A Trio at Large
Panja Sahib and Beyond

To begin with, I shall take some liberty in putting my readers through the discomfort of absorbing a few definitions. The terms I am talking about are: شرعی (sharâee), صوفی (sufi) and ملامتی (mlamâtee).

  • The first one, sharâee is typically indicative of set pieces of rules and regulations. A personality following some particular code of living a life would fall in this category.
  • Sufi is quite a comprehensible term due to its frequent use. Its idnicative of flexiblity and letting oneself go by the happenings and the envrionment without any resistance.
  • Mlamâtee is a notion of self contempt and disdain that is practised to sort of seeking self piety. As a personality a mlamâtee is more induldged into self blame.

Ashfaq Ahmed, while writing a preface article for شامِ شہرِ یاراں (Sham-e-Sher-e-Yaraan) of Faiz has written something interesting. He writes that there are historical references whereby a sharâee befriended a sufi and they both went on well in living through their lives, but there was no account available to verify that a sharâee ever got fond of a mlamâtee. Ashfaq Ahmed had gone to all these details to prove the point that Faiz, a poet from outside was in fact a mlamâtee sufi. I, though have no point to prove and here my dear readers, I must apologize for all the details I have put you through to eventually describe an incident where in fact all three, a sharâee, a sufi and a mlamâtee not only got together but spent an entire day in outing. It was me who befriended Sajjad Haider and Abdul Waheed (professional counterparts) and we undertook an outing adventure on one of the Sundays. I shall omit the who is who and what is what detail of the definitions expressed above to help better protect the identities. Keeping in mind the eccentricity of one of our characters, I also feel it pertinent to declare that all accounts described hitherto and hereinafter are fictitious and any resemblance whatsoever with any living being is purely coincidental.

The venues for the outing, sequence of visiting and other irrelevant details were sorted out on breakfast table at the house of Sajjad, who generously hosted us at Wah. The place to start with was Panja Sahib as it was imposed by one out of us and Wah Gardens were included just because it was imposed by another one out of us. Whatever happened in between was infact imposed on all three of us by virtue of being at the first and the last venue.

Gurdwara Panja Sahib: A Controlled Visit

Gurdwara Panja Sahib at Hassan Abdal is a sacred pilgrimage as it holds the actual hand imprint of Baba Guru Nanak on a piece of rock (as reported in the scriptures). Entering the Gurdwara being from a different religion proved to be a challenge (we are living in an age where ironically, all sort and kind of violence is primarily attributed to religious beliefs). One of us had to present his security credentials in order to secure an entrance. It was a controlled visit right under the nose of an Ahalkaar (policeman). The facade of Panja Sahib greeted us with a sombre outlook. Tranquility and calmness prevailed everywhere with scattered souls busy in the rituals. With all due respect we witnessed the hand imprint on the rock and were allowed to take snaps. Waters from the spring oozing out from the base of rock with the Hand imprint fill the ponds at Panja Sahib and the water is shiny and clear. One interesting thing to note were the imprints of donations with associated details inscribed on every other tile near and around the entrance of the Gurdwara. We were shown around the Panja Sahib and the fact that it was a controlled visit put me at some unease. I just wanted to roam around like every other devotee, was eager to chat with some Sardarji in the pure Punjabi language and had to fight an urge to attend to some gurubani. It was unfortunate that our escorted visit had to end like any ohter scheduled appointment and we bid our farewells with a heavy heart.

The Mughal Tombs: Hakeem Brothers and Lalarukh

We discovered the place through our conductee of the Panja Sahib visit that there were these archeological sites in Hassan Abdal. With the name of Mughals the very first thoughts to flash the mind are of some lavish gardens, ornamented edifices, baara daries, jharokas and likes. Well … there was nothing of such aesthetics to be found at the Mughal Tombs of Hassan Abdal. What we encountered were the ruins (that too in shambles) of a tomb attributed to Hakeem brothers Abdul Fateh and Hamam, the two prominent clerics in the court of Mughal Emperor Akbar. There was also this grave of Lalarukh, a lady reported to be from the family of Mughal Emperor Humayun. The grave lies on the ruins of a podium under the bare sky. The walled enclave that houses the grave with its entrance has lost all colours to the sands of time. Visiting an archeological site is stimulating as it’s a reminiscent of the unctrollable pace of time, yet it affords an abode to appreciate the footprint left by our predecessors and the efforts spent in restoring and presenting the same to a present day visitor. At Maqbara-e-Hakeeman ô Lala Rukh it was quite evident that time is fast and cruel, whereas, the opportunity to appreciate was infact seized by a one liner “Work in Progress” of which there was no physical evidence on site. Ironically, the signboard bearing the theoretical evidence of the said “Work in Progress” was itself in a perfect match to the ruins it tried to introduce to the visitors.

The Saint of Hassan Abdal : Baba Wali Qandhari

During my days of posting at Abbottabad, whenever I used to travel from Rawalpindi, and it used to happen by night all the time, there was this prominent landmark at the adjoining hill of Hassan Abdal. Perfectly lit like a beacon on the hilltop, it was a shrine of some saint that used to get visible from quite a distance. For me, it served as a CP (control point) on my route marking the culmination of Phase 1, which was in fact putting an end to the comfort of driving on a straight, dual carriageway of The Grand Trunk Road and embarking upon an uphill, winding, single carriageway of Karakoram Highway for the next 70-80 km up to Abbottabad. My fondness with the landmark got refreshed on the said Sunday as the trio headed to pay homage to the Saint at his shrine. Things that are prominent are usually at a height with regard to their surroundings, but the real proportion of the prominence of the shrine of our Saint disclosed itself on all three of us that afternoon. Dear reader, an almost never ending trail of cemented staircase (the crafting of which we could not appreciate being continuously out of breath and senses) winds up the hill and you find yourself bewildered under a scorching sun of Punjab summers. Ashfaq Ahmed and Mufti have warned their readers that these Babas (the saint tribe) are clever people in that they distance themselves from the general public and make their approach quite difficult so that only those with some devotion endeavor to visit their abodes. The trio comprising of a sharâee, a sufi and a mlamâtee, were managing to scale the distance based on a variety of devotional parameters.

The shrine that we were scaling belonged to Syed Jamalullah Shah fondly remembered as Baba Wali Qandhari. An inscription on the site indicates the shrine first being constructed in the days of Mughal Emperor Akbar. Apart from the grave of the saint the place had all traditional accessories, the prayer courtyard, buntings, the devotees, stalls for ornamental offerings and langar khana(free dining for all visitors). Having offered the Zohar Prayer, we had our share of langar and then laid ourselves down to absorb into the calmness of the surroundings and to get the body vitals back in order. Setting course downstairs was an easy decision until on our way back we discovered that coming down was actually more tiring than the climbing up exercise. FALHAMDOLILLAH E RABBIL AALAMEEN (all is well that ends well).

The Wah Gardens’ Misadventure

Wah Gardens are reported to be built in the Mughal era as a retreat in line with Shalimar Gardens of Lahore, though on a smaller scale. Our guide to the place was Sajjad himself who after the episode of the Shrine’s climb sort of lured the other two reluctant visitors into the paradigm of clear running waters and springs and the grassy patches as a befitting end to the day’s outing. Though, our earlier experience with Mughal remanents that day was not very pleasant, in the light of the picture as painted by our guide of the said attraction, we prepared ourselves for some king size entertainment. Here, my dear readers, I find myself short of words to paint the true picture of Wah Gardens as I observed it. My first impression (that also has stayed as last impression to date) upon coming across Wah Gardens was that of Ichray Wali Nehr on a scorching noon of a hot summer day at Lahore. It had all the accessories of the latter and was in fact more dense in terms of numbers taking bath plus those equal in number not taking bath but busy having picnic style lunch on patches that were not at all grassy. We did try to adjust ourselves in the mainstream, but in the words of Mushtaq Ahmed Yusufi (junoon ka itna azhdahaam tha ke aqal dharne ki jaga na thi …) “so overcrowded was the piece of mind at the place that there was no room left to put any logic of us being there for pure entertainment“.

That was the culminating stroke on the day’s canvas the events of which took place without any supportive logic. Three of us, nevertheless, were there at large, had our share in seizing a moment in time to be fondly cherished whenever refreshed. Thank you friends, for making my day.

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2 Comments for “A Trio at Large
Panja Sahib and Beyond”

Abdul Waheed

says:

Would like to dicuss and understand about Ashfaq’s logic and your terminologies (all three mentioned: شرعی (sharâee), صوفی (sufi) and ملامتی (mlamâtee); which is about whom of all three of us.

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