Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Gurdwara of Baba Badan Singh Dhillon in Chak 68JB Leelan, Faisalabad.

1947 was a milestone in the history of India. It ended the rule of the British and brought independence to 400 million people of south Asia. But it was not a happy time for all. Millions of people suffered terribly in result of the events surrounding this event, which caused cataclysmic changes in some parts of India, particularly Punjab. A friend of mine told me about his maternal grandfather who never celebrated the independence day. Instead on 14th August, he used to confine himself to his room and mourned the death of his dear ones, whom he lost in 1947. His family had migrated from Bhojjian village near Amritsar. Similarly millions of Hindus and Sikhs had to leave their houses and ancestral land to the safety of the other side of the border. Here, I want to share a similar story with you.

This is the story of a family who lived happily in Chak 68JB near Leelan, district Lyallpur. They too had to leave their home and gurdwara due to the turmoils of 1947. I received an email from Gurmail Singh, who is currently based in Toronto, Canada, on 30 May, 2017. This is how he introduced himself and expressed his feelings:
Dear Tariq,

I found your blog on internet. You are doing a great job. I am very touched by your research and hardwork. 

I am very close to this part of the world. My dad was born in Chak 68 JB Leelan in Lyallpur ( Faisalabad ). He was 13 years old in 1947. We talked about our village everyday. It is close to Sadhar City. Even though I am never been in Pakistan but I can imagine our village. I have lot of pakistani friends in Canada. Trying to come to Pakistan from last few years. I will come to Pakistan with my dad one day to show his birthplace, school and ghanta ghar of Lyallpur bazar. If you know anyone from this village, please send the contact.

Before moving to Canada, we were living in Village Hambran near Ludhiana ( 10 miles east of Ludhiana* ) on Sidhwan Bet/ Salempura Rd. Close city are Mullanpur Dakha, Jagraon and Raikot etc. I seen muslim homes and mosques in my village. Our elementary school was in one of the biggest mosque of our village. Native hindus of this village were telling us that Rangher muslim were living in this village from centuries. There were two slaughter homes in this village. If you know anyone from my village Hambran, I will be very happy to talk to them and share info.

Keep up the good work and stay in touch.

Regards,
Gurmail Singh Dhillon

* Actually just 10 kms West of Ludhiana.

Gurmail's story and his love for his ancestral village touched me deeply and I promised him that I would try my best to visit his chak as soon as I get an opportunity. Fortunately, we did not have to wait for long. I reached Pakistan on 27 June, 2017 and on 13 July, I found myself in Chak 68JB.

When we started from Sargodha in the morning the weather was good, but by the time we reached the chak around 1100, it can best be described as sweltering. First of all, we tried to find the house of Noor Muhamamd and Gul Muhammad. They were sons of Muhammad Ali Lohar and Gurmail Singh's father Bhagat Singh knew them. We were told that both the brothers had died during last 10 to 15 years. However, we found their house in the Chak. But unfortunately, no senior male members were at home. We could meet only a daughter of Noor Muhammad and her son. They had heard about the family of Gurmail Singh, but could not give us any other information. However, after a few inquiries in the neighbourhood we found the gurdwara. Frankly speaking, I was not expecting much, at the most some partial ruins or a small heap of debris. But for a change, a very pleasant surprise was in store for me. The gurdwara is located at  31°22'34.63"N;  72°55'12.50"E.

This gurdwara was built by Sardar Badan Singh Dhillon s/o Sardar Hazara Singh, the grandfather of Gurmail Singh in 1928. Its shape is unlike most of the other gurdwaras, that are square in shape and has entrances on all the four sides. It looks almost like an ordinary house. So far everything was good. But then I ran out of my luck. The current owners were not at home and the caretaker was reluctant to let us enter the gurdwara/home. In the meanwhile Rana Shoaib, a young man in his early twenties got wind of our visit and reached there on his bike. He proved helpful in convincing the caretaker to let me in the courtyard and take some photos. But we could not enter the building. However, the caretaker relented a little and agreed to take some pictures from inside by himself. It is a beautiful building and in a very good condition. Now, this is in possession of current owners since 1947 and they got it repaired a few years ago. The owners live in Faisalabad and were not there at the time of my visit. However, I took a few pictures from outside. I was satisfied that now I can inform Gurmail proudly that their gurdwara has not only survived the vagaries of the time but is in a very good condition.

The owner of this building is Rana Mohsin, his father Rana Ghalib migrated from Zarab Dial ( 31°34'21.58"N;  75°46'39.36"E) , district Hoshiarpur.

A former gurdwara in Chak 68JB Leelan, Faisalabad. (13.07.2017.)

The left side of the courtyard. (13.07.2017.)

The right side of the courtyard. (13.07.2017.)

Another view fo the gurdwara.  (13.07.2017.)

View of the former gurdwara from outside. (13.07.2017.)

A side view from outside. (13.07.2017.)

View of the former gurdwara from inside. (13.07.2017.)

Another view from the inside. (13.07.2017.)

Beautiful woodwork inside the former gurdwara. (13.07.2017.) 

The gurdwara from inside. (13.07.2017.)

The street outside the former gurdwara. (13.07.2017.)

Rana Shoaib is an energetic young man and has a lot of interest in the history of partition and related matters. He is a surveyor by profession. He informed us many stories about the Sikhs of this Chak. One of them was how they helped Muslims to claim a piece of land and build a mosque over there. He also took us to the home of his uncle and served us with cold drinks, a most desirable thing in that weather. He told us many stories of his chak and showed us some old houses.

Rana Shoaib's grandfather was Rana Sardar Ali s/o Rana Yusuf Khan. They belonged to Chhota Chaunta, tehsil Rupar, district Ambala. Now it is district Rupnagar.   (30°55'59.66"N;  76°27'43.76"E) Later on, he sent me the following link about this gurdwara:

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=422899468067137&id=221538424869910

The main street of the Chak 68JB Leelan. (13.07.2017.)

Another street in the Chak. (13.07.2017.)

House of Baba Badan Singh ji Chak 68JB Leelan. (13.07.2017.)

He also invited there two old gentlemen. One of them was Chacha Bashir who was born in 1937 and along with his family had migrated from Kathgarh in district Hoshiarpur (now probably Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar). He told us that how the Sardarni of his village, wife of Sardar Bakhtawar Singh, first tried to stop them from migrating, but seeing the worsening situation, provided them with food and her men for protection for some distance. The Sardarni ji they told belonged to the family of the Maharaja of Patiala. So there are not only bad stories from 1947.

From Left: Bashir Ahmad, Mohammad Rafiq, Muhammad Shoaib and his cousin Rana Asad Ali. Chak 68JB Leelan (13.07.2017.)

Rana Muhammad Shoab, Chak 68JB Leelan. (13.07.2017.)

Following is the ancestral tree of Gurmail Singh.

Sardar Hazara Singh Dhillon
(He had two sons)

1. Baba Badan Singh Dhillon    2. Ratan Singh Dhillon   

BabaBadan Singh had four sons

1. Kehar Singh       (born 1921)  
2. Santa Singh        (born 1925) 
3. Harbans Singh   (born 1929)  
4. Bhagat Singh      (born 1933) 

Now out of these four brothers only Bhagat Sinch Dhillon, father of Gurmail Singh is alive. I sent the pictures of the gurdwara same day to Gurmail and soon received his response. 
Thanks Tariq ji,

I got your email. Sorry, I was away, I showed these pictures to my dad today. He is very happy to see this place. It is very well kept. Whoever is living there, I salute him. 

This Gurudwara was build by my grand father and others. He was very religious person and used to go to this Gurudwara every morning and evening to perform kirtan (religious songs from Guru Granth) there. He helped in building a similar Gurudwara in our native village Leelan ( Ludhiana ) same time. My grandfather told us that there were old trees in this place. When they removed trees from there, they found treasures ( silver and gold coins). They used this to build two beautiful gurudwaras in 1930s. They both stand in good condition today. We will save these historical pictures for our future generations. Thanks you from the bottom of my heart for sparing your valuable time for us. My father is emotional to see these pictures. He is disappointed to find out about the passing of Noor Mohammad and Gul Mohamand. He told me that they had little sister Shariffan. She used to play with them.

Similarly, I want to know about the Muslims from my current village Hambran ( near Ludhiana). We were given replacement land against our Chak 68 land in this village. Migrate  Jat families like us from Lyallpur district are living here now. They are from nearby Chaks. Hambran was purely muslim village before 1947 and had 3 Mosques and several our sacred places. I studied in a Mosque, which was converted into School. I want to find out about the native families from this village and want to write there names in our village library. Rajpoots and Kasai used to live this village. I am working hard to find out about them, time is running out.

Thanks once again, keep in touch. Please meet us, whenever you visit Canada. We are living in Toronto now and visiting home every year in the winter. It will be my pleasure to host you. 

Regards,
Gurmail Singh Dhillon
I was about to finish this article when I received the following email from Gurmail. Many questions were raising their heads in my mind, this email answered many of those and in a sense completed this story.
Dear Tariq,

There was no name, it was called Gurudwara Sahib Leelan. Made by local villagers around 1928, no Government or Sikh organization involved. 

Chak No 68 was given to'' abadkars’’ from village Leel, Tehsil Raikot, Distt. Ludhiana. They moved here 1896. This chak was called Leel and later Leelan in Government documents. There were total 34 morubdas of land given to 17 families. My Great Grand Father Hazara Singh Dhillon was on of them,. They were all Jats from Dhillon clan. My Grand Father Badan Singh Dhillon was born here in 1899. 

They settled down slowly in new area, Guru Granth Sahib was kept in our house. My great grand father and grad father were very religious persons. After they all settled down and got wealthy with good production of cotton, they decided to build Gurudwara in centre of the village. This plot was originally kept for religious place by the Government and Hindu Nanga Sadhus ( naked sadhus who wear only lowers 12 months of the year ).

After Nankana Sahib incident Sikhs in the bar became more religious, and lot of Hindu Khatris started to convert their first child into Sikh religion. ( it was still happening until 1980s in India). 

I think around 1925, they started to build Gurudwara because few of our villagers enrolled into newly created Sikh political party Shiromani Akali Dal.

As per my father, when they started to build the Gurudwara, there were lot of large old trees in the lot ( possible tahli tree ). They decided to remove them and used the wood for windows and doors. They found gold coins and or money when they were digging the trees so their budget got bigger and they made one of the top building in the area and similar Gurudwara was built in native village Leel, Ludhiana in 1937. My grand was chosen to go back and build Gurudwara in Leel, Ludhiana.

My grand father and his brother Ratan Singh Dhillon were the ones who performed religious ceremony in the morning and evening before going to work in the farm. Later they brought specialist Bhai ji from Nankana Sahib given by SGPC. But they were still performing kirtan till 1947.

My grand father brought Guru Granth Sahib in 1947 with him and kept in village Leel, Ludhiana. They moved to Hambran in 1951 ( replacement land chak 68 was given to us ) and brought Guru Garath Sahib was brought to Hambran. I seen and read from this saroop, which was in good condition till late 1980s. My grand father made a small Gurudwara only for our family in our home, which still exist and my grand father’s name  and passed away date ( March 06,1970 ) is written on the front later during renovation. My grand father was so attached to this that he passed away after reading morning prayer and put his head on Guru Garanth Sahib while taking his last breath. Whole village came to see this. He was so highly regarded as a religious person in  Chak 68 that even today families from that village and their children(they all moved to different villages) are very happy to meet us. 

It happened with me, when I moved to Canada in 1994. I went to my friend’s house in Surrey, BC. A lady was living in his basement. His parents were from Chak 68 and she was born in India. She touched my feet ( I was not aware why she was doing). I asked her, why she did this as you are 20 years older than me. I should touch your feet instead. She told me that she touched my feet because I am grand son of Baba Badan Singh. It made me emotional ( i am writing this with tears in my eyes ).

All the other families moved to villages of Malwa. They moved to different places because not enough land was available in one village. As per my info, they moved to near by Halwara, Talwandi Rai, Kasba and city Jagroan. Few families sold their allotted land and came back to native Leel. I want to meet all these families one day.

Regards,
Gurmail Dhillon
In another message, he gave the following information about the post 1947 life of his grandfather.

My grand father born in Chak 68, moved to native Leel, Ludhiana in 1947, moved to Hambran, Ludhiana in 1951 with his three son. One son remained in Leel to do agriculture on native land. We were allotted 61 acres in Hambran as replacement land for chak 68. In 1957 sold Leel village land and bought more in Hambran. All four sons of grand father stayed in Hambran. My father was youngest and I was youngest in my family. So most of my nephews from my three taya ji are either older than me or litte younger. My grand father passed away peacefully on March 06, 1970 in Hambran.  

Baba Badan Singh Ji (1899 - 06.03.1970.)

I am happy and satisfied deep inside my heart that I was helpful to Gurmail Singh in finding the home of his father and his beloved gurdwara. I pray to Allah that nobody will ever have to leave his home and suffer this kind of emotional nostalgia forever. Another good news is that Gurmail is in touch with Rana Shoaib and is planning to visit his Chak 68JB Leelan, in the near future. He has also found Muslim families of Hambran, who are currently living in different villages of Toba Tek Singh. But that is a story which I leave to Gurmail Singh and his friend Rana Shoaib to complete.

Tariq Amir

October 18, 2017.

Doha - Qatar. 

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