Temples and Havelis of Makhad

Temples and Havelis of Makhad
Apart from the historic mosques and shrines, Makhad, in Jand tehsil in Attock district, also boasts some temples and havelis which were mainly built during the British Raj. There were quite a few temples in Makhad that were built by rich Hindu merchants of Makhad. Two temples were located near the shrine of Moulana Muhammad Ali Makhadi, one of which was located south of the shrine. This temple has now disappeared. The second temple which overlooks the Indus river has withstood the vagaries of weather. It is located southwest of the shrine of Moulana Muhammad Ali Makhadi. This is one of the few surviving temples in Makhad town which reflects the identity of the Hindu community who left the town in the aftermath of the partition of 1947.   Many temples in the Attock district are noted for their distinct art and architecture. Several of them are now in dilapidated condition. One of the distinctive features of these temples is the painting work that decorates the interior of the temples. The majority of these temples depict themes that were taken from sacred Hindu scriptures.

Wooden carved door in a haveli in Makhad

Like several other temples in Attock district, the Makhad temple is also noted for wall painting. The outer walls still have traces of the paintings. The temple is accessed through mandapa. The domed mandapa of the temple is adorned with images of Hindu deities but most of these are in a bad state of preservation now. Episodes from Bhagavata Purana, Gita Govinda and Ramayana are painted on the walls and ceiling of mandapa. The most fascinating depiction on the domed ceiling is Krishna Raas Lila. Of all the lilas of Krishna, Raas (aesthetic emotion) Lila is the most pivotal – and it is painted in the temples, Sikh and Hindu samadhis and havelis. The ceiling of the Beval temple is also adorned with the Raas Lila of Krishna with gopis (cowherd girls) in which the deity is shown dancing with gopis in a circle. The gopis formed up in a circle after hearing the flute of Krishna that drew them from out of their homes.

Vishnu reclining on Shesha in s Hindu temple at Makhad

This Raas Lila or sacred ring/circular dance of Lord Krishna with gopis can also be seen in Krishna temple in the Kabari Bazaar and Kalyan Das temple in the Kohati Bazaar in Rawalpindi city, Kot Fateh Khan Samadhi in the village of the same name and Fateh Jang temples in Fateh Jang town etc. This was one of the favourite themes of Potohari painters – who mainly painted it on the domed ceilings of the temples and Samadhis.

Apart from Raas Lila, another painting in the Makhad temple shows Lord Vishnu in the form of Anantashyana

However, there are a few exceptions in Pothohar where one finds this theme of the Raas Lila of Lord Krishna depicted on walls, foremost being the temple of Kalyan Das in Kohati Bazaar in Rawalpindi.

This bridge connects two havelis in Makhad

Apart from Raas Lila, another painting in the Makhad temple shows Lord Vishnu in the form of Anantashyana. This panel shows Vishnu as resting on the coils of the cobra Ananta-Shesha with his wife Lakshmi. According to, Usha Bhatia and P.C. Jain (2008) the authors of The Magic of Indian Miniatures. Vol.2. published by the Academy of Fine Arts and Literature from New Delhi, in popular iconography he is called Sheshai Vishnu. From the navel of the Vishnu rises a lotus on which sits the god Brahma. According to Hindu beliefs, he then brought the Creation into being. The best representation of this theme is painted in Soojan Singh temple in Rawalpindi.

Narasimha avatar of Vishnu in a Hindu temple at Makkad

One of the panels in the Makhad temple also depicts Rama, Lakshman and Sita, whereas Hanuman is shown paying homage to Rama. This painting is now in a bad state of preservation. Another panel depicts the Narasimha avatar of Vishnu.

Hindu temple at Makhad

The garbhagriha (inner sanctum) of the temple is also painted but the majority of the paintings are lost. This garbhagriha is a square superimposed by a square shikhara. The shikhara is further decorated with miniature shikharas. Generally, the shikharas of the temples in other villages and towns of Pothohar are octagonal.

Entrance to a temple

Apart from this temple, Makhad is also host several Hindu havelis, the majority of which has been modified now. These havelis are now located in various Mohallas of the town. The most splendid and imposing havelis are located in the old bazaar area of the town. These havelis belonged to the Hindu merchants who had also shops in the old bazaar of the town. Apart from their shops in the old bazaar of Makhad town, Hindus also had their businesses in other towns and villages of Attock. The prominent Hindu merchants who had shops in the old Bazaar included Jagar Ram and his brother Sevak Ram, Maya, Bulati Shah, Gopal Mehta, Laba (locally called Labu), Kundan etc. The shops are still extant in the bazaar, and are now owned by Muslim merchants. The wooden doors of the shops are elaborately carved.

Hindu women seldom come down from their havelis into the streets. They used to go over bridges to visit their relatives

All the havelis in Makhad town are noted for their intricate woodwork. The imposing wooden doors, windows, balconies and bridges that connected two havelis all reflect the skill of the Pothohari craftsmen. Every haveli in Makhad has an ornately wooden carved door that reflects the aesthetics and affluence of the merchants and aristocrats of the town. According to Allahi Bakhsh, one of the oral historians of Makhad, the merchants and nobles of Makhad hired the best masons and craftsmen from across the Punjab and KP (formely NWFP) to construct their havelis and make wooden doors, balconies and bridges. Stone and wood were profusely used in all havelis of Makhad.

Depiction of Raas Lila in a Hindu temple at Makhad

The entrance doors always received additional attention from the owners. While passing through the narrows streets of the town, one has a first glimpse of the ornately wooden carved doors which reflect the identity of the owners of the havelis. Not everyone could afford to have such ornate wooden carved doors in their havelis. The wood for these doors and balconies was imported from other countries. One does not find such a large number of wooden carved doors in any other town and village in Attock district.

Hindu women seldom come down from their havelis into the streets. They used to go over bridges to visit their relatives. Several of the haveli bridges have also impressive woodwork. One can still see such bridges that connect one haveli to another in Makhad town. Apart from Hindu havelis, a few havelis were also built by Muslim merchants and nobles. One of the famous Muslim havelis bears an inscription in Persian above the main entrance and was built by Muhammad Akram.

The author is an anthropologist. He may be contacted at zulfi04@hotmail.com. 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