Flashman Hotel of Rawalpindi and Cecil Hotel in Murree were owned by the Oberoi family of Bhoun.

The father of legendary music composer Madan Mohan also settled in Chakwal city from Bhoun.

Being the centre of trade and a large town, Bhoun had its own railway station. The train that used to run from Mandra stopped at Bhoun Railway Station. The Mandra-Bhoun railway track was dismantled during the second regime of Nawaz Sharif. Now the railway station has been lying crumbled.

But on the other hand the temples and ponds which are being petered out yearns for immediate attention. Two temples have been leased out, one (Shawala Mandar) to the family of Mohammad Abbas. The other one situated in Mohalla Kochar has been turned into a cattle-pan. A donkey and three cows along with some goats are being kept there. Mohammad Basheer says he pays Rs150 as rent to the government every month.

Another temple near a pond called Madhu Wali Ban is being used as a toilet. Once a holy building of Hindus now is littered with dirt. A few yards away of this temple, another one lies demolished. It is said that temple was demolished by some Muslims in reaction to Babri Masjid incident. Another temple in Mohalla Pind is being used as a store of dung-cakes. All these temples are crumbling. One of them has already been demolished.

The sacred ponds have been rendered dry. The Gurdas Ban (Gurdas Pond) had been filled with soil few years ago on the order of a Union Council nazim of Bhoun.

A senior official of the Punjab Archaeological Department while talking to Dawn admitted the importance of the historic sites of Bhoun village. “It is our dilemma that we pay less attention towards our heritage,” he lamented. He added that his department had not had enough funds to preserve the historic sites of Bhoun village.

The crumbling landscape of Bhoun can still be preserved if the rulers look towards the plight of our rich cultural heritage.

Published in Dawn, August 16th, 2015

Courtesy DAWN