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Tit for tat :)


Today, for the first time, I got a glimpse of the home that my maternal grandmother was born in and grew up in. She would tell us stories about her early years before the Partition - and I often wondered if I would ever get to see the places she spoke of. And then I came across this photograph of her home shared by my maternal uncle on Facebook.

Bhera, in Sargodha district of present day Pakistan, is where my grandmother’s ancestral home is located. I have never been there as the Partition came in the way, quite literally.

So just out of curiosity, I googled Bhera. And the first thing that caught my eye was that Genghis Khan's Mongol armies had 'visited' Bhera - the land of my grandmother's childhood.

I have to admit this was one of those strange goosebumps moments for me, as I'd spent the past many months researching Genghis Khan. I'd been asked on several occasions why I was writing about Genghis Khan in particular. Of all the characters in history, why did I pick him?

And so now I say - perhaps this was why I time-traveled to visit Genghis Khan in his ancestral homeland, since he had visited mine. After all, fair's fair, don't you think?

Here are some more facts i discovered about Bhera - if you're the sort who likes to track historical tidbits and stuff: (If you're not, you can now check out the other pages on my website :))

‘Bhera’ in Sanskrit means a place where fear is vanquished (‘bhay hara’). Yet Bhera had many reasons to be a place where fear lived. It was ravaged in turn, by many rather fearsome sorts.

In 326 BC, Alexander the Great defeated Porus on the banks of the river Jhelum (this battlefield is ten miles from Bhera – and this is also where Alexander’s famous horse Bucephalus was killed). Later, Bhera would be sacked by Mahmud of Ghazni and then by

Genghis Khan.

The Chinese Buddhist traveller Fa-hien who travelled through India from 399 - 414 CE mentions Bhera in his writings as does Emperor Babur in his Baburnama, having held Bhera to ransom in 1519.

In 1540, Sher Shāh Suri ravaged Bhera when he defeated Humayun. However, Suri ordered the rebuilding of the town including the Jamia Mosque that exists even today - and as such, is regarded as the founder of the present town.

Under Akbar’s reign, Bhera regained its former glory and was one of the 40 cities of Mughal India that had a royal mint for gold and silver coins. After the Sikh Raj (1790-1849), the British occupied Bhera till India’s independence in 1947.

Bhera is nestled amidst the Jhelum river, the Khewra salt mines and the mandarin and orange groves of Sargodha. About 500 years ago, this area was heavily wooded and full of wild game. Emperor Jehangir used to hunt many hundred deer and nilgai a day. A few miles north of these salt mines are the famous Katas Raj Temples where, legend has it, the Pandavas stayed for 4 of their 14 years in exile. 40 miles north of Bhera is Taxila, the great Buddhist centre of learning.

Bhera was famous for handicrafts. During the British rule, Bhera was so renowned for wood carving that carpenters from here were taken to England to carve some of the doors of Buckingham Palace. Today, the town represents a picture of crumbling jharokas and eroded walls and roofs of havelis. Unfortunately, there is little official or public awareness about this treasure of the past.

That, to me, is a crying shame. Imagine surviving all the plunder over so many centuries and then falling by the wayside because of apathy.

So imho some thinking needs to be done to change that.

Meanwhile, I’m still reeling from the image of Genghis' troops traipsing around in my town. Where I've never been.

#NayanikaMahtani

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