Past and Pluralism in Saghri Village

Past and Pluralism in Saghri Village
Located about 15 km west of Basal chowk is Saghri village which is one of the historic villages in Jand tehsil of Attock district. Historic buildings still dot the landscape of the village, a majority of which are believed to have been built by Hindus before the Partition of 1947. Although the majority of the buildings are not in their original shape, but they still lend grace to the landscape of the village.

According to revenue records, the village was founded by Sagar Khan Khattar around 1460. According to Rabnawaz Khan Khattar of Saghri village, Sagar Khan Khattar had two sons Mastu Khan and Jastu Khan. Sagar Khan was the ancestor of all the Khattars who live in Saghri village. Eight different sub-lineages, locally called Pati, live in Saghri, who trace their ancestry to Saghar Khan Khattar. The eight sub-lineages or Pati of the Khattar tribe in Saghri include Sarwar Khan alias Malkal, Sardar Khani, Ahmed Misrial, Ahmed Himtal, Khenal, Khairde Khan, Noor Khani and Karma Roshnal.

Grave of Baba Kali Sarhi Wali Sarkar in Saghri

Later other Muslim tribes also settled in the village. There are about 18 mosques in the village. The oldest mosque in the village is known as Hod Wali masjid which was probably built soon after the foundation of the village by Sagar Khan Khattar. The mosque of Baba Hasu Khan is the second oldest mosque in Saghri village. Both the mosques were painted from inside. And both were also noted for wooden doors and ceilings which were all made by local woodcarvers. Moreover, local masons built these mosques. Both were renovated from time to time hence they have not survived with anything of original now. The notables of the Khattar tribe also built wells: most of these have now been abandoned. According to village revenue records, one of the wells was sold by Khattar notables to Bhai Kalyan Singh of Saghri.

Hindu haveli in Saghri

Later, Hindu merchants also settled, most probably in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, in Saghri village. The Hindus established business networks in different town and villages of Attock (formerly Campbellpur) and some in other towns and cities of Punjab. They established a market in the village where they sold various things to the Muslims. All the shops in the Saghri bazaar belonged to Hindu merchants except for a few Muslims. The bazaar was noted for wooden doors. Almost all the doors of the shops were ornately carved. Some of these had names of the owners carved on them. Similar bazaars with shops having intricate wooden carved doors are also located in the other villages and towns of Jand and Pindi Gheb tehsils of Attock. The prominent towns and villages here are Jand, Pindi Gheb, Makhad, Thatta, Nara, Domail etc.
According to revenue records, the village was founded by Sagar Khan Khattar around 1460

According to Amir Khan Khattar of Saghri village, who is 94 years old, the famous Hindu merchants of Saghri village were Ram Kor, Hemraj and his son Jagpal, Ishwar, Vishan Suri and Karam Chand Suri. They had also businesses not only in the village but also in other towns in Attock and Punjab. The shops of Vishan Suri, Karam Chand Suri, Krishan, Mal Kaka, Mehra Khatri and Phula were also located in Saghri bazaar. Some Hindu shopkeepers had their names carved on the wooden doors. At present, the name of Sitaram is only found on one of the doors of the shop in Saghri bazaar. Imposing havelis of Hindus were also located in the bazaar area. There were about 30 splendid Choubaras of Hindus in Saghri village, which were noted for intricate wooden balconies, doors and ceilings. Today a majority of the Choubaras have lost their original beauty.

A haveli in Saghri village

Stone and wood were profusely used to construct a haveli in Saghri village. Many of the havelis in Saghri village are noted for wood and stone carvings. The wooden ceilings and balconies were also distinctive features of Hindu havelis in Saghri village. Main entrance walls were decorated with niches that were made to place oil lamps. Profuse decoration on the entrances of the havelis indicated aesthetics, affluence and the identity of the owners.

Amir Khan Khattar, an oral historian
of Saghri village

Apart from the havelis of the Hindus, there were also two temples and a Janj Ghar in Saghri. All these structures have become history now and are only preserved in the memories of the villagers. According to Amir Khan Khattar, the Janj Ghar was one of the most imposing structures in Saghri village. Woodwork and paintings were the two forms of decoration that were found in the Janj Ghar. Similarly, both the temples were decorated with mural paintings representing scenes from sacred and secular Hindu scriptures.

Shop of and house of Sitaram in Saghri

Dilapidated haveli in Saghri

Like other villages in the Jandal area in Jand tehsil, Saghri was known for Hindu-Muslim interfaith harmony. Jandal is named after Javinda Khan who was a son of Khattar Khan. The Jandal area comprises 13 villages - Nara, Nathiyal, Pari, Kundrala, Pindi Sirhal, Pind Sultani, Garhi, Basal, Mithiyal, Kahal, Domail, Thatta and Saghri. In this area of Jandal, Saghri was also known for the rich Muslim Khattar notables who were mainly agriculturalists and the Hindus who were the merchants. The Hindu merchants of the Jandal area were known far and wide for their business skills. They had business networks in other towns and villages of Punjab and also in NWFP (now KP).
Like other villages in the Jandal area in Jand tehsil, Saghri was known for Hindu-Muslim interfaith harmony

The most effective force behind this interfaith harmony was the liberal attitude and positivity of the notables of the Khattar tribe. The Khattar tribe who provided the Hindus with a conducive environment to flourish with their businesses in Saghri and other villages in the Jandal and Jand area. One of the notables of the Khattar tribe, Waris Khan Khattar, who was Numbardar of Saghri village from 1937 to 1954, played an instrument role in the interfaith harmony between Hindus and Muslim in Saghri village.

According to Amir Khan, not a single untoward incident took place between Hindus and Muslim of Saghri in the history of pre-partition Saghri.

Like Muslims, Hindus also used to venerate a Muslim saint Baba Kali Sarhi Wali Sarkar. Hindus used to come to pay homage to a Muslim mystic every day. Baba Sarhi Wali Sarkar belonged to the Khattar tribe who came from Bagh Nelab to Saghri village. Bagh Nelab was the first seat of power of the Khattar tribe who seized the area from the Janjuas who were the lords of that area before the arrivals of the Khattar to Bagh Nelab in the 12th century. The Khattar tribe began to rule the area from with the main stronghold at Bagh Nelab from the 12th century to the first quarter of 16th century. Today, one can still see the remains of the fortress of the Bagh Nelab which overlook the Indus River.

Baba Kali Sarhi Wali Sarkar, a Khattar mystic, used to wrap his body with a long black shawl – hence he became known over a period of time as Baba Kali Sarhi Wali Sarkar. It is said that when Hindus closed their shops in the evening, they first used to go to the shrine of Baba Kali Sarhi Wali Sarkar to pay him respects and then went to their houses.

The author is an anthropologist. He may be contacted at Excerpts have been taken from the author’s forthcoming book “Memories, Mystics and Monuments of Pothohar.” All photos are by the author

The author is an anthropologist. He tweets at: @Kalhorozulfiqar