I've been maintaining this blog (for better or for worse) over the last eight years. Over these years, its natural evolution has led it into becoming something of a niche place for discussion of music in general and Qawwali in particular. Rather than trying to return my existing blog to its pre-Qawwali eclectic roots, I decided I’d start anew on Tumblr. So if you’re interested in music, Qawwali and subcontinental culture, keep reading/listening/watching/commenting here. For all of the above and everything else under the sun, head on over to my Tumblr page .

Friday, December 24, 2010

...Of The Potter And The Prince

Siddhu Kumhaar lived a prosperous and contented life. As "Master Bricklayer And Potter By Special Appointment" to Emperor Shahjehan, Siddhu held a very special place in Mughal Lahore. He had supplied bricks for the construction of some of the Emperor's finest creations-from the Shalamar Gardens to the tomb of Dai Anga. Always the first to be considered when some Amir of the court planned the construction of any building, be it a residence, a garden or a mausoleum, Siddhu and his son, Buddhu were well respected artisans who made a very reasonable living from the produce of their kiln. The kiln was situated close to the Shalimar Gardens in the suburb of Begumpura and it churned out bricks and pottery on an almost daily basis to satisfy the needs of the Emperor's many ambitious building projects.

The kiln was lit on one chilly,windy and wet night. It was freezing cold outside but the kiln itself was warm, with the workers huddling close to the fire as they fed it unbaked bricks. In the middle of the night, there was a rap on the door. One of the workers answered and found an old Faqir standing outside. Shivering and drenched, the Faqir requested the worker to let him inside, into the warmth of the kiln. Rather than taking pity on the old man soaking in the freezing rain, the worker slammed the door in his face and returned to the company of his fellows. The worker didn't know that the Faqir he had refused entry was no ordinary mendicant, but Sheikh Abdul Haq, a favorite disciple of the Sufi saint Hazrat Mian Mir.

Abdul Haq left the kiln, cursing under his breath, praying that the fire that hadn't provided warmth to him on this, the coldest of nights would be extinguished forever. That was the last time that kiln was ever lit. Siddhu's business floundered and he was never able to regain the position he once held. When he died, his son Buddhu took over the struggling family business but was unable to turn his fortunes around and ultimately died almost penniless. When Shahjehan heard of the death of his royal potter, he ordered that a beautiful mausoleum be built next to the kiln and Buddhu be laid to rest there. Thus Buddhu the bricklayer was buried close to the kiln that had been both his livelihood and his undoing. 

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 Bhai Buddhu, a Sikh devotee of Guru Arjun Dev had started a brick kiln, but the bricks of his kiln could not be fully baked due to a curse placed on him by a fellow Sikh, Bhai Kamlia. Bhai Buddhu prayed to Guru Arjun Dev so that the curse could be lifted. Guru Dev Ji told him that the curse of a Sikh is final but added that his unbaked bricks would fetch the same price as that of baked bricks. It so happened that that year the demand for bricks soared so high that all the bricks of Bhai Buddhu's kiln were sold and he made a handsome profit. Bhai Buddhu built a Gurdwara as an offering of thanks to the Guru. For a long time this Gurdwara remained under the control of Mahant of Satlani. Under the Gurdwara act of 1927 AD this came under the control of Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. In 1938 when the building of Sikh National College near the Gulabi Darwaza was constructed, a splendid building for Gurdwara was also built. The building of Gurdwara has collapsed but the tomb of Bhai Buddhu still remains.

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Yamin-ud-Daula Khan-e-Dauran Khan Bahadur Nusrat Jang was one of Shahjehan's ablest generals. He had helped crush a rebellion at Ahmedabad and was instrumental in defeating the armies of Raja Jhajjhar Singh in Deccan and Noor Singh Dev in Gujrat. His wife died in Lahore while he was away on one of his military expeditions. Overcome with sorrow when he was informed of his wife's death, he chose to do what so many other Mughal noblemen did to express their grief. He had a beautiful mausoleum built for his deceased wife near their residence in Begumpura. A few years later, when he too passed away, his son decided to let his father be buried next to his mother. And so, like his Emperor, Khan-e-Dauran was laid to rest in a beautiful mausoleum originally constructed for his beloved wife

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These are just three of the contrasting stories that purport to reveal the identity of the unknown occupant of the remarkable tomb on GT Road just opposite the University Of Engineering And Technology. Known colloquially as "Buddhu Ka Aawa" ,the tomb is strategically placed so that it's the first Pit-Stop on what can be considered the scenic route through Begumpura and Baghbanpura ; the last being the Shalamar Bagh.



This beautiful and rather dilapidated building stands tucked away between a market and a gas station, just opposite UET on the main GT Road. A square building constructed on a raised platform, it has four "Peshtaaq"openings, one each side, with a sunken arched panel on the walls to either side. The platform is raised above the ground and remnants of pillars at it's corners indicate that this tomb may have been part of a much larger building that has since disappeared. Like most other tombs of the Mughal era, this one must have stood in a walled garden, the only remnant of which is a tiny lawn surrounding the building.

The square burial chamber is topped with an octagonal drum shaped structure with four arched openings. On top of this octagon rests the dome. The long-necked dome and rather imposingwas decorated with beautiful glazed tilework and mosaics, of which only remnants remain. The margins of the dome are lined by beautiful, brightly coloured floral mosaic designs that run the circumference of the dome. The hemisphere itself carries what remains of exquisite blue and white tiles arranged in chevrons. The rest of the exposed masonwork has been blackened by the ravages of time. 

Most of the beautiful glazed tilework and other decorations were torn off during the Sikh Era, a fate suffered by most of the other Mughal era buildings of Lahore. Time hasn't been kind to whatever was left behind by the marauders but the little that remains speaks eloquently of the history, the stories and the lives that are permanently woven into the fabric of Lahore's culture. Irrespective of who it is that rests in eternal repose inside 'Buddhu Ka Aawa', the building is a beautiful relic of that remarkable time and place, Lahore under the Mughals.

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