This is not the story of partition but the story of the legend of a river, of the immoral saint who guided Alexander the great in the latter’s quest for immortality. It is the story, probably of the first seed, that ultimately resulted in the partition of India and Pakistan. Being over thousand years, the story has evolved. A hero became legend and legend turned into myth. There are many versions to the story, what I have written here is a compilation from some of those tales.
Thousands of years ago, when the gods walked with the mortals, Indian saints unravelled the mystery of immorality. The magic was found in the juice of soma plants, somras (Avestan haoma), growing in the banks of the great Indus River. Alexander the Great came to know about it and wanted to find it so that he can rule the world eternally. In his voyage he befriended a person who was guiding him towards the secret place. After a point of time they parted ways to make the search quicker. One day, accidentally, a dried fish fell into a spring from the hand of Alexander’s friend. To his surprise, the dead fish came back to life and swam away. Eureka!!! He found the fountain of life, Aab-i-Hayat. He drank from it and told the soldiers to inform Alexander. By the time Alexander returned, the spring vanished along with that man.
~[ Thank god Alexander did not found it; else there would have been an authoritarian rule in the world, ruled by a single king bored of too much life. Or else there would have been many immortal kings locked in a perpetual war for supremacy. Humanity still pursues for that eluding immortality and still every country dreams of being the world superpower. If only they knew the secret. ]~
Alexander’s friend became a legend. His story can be traced back to the Gilgamesh epic, the Alexander Romances, the Jewish legend of Elijah and Rabbi Joshua ben Levi and even the Qur’an. He is known by many names. He is al-Khadir or Khwaja Khizr of Muslims, Uderolal or Jind Pir of Hindus, Utnapishtim of the Gilgamesh epic. He is the immortal prophet whose abode is a green island in the Indus River. He roams along the banks of the river and helps people in trouble. He has white beard and rides on a palla fish.
~[ Palla fish is very tasty. It is known as Ilish in Bengal and a favourite delicacy of us bongs. We love it, especially the one cooked in mustard gravy. Yummy! I have started liking this man. ]~
In 10th century AD King Mirkshah came to conquer Punjab and ordered the Sindhis to convert to Islam or except death. The king gave them a deadline of 40 days to decide. In fear of loosing their religion the Sindhis prayed to God Varuna. Varuna took birth as Uderolal in mortal Mata Devki’s womb. When Mirkshah came back, Uderolal suddenly grew old with white beard, rode on pala fish, and came out of Indus. The King ordered his soldiers to arrest Uderolal. All of a sudden waters rose from nowhere drowning the King and his men. Uderolal told the king that all gods are same and not to fight a war based on religion. Mirkshah realized how foolish he was and left. A temple was to be built in this memory. Hindus wanted a Samadhi while the Muslims a ‘qaba’. As they fought, a voice appeared from heaven and said
“Make a shrine acceptable to both Hindus and Muslims. One face like that of a temple and another like a dargah’s: I belong to all of you”.
Years later, a Delhi merchant by the name of Shah Hussain was crossing Indus with his daughter, Badu-i-Jamal, on their way to Mecca. A Hindu King, Daluraj fell in love with the beauty of Badu-i-Jamal and wanted to marry her. When opposed, the king wanted to take her forcefully. Hussain preyed to Khwaja Khizr and he appeared and rescued them by changing the direction of the stream to Rohri.
Hindus and muslims prayed together for over 800yrs in the green abode of Khwaja Khizr, a small island near Rohri. It was the symbol of unity, a symbol of peace. But not many liked it. Swami Bankhandi started to promote his pro-Hindu slogans in the late 19th Century against the common worship. It was the opportunity the British were looking for. The Hindu-Muslim unity was the backbone of India, break it and India will shatter. Finally a separate Hindu temple was made planting the first seed of partition. The question remains, why did the colonial court allowed the division? The answer is probably obvious.
The 1956 flood destroyed both the temple and the mosque justly leaving behind only the smooth stone marking the saint’s abode that had no religion bias. A divine justice one might say. But what have we learnt from it. History has shown us that it is possible for the Hindus and Muslims to live together in harmony, but time and again we forget it. What future do we have if our backbone itself is broken?