Garden of beautiful girl in ruins


From progressive village to the one hit by indifference, Neshta has become a victim of circumstances. Its location-specific disadvantage is much responsible for its rise and fall. The village is situated at equidistance from Amritsar and Lahore.

Over the years, government policies and unforeseen events like Partition and decade-old terrorism influenced the fortunes here and the village faced many ups and downs.

Neshta was also the native village of Bawa Balwant, a versatile Punjabi poet and prose writer. Today, the house of Bawa Balwant has become a victim of indifference and there is no trace of the building left. According to Dr Kulbir Singh Kaang, a renowned Punjabi critic, the land of Neshta was allotted to the forefathers of Bawa Balwant by great Sikh warrior, Sardar Sham Singh Attariwala. Vaid Misher Mool Chand, grandfather of Bawa Balwant, was the court physician of Sardar Attariwala who earned a lot of respect in the royal family.

The Hindu and Muslim dominated Neshta and houses of both communities had peculiar architectural designs. The rich Khatri and Brahmins used to live inside the big quila-type structure, having separate wells. The four big doors of the quila would be closed after the sunset with a view to protect its occupants from any outside mischief. The majestic building was demolished and only ruins of its portion have been left. Today, cattle are tied where the house of Bawa Balwant once existed and the site presents a pitiable picture.

Mr Chander Shekhar Juj, cousin of Bawa Balwant, claims that Raja Nal, of Rajasthan, founded this village. Many people from the drought-hit areas had migrated to the fertile lands of Punjab in those days. To substantiate his point that the village is an ancient one, Mr Juj took the Amritsar Plus team to his house where more than five-century-old Devi Dawara, a small but beautiful temple, made of Nanakshahi bricks, has been preserved with personal efforts. He said he did not flee from the village even at the peak of militancy because he considered it his moral duty to up-keep and preserve the temple. The holy tank of the local Tap Asthan was famous in far-flung areas and many residents of Pakistan used to bring ‘wonder waters’ from here many years after Partition.

Mr Gurdev Singh Randhawa, a retired Executive Engineer, says that significance of the village could be judged from the fact that Sunil Dutt and Nargis had staged a play, Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai here in 1962. He said the village had never seen any communal tension even during the heydays of militancy.

Even as the invaluable heritage buildings in the countryside could have become a tourist attraction, no efforts have been made to preserve this heritage. The place has witnessed the destruction of many heritage buildings, and there has also been a colossal damage to the residential buildings of historical significance (like the one belonging to the family of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s famous warrior Sham Singh Attariwala in his ancestral town, Attari).

Following the annexation of Punjab, the British crushed the near and dear ones of Sham Singh Attariwala, who embraced martyrdom while fighting the last battle with them (British forces) at Mudki (Ferozepore district).

The Archeological Survey of India and the state government have failed to tap the tourism potential by preserving such heritage buildings. The historical towns of Attari and Neshta, which are just short of the Pakistan border, could be of great attraction for curious visitors who come in thousands to see the daily Retreat Ceremony at the Wagah Joint Check Post. Ironically, no effort has been made to preserve Punjab’s architectural marvels to engage the tourists for a day or two in the border belt.

Legend has it that the sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind, had camped in the area along with his follower, Mata Kaulan, a Muslim lady, during one of his sojourns. Agriculturally fertile village developed into the t populated village, but everything changed for the worse with the passage of time. The SGPC has constructed a big Gurdwara, Mitha-Sar, to commemorate the visit of the fifth Sikh Guru. Two wells of the time of the Guru are still intact.

source : http://www.tribuneindia.com/2005/20050602/aplus.htm#1

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