Book Review

Memories, Mystics and Monuments of Pothohar

Review of a book authored by Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro on Pothohar’s Heritage

Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro is an anthropologist from Sindh; a heritage expert and writer known for his research on the archaeology, history, art and architecture, religions, cultural heritage and indigenous communities of Pakistan

By Sirat Gohar Daudpoto 

Pothohar is located in the middle of the country, encompassing all the districts that lie between the Margalla Hills and the Salt Range to the south and north and the Jhelum River and the Indus River in the east and west. Historically speaking, Pothohar, being the oldest human settlement occupied for about 2.5 million years, has no match in Pakistan. This is due to its geographical position on the ancient Uttarapatha or Northern Road (modern-day G.T. Road) which connected east and west that it has been called the “crossroad of civilizations”, and also a meeting place of different cultures since remote past the remains of which still exist and can be witnessed in every part of Pothohar.

This culturally diverse region has been a focus of research of both foreign and national scholars from the last hundred years, and their valuable contribution enriched the field of Pothohar studies. And one of those scholars is Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro, whose work on the cultural history of Pothohar is enormous.

Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro is a Pakistani anthropologist from Sindh: a heritage expert and writer who is known for his research on the archaeology, history, art and architecture, religions, cultural heritage and indigenous communities of Pakistan. A cultural anthropologist of Pakistan, Kalhoro has researched all major regions of the country, and produced twelve books including Memories, Mystics and Monuments of Pothohar, a record of the intangible and tangible cultural heritage of the Pothohar region. Apart from this book, the author in 2020 also wrote a book on Pothohar titled Reflections on the Pothohar Heritage.

The book is very rich in terms of content, covering many different aspects of culture and heritage

Kalhoro’s second book on Pothohar heritage and the first of a series of ten books on the history, culture and heritage of Pothohar, Memories, Mystics and Monuments of Pothohar is a collection of seventeen articles which were first published in The Friday Times – Naya Daur, written on the cultural heritage of different villages and towns in Chakwal, Rawalpindi and Attock districts, including an article on the decaying historic monuments and sites of Islamabad. In this book, the author has discussed the heritage of 15 localities namely Narali, Islamabad, Nara, Sukho, Makhad, Maira Sharif, Pindigheb, Saghri, Domel Village, Dhamali, Munday, Chakwal, Chawli, Ranjha Village and Dora Budhal.

The book is very rich in terms of content, covering many different aspects of culture and heritage. All the articles comprising the book are distinct, and dedicated to a particular phenomenon or aspect (history, monuments, personalities and communities) of a particular place. Of the seventeen articles, two are about historically important Narali and Dora Budhal villages; one discusses the crumbling heritage of Islamabad; one is dedicated to the havelis of Nara, one is written on the Sikhs and saints of Sukho; three are about the mystics, mosques, temples and havelis of Makhad; one is dedicated to the mystics of Maira Sharif; one covers the temples and havelis of Pindigheb; one is written on the havelis and shrine of Saghri; two discusses the monuments of the Domel and Munday villages; one is about the Sikhs of Dhamali; two are dedicated to the stone-built mosques and the Chawli village of Chakwal and one discusses the mosques and merchants of Ranjha Village.

The information includes photographs of the sites, religious places, monuments, inscriptions, objects and oral historians. It is based on the author’s fieldwork: visits to places and interaction with individuals and communities.

However, a large part of the information, as the author writes in the introduction, “[came] from the interviews with the oral historians and village elders who were driven by intellect instead of emotion.” The author has very carefully co-authored the oral history, people’s views and local traditions while writing histories of Pothohari villages and towns, and he has written an excellent history of the region using local knowledge and secondary information. Overall, it can be said that the book is a local history of some areas of Pothohar.

Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro’s Memories, Mystics and Monuments of Pothohar is a very interesting book and a valuable contribution to Pothohar studies. Being a scholar of the cultural history of Pakistan, I found it an invaluable and reliable source of information about the people, history, culture and heritage of Pothohar. I hope that the students and scholars working on the cultural heritage of Pothohar will also find it an extremely useful reference book, and I also hope that the heritage lovers and history buffs will enjoy going through it.

Published in Pakistan by Emel Publications in 2022, the book contains 126 pages, including 75 high-quality photographs on pages 71–118. The price of the book is 1,000 Pakistani Rupees (US$ 25) and can be purchased online, from the publisher (Emel Publication) and from bookstores in Islamabad.

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Courtesy: The Friday Times Naya Daur Lahore (Published on January 20, 2023)

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