Pur Suroor and Parsu Ram
Once upon a time, there was a princely state with the name, Amber. Long before Hawa Mehal and Jantar Mantar became the icons of this pink city, Man Singh of the Kechwah dynasty was a reference to this place. Akbar, pleased with the acumen of this prince, granted him a fiefdom, which lied on way to Kashmir. Man Singh knew Moghuls too well, so he decided not to stay away from the court. He gifted this land to his Jain beneficiaries, who had financed many of his campaigns. The Jains happily moved from Rajasthan and settled here. They would have excelled as tillers but the inherent art of knitting compelled them to take up weaving as an alternative source of income. Soon, the Jain Chaudharies were famous as producers and traders of hand-made apparel, which was so profound a source of revenue that it found place in the gazetteers. Jehangir passed through this land on his way to Kashmir and was mesmerised with it’s serenity. He named it Pur Suroor, full of joy. The name eventually deteriorated to Pasroor. There are opinions that the name is derived from one Parsu Ram but that is another story. The town is either mentioned as the resting place for Moghul caravans or their hunting site and that is good for the rest of sub-continent.
The city has two gates, Tehsil Gate and Kakazai Gate, and the old settlements are covered in the folds of the city wall. Broken from many places, the wall indicates antiquity. The shrines of Jalal ud din Shah Bukhari, Imam Ali ul Haq’s brother and Mian Barkhurdar are located within the convenient distance of the faithful in various parts of the city. An octagonal pond and a garden also exist on one side. The ruins of a canal can also be traced. Darashikoh, who ordered this canal, was the Moghul prince who was murdered by pious Alamgir, as he represented the change. The shamshan ghat lies on one side and mentions of Peer Muradya, on the other. This completes the landscape of the city.
The walled city contains mohallah Vesiali, mohallah Patti and mohallah Khokhran. A 12th century mosque sits in mohallah Kakay Zaiyan, another old dwelling. The old buildings of the city are haveli Muhkam Chand and the baradari of the ruler, Sangat Rai. The haveli has lost its glory and the baradari has been demolished to construct the residence of the local principal. A temple constructed by the Maharaja of Jammu, known as Gainda Mandir, was also located inside the mohallah. It was demolished by the faithful on this side as the faithful on the other side decided to discover the origin of a mosque. Another temple has moved inside a school to escape mob madness, a lesson for all those who think schools and religious places cannot coexist.
When the Jain merchants expanded their cloth business, they carried the bundles on horseback and sold it in neighboring villages. Baba Dharam Das was one such trader. One day when he left, his horse returned bareback. Baba Dharam was popular due to his piety in the local Jain community so they built a Samadhi in the outskirts of the city to honor this murdered saint. After the August 1947, the Jain community left Pakistan for India.
With riches came nostalgia and after a few prosperous years, they started missing their homes. Years later, the devotees of Baba Dharam Das would visit Pasroor, find a brick or stone of the Samadhi, take it to India and construct a whole new Samadhi with the remains of this stone. The two Samadhis, constructed by the devotees of Baba, in Meerut and Dehli carry the dust of Pasroor. How accurately says the Bible…
“Both thorn and thistles it should bring forth, for us. For out of the ground we were taken for the dust we are, and to the dust we shall return.”
Alongside the railway track, there is an old pond. It was called Deoka Nullah. On its bank, Baba Nanak met Mian Mitha, a local saint, while coming back from Hajj. Mian Mitha had a word with Baba Nanak. He recited a verse implying the importance of the Kalma and Baba Nanak replied with equal logic, the importance of good intent. The two, though disagreed, departed in good faith. Later, a Gurudwara was constructed and was named as Gurudwara Manji Saheb. There are many Gurudwaras by this name dispersed throughout Punjab but this one is in the most dilapidated condition. All that remains is a dried bed of the pond and crumbling walls. Frequent travelers in the district refer to this place as the ‘Jungle’ and agriculture authorities have constructed a research extension here.
The city has now taken a new look, a cadet college is much more well-known than the octagonal pond. Gurudwaras, temples, old buildings and the Samadhi have been lost long ago. And while they were sinking in the sand of time, on the other side of the border, a strange ritual was practiced every evening. All the siblings from the Bhabhra family listed the railway stations that fell on the line between Pasroor and Lahore. Mr Bhabhra, a Jain, had migrated from Pasroor. The others were taken up by routine but one, Surinder, of those siblings is compiling the history of Pasroor. He has penned down the lives of Pasroor in general, and Bhabhras’ in particular. It enlists the brackish wells of Pasroor and the irrigation regimen. It also recalls the chimes that were hung in the direction of the wind and gave the warning of rains and were shifted twice on equinox. Bargaining was a way of life in Pasroor and they did it for engaging each other as conversations used to drift to other avenues. The only time for premeditated haggling, Surinder remembers, was when the Taziya was placed in the lawn and the money demanded was given with a smile.
Next is the tale of three brothers and the forts they established. Deedar Singh, Mian Singh and Sobha Singh. Whenever the construction of Sobha Singh fort started, some natural calamity prevailed. A fortune-teller advised the Maharaja to have Muslim blood drained in the foundations. Maharaja, as they usually were wise men, consulted Bulaq Shah, a local saint, who confirmed it and devised a method. A Muslim was called and his finger was pricked. The drop of blood that left the finger fell into the foundations and the construction started. The ruins merely serve as a reminder of the fort now, however, the school constructed in the fort is functioning.
The train stops at Sobha Singh for a while. Everything is the same, the white washed walls, the bell, the railway line, the ticket counter but something is different. Since the train halts for a little while, before the whistle blows, it realises that the name of the place has been changed … from Sobha Singh to Ahmed Abad.
The author is a federal government employee.
The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.