Sunday 25 February 2024

Fort Lakhpat cursed ghost Town: Once the Richest Village Now the Haunted Village of Gujrat

Fort Lakhpat is situated at the mouth of the Kori creek, overlooking the Great Rann of Kutch, at a distance of 160 Km from Bhuj in State of Gujrat.


Legend has it that the first Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Nanak Dev Ji, made his final stop at Lakhpat before leaving for Mecca. The Sufi mystic Pir Ghaus Muhammad was buried in Lakhpat, and his stone tomb has a water tank which has healing properties.

The town enclosed by 7 km fort walls which were built in the early 19th century by Jamadar Fateh Muhammed. The Rann can be seen from the top of the fort. Lakhpat prospered as a trade route in the Western end of Gujarat.


In the year 1819, an earthquake had hit the town. The Indus River flowing through Lakhpat changed its course following the earthquake, and consequently it affected the day to day life of the natives, thus forcing them to abandon the town. The ones that are still residing in the town are struggling to lead a comfortable life.


It is said that the town of Lakhpat used to be home to several millionaires, and that’s how it got its name from the Hindi word Lakhpati which means millionaire.

Apparently, the robbers posed a serious threat to the prosperous town which became a very serious issue for the locals. One of the administrative heads of that time, Fateh Muhammad, proposed to king of Lakhpat an idea to construct a protective wall around Lakhpat to ward off the robbers. However, the king rejected the proposal as there was a scarcity of funds to commission the construction.


My Travelogue of Fort Lakhpat the Ghost Town  

Today this Ghost town “Kot Lakhpat” tells story of its grandeur by the ruins in the shape of the fort walls. Most of the Lakhpat fort town is comprised of abandoned houses and thus it can be scary and unsafe at night in the region.


It was an exciting experience to drive towards the extreme north-west part of the country the last village in that direction. The deserted straight road passes through never-ending barren land devoid of habitation.


Before a long 135 Km, from Bhuj in Gujrat to “Kot Lakhpat”, we decided to have breakfast. From a road side traditional street vendor’s food thela, a quick desi naashta of Aalu and Pyaz Pakoras, soft Dhoklas, Aalu Banda with chatni, sweet and hot Jalebis with a garam chai, was a start to wander in history. 

We were entering just as Camel caravans once did centuries ago, laden with goods destined to be shipped from the Lakhpat port to far corners of the Indian Ocean. This entrance gate in the southern portion of the fort wall on the road from Bhuj was open with a gate on the road just inside the walls.

Four other gates service the town along with pedestrian Bari, a "window". Here, a toll booth stood ready to collect tolls and customs from visitors and traders before they were allowed access to the rest of the town. Bhungas housed Arab guards nearby, who were employed by the town for protection.


 “Tropic of Cancer is passing from here”

About 40-45 kilometers prior to Lakhpat, another sensational surprise was waiting to accrue the thrill of our journey. A large board on our left was displaying, “Tropic of Cancer is passing from here” and I immediately stopped and stepped out to capture the moment in my camera.


A few steps from the display board were a white line drawn on the road to indicate the probable imaginary line. Unbelievable, am I really witnessing the imaginary line, about which we have read only in our geography books during school days!


Hereafter, we didn’t find a single vehicle or any habitat on the way except occasional sighting of monitor lizards and mongoose shying away into the bushes, until hitting the dead end at the ruined magnificent fort.


Looked out through the window of Taxi: all was barren wilderness and a straight road passing through the middle of it.


And finally reached at “Ghost Town Lakhpat”

The place of my dreams, since I have seen Hindi movie “Refujee”, of Abhishek Bachhcan and Kareena Kapoor, shot in Lakhpat. The deserted straight road passes through never-ending barren land devoid of habitation.Trust me, if you don’t get yourself a car or a taxi, you’ll be a sitting duck under the scorching sun.


In one of India's remote corners (Bhuj, state of Gujrat) on India-Pakistan border lays a deserted village of hardly a few hundred populations within a sprawling fortification.


The village is no other than Lakhpat, once a thriving port with daily revenue believed to exceed one hundred thousand (one lakh) koris. Hence its name is Lakhpat.

The straight road ended at the fort gate. There was nobody around. The car drived past the fort’s entrance gate that opened out to a vast barren expanse with a few abandoned shacks. Inside too, not a single soul in sight. 


History of Ghost Town Lakhpat

As I approach the now deserted ghost town Lakhpat, a hushed breeze redolent with countless stories—some fact, some legend—sweeps over the crumbling ruins.


The literal meaning of Lakhpat is the city of millionaire as historically town was bustling with port activities and had daily revenue of one lakh Kori, the former currency.


Lakhpat was founded by Rao Lakhpatji (1752-61) the ruler of the State of Kutch. The settlement was later fortified in 1801 by Jamadar Fateh Muhammed, a Kutch General, to defend the kingdom from the Sindhis across the river.

The 7 kilometer long fortification, much of which still stands, was at one time manned by 50 Arabs and 150 Kutch soldiers. Within it was a populace of millionaire merchants, predominantly Muslim, with a spattering of Hindus, trading in opium, rice, ghee, silk and perfumes with Sindh.


How Lakhpat: A port and fertile land, was abandoned and turned as a Ghost town.

And then, when it was merely half a century old, an earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 7.7 to 8.2 occurred on the evening of 16 June, 1819. And everything changed.


This earthquake changed the course of the Indus River on whose banks the town had been built, moving it 150 kilometers away.


Lakhpat’s riches, as both a port and fertile land, declined almost overnight. The town was abandoned to be replaced with thorny acacia trees and dusty desert sands. Where formerly over 10,000 inhabitants had lived in luxury within the fortified walls, the number dropped over the following centuries to a few hundred struggling to subsis


Today it is ghost town, a city of ruins of buildings and a magnificent fort surrounding them. The population was 463 in 87 households 2001 which increased to 566 in 108 households in 2011.


What I Saw Inside Ghost Town Lakhpat

The straight road ends at the fort. There is nobody around. The car drives past the fort’s entrance gate that opens out to a vast barren expanse with a few abandoned shacks. Inside too, not a single soul in sight. It was about 12.30 P.M, Sun was just over our heads in sky.

A small tea stall was located at the corner of the main entrance-- It seemed unbelievable, that we had reached the extremely distant part of the land. The display boards at the entry points were boasting about the glorious past of Lakhpat, now a protected place. Looking around, we didn’t find anybody.


Our car entered inside the gate. Here I clicked some memorable shots. Taxi driver was telling us about the glorious past of this place, while driving inside on soily lanes. The silent inhibited buildings were mook evidence of their rich past.

Inside fort we saw a broken Custom House, which was the chief administrative office for trade in the mid 19th century. It was known as the Chowk Bazaar. Just close to it is Akbani Mahal, which was home to an affluent trading family of Lakhpat.


The Akbanis are Muslims of the Memon community and also are well known to this day for their far reaching trading empire, mostly centered now in Bombay.

Taxi driver stopped Innova car at a place. Being a local man he was well informed about the history and local folk tales of this place. He told: This is Pir Ghaus Muhammad tomb.


He was a Sufi saint of Lakhpat, was believed to have supernatural powers. After Pir’s death in 1855, his brother Shah Saheb began to build a tomb locally known as Kubo. Pir's body rests here along with other members of his family.

This tomb is constructed over a palatiform by black stones, octagonal in shape, with four side doors arched and richly carved. The walls are decorated with patterns of flowers and leaves. The grave inside tomb is covered with a white marble canopy.


Opposite the tomb is a water tank which is believed to have healing characteristics for skin diseases. Ravi told that water of these tanks changes its color by every day of week

In one corner of this water tank, was stone stairs leading to fort wall top. I couldn’t stop my curiosity to climb over the stairs. Climbing up a few stairs over the Fort wall, we could see 360 degree views of Kori Creek, Marsh land, Sand and Rann of Kachh.

Further ahead is said to be Pakistan: As we couldn’t see any establishment on the end of our vision, we exactly do not know where it was.


So yes, Lakhpat is a place where once upon a time people resided. It’s a place where Muslim masjid and tombs exist alongside the temples and the Gurudwaras.  


Langar at Lakhpat Gurudwara Sahib

It was around 1.45 P.M, when driver stopped at door of Gurudawara. A Sikh Gyani (priest) welcomed, and asked for Langer. After the darshan. The Langar had daal, roti, rice and halwa. All cooked in pure ghee. we had langar with home type cooked prasad and food. Free langar and tea are served to the visitor around the clock.

You need to wash your own utensils at Gurudwara.The langar had daal, roti, rice and halwa. The food tasted good.


I especially loved the halwa made with desi ghee. Few Sikhs who run the place were extremely helpful and smiling, willing to answer many of my questions. You needs to cover your head if you wish to enter the prayer room at a gurudwara. Somewhere ahead, there is an old Shiva temple too.


History of Gurudawara at Lakhpat: Gurdwara Pehli Patshahi

Gurdwara Pehli Patshahi meaning the "Gurdwara of the first master" is situated at Lakhpat. Guru Nanak Devji Sahib stayed here 40 days during his second and fourth missionary journeys to holy places of Islam, Mecca and Madina, in 1506-1513 AD and 1519-1521 AD respectively.

Gurdwara Guru Nanak Sahib has been built to preserve the memory of these visits of Guru during the early 1500s. A few rare personal possessions of his are retained here.


Several rare treasure are preserved in this Gurudawara. It includes the “Charan Paduka”-Khadvas (wooden footwear) of Guru Nanak Devji’s. It houses relics such as decorative carved wooden cradle.

We saluted these real life heroes. The real job is done by those who put their lives in danger every single day on their job. The BSF jawans overlook the Rann and the Pakistan border straight, with the air distance not being more than 20 kms. 

They protect our borders in all conditions, from cold to dry and hot conditions of the Rann. Realized degree of difficulties of this border place “The Lakhpat”, where even water is scarce and ration of vegetables are limited.


Coming out of the nostalgic tranquility of the fortified ancient ruined settlement. No basic infrastructure, no petrol pumps, no accommodation facilities around hundreds of miles and not even a public transport beyond Dayapar. Totally discriminated, ignored, neglected, isolated and disconnected place.  Is it due to infiltration prone zone!

Here I spent most memorable few hours of my life and clicked few most beautiful clicks from camera.

Most of the Lakhpat fort town is comprised of abandoned houses and thus it can be scary and unsafe at night in the region. It is advised to take shelter in the Gurudwara as the management there is very hospitable towards travelers. 

The End


Thursday 22 February 2024

खानजादा बेगम: बाबर की बहन वो शहजादी जिसने भाई को तख्त दिलाने के लिए दुश्मन से शादी कर ली मुगल साम्राज्य की सबसे शक्तिशाली महिला.

बाबर ने भारत में मुगल साम्राज्य की नींव रखी. इतिहास में इसका जिक्र भले ही सुनहरे अक्षरों में किया गया हो, लेकिन इसका श्रेय उसकी बड़ी बहन खानजादा बेगम को जाता है. वही खानजादा जो भाई को तख्त दिलाने के लिए परिवार के सबसे बड़े दुश्मन की बीवी बन गई.


1478 में जन्मी, खानजादा बेगम उमर शेख मिर्जा और उनकी पहली पत्नी कुतलुग निगार खानम की सबसे बड़ी बेटी थी, जो मुगलिस्तान की राजकुमारी थीं। बाबर खानजादा का छोटा भाई था और 1483 में उसके जन्म के 5 साल बाद पैदा हुआ था।


खानजादा, एक शहज़ादी, जिनका जीवन प्रमुख रूप से बलिदान और आघात से भरा था, मुगल साम्राज्य की प्रारंभिक स्थापना के निर्णयों के पीछे अपनी दादी ऐसन दौलत बेगम के साथ शामिल थीं। उन्हें मुगल साम्राज्य की सबसे शक्तिशाली महिला के रूप में जाना जाता है।

हिंदुस्तान आने से पहले बाबर की जान एक बार मुश्किल में पड़ गई थी। वह जिंदा बच पाया तो खानजादा बेगम की वजह से, जिसके दिमाग का लोहा दुश्मन भी मानते थे।


भारत में मुगल साम्राज्य की नींव रखी जहीरुद्दीन मोहम्मद बाबर ने, यह तो सभी जानते हैं। लेकिन बाबर हिंदुस्तान आने के लिए जिंदा बच पाया अपनी बड़ी बहन की वजह से, यह बात कम ही लोगों को पता है।


फरगना के अमीर उमर शेख मिर्जा द्वितीय की बड़ी बेटी और बाबर की बड़ी बहन खानजादा को इतिहास के पन्नों में उतनी जगह नहीं मिली, जितनी की वह हकदार थीं।


तैमूर वंश की इस राजकुमारी की खासियत को फिल्मी स्टाइल में कुछ बयां कर सकते हैं- 'ना तलवार से ना आग से, जंग जीतते हैं दिमाग से' दुश्मन को अपनी सियासी चालों में फंसाने में माहिर थीं खानजादा। यहां तक खुद को भी इसके लिए दांव पर लगाने से पीछे नहीं हटीं।


पहले मुगल बादशाह बाबर की जीवनी 'बाबरनामा' में उसकी बड़ी बहन खानजादा की चर्चा मिलती है। इसमें जिक्र है कि किस तरह अपने खानदान की जिंदगी और इज्जत की हिफाजत के लिए वह खुद से आगे आईं। उस वक्त तक 1526 की पानीपत की पहली लड़ाई नहीं हुई थी।

Mughal King Zahiruddin Babur

बाबर दिल्ली के तख्त पर बैठने की जगह मध्य एशिया में जंग के मैदानों की धूल फांक रहा था। दरअसल, आज जहां तुर्की है, उस इलाके को अपने अधीन लाने के लिए तब जबरदस्त लड़ाई चल रही थी।


बाबर का सामना हुआ उज्बेक सरदार शायबानी खान से। इस जंग में बाबर भारी मुसीबत में पड़ गया। शायबानी ने बाबर की फौज को छह महीने तक समरकंद में घेर कर रखा। बाबर की फौज के लिए भूखों मरने की नौबत गई।


हालत ऐसी हो गई कि कुत्ते और गधे का मांस खाना पड़ रहा था। ऐसी दुश्वारी के बीच अचानक राहत की खबर मिली। शायबानी खान ने घेराबंदी हटाकर सुलह की पेशकश की, लेकिन इसकी एक शर्त थी। वो ये कि बाबर की बड़ी बहन खानजादा की शादी शायबानी के साथ करनी होगी।


खानजादा ने अपने भाई और बाकी परिवार की जान बचाने के लिए इस शर्त को कबूल करने का फैसला किया। उस वक्त वह 23 साल की थीं। परिवार के लिए खुद को दुश्मन सरदार के हाथों सौंप दिया। खानजादा को घोर बेइज्जती झेलनी पड़ी। यहां तक कि उन पर शारीरिक अत्याचार भी हुए।


खानजादा की पूरी कहानी को समझने के लिए 1500 के उस दौर में चलना होगा, जब बाबर मध्य-एशिया के जंग के मैदानों में धूल फांक रहा था.


वो तुर्की का इलाका था जिसे बाबर अपने आधीन करने की जद्दोजहद में व्यस्त था. फिर बाबर का मुकाबला हुआ उज्बेकिस्तान के सरदार शायबानी खान से. यही उसकी जिंदगी का सबसे बड़ा टर्निंग पॉइंट था.


जंग में शायबानी बाबर पर भारी पड़ा और 6 माह तक उसे समरकंद में घेरे रखा. आलम यह था कि बाबर के सैनिक दो जून की रोटी को तरस गए थे. भूखे मरने की नौबत गई थी.

Shaybani Khan

शायबानी के घेरे से जिंदा बाहर निकलने में बड़ी बहन और फरगना के अमीर उमर शेख मिर्जा द्वितीय की बेटी खानजादा ने मदद की. वही खानजादा जिसे इतिहास में वो तवज्जो नहीं मिली जिसकी वो हकदार थीं.


खानजादा ने जब शायबानी खान से शादी का फैसला किया उस वक्त वो 23 साल की थीं. उनके उस फैसले का विरोध परिवार के हर शख्स ने किया. उन्होंने शारीरिक अत्याचार तक झेले. शादी के बाद उनका बेटा हुआ, नाम रखा गया है खुर्रम, लेकिन कुछ ही समय बाद उसकी मौत हो गई.


शादी के बाद भी खानजादा का तैमूर वंश की तारीफें करना शायबानी खान को बर्दाश्त नहीं रहा था, नतीजा, दोनों के रिश्ते बिगड़ने लगे. एक दिन ऐसा भी आया जब दोनों ने एक-दूसरे को छोड़ने का फैसला लिया, लेकिन शायबानी का साथ छूटना इतना भी आसान नहीं था. उसने खानजादा का विवाह जबरन अपने फौजी सैयद हादा के साथ कर दिया.

शायबानी और शाह इस्माइल के बीच 1510 में जंग हुई जिसमें सैयद हारा मारा गया. जंग के बाद खानजादा शाह इस्माइल की कैद में पहुंच गईं, लेकिन जब उसे जानकारी मिली वह बाबर की बहन है तो उन्हें बाबर के पास भेज दिया गया. करीब 10 साल बाद उनकी परिवार में वापसी हुई.


वापसी के बाद उनकी तीसरी शादी हुई. मोहम्मद महदी ख्वाजा से उनका निकाह कराया गया.

उन्हें मुगलवंश की ताकतवर औरत के तौर पर जाना गया. ‘हिंदुस्तान की पादशाह बेगमका खिताब दिया गया. मुगल वंश का हर बादशाह उनकी कुर्बानी को नहीं भूला.


1545 में उन्होंने काबुल में अंतिम सांस ली. उन्हें वही दफनाया गया जहां बाबर दफन था. काबुल में उस जगह कोबाग--बाबरके नाम से जाना गया. करीब एक साल पहले आई वेब सीरीज एम्पायरमें उनकी कहानी को दिखाया गया और उनका किरदार निभाया था एक्ट्रेस दृष्टि धामी ने.

The End

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