Located on the left bank of the mighty Indus river is the historic town of Makhad in Narrara Hills (also called the Makhad Hills). Makhad is situated about 55 km southeast of Jand town in Attock district. On various ridges of Narrara hills are remains of prehistoric and historic times. Old Makhad was located about 25 km southwest of present-day Makhad. There are many prehistoric sites in and around it. From a later era, Buddhist and Hindu Shahi sites are also found in the old Makhad area, reflecting how important the location was through history. On the banks of the Indus River mediated and worshipped sadhus, sants and saints – attracting the populace to their faiths. The remains and ruins of the ancient religious structures are found along the Indus and its various tributaries between Makhad in Attock district and Mari Indus near Kalabagh in Mianwali district.
The present Makhad is believed to have been found in the seventeenth. Makhad was an important town in the eighteenth century when the Awans were the lords of the Makhad area. The Awans were later driven by Sagri Pathans from Shakdara in Kohat. According to the Gazetteer of the Attock district, 1930, the Sagri Pathans are a branch of Bulaki Khattak who came from Kohat to Makhad.
Many Sufis and saints came from different Islamicate world to Makhad and some even settled in the town for good. There are three popular shrine complexes in Makhad Sharif. After the arrivals of the Sufis in the town, the landscape of Makhad resonated with spiritualism – hence it was called Makhad Sharif. The earliest Sufi saint who came to preach in Makhad Sharif and the neighbouring area was Syed Abdullah Gilani alias Syed Noori Badshah. According to Muhammad Wazir Abdali, the author of Tarikh-e-Makhad, Syed Noori Badshah was believed to have arrived at Makhad in 1650. Syed Noori Badshah did not get married and his spiritual successors spread his teachings in Makhad and beyond. One of his disciples Pir Syed Shah Muhammad Ghaus, popularly known as Sari Wale Baba, became his first khalifa and gaddi nashin. Pir Syed Shah Muhammad Ghaus used to wear a long shawl, hence he was called Sari Wala Baba. After the death of Pir Syed Shah Muhammad Ghaus, his son Pir Syed Chan Badshah became the Pir of Makhad.
The shrines of all the Sufis associated with the shrine of Syed Noori Badshah are located in Makhad town. The main shrine belongs to Syed Abdullah Gilani alias Syed Noori Badshah, which also contains the grave of Pir Syed Shah Muhammad Ghaus alias Sari Wala Baba. The distinctive features of the tomb of Syed Noori Badshah are the painting and ornate wooden carved doors. The second tomb belongs to Pir Syed Chan Badshah which also houses the grave of his son Pir Syed Ghulam Jafar. The tomb of Pir Syed Chan Badshah is decorated with paintings. The wooden painted ceiling of the tomb of Pir Syed Chan Badshah is superbly made, which reflects the craftsmanship of the Makhadi craftsmen. The exterior paintings of both the tombs of Syed Noori Badshah and Pir Syed Chan Badshah have disappeared now, amidst the frequent renovations of the structures. During the British Raj, Pir Ghulam Abbas and later his son Pir Mohiuddin alias Pir Lal Badshah were the famous Pirs of Makhad Sharif.
From a later era, Buddhist and Hindu Shahi sites are also found in the old Makhad area, reflecting how important the location was through history
To the north of the shrine of Syed Noori Badshah is the shrine complex of Syed Qasim Ali Gilani Lucknow Wale alias Haji Pir who is popularly known as ‘Ghyarveen Wale Pir’ (Pir of the 11th). Haji Pir Syed Qasim Shah was born in Lucknow in 1770 and went from Lucknow to Makhad, and hence was called ‘Lucknow Wale Pir’. He came to Makhad and settled to preach in the town. He died in 1873 and was buried in Makhad near the shrine complex of Syed Noori Badshah. His tomb is believed to have been built by Syed Taqi Shah Gilani on land donated by Muhammad Afzal Paracha, a notable of Makhad town. Syed Asghar Ali Shah Gilani became the first gaddi Nashin of the shrine of Syed Qasim Ali Gilani (1868-1915). The second gaddi nashin of the shrine was Syed Shah Muhammad Ghaus Gilani (1882-1967). The present gaddi nashin of the darbar is Syed Tanvir ul Hassan Gilani.
Apart from the shrine complexes of Syed Noori Badshah and Syed Qasim Ali Gilani, the shrine complex of Moulana Muhammad Ali Makhad is the most popular in Makhad town. Moulana Muhammad Ali Makhadi was born in 1750 in Batala in Amritsar, Punjab. His father Muhammad Shafi was an eminent religious scholar of his time. He received primary education under the supervision of his brother Ghulam Rasool at Batala. At the age of 22 in 1772, he traveled to Makhad to study at the Madrassa of Mohkamuddin, which was then the most famous seminary in the town. Under the supervision of Mohkamuddin, Moulana Muhammad Ali Makhadi studied fiqah and tafsir. After completing the formal education, Moulana Muhammad Ali Makhadi started teaching in the seminary of Mohkamuddin and became an eminent religious scholar in Makhad Sharif.
Moulana Muhammad Ali Makhadi visited the khanqah of Khwaja Muhammad Suleman Taunsvi (1770-1850) at Taunsa Sharif many times – who initiated him into the Chishti silsila. Moulana Muhammad Ali Makhadi was asked by his mentor to continue to preach in Makhad Sharif. After receiving the robe of initiation, he returned to Makhad Sharif and started preaching the thought and ideology of his mentor Khawaja Muhammad Suleman Taunsvi. There were already many disciples of Moulana Muhammad Ali Makhadi but after initiation into the Chishti Silsala by Khawaja Muhammad Suleman, the numbers of his disciples increased tremendously. Moulana Muhammad Ali Makhadi did not get married. After the death of Moulana Muhammad Ali Makhadi in 1837, his chief disciple and deputy Muhammad Abid Ji Muharvi became the first gaddi nashin of his shrine. He continued to preach the ideology of his mentor till his death in 1845. He was succeeded by Zainuddin Makhadi who also continued to preach the teachings of his mentor and many people became his disciples. He died in 1878 and was succeeded by Moulana Mohiuddin Makhadi (d. 1920). The fourth and fifth gaddi nashins of the shrine of Moulana Muhammad Ali Makhadi were Moulana Ahmeduddin Makhadi (d. 1969) and Moulana Fasaluddin Makhadi(d. 2008) respectively. The present gaddi nashin of the shrine is Moulana Fatehuddin Makhadi.
Pir Syed Shah Muhammad Ghaus used to wear a long shawl, hence he was called Sari Wala Baba
The tomb of Moulana Muhammad Ali Makhadi is an impressive structure that was built on the pattern of the tomb of his mentor Khawaja Muhammad Suleman Taunsvi. Stone was profusely used to construct the tomb of Moulana Muhammad Ali Makhadi. The stone carvings of the gallery of the tomb reflect the aesthetics of the builder. Moreover, the wooden ceiling of the gallery is also remarkable. Formerly the interior of the tomb was painted with floral designs. The dome and some of the doorways are adorned with Sindhi ceramics which were brought from Hala.
There are three graves inside the tomb which belong to Moulana Muhammad Ali Makhadi (d. 1837) and two of his disciples – Zainuddin Makhadi (1878) and Moulana Mohiuddin Makhadi (d. 1920).
There is a madrasa, a mosque and a library adjacent to the shrine of Moulana Muhammad Ali Makhadi. The library was set up by Moulana Muhammad Ali Makhadi. It has a large collection of Arabic and Persian manuscripts. According to Dr. Sajjad Nizami son of the present gaddi nashim Moulana Fatehuddin Makhadi, books were purchased from Kabul, Samarkand and Bukhara. There are also some manuscripts in Punjabi. Books in Pashto, Urdu and English are also available in the Moulana Muhammad Ali Makhadi library. Successive gaddi nashins of Moulana Muhammad Ali Makhadi’s shrine kept adding books to the library. At present, there are about 19, 200 books on the subjects of Hadith, Tafsir, letters, Sufism, philosophy, history, literature, travelogue, poetry, astrology, mathematics and medicine.
The author is an anthropologist. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Excerpts have been taken from the author’s forthcoming book “History and Heritage of Pothohar.” All photos are by the author