Vishnu Bala Nath Hindu Temple of Makhad Sharif, Pakistan

By: Wali Imran Khan.

Makhad Sharif is a 1000 year old town at the edge of the Attock district, Punjab, Pakistan. Makhad Sharif was originally just “Makhad” (deep ditch). Situated on Indus river, it is the border town between Northern Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. This town’s purpose was to be a crossing point for trade caravans moving across the Indus River (Darya e Sindh) to and from India toward Central Asia. Makhad Shareef was one of the places along the Indus River where the water leveled out and slowed down enough for the people to arrange a crossing.

Bala Nath Hindu Temple in Makhad

Makhad Sharif

There are Buddhist remains 25 Kms South-West from the current town center. The local legend says that Makhad Sharif was converted to Islam during Mahmood Ghaznavi’s 1008 AD expedition. One of the influential business family of Makhad are the Piracha, who were converted from Hinduism several centuries back and have always been respectful of the Hindu class in the Indus Valley. Even today, the Piracha family funds several schools and philanthropic activities in their home town.

The terrain to town is rocky and undulating and even before entering the main town, I had to drive down from a hill. Serenity of an isolated town is addictive. None of the noise, pollution, garbage and poverty that I see in cities was visible around Makhad. I could see happy, content, educated and civilized faces all around. Even the women seemed more emancipated and open to talk to strangers, unlike
the scared and guarded women in cities.

As soon as I crossed over the last ridge headed toward Makhad Sharif, the beautiful town presented itself in full regale down below, with the mighty Indus River in the background. I could see the Hindu temple, blue Maktab shrine and other Pirs’ (Muslim Saint) resting places all centered near the old bazar.

Famous Makhadi Halwa

I saw the famous Makhadi Halwa being prepared in this bazar. Makhadi halwa’s recipe has been passed down generations from the original
Hindu inhabitants of Makhad.

The funny thing I notice in Makhad bazar was that the people looked Punjabi but they had characteristic light eyes and feature like that of Pathan, In fact, many residents were bilingual; they could easily speak Punjabi and Pushto together. I was told the local Sagri Pathan are actually Bulaki Khattak from Shakardara, Kohat, a few kilometers westwards across the Indus River. 

Hindu Temple of Makhad Sharif

After seeing the Khan of Makhad’s Haveli, I climbed down from the old staircases to the harbor below, which once had several hundred docking points for trade ships. I took a long boat ride, up and down the Indus River, after the old harbor, I climbed up about 100 feet to the old Hindu Temple of Makhad, which people say is called Bala Nath Hindu Temple. This temple was relatively well preserved because the Hindu keeper of the temple stayed back while everyone else left in 1947 and died a few decades back. Even the Sanskrit writings on the temple walls and the painting of deity on the walls were still visible.

An ancient Hindu temple on the bank of Indus in Makhad

An ancient Hindu temple, Bala Nath Hindu Temple, on the bank of Indus in Makhad

I was told that the Hindus of Makhad were quite in number before 1947 and friendly and were superb in business. Makhad Hindus loved their gold and had a fascination of collecting many it in secret chambers in their homes, sometimes plastering it inside walls. This place was so rich and full of wealth that people have been discovering currency notes from central Asia packed in sacks and placed in hidden chambers in the attic of houses. The local tradition was to keep wealth hidden in pots sealed in the walls or the attic. The Hindu gold has made several families rich after 1947. 

An ancient Hindu temple on the bank of Indus in Makhad

Abandoned and delipidated Bala Nath Temple in Makhad

Makhad Today

Makhad Sharif had lost its strategic importance, and consequently its wealth, its intellect, like what is happening to Pakistan at the moment.
All the things of value left Makhad to go to where there were reciprocated – quite like Pakistan’s eventual fate.

I would highly recommend all Archeology, History and heritage lovers in Pakistan to go to Makhad Sharif before the crumbling town completely vanishes.

Watch a video about this Temple by: Shahid Shabbir

 

 

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