By Rafique Ahmed Khan, Dubai
Editor’s Note: The writer was born and brought up in Rawalpindi. He studied in Denny’s High School, Mission High School and Gordon College. He worked as a Consultant in Provisioning & Stock Control and Logistics in various Organisations. Finally retired from PIA and now lives in Dubai. He is writing a series of articles about the life in Rawalpindi during 1930s, 40s and 50s.
Continued from Part 2……
The Jamia Masjid, Rawalpindi, itself is now a historical beautifully constructed building since last few centuries. It was constructed with the best available material so perfectly that it still stands with big grandeur and majestic look without being modified or any addition/alteration except once when one of its minarets was struck with lightning during a very heavy rain and fell down during 1940s. Incidentally I am an eye-witness to this episode also. The Mosque is quite visible from my house, and as I was enjoying the rain in the top floor of my house when suddenly there was a huge flash followed by big thunder and I saw the dome of a small Minaret falling down before my eyes. I still dread the scene.
To support the financial expenditure of the Mosque, many shops were wisely constructed on both sides of the entrance gate along with the entire width. Hence the Mosque meets its expenses independently without any donations.
At a short distance of the Mosque a cinema (Luxmi Cinema) later named as Khurshid Cinema was constructed. It became a bone of contention for the Muslims. To calm down the situation the usual loud music to attract the public was stopped by the Administration to be played at the entrance/outside the cinema hall as a mark of respect. During pre-Partition days the Mosque was also used for political “Jalsas” ; and political/religious leaders/orators used to come from all over India and delivered worth listening speeches. I remember some very famous orators like Mian Iftikhar Hussain, and Maulana Atta Ullah Shah Bokhari used to speak frequently and interestingly listened by the audience. All the processions were allowed by order to pass quietly in front of the Mosque; but I remember during early 1940s Sikhs started playing their musical instruments during a procession in front of the Mosque, which infuriated the Muslims who started stoning the procession; and all of a sudden the riots started.
My father hurriedly took me in the huge building (owned by Hakim Abdul Khaliq) under construction in front of the Mosque., wherein we had to stay confined till late in the evening when the situation became calm. Thus for the first time during my early childhood I witnessed a Muslim/Sikh riot which was very violent.
There were some tombs called “Dargahs” of some sacred men in the city such as “SHAH DI TAHLIAN”, “SHAH CHAN CHIRAGH”, “SHAH NAZAR DEEWAN” etc., where people used to go daily to pray and burn clay lamps called “DEEWAS” in the evenings. Even Hindu/Sikhs used to go there and pay respect and offer money. During annual gatherings called “URS” there used to be huge rush on the tombs also called “MIZAARS”.
But more imposingly there used to be annual gatherings called “MELA BARI IMAM” during spring weather on the MIZAAR of BARI IMAM in an adjacent village called Nurpur Shahan. Almost entire population of Peshawar used to attend the “URS”. There used to spring up a huge tent village containing hundreds of tents. The rich and tribal chiefs used to have tents of high quality with different size as per their status. A large number of famous male and female singers used to sing and dance called “MUJRA” at the Mizaar and in the tents also when specially hired by the chiefs called “KHANS”. It was worth seeing the KHANS armed personally with the pistols, and their servants called “KHIDMAT GAARS” carrying guns, all listening and watching the MUJRAS; and throwing huge sums of money at the singers and dancers (called “Wails”) to show their grandeur.
The event used to last for 12 days of praying, rejoicing, and all such types of entertainments throughout the nights; while days were spent resting and sleeping. It is said that millions of rupees were spent by these KHANS during the festival on the singers and dancers. After the partition this practice was totally stopped being a menace, by the Pakistan Government, and now the festivals are held quietly without any type of such entertainments; and only sober type people come and only pray. To be continued ………………..
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