Crumbling legacy of Drummond at Pilibhit

A mid-nineteenth century British magistrate whose efforts gave the first modern school to the small city of United Provinces

Text & Pictures by Rehan Asad

Among the four gateways, this western one is in better condition. Though the minarets and many other features were lost. Tthe roof is still intact.
The western gateway of Drummond Ganj.

Pilibhit is located fifty-five kilometers south of Bareilly is North Eastern most district of Rohilkhand division, Uttarpradesh, India. In 1879, Pilibhit was created as the separate district from Bareilly. Little is known of the main city before the settlement of Ruhela Afghans especially when Hafiz Rahmat Khan who made it as the capital of Rohilkhand in 1740. Imperial Gazetteer of India, Vol 11 (1886) by Sir William Wilson Hunter wrote about the market Drummond Ganj that was named after a former District Officer having the substantial number of goods shops located at the main part of the city. This beautiful market was built by the British magistrate Honorable R. Drummond at Pilibhit. There were around three hundred twenty shops enclosed in the four gates. The gateways were arranged in a pattern that gave an appearance of the cross. The northern and southern gateways were approximately two hundred fifty meters apart.

The Northern gateway that has been completely lost. Only the few side wall are left as the traces.

The eastern and western gateway were approximately a hundred meters away from each other. Ten meters away from the Northern gateways, the connecting roads to the gateways intersect to form the crossroads.

The eastern gateway that is opening towards the station road and the market around it.

Made up of Lakhori/small bricks and red lime (Surkhi Chuna), the outer plaster has carved floral designs that have been lost in most of the gateways. Each gateway is beautifully designed in an Indo Saracenic pattern with arches, Taakhs, and minarets. The roof has the vaulted appearance but not like a dome.

Only on the western gateway, the roof has been survived. Its made up of small concave vaults supported by iron grids.

The inner walls of the gateways have the curved enclosures fitted with wooden frames with the doors that lead to the chambers. The outer section also has similar arched curves that have the opening for the windows of the first floor chambers. The income generated from this market was endowed for promoting education among the locals of the community at Pilibhit. I was not able to found the construction date of Drummond Ganj but an approximate idea can be built by the reference where it has been cited. One of the oldest references is the Stewart report of the Public education of North-Western Provinces published from Benares in 1859. The report quoted “The Pilibhit school is maintained by the local funds, the proceeds of the Ganj built by Hon’ble R. Drummond, for many years, the joint magistrate of Pilibhit, Rs 15, the pay of the master of Tahsil, amalgamated with Anglo-Vernacular school is the only item of the expenditure which defrayed by the Government“. From this account it appears, that Drummond Ganj was constructed before the formation of District in 1879 and even before the mutiny in 1857. Mr. Shahbuddin, a senior citizen from Muslim Khatri (Punjabi) community whose great grandfather, Sheikh Jiwan Buksh build a grandiose haveli closeby Drummondganj before 1857 narrated the similar version of its construction as an endowment for the educational cause for the locals. The book life and works of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan by GFI Graham (1885) also reflected on the educational inclination of Drummond. The book cites “In 1864, Hoble R. Drummond presided over an educational meeting at Badaon that was attended by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and the latter also delivered a speech in the convocation“. Later in 1908, H.R. Nevill Gazette also talked of Drummond Ganj endowment that covers the expense of the Pilibhit School. It was after his great contributions towards the education of the Pilibhit, the government high school and later on the intermediate College was named as Drummond Inter College.

Almost thirty years before during our childhood days, the four gateways of Drummond Ganj were in better condition. The southern gateway that was facing towards the road to Bareilly was popular among locals as “Bareilly Darwaza”. The ground floor has the number of shops occupied by the tenants. The first floor was occupied by registry department issuing death & birth certificates. Among the four gateways, it was completely intact during those days.  During the year 1999, I visited this office thrice to get a death certificate of my late maternal grandfather.

The Southern gateways that also houses many government offices till the year 2000. Now completely crumbled. Also popular among the locals as Bareilly Darwaza.

Though shabby and stinky, it was not expected to crumble down completely in the next twenty years. With time, the government offices have been shifted to newly constructed larger office spaces in civil lines. In the last two decade, the vaulted roof has fallen down. The shopkeepers secured their own space but the surroundings of the gateways degraded with time. Most of the shopkeepers sitting in these historic gateways are either Hindu Banias and Muslim Khatris ( Shamsi/Punjabi Muslims) who form the major bulk of trading community from the time of Ruhelas and later on Britishers. When the beautiful building of the first government school was raised in 1915, it was named after Drummond as an acknowledgment for his great efforts.

This building was raised in 1915 as the permanent allocation for the high school. It was named as Drummonds school as an acknowledgment for the great man whose efforts lead to the first school at Pilibhit. After independence, this was elevated to Inter College in 1952.
A tablet in the Hindi language hanged in the main hall of Drummonds Inter College. It articulated the efforts of Drummonds to create an endowment from Drummonds Ganj that facilitated in the construction of this school. Though some historical inaccuracies are also noticed in information. It says the school was inaugurated by Hon’ble R. Drummond, the magistrate of Pilibhit in 1915. From the references that I cited in the article showed that R. Drummond was the magistrate of the Pilibhit before 1857.

After independence, it was raised to the senior secondary level and documented as State Government Drummond Inter College. Unfortunately, the local civic authorities became dementic regarding the legacy of Drummond that endowed the money for running the first educational establishment of the city for almost a century ago. This is a real unfortunate face of many crumbling monuments in small cities. A small effort in this direction can help to save our heritage.

References: 

  1. Hunter, William Wilson. Imperial Gazetteer of India... Vol. 11. Trumbner & Company, London, 1879.
  2. Henry Stewart Reid, Report on the state of Popular education, in the North Westen Provinces, for 1856/57 and 1857/1858, Published under the authority of the Government, Benares, Medical Hall press, 1859.
  3. Nevill, H.R. (1909), PILIBHIT:  A Gazetteer of the District Gazetteers of United Provinces of Agra and Oudh, VolXVIII.

Marking remnants of Karghaina Building at Pilibhit

The story of honorary magistrate Maulvi Shiekh Abdul Haqq

Text by Rehan Asad| Pictures by Tabish Akhyar

The main entrance to the building. Its located at the start of the western boundary. The passage on this entrance was wider than entrance on the southern boundary wall. The gate at the entrance was removed when some of the sections had been sold out in 1950.
The western boundary of the building that now had shops and few flats on the first floor.

Close to the western part of the city, Karghaina building is located in Muneer Khan locality of Pilibhit having around twenty houses, and roadside shops. From its destructured appearance, it’s difficult to visualize, that a century before it was one building. It came into existence in 1902. Built by an Arain landlord, Sheikh Abdul Haqq of village Karghaina whose father held a zamindari estate of three whole villages and shares in many other villages in Pargana Jahanabad. An old grove with an area of approximately four acres existed here that was purchased by Shiekh Abdul Haqq from a Pashtun named Natthu Khan. Born on 27 Dhulqaida 1281 Hijri (1860), he was the eldest son of Haji-Sheikh Qudrat Ali. Shiekh Haji Qudrat Ali stayed at Hijaz for more than three years when he left for the Hajj in 1880. He also stared a Madrassa at Village Karghaina that continued to be managed by his middle son after his death. The eldest son, Sheikh Abdul Haqq was sent to Pilibhit for studying Darse Nizami under the tutelage of great Islamic scholar of the nineteenth century, Maulana Wasi Ahmad who was also known as Muhaddith Surti.  A famous Islamic scholar from Rampur Maulvi Salamatullah was appointed for homeschooling of other two sons at village Karghaina. After the death of his father, the villages were divided among three brothers.

A family tree of Haji-Sheikh Qudrat Ali prepared by Tabish Akhyar in 2011. It traced most the descendants. Some of them relocated to Pakistan & USA and Canada.

Leaving behind his ancestral haveli at Village Karghaina, Shiekh Abdul Haqq relocated to the city.  It was due to ancestral association with the village, the building was named as Karghaina Building. As an Islamic Scholar, Zamindar and businessman he was quite active in sociopolitical life.  He was also nominated by the Imperial government as an honorary magistrate.

The building was constructed as seven separate apartments connected with each other. The entrance to the building was through two paved streets fenced by the gates at the entrance on the western and southern side. The apartments were divided into main residential section (Zenan Khana), baithaks (Guest lodges), and servant quarters. It also had areas in shape of the park for female members, gardens, and section with planted trees of different varieties.

The entrance at the southern boundary of the building.  The entrance was bounded by the big gate that has been removed now. Here the road/passage is narrow. This was mainly used by family members. At the end on the right side, a small park was made for the female family members.

In the center of the building, an apartment of around two hundred square yards was Baithak/ Drawing room of Shiekh Abdul Haqq. This apartment can be accessed from both sides. A separate section served as the guest lodge of his only son, Maulvi Anwar Ul Haqq. At the end of the street of southern entrance, a park of six hundred square yards was made close to the female apartments of the building. This was specifically allocated for the females of the household so they could enjoy the walk and relaxed in open air within the building.  It has cement benches, fountains and paved galleries. Each of the apartments had the same design. Hall rooms with high ceiling supported with timber and iron grids as a beam.

The verandah (dallan) having similar in design with its front facade supported by the pillars connected by the arches. Then one extended verandah covered by the shade of wrought iron and supported by thin iron rods.

Wrought iron was commonly found in early 20th century North Indian construction. It was introduced in the late 19th century.

Outside a brick-lined courtyard with a raised platform (Chabutra) at one corner. Every apartment has a small area in the courtyard for the plantation of the trees such as pomegranate, guava, mango, and flowers commonly rose.

An element of local architecture of early 20th century. Taakh and a slab below used as a lack for placing items.

One of the small units lying on the left flank of the Western entrance was given to the mason who supervised the construction.

The present occupant purchased it from the custodian properties when he moved to Pakistan in 1947. During the lifetime of Shiekh Abdul Haqq, the building was the center of socio-political activities. The notable Islamic scholar of twentieth-century Imam Ahmad Raza Khan visited Pilibhit eleven times in his life and stayed at Karghaina building as an honored guest of Sheikh Abdul Haqq. My late grandmother who was a small child during those days had faint memories of his stay. After Friday prayers, the scholars, Urdu poets, and other influential people used to have a leisure time at the residence of Sheikh Abdul Haqq. The first annual convocation of the community meeting was held at the same place on 17 February 1917 that was also attended by the envoys sent by Sir Mian Muhammad Shafi from Punjab. During Muharram and Rabiul Awwal feast and congregations were organized at the building. He passed away in 1936 and the funeral prayer was performed by Maulana Hamid Raza Khan, the eldest son of Ahmad Raza Khan. He was survived by one son, Maulvi Anwar Ul Haqq and four daughters. On his death, he left behind a flourishing business, one whole zamindari village, and Karghaina building. Unfortunately, the son was more like a mendicant and low aptitude for managing worldly matters. As a result, he was deceived by many of his close friends. Many time people from close circle asked for the loans in name of performing charity, going for Hajj pilgrimage or joint ventures for new business and losses were suffered on his pocket. Many of the apartments were sold by Maulvi Anwar Ul Haqq after the abolition of zamindari in 1945 to 1950.  Most of them were purchased by the zamindars of his community who relocated to the city after the abolition of zamindari system. Maulvi Anwar Ul Haqq passed away in 1963.

This was the residential section of Sheikh Abdul Haqq. The constructed area was around fourteen hundred square yards. Sheikh Usman Hussain a zamindar of Village Udaipur took it on rent in 1945. Later on, it was divided into three separate houses. The main part was purchased by him. His son Mr. Irfan Hussain made some modification. Most of the descendants of Mr. Irfan Hussian relocated to the United States and Canada after attaining higher education from AMU in 1970.

Most of the descendants of second owners had migrated to major cities of India and in western countries after attaining higher education. Some of them also moved to Pakistan in the decade of the 50s & 60s. All of the units had been reconstructed except the two of them that still retained one hundred ten years old construction. One is owned by the descendants of Shiekh Nazeer Ahmad, a wealthy landlord of the district who once owned a Daang estate having more than ten villages. The second one is under the occupation of the great-grandson of Sheikh Abdul Haqq who provided these pictures. This section was taken on rent by the Municipal board to run a female junior high school during the lifetime of Sheikh Abdul Haqq.

The arched facade supported by the thick pillars became the part of a middle-class urban dwelling in the early 20th century. It was imbibed in local architecture from the early days Colonial buildings.

I also had two connections with this place. First I was born and brought up in a house that was once a cultural center of this building, the guest lodge/baithak of Karghaina building. I still remember its thick walls, high ceilings, Taakhs and other elements of old construction. It was bought by my father in 1975 from one of his grandsons. Second, one of the daughters of Shiekh Abdul Haqq was my maternal great-grandmother. The stories of its heydays were passed by my Nani (maternal grandmother) who was the oldest among all third generation descendants of Sheikh Abdul Haqq. As born in 1908, she saw the days of Maulvi Sheikh Abdul Haqq when Karghaina building was one of the vibrant and lively addresses of the town. Maulana Anwar Ul Haqq was survived by four sons and two daughters. The eldest son and both of the daughters moved to Pakistan.  From all children’s of Maulvi Anwar Ul Haqq, only two sons are alive and rest of them took a journey to next world. May Allah bless all of them?

This section is located by the right of the southern entrance. Spread over an area of one thousand square yards, it has the garden with plantation of different varieties of trees. The part of it was also used a stable for horses and parking of carts and vehicles.

Exploring Gher Kandahar at Pilibhit: An eighteen century Pashtun settlement

The new construction of the mosque. The inner praying chamber is approximately seven-meter in length and thirteen meters in breadth. The courtyard is around thirteen meter by twelve meters.

This eighteenth-century bridge on Khakra river connects the Pilibhit city with adjoining village Chandoi. Even after the fall of Ruhela, the zamindari rights of the village continued to be retained by the Pashtun family. The road connecting the village with the city is named after the early twentieth-century zamindar, Asghar Yaar Khan. Approximately two hundred meters on the western side from the main road after the crossing of the bridge on the Asghar Yaar Khan road, a secluded mosque is located on the bank of the river.

1914 tablet inscribed on the road before the start of the bridge. It was named after the local Pashtun Zamindar, Asgher Yar Khan.

According to the documents, the locality was named as “Gher Khandhar”. Within the premises of mosque, there is an old graveyard, with some graves having prominent tombstones. The surroundings have been covered by trees, shrubs, sugarcane plantation and mango orchards.

 

 

The original eighteenth-century structure was completely damaged by 1900 and the new mosque was constructed by Asghar Yaar Khan in 1902 over the ruins of the old structure. In 1994, the third construction took place as the second one was also crumbling. At someplace, the boundary wall of first construction is quite evident.

The main area of interest for the history lovers is the graveyard where it is widely believed that the resting place of the Ruhela Cheif, Hafiz Rahmat Khan mother is located. Close by two small graves has been directed towards the minor sons of Rahmat who died at early age. Hafiz Rahmat Khan was at the Abdali camp with his son Inayat Khan and other major Ruhela allies during the third battle of Panipat. When the news of his mother death reached also present among the allies were Oudh Nawab Shuja Ud Daula.  According to Hayate Hafiz (authored by Syed Altaf Ali) Rabia Zamani, the mother of Hafiz Rahmat Khan passed few days before the third battle of Panipat at Pilibhit in the year 1761. Ahmad Shah Abdali and other allies send most of his senior leaders to offer condolences in the camp of Hafiz Rahmat Khan. He also cited that after his return from the Panipat, the Ruhela leader first visited the grave of his mother at Pilibhit.

The grave of Rabia Zamani, the mother of Hafiz Rahmat Khan.

One of the son, Himmat Khan who passed at the age of tweleve few months after the battle of Panipat was also buried here. In 1972, one of the descendants from Ruhela lineage (Great-grandson of the Hafiz Rahmat Khan grandson, Arshaf Khan) who came from Karachi to visit his ancestral city. He got repaired the grave and fixed the white stone tablet on the tombstone. Near the entrance to the praying area, there was an old open-air grave made up of small bricks. Few years before, the local community repaired the grave and constructed a roof of brick and concrete slab. According to the oral history narratives, this grave is attributed to 18th-century mendicant and scholar Akhund Faqir who was highly revered by the Ruhelas.

Grave of Hazrat Akhun that was reconstructed by the local community members three years before.
The ruined original boundary wall of the premises showing Kakiya/Lakhori bricks cemented with red lime (Surkhi Chuna).

Most of the residents left the place during partition. By 1970, the remaining residents relocated from Gher Kandahar to the city. The praying area and premises remained deserted till 1993. Due to its deserted situation for almost more than two decades, it also became popular among the locals as “Jinnat Wali Masjid”.

The volunteered members of the local community took an initiative and prayers has been started. By 1994, the new building was constructed by the collaborative efforts.  In the premises of the mosque and surrounding area, there existed a thick plantation of trees and shrubs that include North Indian rosewood ( Sheesham), Mulberry (Shahtoot), Neem, and Jujube (Beri).

Pavement road connecting it to the main Asghar Yar Khan road. Up to 1947, there was some settlement present in the front of the mosque that is now replaced by trees, groves and agricultural land.

The old graveyard, mendicant tomb, surrounding trees and its location by the side of the river add the sense of serenity to the location. Sometimes people from different faiths also visited here with a belief of fulfilling their wishes (Murad). Its old boundary wall and old graves in the premises has many narratives behind its historical timeline.

Masjid Malik at Pilibhit: Exploring an eighteenth century remnant of Malik Shadee Khan

Background: On the left flank of the old district hospital near chowk bazar, Pilibhit stood a small beautiful mosque widely popular among the locals as Malik ji ki Masjid. The area around it is also known as Gher Malik. The verbatim meaning of Urdu word “Gher” means encircling. For the above context, it is used to mention the compound. Elliot mentioned in Gulistane Rahmat, Malik Shadee Khan as the cousin of Hafiz Rahmat Khan, who was a son of his uncle, Shahdad Khan. Shadee Khan played a key role in the establishment of Ruhela confederacy from the time when Daud Khan was seeking fortunes in Kateher merely as an adventurer. It was same Shadee Khan who placed Ali Mohammad Khan, an adopted son of Daud Khan as Ruhela leader when the latter was assassinated by Raja Deeb Chand of Kumaon in 1720. The rulers of the independent princely state of Rampur were the direct descendant of Ali Mohammad Khan. As cited in “Hayate Hafiz” and “The rise & fall of the Ruhela Chieftaincies in 18th Century India“, the Ruhela Cheif, Hafiz Rahmat Khan accommodation existed in front of historic Jama Masjid and it includes family apartments, court, and havelis of other prominent chiefs.

Description of the monument: Malik Ji ka Gher is now occupied by densely populated homes that were mainly constructed during the Colonial period. The nearby old District Hospital and Tehsil were built on the site of Rohilla chief Palace.  A Turkish Hammam is still present in the ruined condition between these two buildings.http://www.rehanhist.com/2017/12/30/18th-century-hammam-turkish-bath-at-pilibhit-the-last-remnant-of-rohilla-chief-palace/. It seems that mosque was the part of the Malik Shadee Khan apartment that once existed on the place that is still known among the local as Malik Ji ka Gher. The main section of the mosque has been renovated recently but fortunately, one of the main pieces of evidence has been left. The vaulted roof and domes have been replaced by the newly constructed slab. However, the boundaries and entrance to the main section remained untouched. Three arched gateway leads to the inner section of the mosque in which the central one has a tablet depicting the name of Malik Shadee Khan with the date in Hijri as 1172 (1758 Gregorian). The verse written at the top of the tablet seems to Persian and it was difficult to read the words due to whitewash on the engravings. However, the term “Masjid” is readable.

The closer view of the text engraved on the tablet. The second, third and fourth words is the name of the Ruhela leader, Malik Shadee Khan. Below is the date in Hijri i.e., 1172. The above lines seem to be a small description of the Mosque where I could understand the third-word “Masjid”
Central entrance to the main section of the mosque. The tablet located above in the picture has text engraved in Persian.

The courtyard of the mosque has some old graves on the left corner. The caretaker told that most of them date back from the old Ruhela days. Some of them have dates engraved on them that have been lost due to the repeated whitewash of the tombstones. The walls and mihrab (niche) in the inner section of the mosque is the part of the old construction that has been plastered during the renovation.

 

The old graves in the outer section on the left side of the main courtyard.

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The inner section of the mosque showing Mehrab “niche”.

References:

  1. Husain, Iqbal. The Ruhela Chieftaincies: The Rise and Fall of Ruhela Power in India in the Eighteenth Century. Oxford University Press, USA, 1994.
  2. The life of Hafiz Ool Moolk, Hafiz Rehmut Khan, Written by his son, Nawab Mustujab Khan Bahadoor, and entitled Gulistane Rahmat, Abridged and translated from Persian, by Charles Elliot, London, 1831.
  3.  Ali, S.A.,(1933) Hayat I Hafiz, Nizami Press, Badayun. An oriental Biographical account of Hafiz Rahmat Khan.

 

Guari Shankar Temple at Pilibhit: Reminiscence of 18th Century Rohilla days

Two beautiful gates were constructed by Rohilla leader Hafiz Rahmat Khan at four centuries old temple in 1769.

Text by Rehan Asad| Pics by Shahnawaz Said Khan & Rehan Asad

More than a century old railway station of Pilibhit displayed the description of two late 18th century monuments

Pilibhit, a small city located fifty-five kilometers south of Bareilly is the headquarter North Eastern most district of Rohilkhand division, Uttarpradesh, India. Pilibhit was created as the separate district from Bareilly almost one hundred thirty-nine years before in 1879. The late historian Iqbal Ghani Khan wrote in his research article Afghan cities and town in North India (C1720-1800), “the Ruhela decision to set more permanent structure in the form of the mosque, city walls, palaces, bridges, and markets was seen in the growth of Pilibhit under Hafiz Rahmat Khan in 1760 (Khan, 1991)”.  Other than the origin of the River Gomti from Pilibhit District, it has few monumental remains of the mid-eighteenth century when the city was founded by Rohilla Cheif. A mosque was built on the pattern of Shahjahanabad Jama Masjid and another flank of Rohilla courtyard also houses a large temple (Khan, 1991).

The grand eastern gate of the temple depicts beautiful signs of the Indo-Saracenic architecture. It’s difficult to differentiate from tall minarets whether it is of mosque or temple.
My ten years old click when the temple and gateways were painted with the mix of white and golden.
The inner entrance of the temple

One of the foremost among them was Gauri Shankar Temple ( Mandir). Located in the western quarters, a place of antiquity, on the banks of River Khakra, the temple dates back to the eighteenth century. It was the ancestors of priest Har Prasad who were passing for the Pilgrimage four centuries ago. Here at the stop on the way that was once surrounded by the thick forest, the caravan stayed overnight for the rest. As per legendary story during the night, the priest saw the idol of Shiva in the dream. Miraculously, in morning, they found the statue of Shiva placed in proximity to the tent. This is how the temple got the name Gauri Shankar (Integrated with the name of the wife of Shiva and his own name).

Southern gateway: the simple arched design, floral with taakh add to its beauty. The mendicants are waiting for their alms from the visitors.

In 1769, when the Jama Masjid was constructed two beautiful gates were added by Hafiz Rahmat Khan on the Eastern and Southern end of the temple. The inner section of the temple was reconstructed by Rao Pahar Sigh, the Diwan of Rohilla chief. Fortunately survived to date, these two grand gates build in Indo Saracenic style are the testimony of the syncretic cultured of Rohilla reign.  Even during the mutiny, British officers failed to incite communal divide when Rohilkhand came for the small time under Khan Bahadur Khan. Professor Iqbal Hussian from Centre of Advance Studies, Aligarh Muslim University quoted that this was the outcome of the syncretic environment created during the Afghan rule in the late 18th century North India.

The Jama Masjid of the same time that was depicted above on the wall of Railway station. Both monuments lie in the western quarter of district that was once the main section of the town during the late 18th century. The Gauri Shankar Mandir is located 500 meters North West of the mosque.
An aerial click of the mosque by Shahnawaz Said Khan. From the roof of the mosque, the beautiful eastern gateway of the temple can be visualized.

References:

  1. Gauri Shankar Mandir. Retrieved from http://pilibhit.nic.in/aoi.htm
  2. KHAN, IQBAL GHANI. “AFGHAN FORTS AND TOWNS IN NORTH INDIA (C. 1720-1800).” Proceedings of the Indian History Congress. Vol. 52. Indian History Congress, 1991.
  3. Husain, Iqbal. The Ruhela Chieftaincies: The Rise and Fall of Ruhela Power in India in the Eighteenth Century. Oxford University Press, USA, 1994.

18th Century Hammam (Turkish bath) at Pilibhit: The last remnant of Rohilla Chief Palace

Photos and text by Rehan Asad|The 18th century Hammam that was functional till 1977 now lamenting for its decaying fate

Passing through the busy street traffic of cycles, motorcycles, rickshaw and newly started battery driven Tuktuk (Wagon Rickshaw) at Pilbhit as usual with small cities of Uttar Pradesh (India), one can find this unnoticed 18th-century monument located approximately three kilometers from Railway Station. It’s a Hammam (Bath) located on the right flank of old District hospital building. At a glance, one might considered it as an appendage of early twentieth-century hospital building but the exposed small bricks cemented with lime mortar (Surkhi Chuna) of the ruined structure and medieval arched windows will definitely give a trigger to any history buff to probe it more.

The inner section of Hammam. Some of the arched medieval style ventilators of outer chambers are still intact.
The outer section of the Hammam from where Hammam can be accessed by its main entrance. This section is heavily damaged.

The site where the old district hospital and tehsil building is located was once the power center of Rohilkhand in the late 18th century. This was the site of the residential quarters (Mahal Sarai) and Diwan (official court) of Rohilla chieftain, Hafiz Rahmat Khan. It was in 1741, the Rohillas under the leadership of Muhammad Ali Khan seized complete Katehar from the imperial (Mughal) authorities who were controlling the territory from Bareilly. The newly added Pilibhit was given in Jagir to Hafiz Rahmat Khan who further expanded the Rohilla control in the Terai plains of the Himalayas. By the early death of Muhammad Ali Khan in 1748, the vast territory of Katehar along with plains of Terai and hilly towns of Kumaon was divided among different leaders. In absence of his sons who was taken as the hostage by Ahmad Shah Abdali, Hafiz Rahmat Khan was appointed as regent of newly established empire. For the next twenty-six years, the man was the most powerful leader of the Rohilla empire. Although busy with wars, he gave a considerable attention to his Jagir. As cited by Khan (1991), the mosques, markets, city walls, gardens, bridges, and Palaces were built at Pilibhit. He further added that the merchants and bankers were provided with the special concession to facilitate business at Pilibhit. A big mosque (Jama Masjid) and the temple (Gauri Shankar) that fortunately survived till date in the western quarter of the city is a testimony of its heydays that was sketched by Khan (1991) in his article titled Afghan forts and towns in North India (C1720-1800).

Congregational mosque (Jama Masjid) built in 1769 by Hafiz Rahmat Khan almost a decade after when the residential complex and the Hammam was built.
Beautiful gateway of Gauri Shankar temple build by Hafiz Rahmat Khan in the same year 1769 under the supervision.

After the death of Rohilla chief in 1774 at Mirpur Katra in Rohilla Oudh war, the seven of the twelve surviving sons of Hafiz Rahmat Khan escaped to Pilibhit. The Nawab Oudh doubt the uprising from the defeated end so Abyssinian Army general, Siddi Bashir was dispatched on 26, April 1774 to the makeshift capital of Rohillas. On 28, April, Shuja Ud Daula himself came along with Colonel Champion and encamped before the Deoha river. The Abbysinian general was exploring the town to recover the treasure of Rohilla whom they believed was hidden in the royal buildings. Unable to find the hidden treasure, the Abbysinian general ordered to raze all the Palaces and residential complexes. In disappointment of not receiving any immediate financial gains that were required for the expense of British ally in the war, the town was ransacked. All the male and female descendants of Hafiz Rahmat Khan family were imprisoned and next morning presented to camps of Shuja Ud Daula at the banks of Deoha river.

One of the chambers from the inner side of the Hammam. The pictures were taken from the open ventilators. Displays vaulted roof with Taaq/wall shelf and arched open ventilators.
Outer chamber of the Hammam. The entrance door and ventilators are still preserved.

Fortunately, the Hammam (bath) survived the massive destruction of 1774. When a district hospital was constructed on the ruins of the old structure in 1936, the structure was preserved in its original shape.

The dispensary that was built on the site of 18th-century Rohilla palaces in the ruined state. The tablet on the structure has the inscription written in English ” King George V memorial Dispensary opened by Commissioner Rohilkhand Division”. The name of the British commissioner has faded.
The names of the noble city dweller who contributed to the establishment of the first dispensary of the city are also fading in this ruined structure. Starting from the highest donor of 1000/ INR to lower one of 100?

The Hammam (bath) was functional till 1977 having four to five working chambers that were beautifully designed on the medieval pattern providing the transition from the hot and humid chambers to the cool and dry chambers outside. It served as the public path for the locals and run by Hajjams (traditional barbers). With changing time, the tradition of public baths was lost and the building was left absconded once its function was lost. In last forty years, it was damaged by trees grown up in the nearby crevices of the old building. The piling of the waste material inside the chambers completely closed its access to the chambers. The beautiful structure is now lamenting for its fate that served the public of Pilibhit for more than two centuries other than its historical significance.

Acknowledgments

Thanks to my friend Shahnawaz Said Khan who gave his valuable time for exploring all the 18th-century monuments at Pilibhit during my vacations in June/2017.

References:

  1.  Ali, S.A.,(1933) Hayat I Hafiz, Nizami Press, Badayun. An oriental Biographical account of Hafiz Rahmat Khan.
  2. IQBAL HUSAIN, The Rise, and Decline of the Ruhela Chieftaincies in 18th Century India, Oxford University Press, 1995.
  3. KHAN IG. AFGHAN FORTS AND TOWNS IN NORTH INDIA (C. 1720-1800). In Proceedings of the Indian History Congress 1991 Jan 1 (Vol. 52, pp. 313-321).
  4. Nevill. H.R. (1909), PILIBHIT:  A Gazetteer, VolXVIII of the District Gazetteers of United Provinces of Agra and Oudh.

Terror of big cats at District Pilibhit in Western Uttarpradesh: A story of fear due to encroachment of human habitations by tigers

Continue reading “Terror of big cats at District Pilibhit in Western Uttarpradesh: A story of fear due to encroachment of human habitations by tigers”

Daang estate: exploring heydays of Colonial zamindars in District Pilibhit

Photo & text by Rehan Asad|Dang, a small village of Tahsil Pilibhit is located twenty kilometers northwest of the main city of Pilibhit District. The village is inhabited by three thousand five hundred human souls distributed in four hundred seventy households. During Colonial days, the village held a significance due to the residence of one of the richest zamindar of the Pargana Jahanabad, District Pilibhit. The District Gazette of 1934 AD mentioned the name of this village in the same context. “Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad son of Sheikh Mohammad Buksh of village Dang, an Arain hold seven villages and fifteen shares in District Pilibhit and pay revenue of ten thousand four hundred thirty-eight INR (Drake, 1934AD)”[1]. They also held three whole villages in District Bareilly. On reviewing District Gazetteer, I found that it was the highest revenue paid to the Government in Pargana Jahanabad and third highest in the District. During the compilation of the book on historical perspectives of Arain diaspora, I found several pieces of evidence related to the philanthropies of Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad and his father Shiekh Mohammad Buksh.

Last week I traveled to this village for exploring the pieces of evidence related to the family of Shiekh Mohammad Buksh. The village seems to be similar to all other villages with exception of well built old haveli of approximately one thousand square yards, a mosque and an extension of Haveli. One of the middle-aged man from a village introduced me to the old aged resident to provide rich narratives of the village during Colonial days. For the locals, Sheikh Mohammad Buksh and Shiekh Nazeer Ahmad were known as “Bade Miyan” and “Chote Miyan”. Usually, Colonial zamindars were remembered for their atrocities and exploitation of the cultivators. Surprisingly, here in Village Dang, Bade Miyan and Chote Miyan were venerated as the pious leader and caretaker of their forefathers. The old man was filled with nostalgia on recalling the days of Chote Miyan. He narrates that village was frequently visited by government officials such as “thanedar”, “tahsildars”, “deputy collector” and in few occasion by the district magistrate in Colonial days. During the official visit to Pargana Jahanabad, the Mehaman Khana of Chote Miyan offered hospitality and lodging to these officials. According to locals, the compound of Chote Miyan was spread in an area of around three acres (approximately thirteen thousand square yards). The entire area was enclosed by a wall and main entrance has a grand gateway guarded by security guards. On the left flank, there was the nicely built area for the family known as zenan khana. I got a chance to take photos of this building that is now owned by three families.It has seven to eight rooms, verandah bounded by pillars and traditional arches, and a spacious brick-lined courtyard.  The roof was supported by timber and iron grid.

The boundary of the female section of the haveli.
In between, I saw small bricks in the boundary. This might be the remains of the old structure that were expanded by Shiekh Mohammad Buksh in the early 20th century.
One of the entrances to the inner courtyard of female section. There is a brick courtyard bounded by the high wall before this gate.
A spacious kitchen of around 800 square ft in area. It was famous for hospitality and charity during heydays. Now in the ruined state. The current occupants are using it for grain storage.
koī baaqī na rahā hai na rahegā koī
be-nishāñ ho gae sab Shaan dikhāne vaale
A verse of Barq Mirza Raza, a prominent poet of Oudh and teacher of the last Nawab of Lucknow, Wajid Ali Shah seems to be applicable in this context.
A plinth at the roof of zenana khana built for the praying of ladies. The purdahnashin ladies can offer prayers in the open air.
Two small apartments with similar arrangement were built on the first floor on right and left the side. This provides a relief for females in summers.
The inner section of zenana khana (Women section) that is now divided into three portions. Across the breadth, the verandah was bounded by six arches. The length of the verandah is bounded by four arches.

The right flank was occupied by mehman khana built in an area of around two thousand square yards with an almost same arrangement like zenan khana (female quarters) except for an addition of metal shade verandah in the front of the main verandah.

Mehmankhana: This section was later on modified by the occupants. It was divided into three portions with certain modification. I got the chance to take a look from outside.

Few small apartments were present in between these two buildings that were used for the lodging of relatives so that purdahnashin females can access it.  In addition, there were units for servants, karinda (accountants), and other workers. An open space in the compound was used for the horses, elephants and motor car that was introduced in days of Chote Miyan. All the small apartments are now demolished and open space is known as “gher” in the local language is now occupied with small village houses. Outside the compound, the mosque is located in proximity to Mehmankhana. This was built by the father of Sheikh Mohammad Buksh alias Bade Miyan in the late 19th century.

Photo of a mosque from behind. When it was constructed by Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad father almost a century before it was on the high platform. In last hundred years, the construction of roads raised the level of the ground.

In front of the mosque, there was a guest house known as “Sarai” built by Bade Miyan for the stay of the passers-by travelers. A madrassa was also started by him to gave basic teachings of Urdu, Arabic, and Hindi for the inhabitants of nearby villages. On crossing the road, the opposite side has a huge brick-lined pool for the cultivation of fishes that remain intact until the end of zamindari days. A big feast was arranged on special occasions such as Muharram and Rabiul Awwal from the time of the ancestors up to days of Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad. Irrespective of caste, creed, and religion, the local from Dang and nearby villages were invited on these occasions to receive the hospitality of the Chote Miyan. An adherent follower of Sufi Islam, Chote Miyan bear the complete expense of the “Urs/death anniversary” of a saint buried in the premises of the police station, Jahanabad. According to the locals, this was a tradition from the time of his ancestors. The local thandedar /Station Officer whether a Hindu or Muslim make all the preparation of this feast. I found a reflection of syncretism in this traditional celebration. These type of celebration were part of the culture of United Province and Oudh in those days. Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad alias Chote Miyan was first in Pargana who purchased a Ford-Ferguson tractor and modern agrarian equipment during British days. As a far-sighted man, he held huge agrarian lands in the category of “Sir” or “Khudkasht” land.  The descendants received more than two hundred acres of the agrarian land even after the abolition of the zamindari. By 1970, the eldest son of Sheikh Nazeer Ahmad sold all the possessions and say Goodbye to the village that was a seat of his ancestors for more than century. He perceived the political changes as the loss of power and respect that was enjoyed by the family for more than a century. The educated descendants of the family relocated to the United States by 1980. I visited the graves of “Chote Miyan” and “Bade Miyan” in the graveyard nearby the mosque. More than seventy years have passed since the death of “Chote Miyan” but the two names were still revered and respected by the local villagers. The villagers have many narrations of the philanthropic deeds of Chote Miyan passing to them from their elders. I will end by writing with a saying of Sheikh Sadi.”To give pleasure to a single heart by the single kind act is better than a thousand heads bowing in a prayer”. I think this was a reward from Almighty God to these generous landlords for taking care of their assamis ( cultivators).

[1]Drake-Brockman, D.L. (1934), District Gazetteer of United Provinces of Agra and OudhSupplementet D:  Pilibhit District. Continue reading “Daang estate: exploring heydays of Colonial zamindars in District Pilibhit”