Sikh-Brahmins of Chakwal

…“When I first went to a local college two years ago, students and
teachers gave me a strange look…
..They gave me a bizarre
glance because being a Hindu I was an alien to them and such a
situation always hurts me but I don’t express my feelings”…

Fascinating life story of the Mohyal Brahmins. When people talk about syncretic culture they should keep such examples in mind.

So….one fine day, the leaders of British India joined hands to declare that the nation-body must be partitioned (it so happens we are refugees from both East and West Pakistan) . Just like that, people were forced to abandon the lands to which they have belonged for eons.

When they arrived as refugees in a foreign country they were often bewildered and without hope. Some people turned back knowing full well that they are walking towards their funeral. Now they are just aliens in the place they used to call once call home. Nice.

We have to accept this for what it is. The successful application of two nation theory to a country of many communities who are now unable to co-exist even if they share the same faith. As a result there are people as “na ghar-ka, na ghat-ka” – those who come from nowhere and belong to no place. The poison of ideologies has made living ghosts out of all of us. The debts that are being accrued will need to be paid off with a lot of blood over a long long time.

“When I first went to a local college two years ago, students and
teachers gave me a strange look,” recalls 18-year-old Manisha Chhiber, a
Hindu girl whose family lives a secluded life in Kariyala village
located at the top of Surla Hill, some 10km away to the south of Chakwal

Manisha’s family is one of the only two Hindu families
living in Chakwal district (the other lives in Kot Chaudhrian village
located some 40km to the west of Chakwal).

“They gave me a bizarre
glance because being a Hindu I was an alien to them and such a
situation always hurts me but I don’t express my feeling,” Manisha

But in village Kariyala she and six other members of her family live peacefully and do not feel isolated.

Manisha now waits for her BCom result and wants to become an officer by passing the Central Superior Services (CSS) exam.

we have mixed up with Muslim villagers in such a way that we do not
feel alienated, sometimes feeling of loneliness haunts us,” says
Manisha’s father Ravindar Kumar, the head of the family.

family of Ravindar Kumar belongs to Chhiber clan which is one of the
seven lineages of Mohyal Brahmins. Ravindar’s clan has a tumultuous
history replete with sufferings and bravery.

It was Baba Paraga
Das, a Chhiber who laid the foundation of the sleepy village Kariyala in
the 16th century and the village remained the hub of Chhibers till
partition uprooted them. 

As Mohyals were greatly influenced by the preaching of Sikh Gurus,
they played an active role during the formative years of Sikh religion.

Many notables of Mohyal Brahmin caste remained the disciples of Sikh Gurus and they still worship Sikhism along with Hinduism.

Aurangzeb rule was a bit hard for those Mohyals who devoted themselves
to Sikh Gurus. The three revered martyrs of Sikhism Bhai Mati Das and
his two brothers Bhai Sati Das and Bhai Dyal Das who were killed by
Aurangzeb were also Chhibers and belonged to Kariyala village.

The three brothers were the disciples of Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth Guru of Sikh religion.

sole crime was that they supported the newly emerging Sikhism and
refused to embrace Islam. The three brothers were bestowed the title of
‘Bhai’ and Sikhs revered them.

Later, all the Chhiber men in Kariyala village added the word ‘Bhai’ to their original name.

Kumar’s father Bhai Jaggat Singh (who was given a Sikh name due to the
family’s devotion to Sikhism) was not only a landlord but also a Zaildar
(an officer in-charge of a Zail, an administrative unit comprising 40
villages) during British Raj.

One could imagine how one can
migrate to an alien land by relinquishing such a great social position
leaving a vast agriculture land behind.

Jaggat Singh never wished
to migrate but when his uncle Bhai Daleep Singh was assassinated by
Muslim rioters, he surrendered to other family members and set out for

“Life in Delhi refugee camp was painful for such a man who
lived a luxurious life. This forced my father to come back,” tells
Ravindar Kumar. But Jaggat’s two sons and wife refused to accompany him,
he said adding that he had to return alone.

After returning from
India, Jaggat resettled in Kariyala and contracted a second marriage.
Although he managed to preserve his land, the high social position which
he used to hold before partition was lost forever. He had two sons from
his second marriage – Ravindar Kumar and Surindar Kumar.

At present, Surindar Kumar lives with his elder brother Ravindar Kumar.

in a thickly Muslim populated society, Ravindar Kumar and his family
members observe Muslim, Hindu and Sikh festivals. “On the occasion of
Eid, I decorate my hands with henna as my Muslim friends do. I visit
homes of my Muslim friends and they too visit my home.

On the
occasion of Diwali, my Muslim friends join me in the celebration,” says
Manisha, but she adds hastily: “Had I been able to celebrate Diwali with
my community, it would have been a different feeling.”

Being a sole Hindu family in the village, they do not celebrate Holi. Ravindar also mixes up with Muslim on their rituals.

“Whenever, any of my Muslim friends dies, I go to offer his/her funeral prayer,” Ravindar says.
old people of the village treat us in a normal and friendly way but the
migrants and the youth’s behaviour is always skeptical towards us,”
Manisha explains.

Ravindar and his family members also visit Panja Sahib and Katas Raj regularly.

a hub of Hindus, Kariyala had a number of Hindu temples but many of
them were damaged in riots. The state of two surviving temples was
deplorable till Musharraf’s regime.

The local bodies system came
as a blessing for Ravindar who was elected as member of the district
council on a reserved seat for minorities. He managed to get some funds
for the renovation of one of the temples where now he and his family
members worship.

But if one wants to visit the temple, heshe is
greeted by buffaloes tied in front of the temple. The buffaloes are
owned by a Muslim family who lives next to the temple.

requested them many a times to find some other place for their animals
but they did not pay any attention. I could not do nothing but plead,”
says a distressed Ravindar.

The other abandoned temple has been
rented out to another Muslim family by Evacuee Trust Property Board and
this temple has become a goat pen.

“Humanity should not be slaughtered at the altar of religion and we should take care of each other’s feelings,” says Manisha.
“It is very painful to bear the desecration of our temples but we prefer silence,” says Ravindar.




Brown Pundits