PESHAWAR: The Victoria Memorial Hall of the Peshawar Museum was once again the venue for a spellbinding lecture by known writer Professor Dr Sayed Amjad Hussain.
This was the third yearly lecture in which the speaker walked the audience through 5,000 years of recorded history stretching between Attock and Peshawar - a physical journey of mere 80 kilometers - in an area steeped in rich history.
The event was organised by Creative Co and Peshawar Readers Club with the collaboration of Department of Archaeology and Museums, KP.
The speaker said Jahangira, Akora Khattak, Nowshera, Pir Pai, Pabbi are well-known wayside stops that punctuate the passage from Attock to Peshawar. All these towns played a part in the drama that has been unfolding for many millennia.
The bigger arena and the big stage, however, was Peshawar where the remote ancient past meshes seamlessly with the immediate past and the present to form a mosaic that is intriguing and fascinating. King Kanishka, the Afghan Durranis, Raja Ranjit Singh and the British still cast a long shadow over the city, added the scholar from Peshawar who is based in the United States.
He said this fertile land has produced poets and artisans, warriors and rulers. Some of them wrote history with the point of their swords whereas others used pen and ink. “ All of them have left fascinating stories and intriguing fables in their wake. The muffled echoes of their passage can still be heard in the labyrinthine alleys of the old walled city and the craggy defiles of the Khyber Pass,” he added.
Starting from the Aryan invasion onwards, Dr Amjad pointed out significance of Attock. Olaf Caroe, author of The Pathans, equated the feelings of a traveller entering into KP with the British returning home viewing the Cliffs of Dover.
He said Panini, the famous grammarian and mathematician hailed from Chota Lahor (in Swabi) and India issued a stamp to commemorate him while it was a pity that the present country of his birth had forgotten him.
Dr Amjad said a plaque of a well found near Taxila bore an inscription in Hindko which established the ancient origins of the language which has an identity of its own.
The speaker narrated the story of North Western Railways of British India and explained how the steam locomotives were first shipped on boats across the Indus River. The line was extended from Attock to Peshawar and the old iron girder bridge was built in 1883, he said.
The town of Jahangira, according to him, was historically a boat maker’s town and its boats were in use as far down in places like Sukkar since the time immemorial.
The town of Akora Khattak, he pointed out, was associated with many significant personalities. Khushal Khan Khattak, the warrior poet during Mughal times, to Maulana Samiul Haq , head of Darul Uloom Haqqania, in recent times. These personalities shaped significant trends in this part of the world, he said.
The speaker then dwelt at length about the events and personalities of Sikh period from 1818 - 1849 during which three major battles were fought for invasion of Peshawar.
The town of Pir Pai, according to him, was known for nurturing talent, doctors, generals, scholars and sages. He mentioned two contrasting personalities, Gul Hamid, an actor whose career was cut short by a fatal illness and Maj-Gen Naseerullah Babar.
Gor Khatri excavation, he said, it established Peshawar’s chronological age and the excavation pit owed its existence due to the research and interest by late archaeologist Farzand Khan Durrani.
He recounted times when Avitabile, a ruthless Italian governor appointed by Ranjeet Singh administered Peshawar. His name made into local folklore as “Abu Tabela” and mothers used to frighten their children long after his era.
The speaker stressed on the importance of Panj Teerath archaeological site and hailed the KP government for declaration it as National Heritage.
The speaker donated a print of a special painting that was commissioned by him by an American artist. The painting showcases three important landmarks of Peshawar, as they existed many centuries ago: the Kanishka Stupa (8th wonder of the ancient world) and Gor Khatri and Peepal Tree mentioned in the memoirs of Chinese pilgrims.
The event was attended by history and cultural buffs who asked questions in the Q&A session. In the end a resolution was adopted that asked the government to honour Dr Sayed Amjad Hussain with the civil award.