History of Jhelum

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Sohail Gate, Rohtas Fort.

The recorded history of Jhelum (Urdu: تاريخ جہلم‎), a district of modern-day Pakistan, covers thousands of years. It has since its creation been dominated by Persian, Greek, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Sikh and British influences to present-day Pakistan.

Jhelum is near the site of the famous Battle of the Hydaspes between the armies of Alexander the Great and Raja Porus. This battle took place a few miles downstream from the city centre, along the river banks. The city was founded to commemorate the death of Alexander's horse, Bucephalus, and was originally called Bucephala. Nearby there is also the historic 16th century Rohtas Fort, another historic fort since Sikh era located at the backside of main bus stand near Railway Phatak Jhelum City now being used as stores under Railway Authorities and also Tilla Jogian; a centuries-long history of the area.

Early history[edit]

The history of the district dates back to the semi-mythical period of the Mahabharata. Hindu tradition represents the Salt Range as the refuge of the five Pandava brethren during the period of their exile, and every salient point in its scenery is connected with some legend of the national heroes. Modern research has fixed the site of the conflict between Alexander and Porus as within Jhelum district, though the exact spot at which the Macedonian king effected the passage of the Jhelum (or Hydespes) has been hotly disputed.

Greek period[edit]

Ancient graveyard of Alexander's period.

Alexander moved from ancient Taxila of Raja Ambhi, whom he subdued without fight, to Kalar Kahar. From there he moved over the Salt Range, turning left, along the western bank of River Jhelum, which he called Hydaspes. Opposite him on the other bank was a Raja Porus. They fought one of the biggest and most fierce battle of Alexander's whole campaign, which eventually Alexander won, after using a surprise move against the valiant Porus but with great difficulty and a heavy loss of life on Alexander's side too. Before moving further, along the river Alexander established a village on west bank of the River and ordered construction of 2000 boats. Greek Admiral Nearches was to arrange wood from nearby higher hills which would be floated down the River and hauled up at this point. He called this village as Boucephila (present-day Jhelum City). The Jhelum River passes vying with the residential areas of the city.

The mosque inside the river is a famous landmark most commuters on the Grand Trunk Road even today. Alexander's Naval Chief was assigned the task of boats building on a very large scale. Therefore, the craftsmen on a large scale were gathered, hence the modern colonies in the city were named as Machine Mohallahs (Number 1, 2 and 3), because of saw mills. Jhelum became timber market for whole of Punjab over the millenniums. It was only after construction of Mangla Dam that log wood does not float down the river and the city has lost this privilege. There is a plywood factory also, which is flourishing. Greeks left marks of their chivalry and martial spirit which mixed up well with the races and clans dwelling in the area.[1]

Early Muslim period[edit]

In 997 CE, Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi, took over the Ghaznavid dynasty empire established by his father, Sultan Sebuktegin, In 1005 he conquered the Shahis in Kabul in 1005, and followed it by the conquests of Punjab region in including the Jhelum District. The Delhi Sultanate and later Mughal Empire ruled the region. The Punjab region became predominantly Muslim due to missionary Sufi saints whose dargahs dot the landscape of Punjab region.

The Janjuas and Jats, who now hold the Salt Range and its northern plateau respectively, appear to have been the earliest inhabitants.[2]

The Gakhars, who appear to represent an early wave of conquest from the west, and who still inhabit a large tract in the east of the District; while the Awans, who now cluster in the western plain, are apparently later invaders, the Gakhars were the dominant race during the early Muslim era and they long continued to retain their independence, both in Jhelum itself and in the neighbouring District of Rawalpindi.[2]

Mughal era[edit]

During the flourishing period of the Mughal dynasty, the Gakhar chieftains were among the most prosperous and loyal vassals of the house of Babar.The heirs of Mughal tribes spread with the bank of river Jhelum and the main locations of Mughal tribes started to live in Chak Nazar, Khardiyala and Mong Rasool, chotala, Motagarbi, shamasAbad, Pandoori, chak Mughlan, Qazi Chak, and else where. These Mughal tribes belong to highest clan "Barlas" Mughal. They even lived as open declared Mughal Tribes during the hard period of British. They did not lose their identity and lived with honours. After the 1923 Flood in river Jhelum.These Mughal Families migrated to different parts of Jhelum and Gujrat. As the record shows that they were known as big land owners in Jhelum and Gujrat.One of the family of Mirza Khan Muhammad and Mirza Doust Muhammad, shifted to village Aima Afghana, having lands denoted by the British Government.Mirza Khan Muhammad had four sons, named Mirza Sarwar Baig, Mirza Aslam Baig, Mirza Sadiq Baig and Mirza Bashir Baig.

Sikh era[edit]

A Fort in Jhelum City, built during Sikh era.

In 1765 Gujar Singh defeated the last independent Gakhars Chief, Muqarrrab Khan, and reduced the wild mountaineers of the Salt Range and the Murree Hills to subjection. After the decline of the Mughal Empire, the Sikh invaded and occupied Multan District. The Muslims faced severe restrictions during the Sikh rule. Gujar Singh's son succeeded to his dominions until 1810, when it fell to Ranjit Singh. Under the Lahore government the dominant classes of Jhelum suffered much from fiscal actions; and the Janjua, Gakhar and Awan families who had a feudal and aristocratic influence in the area, gradually lost their landed estates, which passed into the hands of their Jat dependents.[2]

British era[edit]

In 1847 Jhelum passed with the rest of the Sikh territories into the power of the British.In 1857 the 14th Native Infantry stationed at Jhelum town mutinied, and made a vigorous defence against a force sent from Rawalpindi to disarm them, but decamped on the night following the action, the main body. Being subsequently arrested by the Kashmir authorities, into whose territory they had escaped. British established administration at district level and Jhelum District, which originally was covering large area including Pindigheb and territory up to Indus river, was delimited later to include tehsils of Jhelum, Chakwal and Pind Dadan Khan, with District Headquarters shifting from Pind Dadan Khan to Jhelum. During the 20th Century, this city has a proud history of chivalry and achievements.[3]

During British rule, Jhelum was a district of Rawalpindi Division, and was larger than the current district of Jhelum. On April 1, 1914, the tehsil of Talagang was detached from the District and incorporated with the new District of Attock. The old Jhelum district (minus Talagang) covered an area of 2,813 square miles (7285 km2) and included Chakwal tehsil - it was bounded by Shahpur and Attock to the west, and by Rawalpindi to the north - the Jhelum River separated it from Kashmir to the north-east and from Gujrat and Shahpur to the south-east and south.[2]

During British rule, Jhelum was connected by the North-Western Railway to other cities in the Indian empire, 1,367 miles from Calcutta, 1,413 from Bombay, and 849 from Karachi. The population according to the 1901 census of India was 14,951.[2]

According to the Imperial Gazetteer of India:

"The present town is of modern origin, the old town, which may have been the Bucephala of Alexander having been, on the left or opposite bank of the river. Under Sikh rule the place was quite unimportant, being mainly occupied by a settlement of boatmen, and at the time of annexation contained about 500 houses. It was then chosen as the site of a cantonment and as the headquarters of the civil administration. For some years it was the seat of the Commissioner of the Division, but in 1859 his headquarters were transferred to Rawalpindi. Under British rule Jhelum has steadily advanced in prosperity; and it is the entrepôt for most of the trade of the District, though, since the completion of the Sind-Sāgar branch of the North-Western Railway; the salt trade no longer passes through it. It is an important timber dépôt, the timber from the Kashmir forests which is floated down the river being collected here. A good deal of boat-building is carried on. The cantonment, which is 3 miles from the civil station, contains the church and post office. The normal strength of the garrison is one Native cavalry and four Native infantry regiments. The municipality was founded 1867. During the ten years ending 1902-3 the receipts averaged Rs. 32,100, and the expenditure Rs, 31,900. Receipts and expenditure from cantonment funds in the same period averaged Rs. 31,900 and Rs. 6,100 respectively. The chief income of the municipality in 1903-4 was Rs. 34,200 chiefly from octroi; and the expenditure was Rs. 41,000. The town has two Anglo vernacular schools, a municipal high school, and a middle school maintained by the American Presbyterian Mission. Besides the civil hospital, the mission also maintains a ."[2]
Marble Lectern in memory of 35 British soldiers.

During the Indian Rebellion of 1857 35 British soldiers of HM XXIV regiment were killed by the local resistance. A lectern inside St. John's Church Jhelum the church shows the names of those 35 soldiers. St. John's Church is located in Jhelum Cantonment Pakistan beside the river Jhelum. It was built in 1860 and is a landmark of the city. It is a Protestant church and was in use during the British period. For forty years it remained closed. Now it has been renovated and opened and almost in good condition.

British soldier William Connolly won a Victoria Cross in this battle. Mirza Dildar Baig took part in the struggle of 1857 in Jhelum, arrested and hanged near the river Jhelum. The railway bridge on the river Jhelum was built in 1873 by the British engineer William St. John Galwey. He also made the great Empress Bridge over the river Sutlej.

Independence[edit]

The predominantly Muslim population supported Muslim League and Pakistan Movement. After the independence of Pakistan in 1947, the minority Hindus and Sikhs migrated to India while the Muslim refugees from India settled in the Jhelum District.

Military history[edit]

Jhelum is known for providing a large number of soldiers to the British and later to the Pakistan armed forces due to which it is also known as city of soldiers or land of martyrs and warriors.[4] During World War I, Jhelum provided maximum number of soldiers as a result of which the British recruited very extensively from Jhelum, till their last days of rule. First Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry was earned by Subedar Khuda Dad Khan during World War I. Later its equivalent (Nishan-e-Haider) of Pakistan has been won by Major Muhammad Akram (Shaheed) during our war of 1971. At the time of the independence of Pakistan in 1947, three out of four senior major generals of Pakistan Army were from Jhelum: Major General Muhammad Akbar, Major General Nazir Ahmed and Major General Muhammad Iftekhar. Senior most Pakistan Air Force officer was Air Commodore Muhammad Khan Janjua, also from Jhelum. Later rose up two service chiefs with four star rank, General Asif Nawaz Janjua and Admiral Tariq Kamal Khan. Colonel Muhammad Khan, the author of Bajang Amad and Bazam Araian.

During Pakistan-India wars, officers and other ranks excelled in their performances and a very large number of gallantry awards were won. One has to read Citations of such acts of valor. Then pre-World War II and during that war, the number of Junior commissioned officers (earlier-Viceroy Commissioned) who rose to honorary ranks of lieutenants and captains would run into hundreds. Predominance in Defense Services continues and so is service to country.[5]

Etymology[edit]

Anjum Sultan Shahbaz records some stories of the name Jhelum in his book Tareekh-e-Jhelum as:[6]

(Shahbaz, Anjum Sultan (September 2003). Tareekh-e-Jhelum (urdu). history of jhelum (2nd ed.). Book Corner, Main Bazar, Jhelum. p. 92. )

References[edit]