love and relation

Two cities joined at delivery are dying collectively

Amritsar was born in Lahore. It was born contained in the walled metropolis, in a small home in its slim and winding streets. It was the month of Assu, comparable to the months of September and October within the Gregorian calendar. It was a month when the monsoon rains, having unleashed their fury, had lastly taken mercy and receded. The demons of the summer time had been defeated, whereas the tyrant winter was nonetheless imprisoned. It was that point of the 12 months when there was excellent concord, when nights had been balanced by day, warmth by chilly. It was the time of the 12 months so uncharacteristic of the extremities of Punjab that it appeared out of sync, an anomaly, to its vagaries.

Amritsar was born within the household of Sodhi Khatri, a household of historic kings, a household that was destined to rule not simply the dominion of this world, but additionally the upper realm, miri and piri, as articulated by the sixth Sikh Guru, Guru Hargobind. These kings weren’t destined to be odd rulers, however true rulers, Sacha Padshah, whose reign would overshadow the reign of the mighty Mughal Empire. This new kingdom that was their future was born, together with Amritsar, in Lahore within the 12 months 1534.

Amritsar lived in Lahore until it was seven years outdated, until the time its dad and mom, Hari Das and Mata Daya, had been alive. They died in the identical 12 months, leaving their little one orphaned. The kid, initially named Jetha, was raised by his grandmother in a small village, the place the kid first interacted with Guru Amar Das, the third Sikh Guru, and have become his lifelong devotee. Bhai Jetha finally turned part of the Guru’s household, marrying his daughter Bibi Bhani. Such was his devotion to the Guru that he was chosen as his successor. Bhai Jetha turned Guru Ram Das, the founding father of Ramdaspur, the title by which Amritsar was as soon as identified.

Contained in the walled metropolis of Lahore, in an space often known as Chuna Mandi, near Kashmiri Gate, there’s a gurdwara that marks the spot the place Guru Ram Das was born. It was mendacity in a shambles until a number of years in the past, very like a number of different gurdwaras throughout the nation, earlier than it was renovated, together with quite a few gurdwaras, by the Pakistani state and opened for Sikh pilgrims.

Gurdwara Janamasthan Guru Ram Das in Lahore. Courtesy: Haroon Khalid.

Lahore was born in Amristar. Truly, about 11 kilometres west of town. It was certainly one of a pair of twins, its destiny completely sealed with town of Kasur that was born with it. It isn’t attainable to pinpoint the precise day, the season and even the 12 months of Lahore’s delivery. It first got here to existence at a time when time didn’t exist. There was no historical past or chronology, solely the round trajectory of mythology. This wasn’t the time of individuals, however fairly of characters, caricatures and archetypes. This was the time of the right man, the simply king, his completely devoted spouse, and his completely loyal brother. This was the time of the best villain, a personality so highly effective that it was as sturdy as the ability of ten. This was a time when gods and demons lived as women and men, a time when there was both good or evil, nothing within the center.

It was at the moment, when historical past was but to be conceived, that Lahore was born within the ashram of Bhagwan Valmiki. The best sage of his time, for that was a time when nothing existed in ordinariness, Bhagwan Valmiki was composing the best guide ever, when the cries of Lahore and Kasur first resonated within the ashram. It was the story of their father, of Lord Ram, that Bhagwan Valmiki, the Adi Kavi, the primary poet, was composing when he heard these cries. Sita, their mom, had discovered refuge on this ashram after she had been banished from Ayodhya, following her return from Ravana’s Lanka. It was her story, of her marriage with Ram, of her exile from Ayodhya, of her seize by Ravana, of her rescue by Ram and her trial in Ayodhya that the Adi Kavi had determined to write down about. Within the course of, he composed the primary verses of poetry people had ever realised. Lahore was born with Ramayana.

Her twin sons had been named Lava and Kusha. Lava based town of Lavapur, which got here to be often known as Lahore, whereas Kusha based Kasur. At present, about 11-odd kilometres from Amritsar, Bhagwan Valmiki Tirath Sthal marks the spot the place the ashram was situated and Lava and Kusha had been born. The three cities at their delivery had been tied collectively in a triangle, a relation that’s now testified by their cartography. In modern Lahore, at that highest level of town, subsequent to the river, the place the primary indicators of civilisation developed, the place lie the earliest traces of Lavapur, there’s a small temple devoted to the founding father of town. Contained in the Lahore Fort, subsequent to the Alamgiri Gate, are the stays of the temple of Lava.

A Misplaced Previous

How is one to think about the cities of Lahore and Amritsar, whose origins are so deeply intertwined, separated as we speak by boundaries that doesn’t simply divide geographies and folks, but additionally mythologies, legends, religions, cultures, heroes and villains? It’s a border that lies in the midst of these two cities, fabling tales about itself, about its earlier incarnations in several varieties, telling tales about its inevitability, its naturalness. Chanting mysterious mantras, the border blows within the route of those cities, reworking their appearances by means of its prayers.

Lahore as we speak is the last word image of Pakistani nationalism – a Muslim majority metropolis, the positioning of Lahore Decision, the place the Muslim League first demanded a separate homeland for Muslims, house to Minar-e-Pakistan and host to proud Mughal structure, the Lahore Fort, Badshahi Masjid, a convention that marks the zenith of Muslim civilisation in an undivided subcontinent. Apart from a number of, inconvenient remnants of traditions scattered across the metropolis, all these traces of a pre-Pakistan Lahore have been suffocated and left to die. It’s straightforward, in truth inspired, to neglect about that misplaced metropolis, that misplaced geography which linked Lahore with Amritsar and Delhi, a Lahore that emerged as an necessary financial, political and cultural hub due to its strategic location on that historic route that flowed from Bengal to Kabul, a river dammed up by the border.

Lahore as we speak remains to be an necessary metropolis, maybe extra necessary than it has ever been, however it’s not the Lahore of the previous. Its modern geography and site are a clumsy testimony to its modified standing. A metropolis that after seemed in each instructions, has as we speak its again in direction of the east, and appears desperately in direction of the west, in direction of Islamabad, Kabul and past in the hunt for a brand new id, in the hunt for a brand new incarnation.

The story of Amritsar just isn’t a lot totally different. It was wedded to Lahore at its delivery, tied a knot with town that spanned over a number of centuries. It was a wedding that was sanctified by Valmiki, as Ramayana his witness, by the shabd of the Gurus and the blessings of Sufi saints like Mian Mir. It was a wedding of interdependence, of comfort and even complimentary traits. It was a wedding through which Lahore took on sure roles and Amritsar others. Thus, in 1799, when a younger Ranjit Singh took over Lahore, he successfully turned the ruler of Punjab, with Lahore the political image in his management. However, with out the blessings of Amritsar, the non secular image, he couldn’t but name himself Maharaja. The seize of 1 was incomplete with out management over the opposite. Lahore held the previous, whereas Amritsar was the longer term. Lahore was regal, whereas Amritsar sacred. If Lahore was miri, then Amritsar was piri. The 2 weren’t distinct entities, however one. They had been an extension of one another, incomplete with out the opposite. Like an archetypical marriage, they had been two our bodies and one soul.

The divorce was sudden, ending the gradual dependence that had developed over (nearly) 400 years of marriage. It was an instantaneous severing of relationship, a violent rupture of all connections. Recollections of Lahore, nonetheless, proceed to hang-out Amritsar. It’s a relationship town as we speak searches for, generally with Delhi and at different occasions with Chandigarh. It’s that major relationship that impacts its subsequent relationships. The reminiscence of the divorce lurks inside its unconscious, hampering it from totally realising itself, from totally expressing itself.

Street To Nowhere

The highway leads nowhere, meandering non-committally. It’s not meant to be travelled on, to be explored. It isn’t meant to attach one half with one other. It’s meant to offer a semblance of connectivity, meant to refill empty tracts of land. It’s aimless, pointless, stranded like a department of a household tree that has no progeny, that has no goal.

One after one other villages and hamlets emerge on either side of the highway. They’re the kids of distantly associated relations with no youngsters of their very own. They’re not a part of the rapid household, not invited to its occasions. They’re confined inside their circles, remoted from the financial constructions of the core. Their names symbolize their marginalized positions – Dera Chahal, Jhaman, Hair and Bedian, phrases that haven’t any resonance in modern Lahore, the Lahore of Islampura, Rehman Park, Mannequin City and Defence, a Lahore of postcolonial sensibilities, tinged with the flavour of Islamic nationalism.

Gurdwara Dera Chahal on Bedian Street. Courtesy: Haroon Khalid.

I’m travelling on Bedian Street, a highway named after the village Bedian, which in flip was named after the Bedi descendants of Guru Nanak, who had been allotted land on this village. It’s solely the title that survives, a reputation that after resonated with significance, a reputation that as we speak represents nothing however outskirts of Lahore, of huge agricultural fields, downtrodden villages, a dilapidated highway and some luxurious farmhouses. Past these is the border, casting its spell, chanting its mantra. The highway collides with the wizard and dies unceremoniously. It’s a battle that it’s destined to lose.

The highway as soon as linked Lahore with Amritsar, one of many many who linked them. Right here the peripheries of the 2 centres interacted, creating villages and hamlets by means of this intercourse, these villages and hamlets bearing youngsters of that relationship. Standing on a vacant floor, dealing with the historic village of Hair, now lowered to poverty and insignificance, is the stays of this undesirable little one, the stays of a shrine that was constructed right here by Prithi Chand, the eldest son of Guru Ram Das, a shrine that was meant to rival Harminder Sahib at Ramdaspur. It’s a worn-down construction, stripped of all its ornaments, the paint, the frescoes. Its sacred pool, created as a substitute for the pool of Amritsar, is now misplaced, utterly lined, its damaged bricks scattered throughout this floor.

The situation of the construction, nonetheless, is deceptive. For a quick interval, the shrine, named Dukh Nivaran, was necessary. For a quick interval, it attracted Sikh pilgrims who believed Prithi Chand’s lies that he was the rightful non secular successor of his father, that he was the fifth Sikh Guru and never his youthful brother. On this endeavour, he was supported by many – Mughal officers and corrupt Masand, Sikh deputies appointed by Guru Ram Das as his representatives in several elements of Punjab. The strategic location of Hair made it simpler for Prithi Chand and his followers to intercept Sikh devotees on their solution to meet the Guru and to develop their community. With the Sikh pilgrims got here their choices. Prithi Chand’s coffers swelled, whereas that of Guru Arjan, who was in Ramdaspur at the moment, dwindled. For that temporary second, it was Hair and this shrine that started to overshadow Harminder Sahib.

After Prithi Chand’s dying, his smadh was constructed at Hair, whereas his motion was continued by his son, Meherban. This motion in Sikh historical past is known as Minas, the scoundrels. It was one of the vital potent problem to all of the Gurus after Guru Arjan. After the formation of the Khalsa, they had been known as Panj Mel – one of many 5 dissenting teams with whom the Khalsa had been forbidden to interact. The Minas lastly misplaced the battle for legitimacy, the battle for non secular inheritance of the Gurus within the nineteenth century, after they break up into a number of elements and obtained included into the formal Sikh neighborhood. With the disintegration of the neighborhood, the village of Hair too misplaced its political significance, because the reminiscence of Prithi Chand, of the Minas and Dukh Nivaran started to disintegrate and crumble.

Smadh of Prithi Chand on Bedian Street. Courtesy: Haroon Khalid.

Symbiotic Relations

Earlier than there was Partition, earlier than there have been riots and mass exodus. Earlier than there was non secular nationalism, the division of Punjabis into a number of hermetic traditions. Earlier than there have been modern incarnations of Mughal armies and the Guru’s forces, combating a perennial battle, correcting historic injustices. Earlier than Lahore turned a Muslim metropolis, town of Sufi saints, and Amritsar, town of Gurus, there was Mian Mir and Guru Arjan.

Their friendship started on the home in Chuna Mandi the place Guru Ram Das was born. It was right here {that a} younger Mian Mir, years away from turning into a Sufi saint, would attend the religio-philosophical discourse of Guru Ram Das, when the Guru got here to Lahore from Ramdaspur. This was a time earlier than the communalisation of identities, the partitioning of spiritual traditions, a time when it was the norm, and never an exception, to have Hindu, Sikh and Muslim devotees of the Guru. It was at these gatherings {that a} younger Mian Mir met the younger future Guru. They fashioned a connection that was to develop into a consultant of the symbiotic relationship between Sikhism and Islam.

Upon turning into the Guru, regardless of the opposition of his elder brother, Guru Arjan continued the development work at Ramdaspur, whose basis had been laid by his father. He started the development of Harmandir Sahib, the longer term Golden Temple, which was in time to develop into a very powerful Sikh gurdwara on the planet. Earlier than building started for Harmandir Sahib, nonetheless, a message and a delegation had been despatched by Guru Arjan from Ramdaspur to Lahore (in keeping with oral narratives of the descendants of Mian Mir residing in Lahore) to convey his pal Mian Mir to town, to put the primary brick of the inspiration of what was to develop into the id of town. Mian Mir travelled in a palanquin despatched by the Guru and laid the inspiration of Harmandir Sahib, tying collectively the cities of Lahore and Amritsar in a lifelong relation.

Years later, when on the orders of Emperor Jahangir, Guru Arjan was being tortured in Lahore earlier than his execution, Mian Mir reached out to him and requested for his permission to destroy town of Lahore to cease this torture. He was prepared to sacrifice his house, to sacrifice your complete metropolis, for his love of the Guru, however the Guru refrained him from doing so. After Guru Arjan’s execution, Mian Mir maintained a cordial relationship together with his son, the sixth Sikh Guru, Guru Hargobind. It’s a relationship that continues to be remembered and celebrated by sure teams and communities.

Deserted Traditions

I met Bhai Ghulam Muhammad at his house in Lahore in February 2014. He handed away in April. His house was near Knowledge Darbar, the shrine of the patron saint of town. The shrine is a thousand years outdated, as outdated because the identified historical past of Lahore. Its existence and continued significance symbolize a continuation of a cultural and non secular lifetime of town.

Residents of Lahore take pleasure within the metropolis’s historicity, its latest and historic previous. However is Lahore, in its modern incarnation, the identical metropolis that it was, that it has been for a thousand years? Lahore was by no means Bhai Ghulam Hussain’s metropolis. His house was Amritsar. However the metropolis modified in 1947. Identical to Ghulam Muhammad’s household, town too migrated to Lahore, leaving in its shadow a distant reminiscence of what town as soon as had been. The town the place Ghulam Muhammad was travelling to was additionally not Lahore anymore, the wonderful pleasure of Punjab, the multicultural jewel of the crown, of undivided British India. This was a brand new Lahore, a brand new metropolis which solely shared its title with that superb previous.

Bhai Ghulam Muhammad got here from the household of Bhai Sadha and Madha, the Muslim rubabis appointed by Guru Tegh Bahadur to carry out kirtan on the Harmandir Sahib. The efficiency of kirtan at Sikh gurdwaras by Muslim rubabis was a convention that began with Bhai Mardana and Guru Nanak. It was maintained by subsequent Sikh Gurus. His was one of the vital revered households of town of Amritsar, the household that fashioned a connection between the Guru’s shabd and hundreds of their devotees. His household was one instance out of a number of that highlighted the advanced relationship between totally different non secular communities and hybrid identities. “We knew the Granth by coronary heart…nothing about being Muslim,” he instructed me.

As soon as guardians of the Gurus’ phrases, they had been lowered to odd jobs in Lahore. Solely lately, with a rising curiosity in Sikh heritage in Pakistan, the household started performing kirtan once more. Nonetheless, this rediscovery of the occupation is a far cry from what the scenario had been previous to Partition. The odd jobs continued. In 2008, Bhai Ghulam Muhammad was barred from performing kirtan at Harmandir Sahib, for he was not an Amritdhari Sikh. His household had carried out kirtan for generations on the Harmandir Sahib, with out ever being Amritdhari, however that was a unique metropolis, a unique Amritsar.

Within the story of Ghulam Muhammad is the story of Lahore and Amritsar. It’s the story of what the cities had been, the story of their relationship, the story of their intermarriage. It’s the story of what the cities are, of their antagonism in direction of fluid identities, of their newly found loyalties. The dying of Ghulam Muhammad is the dying of those two cities, of what they’d been, of what they may have been.

The article was first printed in Nishaan Nagaara.

Haroon Khalid is the creator of a number of books, together with Imagining Lahore and Strolling with Nanak.

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