Lost Glory

Fatehabad is probably much older than Amritsar and Tarn Taran. It is rich with Mughal and Sikh architecture, and blessed with the visits of Guru Nanak Dev and Guru Arjun Dev.

It was Sher Shah Suri (1472-1545) who first linked Painam near Dhaka, now in Bangladesh, with Peshawar that was in Afghanistan until Maharajah Ranjit Singh annexed it by stitching together several existing roads. The entire road was finished during Akbar’s reign. Kos (1 kos is roughly 3 km) minars were built to show the way and after every 20 kos or so, a serai was built. Cubicles with verandahs for travellers to stay in were built along the walls. Even in these utilitarian serais, the Mughal rulers could not resist adding vast aic flourishes to gates. Mr Jagmohan Dayal Singh, a resident of the ancient town, says that a large number of serais existed during the early part of the 20th century.

For the safety of the trade route, garrison was stationed at Fatehabad Fort since the times of Mahmood Ghazni. The imperial serai was built for night halt of Mughal armies and carvan.

The Amritsar Gazetteer mentions that the serai at Fatehabad is also of the same design as that of Naurangabad, Serai Amanat Khan and Serai Noordin. During the Mughal period, the “Badshai Road” passed from Attari to Goindwal Sahib via Serai Amanat Khan, Noordi, Naurangabad and Fatehabad, all of which are situated in Tarn Taran district. The serais are alt of similar design and dimensions. These places virtually form fortified habitations, the whole population residing within the four walls of the serais that had two gates on the opposite sides.

While the boundary walls of the majestic serai-cum- fort have been demolished by residents, only two ornamental gates and royal que could be saved. Many small ques that dotted the ancient town (Fatehabad) have lost their existence. Many houses have mushroomed within the fort complex.

The grand buildings with decorated walls, water tanks, wells and fountains surrounded by orchards once made this place the t beautiful place in the region. The inner and outer walls of the serai were sculptured with green and blue stones. The rest of the monuments with rotting doors and crumbling masonry present a sorry state of affairs. In fact, these monuments may collapse any time.

Now Fatehabad, with crumbling old havelis and alleys, still retains the pre-Partition mix of Sikh, Hindu and Muslim architectural styles. The fifth Sikh Guru frequented Fatehabad. The first Sikh Guru also visited this place and penned Gurbani in praise of nature.

Mr Barinder Dyal Singh claims that Fatehabad had one of the oldest schools of the state established in 1870s. Earlier, it was a madrasa that was later converted into school by the British administration. The old building of the school has lost its existence now.

Telling about the history of Fatehabad, Ms Meenu Sharma, a resident, claims that Fatehabad and its adjoining areas were once inhabited by the Khokhar tribe. According to “A glossary of the tribes and castes of the Punjab and North West Frontier Province”, authored by Denzil Ibbetson in 1883, based on census report for Punjab: “It mentions the Khokhars in the Mohammadan historians of India as a tribe which resisted the invasion of Mahmood Ghazni with bare heads and feet armed with spears. These Khokhars had settlements on Beas and Sutlej, especially in the settlements of Varowal (about 12 kilometres from Fatehabad), Bharowal and Kaluwahan (now known as Kahnuwan in Gurdaspur district).

According to the account of writers of Mahmood Ghazni, the Khokhars were constant source of trouble for the Governor of Lahore appointed by Ghazni, and to control them, a fortress was constructed on the banks of Beas between Bharowal and Verowal, which was called Serai town of Fatehabad.

The name Fatehabad signified the sign of victory against the Khokhars. According to Griffin Lepel, the fortress of Fatehabad during the Sikh Misl period was besieged by the forces of Ahluwalia Misl under the command of Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia. As the fort was quite strong, it held out for many days. Then the commander of the fort, on the condition of safe passage to Lahore for the entire garrison, decided to relinquish the fort to Ahluwalia forces. It remained the capital of Ahluwalia Misl until Nawab Fateh Singh shifted his base to Kapurthala due to the increasing power of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

The ancient town of Fatehabad is full of history. Mr Charnjit Singh, who is the direct descendant of General Attar Singh, a great Sikh warrior, said that after defeating the major rajas of the Indian subcontinent, the conditions were peaceful for Mohammad Ghauri, but in Punjab they were not satisfactory. In this region, the Khokhars, contemporaries of Mohammad Ghauri, used to rebel. So, Mohammad Ghauri came to this region to punish them. He let loose terror on the Khokhars by destroying and burning their strongholds near Lahore and on the banks of Beas.

The Muslim historians say that a few raiders who were Khokhars and had joined Mohammad Ghauri’s army in disguise attacked him and he was assassinated along with his three guards. Mohammad Ghauri was killed brutally. He had sustained 22 wounds on his body.

The ancient village of Fatehabad was completely destroyed by “shahi” (royal) forces of Emperor Jahangir for support given to Khusro by the local population. Later, the residents moved to Fatehabad Fort, reportedly built by Sher Shah Suri.

The Palace of Sardar Ahluwalia, called “Mai Deori” was sold recently and the purchasers have razed the great Sikh heritage to ground. The old and historical building of “Nanak Padao” has been razed and a new building has come up. This was the place where Maharaja Ranjit Singh had come to condole the death of Nawab Bhag Singh, father of Nawab Fateh Singh (nephew of Sardar Ahluwalia). Both Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Nawab Fateh Singh exchanged their turbans in this holy shrine. However, Fateh Singh developed differences with the Maharaja and he migrated to Kapurthala and made that town his capital.

The 250-year-old haveli of General Rattan Singh that was later converted into the court by Sarkar Basant Singh (great-grandson of Gen Rattan Singh) has been given a new look.

Now this building is the abode of Mr Charnjit Singh, Senior Vice-President of the Bhartiya Kisan Union. However, Mr Charnjit Singh, the direct descendant of Gen Attar Singh, possesses a “patta” (revenue deed), written in Persian script and signed by Nawab Bhag Singh, the first cousin of Jassa Singh Ahluwalia.

This deed that begins with “Akal Sahai”, signed on 1812 AD, reads, “With the grace of Almighty, the 22 villages from Jandiala to Harike are granted to Bibi Sahib (daughter of Nawab Bhag Singh) on the above-lined military conditions and will remain so until the above conditions are met.”

As per “The Rajas of Punjab” written by Griffin H Lepel, Under-Secretary, Government of Punjab, published in 1870, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia captured Raikot from the Pathans and Rajputs of Verowal in 1771 .

Jassa Singh had two daughters, one of them was married to Raja Maha Singh of Fatehabad, and the second was married to Raja Amar Singh of Tnungwala, near Amritsar. The Samadh of Raja Mohan Singh, the walls of which are adorned with beautiful frescos, is in a dilapidated condition. The frescos have been plastered and have lost their elegance.

Adina Beg, Subedar of Jalandhar, was defeated by Nawab Jassa Singh Ahluwalia near Khaddor Sahib and Fatehabad. Ahluwalia remained present at Fatehabad till his death. He liberated about 2200 innocent girls from the clutches of Ahmad Shah Abdali and handed them over to their parents and earned the name of “Bandi Chhor”. This incident happened near Goindwal Sahib.

The daughter of Ahluwalia was married to one Mohan Singh, alias Mahan Singh, of Fatehabad whose house and samadh are still at Fatehabad. Ahluwalia’s cousin and blood sister of Nawab Bhag Singh was married to Gen Rattan Singh Bhar whose palace is still situated in Fatehabad.

Of kings, temples and Huns 

Hazoori Ram, who was the caretaker of the Samadh of Nawab Bhag Singh, had asked the Maharaja of Kapurthala to build a temple. Adjoining the temple is the samadh adorned with beautiful frescos of the Sikh School of Art. But today these frescoes are in bad condition. The temple has 1500-page hand-written granth in Gurmukhi script and Brij language. The granth, Satya Parkash, is written in Brij language, presumably by Pt Het Ram. It is dedicated to his Guru, Sant Gulab Dass. The index of the granth shows that the author had left the government job to serve his religious master.

Another interesting historical point is that “Khokhar” or “Khokar” (who once lived in this region) is a gotra of Jats found in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. In Pakistan, the Khokhars are considered to be a Punjabi tribe. “Khokhar” is a derivative of “Kukar”. The Khokhars’ place of origin is believed to be Central Asia. They are considered to be descendants of Huns, who repeatedly attacked northern India.

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