A Village that knows no Strife
by Preeti Verma Lal
When the Metcalfe Line was drawn
between India and Pakistan, the Muslims of Malerkotla chose to remain in India,
but not a drop of blood was shed, no woman desecrated, no homes pillaged. The
city that sits close to Ludhiana remained an anomaly in the season of hatred and
hostility, an incongruity then. Ask anyone and they would attribute this peace
to Baba Hazrat Shaikh Saduddin Sadr-e-Jahan, the presiding pir.
tiger can morph into a pot of gold and a fiefdom. On that one odd occasion. At
least Bayazid Khan, the founder of the Malerkotla state, would vouch for that.
He saved the life of Emperor Aurangzeb from a prowling tiger and the beholden
Emperor recognized him as an independent ruler and granted him the right to construct
a fort. It is from the fort that Malerkotla gets its name.
it borrows its fame for having remained unsullied in the bloodbath that followed
India's partition in 1947. When the Metcalfe Line was drawn between India and
Pakistan, the Muslims of Malerkotla chose to remain in India, but not a drop of
blood was shed, no woman desecrated, no homes pillaged. The city that sits close
to Ludhiana remained an anomaly in the season of hatred and hostility, an incongruity
then. Ask anyone and they would attribute this peace to Baba Hazrat Shaikh Saduddin
Sadr-e-Jahan, the presiding pir.
Born in Afghanistan,
the noted Sufi saint moved to Malerkotla in 1488 and was granted 12 parganas,
56 servants and cash as dowry when he took the daughter of Mughal ruler Bahlol
Lodi as his betrothed. The small town inhabited mainly by Rajputs was then known
as Mohalla Bhongsi. The stories of Hazrat Shaikh's erudition and piety spread
far and wide and gradually Malerkotla became the seat of Sufism in India.
500 years after the death of Hazrat Shaikh, peace and harmony remain the reigning
virtues in this town whose people are mainly into farming. Though the Muslims
make for 65 percent of the population, yet the camaraderie between the Sikhs,
the Sherwani Pathans and the Hindus spills on the streets every day.
winding streets of Malerkotla take you to the mosque that is discernible from
a distance. The dargah is up the stairs that abuts the mosque, no car reaches
there, you can only walk to the dargah. The stairs are unkempt and a mendicant
sits at the end of the stairs. Three young girls, their heads covered and their
gait elegant walk ahead of me, I follow them and walk through really narrow cobbled
path lined with houses on both sides. At the end of the mohalla, there is the
dargah, a neem tree standing like a sentry at its arched door.
Khalifa Riyaaz Khan, the 23rd descendant of Hazrat Sheikh, "I was seven when
partition happened. I remember that Hindus had locked their doors and some had
taken their families away, but nobody laid an evil eye on their women or property.
It was because of Baba Hazrat Sheikh's blessings," he iterates like everyone
else in Malerkotla.
Khalifa Khan, who has in his heirloom
the 500-year old "poshak" of Baba Hazrat Shaikh,
would have you
believe that the stone wall that marks the periphery of the dargah was not built
by human hands, god was the mason. In its 500 years the wall has withstood rain,
storm, thunder, yet remains unscathed.
While Khalifa Khan
attributes the peace of 1947 to divinity, Fida Hussain, 82, owes it to Nawab Iftikhar
Khan, the last ruler of Malerkotla. He would know for he was the ADC to the Nawab
then and recalls how he mustered the estate's private army and police for the
safety of the citizens of Malerkotla.
Sitting in the crumbling
Mubarak Manzil amidst the musty smell of gloom, ruin and remnants of an ornate
past, Begum Munavvar Mehrunissa narrates the story of Sher Khan, her husband's
ancestor, who had pleaded to the Mughal ruler to spare the young sons of Guru
Gobind Singh. The grateful Guru gave Khan his sword, the prestigious relic still
in the Begum's custody. The Guru had also blessed Malerkotla, hence the peace,
The reasons of royalty are always disparate
from the masses. Mohammed Yusuf, 80, who describes himself "as a class three
flunked buffalo trader and the father of a pehelwan" does not look for reasons,
he just knows that peace is a reality in his town. "I have travelled a lot
for buffalo trading but there is no place in this world like Malerkotla, there
is no Idgah as beautiful as the one in Malerkotla," he adds.
I drove around the narrow streets, I bumped into a little kid, with a steel glass
in one hand and waving vigorously with the other. I ignored him twice but when
I saw him the third time, I stopped, not for my curiosity, but for his diligence.
It was Azim, who along with his friends have been quenching
the thirst of travellers for some months now. When their village turned dry and
there were no rains they decided to do something about it. They pooled money,
bought milk, mixed it in four tubs of water and served water, hoping for the rains.
They do it everyday.
"Would you stop doing this if it rains?"
I ask Azim.
"No, no. It is not just for the rains,
I do it because it a good thing to do, it is religion for me," he says heartily.
my car drove north towards Amritsar I could see blacks clouds gathering and soon
there was a rumble. I had left Malerkotla miles behind but I do hope it rained
for Azim and his friends. The little children were not seeking concessions from
divinity, in their generosity I saw the dignity of humanity and the piety of the
From the godliness of the dervish to the virtuousness
of Azim, there is something about Malerkotla. It is not barely about communal
harmony, if you don't see the holiness of the human spirit here, you perhaps won't
see it anywhere.
in Discover India magazine, August 2004.