Makhad is a historic town in Jand tehsil in Attock District, located about 55 southwest of Jand town. The town rose to prominence during the British Raj but the Muslim Parachas and Hindus were known business communities of Makhad, whose networks were expanded as far as Central Asia and China in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. During the British Raj, Makhad became the trade centre in Attock district, formerly Campbellpur.
The town served as a terminus before the railways became operational in Colonial Punjab. On the river, the Indus Valley Flotilla was operational and trade ships sailed from Kotri in Sindh to Makhad in Punjab.
Makhad has many historic mosques which were built in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries – by not only the notables of Parachas, Awans, Arians, Qazis, Qureshis and Saghri Pathans, but also the eminent mystics of the region, notably Moulana Muhammad Ali Makhadi, Pir Syed Chan Badshah, Syed Qasim Ali Gilani Lucknow Wale alias Haji Pir etc. The majority of these mosques have now been renovated.
According to Dr. Sajjad Nizami son of Moulana Fatehuddin Makhadi, the present gaddi nashin of Moulana Muhammad Ali Makhadi’s shrine, there are about 40 mosques in Makhad town including some of the historic platforms (thaley) which served as mosques during the hot summers in the past. These platforms overlook the Indus riverbank.
The earliest mosque of Makhad town is known as Batikhel mosque. According to Muhammad Wazir Abdali, the author of Tarikh-e-Makhad, the mosque was built by Haji Abdul Aziz Batikhel in 1670, hence it is called the Batikhel mosque. Later in 1856, the mosque was renovated and expanded by a notable of the town, Hafiz Muhammad Sadique. The Batikhel mosque was noted for wooden pillars, doors and windows. It had also a basement which was mainly used during the hot summers in Makhad town.
On the river, the Indus Valley Flotilla was operational and trade ships sailed from Kotri in Sindh to Makhad in Punjab
It is said that when Moulana Muhammad Ali Makhadi (1750-1837) came to Makhad, he first stayed at the Batikhel mosque and studied at the Madrasa of Mohkamuddin under his supervision – which was then the most famous seminary in the town. After completing his education at the Madrassah of Mohkamuddin, he also started to teach there. Moulana Muhammad Ali Makhadi was the most eminent Chishti Sufi of the town and many people became his disciples. When the number of his disciples and students increased, he built another mosque to accommodate them. Moulana Muhammad Ali Makhadi started to teach from this mosque. He was a deputy (khalifa) of Khwaja Muhammad Suleman Taunsvi alias Pir Pathan (1770-1850). When Moulana Muhammad Ali Makhadi died in 1837, he was buried near this mosque and an impressive tomb was built over his grave by one of his deputies (Khalifa). The Moulana Muhammad Ali Makhadi mosque was later renovated by Moulana Zain u ddin (d. 1878), the second gaddi nashin of Moulana Muhammad Ali Makhadi’s shrine. This mosque was completely rebuilt in 2005.
Apart from Bathikhel and Moulana Muhammad Ali Makhadi mosque, there is another historic mosque which is located at a riverbank. Locally, this mosque is called ‘Baba Murad Wali mosque’. It was built by a person named Haji Samdani Paracha hence was formerly known as Samdani Wali Masjid. Later Baba Murad used to worship in this mosque and it was called after his name, thus Baba Murad Wali Masjid. This mosque is noted for its wooden ceiling, doors and windows. This mosque is located on the left bank of the Indus River.
The majority of mosques in Makhad Sharif are noted for woodwork. Some of the mosques are located in Makhad Bazaar. One of the prominent mosques is locally called Bazaar Wali Masjid. It was also called Mula Niazi Wali Masjid and Baba Karam Dad Wali Masjid. Moulvi Niaz Muhammad alias Mula Niazi used to teach in the mosque and hence was called after him as Mula Niazi Wali Masjid. It also came to be called after Karim Dad who was a well-known homoeopathy doctor (hakim) whose Hikamt Khana was located near the mosque. It became known after him as Karim Dad Wali Masjid.
In the Makhad bazaar is located another historic mosque which is known as Haji Khair Muhammad Wali Masjid. Formerly it was known as the Qazi mosque. Haji Khair Muhammad Paracha was a well-known philanthropist and notable of Makhad town, who was known for his philanthropic activities in the area. He also built the high school of Makhad.
The most spacious and splendid mosque is located near the shrine complex of Syed Noori Badshah which is believed to have been built by Pir Syed Chan Badshah in 1822. It is a single domed mosque that was formerly painted but due to frequent renovations, the paintings have disappeared now. Before the mosque is located a large tank in which rainwater used to accumulate which was used for ablution. Today the tank is no more in use. It was perhaps the most splendid and certainly the largest tank in the whole of Makhad town.
The distinctive features of the historic mosques of Makhad town were highly carved wooden doors, arched entrances and ceilings
Due to frequent renovations, the majority of the historic mosques have lost their original beauty. However, some of the mosques have still retained their original woodwork. All of these mosques are located in different mohallas of Makhad town. Ghariyan (carved or chiselled) Wali Masjid which is located in a street near Lounran Wala Pattan was built by Muhammad Ramzan and is noted for intricate wood carvings. The façade of the mosque is ornately carved. The wood carvings on a door are also remarkably done. Similar intricate woodwork can also be seen in Qazian Wali Masjid which was built by Qazi Shahbuddin. Wooden arcade entrances lead to the main prayer hall of the mosque. These entrances are flanked by wooden windows. Both the windows carry ornate wood carvings. The majority of the historic mosques of Makhad have triple-arched entrances which received special treatment by the builders. Similar stunning wooden arched entrances can also be seen in the Postian Wali Masjid which was built by Abdur Rahman Posti.
The distinctive features of the historic mosques of Makhad town were highly carved wooden doors, arched entrances and ceilings. Almost every historic mosque had a carved wooden door. From Sawar Khan Wali Masjid to Dhani Wali Masjid to Khanan Wali Masjid, wooden doors in these mosques reflect the identity and aesthetics of builders and woodcarvers of Makhad town.
The skilled woodcarvers and craftsmen of Makhad follow the same scheme of carvings which was prevalent in other villages and towns in Attock district. Floral and geometric designs were two forms of ornament that are seen in wooden doors and pillars of the mosques in Makhad. Although some of the wooden doors have been removed during the renovations of the mosques, the majority of the mosques still retain these entrances.
The author is an anthropologist. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Excerpts have been taken from the author’s forthcoming book “Memories, Mystics and Monuments of Pothohar”. All photos are by the author.