Narali: Exploring the pre-partition trade hub

September 3, 2015 Comments Off on Narali: Exploring the pre-partition trade hub
Narali: Exploring the pre-partition trade hub
Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro is an anthropologist and teaches tourism, globalisation and development at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, Islamabad.

ZULFIQAR ALI KALHORO — PUBLISHED AUG 29, 2015 06:58PM

Like other villages in the Gujar Khan Tehsil in Punjab, I was drawn to Narali because it boasts of some of the most wonderful historical monuments in the country. Before partition, Narali was known as the hub of trade in the region.Located about four kilometers north of Daultala town, the village houses a temple of Radhe Sham, including a water tank, more commonly known as the Narali Pond, and multiple Sikh and Hindu havelis.

The view of the Radhe Sham Temple, Narali Pond and a haveli.
The view of the Radhe Sham Temple, Narali Pond and a haveli.

The Rade Sham Temple is a very tall structure which dominates the landscape of Narali. The two-storied temple is superimposed with a shikhara – both the lower and upper storeys have arched openings.

The lower storey served as a sanctum and the upper had a statue of the deity so that devotees could have visual interaction or Darshan from a distance. This was possibly done keeping in mind the rigid Hindu caste system in which the Dalits, who belong to the lower level of the caste hierarchy and were not allowed to share the same space, could view the deity from afar.

Rade Sham Temple.
Rade Sham Temple.
Inscription inside the temple.
Inscription inside the temple.

I found it particularly interesting to find a large area of the Potohar region dotted with temples of the elites or the upper castes of the time, namely the Brahmans and Kshtriyas, and even the Vaisyas. However, there in not a single temple here that was built by the Sudras, Harijans or the Dalits.

The Radhe Sham Temple is noted for being the tallest temple in Potohar. With the exception of two temples (in Taxila and Rawalpindi), it is unusual to find to tall temples like this one in Pakistan.

Rade Sham Temple.
Rade Sham Temple.

The temple is square in architectural plan. With both the lower and upper storeys, including the shikhara also square shaped. Floral paintings decorate the inner walls of the temple; unfortunately, the paintings on the outer walls have not withstood the ravages of time, only fading traces of their glory remain.

A huge water tank sits at the heart of this village. On its west wall is a staircase leading up to the pond. The southern wall carries an inscription bearing the name of the builder;

Built by Harnam Singh, Survey Superintendent in memory of his father Teja Singh and his uncle Sant Sahib Singh in 1929”.

The Narali Pond is styled in ancient masonry. I have yet to come across such fine brickwork in any of the villages surrounding Narali.

Apart from the temple and the pond, Narali also has four exquisite havelis. One of the havelis is situated on the southern bank of the pond. This haveli, a double-storeyed building, has elaborate stucco work on it. The main entrance of the haveli is flanked by two doors; all the doors have intricate carvings. Above the central door are distinctive floral designs in stucco.

Also read: The havelis of Potohar: Pakistan’s opportunity to promote heritage tourism

The havelis are all located 200 meters west of the Radhe Sham temple in a narrow alley; carrying distinct wooden balconies.

The narrow alleys of Narali.
The narrow alleys of Narali.

The more imposing of the havelis are the ones with a square tower up top, a standard feature of the Potohari haveli.

The havelis of Bakshi Ram Singh in Kontrilla, Atam Singh in Daultala, Khem Singh Bedi Haveli in Kallar Syedan and the Wah Haveli all have similar towers. The wooden balconies on the havelis portray the aesthetics of both the builder and the owner.

A Narali haveli.
A Narali haveli.
This haveli overlookes the Narali Pond.
This haveli overlookes the Narali Pond.
A decorative niche on one of the havelis.
A decorative niche on one of the havelis.

It was heartbreaking to see these fabulous works of architecture in ruins; especially when one realises the potential for tourism that this historic village of Narali holds.

I urge the Punjab government to put up hoardings with directions to these monuments. Moreover, the Punjab tourism department must involve the local community in the preservation of the monuments of Narali and their historical significance, lest they be forgotten.

Zulfiqar can be reached at zulfi04@hotmail.com. He tweets @Kalhorozulfiqar.

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