By Umair Tariq
Punjab as we already know is comprised of Eastern Foothills of Himalayas, Pothohar Plateau and Upper Indus Valley. Whereas the most of our history has been brushed into the carpet by dictator Zia’s regime, the most misunderstood region of Punjab remained Pothohar Plateau. Usually the history of Pothohar Plateau is started from Mahmud of Ghazni who used traversed through it to invade Eastern Hindustan and to Sher Shah Suri who was also an invader from Northwest but later mingled and settled with locals. History of Pothohar Plateau is not limited to Ghakhar fortress of Rohtas and old GT Road attributed to Sher Shah Suri.
Pothohar Plateau is rich in culture and history and history goes back to early 3000 BC to Soan Valley Civilization that is thought to be probably contemporary to Indus Valley Civilization. Pothohar that is actually pathwaar in localPothohari language and is derived from two Sanskrit words: path and Var. PaTHawith hard Th means Lesson in Sanskrit and Var means Defender. So PathVar, when joined together, means Defender of the Lesson. Sanskrit verb Vara also became Varuna that is noun and a Vedic god that is believed to have existed before the Vedic times. So if we relate the name Pothohar to Pre-Vedic Varuna, it becomes evident that the name of Plateau is actually name of this god.
One of the aspects of Varuna was that he was defender of the lesson of chastity given to mankind and watches over them through thousands of stars in night sky. He also punishes those who don’t keep their vows and deceive people or speak lies. I strongly believe that Varuna was actually worshipped by people of Soan Valley Civilization and was not actually brought to Sub-Continent by Aryans from North West. In Rig Veda, both Varuna and Mithra are classified as demonic that actually reflects the ancient mentality regarding the foreign deities. Also, Varuna, in Post-Vedic inscriptions discovered across Northern India, was god of underworld and protector of the souls of those who drowned in waters and died. Var also means water, a pond or associated with water. In later Hinduism we see the elevation of Varuna to a Deva from Asvara suggesting possible assimilation of the original inhabitants into Aryan folds of society.
We also come to know that Varuna once stole all the Cosmic Waters and was persuaded by Indra and defeated. This can be related to a historical war between the native tribes of Pothohar and invading Aryans. It was a common practice to call the gods of losing community as defeated in ancient times. Names of many cities that stand prominent in Pothohar Plateau have beautiful and charming riddles hidden in their names. Let’s take example of Rawalpindi. Rawalpindi is a derivate of Sanskrit Ravalthat is derivative of Ravi meaning Sun and Pindi that means to be joined or a township. Rawat is a small town located south of Islamabad. The name is derived from Sanskrit Revet meaning Rich or Wealthy.
The focal point of Civilization was Soan River. Soan is also called Sawaan and the name is also derivate of Sanskrit SuVan that is very close to local name SuvaN with nasal N meaning producing abundantly. Margalla Hills marks the Northwestern boundary of Pothohar Plateau. Margalla has been misinterpreted intentionally to associate the name with Persian or with invaders from North West. Margalla is actually from Sanskrit Margli meaning a pass or a long line of different color or attributes than its surroundings. That strongly reflects the Margalla Hills. Unlike Pothohar, flora and fauna of Margalla Hills is different. Unlike Pothohar they have tall deodar and pine trees thus rightly being named as Margalla. Famous Margalla Pass where Brigadier General Nicholson built his monument is still the busiest pass where heavy traffic ply towards North for China and Afghanistan.
Pothohar Plateau played an important role in development of Post-Vedic Hindu Religion. The important role can be well understood that many scholars believe that Hindu texts of Mahabharta were originally composed in this part of Sub-continent and archeologists strongly believe that ancient Mahabharata war was fought near the present day Kattas Raj on the southern vertex of Pothohar Plateau.
Several ruins of lost Hindu Shahi cities dot Pothohar. Several old forts such as one located off Lehtrar Road near Islamabad speaks volumes about the rich history and tradition Pothohar has to offer. Paharwala Fort was rebuilt by a Ghakhar Chief Sultan Kai Gohar on the ruins of a 10th Century Hindu Shahi fort. Many suggest that the Hindu Shahi Fort was built on the ruins of a much older fortification and the ruins of the temple found there are actually much older than the fort itself. Pothohari Language is also in much pure form than Punjabi bearing more resemblance to its ancestor Parakarat.
Kuri lies 18 KM South East of Zero Point, Islamabad. Local inhabitants of Kuri have often claimed that the town has very rich history. There can be two etymological possibilities of the name Kuri. First Kuri is the name of goose grass (Eleusineindica) in Sanskrit. Also Kuri can be related to Kuru that was the name of a heroic race, decendants of Kuru Brothers who fought with Pandovas brothers in legendry battle of Mahabharata happened near present site of Kattas Raj located on the Southern vertex of Pothohar Plateau. Present day Kurri village is located near Rawal Dam built over Korang River. Name of Korang River is also derivative of Sanskrit name Kurang meaning Antelope or deer referring to small barking deer now only found in Margallas but was used to roam freely in grasslands around Korang River in ancient times.
By looking at Ecology of Kuri, we see that EleusineIndica is a very common species of grass found nearly everywhere in huge quantities. The name of Kuri village is actually KuriShehar signifying an important historical probability of presence of a Kuru inhibited village on outskirts of Rawalpindi that is historically believed to have been traditional home of Pandavas race and their descendants though Shehar is a Persian word meaning Urban Area or Town. However, today what remains in this town are remains of an old Sikh Guruduwara in much depleted State. Locals tell that Kuri is even older than Rawalpindi itself. The claim is open to historical anomalies.
Guruduwara of KuriShehar is a building of Late Sikh Period and was obviously built by some devotee to honor Guru Garanth as last living Guru of Sikhism at much later stage after the compilation of Guru GaranthSahab, sacred canon of Sikhism. The building of Guruduwara is built on a foundation and the focal point is the main room that housed the canon of Guru Garanth. The inner room was decorated with geometric and floral patterns of which very little is remaining. Outer part of the sacred room was decorated with verses of Guru Garanth.
Today much of it has been lost. Guruduwara is claimed as personal property by a local man who told that a certain teacher of local Government School was used to bring his pupils to this Guruduwara to tear down its walls. However, the story is open to historical verification. Only two couplets of BhagatRavidas and Baba ShiekhFaridGanjshakarFarooqi can be deciphered. They are given below:
[Ang 1106, 47252, RaagMaaroo, BhagatRavidas]
NaamDayv, Kabeer, Trilochan, Sadhana and Sain crossed over
[Ang 1106,47256, RaagMaaro, BhagatRavidas]
KehiRavidasSunhu Re SanthahuHarJeeoThaeSabhaiSarai
Says Ravidas, listen, O Saints, through Dear Lord, all is accomplished
[Ang 1384, 59037, Shalok Baba Farid]
I search for my friend but my friend is already with me
[Ang 1384, 59038, Shalok Baba Farid]
NaanakAlakh Na LakheeaiGuramukhDhaeeDhikhaal
O Nanak, the Unseen Lord cannot be seen; He is revealed only to Gurumukh
The site along with many others in Pothohar is in dire need of conservation and requires urgent and immediate attention from the citizens of Islamabad and Rawalpindi.