Nothing bura about this Bhala village

Even as Bhala village shot into limelight following the discovery of the four-century-old Mughal coinage during the digging of the 'theh' (mound formed by ruins of ancient town) there, no one from the Central or state government reached the site to supervise the levelling of the mound. The structure, made of Nanakshahi bricks, found during the digging operation may very well disappear by the time officials of the Archeology Department reach the historical village. Meanwhile, the levelling of the ancient hillock has been going on war footing, unmindful of its heritage value. Tractors can be seen ploughing the mound relentlessly.

The discovery of the coinage has proved beyond doubt that once upon a time a town existed on the bank of the Ravi River that used to pass through this site, which was once famous as the Goindwal-Srinagar route used by many Mughal kings. Villagers believe that the Ravi had changed its course with the passage of time. They say the fact is substantiated by the huge bed of sand that has been found during the digging of the area.

Till recently, the huge mound (that served as cremation ground for the villagers for many decades) could be preserved in its original shape as it was virtually an island with no passage. The mound was encircled by the land owned by farmers.

According to history enthusiasts, the discovery at the 'theh' is a rare treasure trove that can help archeologists gain insight into the Mughal coinage after deciphering inscription that mentions the name of Shah Jehan in Persian script on the coins. Shah Jehan, the 'master builder', had standardised the Mughal coinage.

The early years of Shah Jehan's reign brought forth a large variety of coin designs, and these designs were standardised towards the later part of his reign. The coins minted by Shah Jehan were beautiful and elegant, while the coins minted during the reign of Shah Jehan's predecessors lacked elegance.

Heritage lovers and archeologists say that the coins found in Bhala village reflect originality and innovative skills.
However, among the villagers there is a glaring lack of awareness about the historical significance of these coins. Earlier, the four labourers engaged in digging the mound had found 70 invaluable silver coins contained in an earthen pot. The labourers were put behind the bars on the charges that they had violated the Treasure Trove Act, 1878. The four labourers, who landed in trouble after finding the treasure trove, have been identified as Balbir Singh alias Bira, Dalbir Singh alias Bittu, Darbara Singh (all sons of Joginder Singh of Bhala village) and Jaimal Singh. Cases under Section 414 of the Indian Penal Code, and the Indian Treasure Trove Act were registered at the Rajasansi Police Station. The sarpanch of the village, Mr Ranjit Singh Bhala, alleged that the police had done injustice to the four labourers by arresting them, as the latter were not aware of the heritage value of the coins.

Without knowing the archeological value, the labourers had sold some of the invaluable coins at the rate of Rs 25 per coin to a local goldsmith and bought two bottles of country-made liquor. It was good luck that the information was leaked to the police, who raided the village and recovered the coins. The village sarpanch was instrumental in the recovery of the coins. He persuaded the labourers to produce themselves before the police on the solemn promise that no case would be framed against them. However, the police concocted the story that the labourers had been arrested from a police naka following a tip off, alleged the sarpanch.

An old woman of the village, Ms Balbir Kaur, said her village was ancient, and similar discoveries had been made by some persons in the past too. However, no one had ever deposited in the district treasury the coinage of the Mughal period, she added.


Furrowed mound: A tractor ploughs the historical 'theh' in Bhala village. ' Photos by Rajiv Sharma

 

Sarpanch Ranjit Singh Bhala (right) shows a painting depicting Maharaja Ranjit Singh changing the village name from Bura to Bhala.

Flip side of the coin

Old timers say the village name 'Bhala' (literal meaning 'noble') was given by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. In olden days, the village was infamous as 'Bura' (bad) because it was believed that its residents had once killed some women (some say 'witches') and brought bad name to the village.

According to Mr Katha Singh, Bhala village was the 'nanka pind' (village of grandparents) of Sardar Lehna Singh Majithia, a Sikh warrior in Maharaja Ranjit Singh's army. When Maharaja learnt that the name of the village was 'Bura', he himself re-christened it as 'Bhala' in the revenue record. A picture in this context, captioned 'Maharaja changing the name of the village', still adorns the wall of the local gurdwara.
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Ode to communal harmony
Bhala village passed the acid test during the turmoil of Partition, when residents of the village gave safe passage to the Muslim brethren up to the Wagah border.

Bhai Isher Singh, the then SGPC member and great-grandfather of village sarpanch Ranjit Singh Bhala, returned the jewellery to a Muslim, Ghulam Mohammad, even after Partition. The family of Ghulam Mohammad is still in touch with their roots in Bhala village.

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