Gakhar Monuments Of Pharwala And Bagh Jogian

Gakhar Monuments Of Pharwala And Bagh Jogian
Monuments of the Gakhars, who ruled Pothohar in Punjab are found in many towns and villages of the region. The most impressive structures of the Gakhar rulers are located at Dangali in Kallar Syedan Tehsil, Rawat in Rawalpindi tehsil, the Mai Qamro mosque, the tomb of Muqarab Khan in Bagh Jogian at Islamabad and Pharwala fort in Kahuta Tehsil.

Many forts and fortresses were also built by the Gakhars in Pothohar, the majority of which are now in a bad state of preservation except the Rawat fort.

So-called tomb of Sultan Muqarab Khan at Bagh Jogian

According to Historical Forts of Pakistan by Shaikh Khurshid Hasan (2005) the Pharwala fort which is believed to have been built by the Sultan Kai Gohar Gakhar in the 11th century is the most fabled fort of the Gakhars. Sultan Kaigohar was an associate of Sultan Mehmood of Ghazni. The fort was supposed to have been built over the ruins of the fort, which is probably of the Hindu Shahi period. It is located about 15 km north of the Gulberg Greens on the left bank of the Soan River. The Pharwala Fort is now in crumbling condition. Nowadays, a few Gakhar families reside inside the fort.

The fort was entirely renovated by Hathi (also called Hatti) Khan Gakhar, one of the chieftains of the Gakhar tribe. He was the first Gakhar ruler of the dynasty of that name, who fought against the Janjua Rajputs and drove them away from the present tehsils of Kallar Syedan, Kahuta and Rawalpindi. The Janjuas were the lords of those regions before the reign of the Gakhars in the Pothohar region. It was Hathi Khan Ghakhar who defeated them in many battles and brought their state under his dominion in the 16th century.

During the reign of Hathi Khan Gakhar, the Pharwala fort was attacked by Babur in 1519 and he was captured. Later on, he had returned the fort when Babur reconciled with Hathi Khan. In the battle between the Gakhars and the army of Babur, many Gakhar soldiers died fighting bravely. Their graves and tombs are located in four villages of Islamabad. Two graveyards are located at Bagh Jogian village, one near the mosque of Mai Qamro and the other close to the tomb of Muqarab Kahn Gakhar. The third graveyard is situated inside the fort. The fourth necropolis exists on the hillock overlooking Darwala village near Pind Daiyan in Islamabad. These people died while offering a tough resistance to the army of Babur. One of the eminent generals of Hathi Khan's army Bora Bangial or Bugial (a lineage of Gakhars) also died in that encounter, whose tomb is also located in the necropolis. The gallantry of Bora Bangial is still preserved in the memories of the folk storytellers of Darwala, Bhimber Tarar, Gora Mast and Pharwala villages.

Graves of Gakhar soldiers at Darwala village

Later, the Gakhars became loyal to the Mughals. When Humayun (d. 1556) lost his throne to Sher Shah Suri (d. 1545), the Gakhars did not change their loyalties and remained faithful to the Mughals. They launched a guerrilla war against Sher Shah Suri. To subdue the Gakhars, Sher Shah built the Rohtas fort. But he could not stop and rein in the growing power and guerrilla tactics of the Gakhars.

After the death of Hathi Khan Gakhar, Sultan Sarang shifted his capital to Rawat. Pharwala lost the splendour and the cultural activities came to end with a shift of the capital. Apart from Hathi Khan, Sultan Sarang Khan, the Gakhar family produced many powerful rulers, notably Sultan Muqarrab Khan, Sultan Fateh Khan, the founder of Khanpur, etc.

Hathi Gate

Like the male members of the Gakhar family, females also played a very significant role in the Gakhar dynasty. Many women particularly Mai Qamro wife of Hathi Khan, and Rani Mungo wife of Sultan Quli Khan Gakhar (d. 1674) who based herself in Dangali, are still remembered for their social welfare activities. Both were famous for constructing mosques for the faithful, water-wells for the poor and sarais for travelers, etc.

With the decline of Mughals, the Gakhars also became weak politically, and subsequently, they were replaced by Sikhs in 1819 AD. The Pharwala fort came under the control of the Sikhs. It began losing its past glory during the Sikhs.

The Pharwala had seven gates of which only three has survived. However, all the surviving gates Soan, Lashkari and Hathi are crumbling into pieces. All the ramparts have caved in, only the three gates have still withstood with the vagaries of weather.

To the east of the Pharwala fort is located a historic mosque at Bagh Jogian village in Islamabad. The village is also noted for sacred spaces of Nath yogis (Shiva ascetics). This village can be reached from Darwala and Bhimber Tarar. From Bhimber Tarar a road leads to Bagh Joghian. This mosque is situated west of Bagh Jogian village and well nigh close to Soan river bank. It is located on the right bank of the Soan river while on the left bank is located a formidable fort of Pharwala. From the mosque, one can have a spectacular view of the Pharwala fort. The mosque is believed to have been built by Mai Qamro, who was the wife of Hathi Khan Gakhar, a scion of the Gakhar dynasty.
When Humayun lost his throne to Sher Shah Suri, the Gakhars did not change their loyalties and remained faithful to the Mughals. They launched a guerrilla war against Sher Shah Suri

Mai Qamro Mosque at Bagh Jogian

The Gakhar women of the royal family occupied a prestigious and influential position in the dynasty. Some women like Mai Qamro and Rani Mungo acquired renown in the fields of art and architecture. They were also famous for welfare works. They carried out many social welfare activities by excavating several wells and stepped wells (Baolis) and caravan Sarais etc. According to Kai Goharnamah by Raizada Diwan Duni Chand, Rani Mungo became the ruler and ran her government from her capital at Dangali in the present-day Kallar Syedan tehsil. She was believed to have built a number of religious and secular buildings including a mosque, an Eidgah, a fortress and a palace. Remains and structures of all the buildings built by Rani Mungo can still be seen in and around Dangali in Kallar Syedan.

The Mai Qamro mosque is the great specimen of Gakhar architecture which appears to have been built in the early sixteenth century. The mosque is built in a rectangular plan and crowned with three squat domes. The southern dome of the mosque has caved in whereas two others are in fairly good condition. It is noted for three arched entrances. The central entrance is flanked by two recessed arches, which lend an amazing beauty to the façade of the structure. Above the arched entrance, one finds beautiful cut-brick ornamentation. Such embellishment cannot be found in the whole of the Pothohar. Dressed stone has been used to construct the mosque. Formerly it was lime-plastered, traces of which are still visible on the façade of the mosque.

View of Soan gate

The mosque of Mai Qamro was the prototype for all other mosques in the Pothohar region. Barring the Giri mosque at Taxila, this is the most ancient surviving mosque of the Pothohar plateau. The three-domed mosque in Rawat fort, believed to have been built by Sultan Sarang Khan Gakhar, is a real prototype of the mosque of Mai Qamro. That is to say, the inspiration was taken from the mosque of Mai Qamro while building the mosque of Sultan Sarang Khan.

Some parts of the boundary wall of Mai Qamro mosque have survived the vagaries of weather. The northern boundary has survived. The remains of the southern and eastern walls are still visible. Close to the remains of the eastern wall are the tombs of Gakhar chiefs and soldiers. These dignitaries are believed to have died fighting against the troops of Zahir-ud-din Babur (1526-30), the founder of the Mughal dynasty who had invaded Pharwala, then capital of Hathi Khan Gakhar.

At walking distance from the mosque of Mai Qamro is located the tomb of Muqarab Khan Gakhar. Adjacent to

Closer view of the so-called tomb of Sultan Muqarab

the tomb is located many graves of Gakhars. The tomb is unique in terms of architecture. Nowhere in Pothohar – save at Rawat –does one find such an octagonal tomb with a portico. The so-called tomb of Sultan Sarang in Rawat fort is also octagonal, but does not have a portico to add beauty to the structure. One finds many historical tombs and funerary wall enclosures in various villages and towns in the Pothohar region. Of these, the tomb of Hakim at Hasan Abdal, the so-called tomb of Rani Mungo at Dangali, Attock tomb and several other funeraries at Attock Khurd, funerary wall enclosure in Mohara Malhiar at Shah Allah Ditta, funerary wall enclosure at Takkal in Kallar Syedan, wall enclosure at Palina in Gujar Khan and a tomb at Rohtas, etc. Nevertheless, the tomb at Bagh Joghian is a unique and impressive funerary monument of the Gakhar noble Sultan Muqarab Khan, the last ruler of Pharwala in Pothohar.

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