Punjab to Afghanistan A Travelogue of 1831
By MOHAN LAL
Published by LONDON: W. H. ALLEN & Co; 1846.
Summary by Dr. Abdus Salam
Mohan Lal learned Persian and English at Delhi College. He accompanied Alexander Burnes and Surgeon Gerard as interpreter during this journey.
He says we started from Delhi on 21 Dec 1831 and passed through Panipat, Karnal, Ambala and Ludhiana. We met Ranjit Singh at Lahore on 18 Jan 1832 and stayed there for three weeks. We saw Basant festival on 6 February. We also visited Shalimar Garden and Jahangir tomb. On 11 Feb 1832 we left for Rawalpindi. We reached Ram Nagar Gujranwala on 18 Feb. Its name was changed from Rasul Nagar to Ram Nagar by Sikhs (After 1947 the name of town is again Rasul Nagar). Here we crossed Chenab. Passing through Phalia, Bhiki and Badshapur we reached Pind Dadan Khan crossing Jhelum River on 21 Feb.
There is an inn in PD Khan erected by a Sikh chief. This town is famous for salt-mines, and copper ware. Near Khewra we visited one of the largest mines, which extends about 400 yards. When we came to the seat of the salt, there were a great number of men and women at work. The salt, which is reddish, is very hard, and is dug up with sledge-hammers and axes. The revenue of the salt-mines amounts to eighteen lakh rupees a year. The salt is exported, laden on mules and camels, to all parts of the Punjab.
Passing through Jalalpur (Sharif) & Darapur we reached Rohtas fort on 1 Mar. This fort is situated on a high mountain. There are four hundred houses and thirty shops. Fifty housed are occupied by dancing-girls. Fort has a rampart, which is stronger than that of Delhi. This fort has never been visited by any Englishman before. Passing through Bakrala and Jabbo Kasi, we reached Mankiala on Mar 6.
General Ventura is an officer in the service of Ranjit Singh. He earlier directed excavations to be made into a tope or cupola of Mankiala. These operations continued for two months. The party met with no ruins or remains of any ancient city, except this building, resembling a cupola. It was about seventy feet high, and one hundred and fifty paces in circumference, cased in most parts with stone. The digging of the cupola continued until the general found iron and golden boxes, which contained a golden ring and Greek coins. We bought here some Greek coins from the villagers and sent to Calcutta.
We reached Rawalpindi on March 7, and encamped in the house of Shah Shuja Ul Mulk, the deposed king of Kabul. The officers of the Maharaja treated us respectfully & sent us a zeafat ضیافت also. I visited the tomb of Cheragh Shah. The climate of Rawal Pindi is good, but the winters are colder than those of Lahore. The population is equal to that of Pind Dadan Khan. The inhabitants are chiefly Hindus ۔ The soil is richly cultivated, and produces grain, mustard-seed, and Indian corn. This town is enriched by the trade in raisins, almonds, grapes and blankets. It is frequented by the merchants of Peshawar & Kabul. From this place all sorts of commodities from the upper countries are exported to the different parts of the Punjab.
We put on the Afghan dress, and pretended to be Durranies. Mr. Burnes altered his English name to Sikandar Khan, and I was called Hasan Jan. We tied our cooking-pots on our horses’ backs, to show our poverty to the Afghan people, who often plunder and murder travellers for a penny. On March 10 we reached Sangjani. There are two shopkeepers living in the small fort.
We passed through Margalla pass which is handsomely paved with large and clean stones. It is about two hundred yards long. We found here a Persian inscription engraved on stone. We reached Usman Khattar on March 11. A spring from the neighbouring hills supplies this village with numerous streams, which wash the streets & bazars. There are about seventy shops in this village. The village contains two thousand souls who are chiefly Hindu. I met a Hindu goldsmith who had returned two months ago from Bukhara. He told me of the wonders of that city, the dangers of the road, and cruelty of the inhabitants. He showed a Russian copper coin (kopek), which he bought in Bukhara for a quarter of a rupee. Mr. Burnes put many questions to him about the road, and conversed with him for two hours.
On March 12 we reached Burhan, twelve miles. — Our course led us through the celebrated place called Hasan Abdal. In the vicinity of this place was Wah Garden. It is watered by six fountains, which contain numerous fishes.
On March 13 we reached Hazro. We forded a rapid, noisy, and fearful stream (Haro) on our journey, which made me tremble on the horse, whose legs were losing their hold by the force of the water. We encamped at a clean house outside Hazro. Four years ago, this village was ravaged by Syed Ahmad.
On March 14, we went to see Sardar Hari Singh on the banks of the Indus at a place called Sirka . On the way we traversed a richly cultivated extensive plain. The villagers spoke Pashto. Sardar Hari Singh pitched tents for us & sent us a zeafat of money.
Next day we followed the course of the Indus, remained in an inn outside the gate of Attock fort. We were not allowed to see the fort.
On March 18 we reached Akora after covering eleven miles distant. We passed in our journey through a place called Gidar Gali, famous for robbers.
On March 19. We came to Pīr Pīāi, a distance of eighteen miles. Two Afghan elders with a band of sepoys, accompanied us as far as our encampment. We traversed an extensive plain, where the famous battle of Syed Ahmad with Ranjit Singh was fought. Many dead bodies are buried in this place of those who were killed in the combat. This village is thinly peopled, and was reduced to ashes twice by Ranjit Singh, when he fought with the Durranies of Peshawar.
On March 20. We set out for Peshawar, twenty miles. The road was on both sides richly cultivated. The elder son of Sultan Mohammed Khan conducted us honourably to a pretty house at Peshawar. Sultan Mohammed Khan dined with Burnes and Dr. Gerard.
The houses in Peshawar are constructed of unburnt bricks in wooden frames. They are three or four stories high. The streets are paved. They are narrow, but larger and cleaner than those of Lahore. A number of brooks run through the town.
There are many mosques. The northern part of the town contains the ruins of Bala Hissar. The city contains about 80,000 souls. It is certain that no city in the Punjab equals Peshawar in the richness of its soil. Grapes, figs, pomegranates, pears, apples, melons, oranges, peaches, &c. are produced here.
Sultan Mohammed Khan is the governor of Peshawar. He is always employed in adorning himself with precious robes. On account of this he is called Sultan Bibi (or lady) by Dost Mohammed Khan, the ruler of Kabul. Sultan Mohammed Khan has thirty children.
April 6. — I went with Dr. Gerard to a lapidary shop. He showed us plenty of precious stones which he brought from Badakhshan. We bought two stones from him, on which we desired our names to be engraved in the Persian character. In the evening, we visited Bala Hissar. This place is seventy feet high, and was lately destroyed and burnt by Ranjit Singh.
The thermometer in the open air was eighty-three. All the gardens and the neighbouring fields are watered by brooks conducted from the river Bara. I saw a seventy feet high building destroyed by Ranjit Singh. Though it is totally destroyed, it still retains the name of Mausam Khan’s Kote.
April 11 was holiday of the Hindus, called Baisakhi. I visited the temple of Gorakh Nath. Thousands of men and women were talking bath in the pond.
We left Peshawar on 19 April 1832 for onward journey to Kabul.
To be continued . . . . . .