unjab is the largest province of Pakistan but the question is how much do people actually know about this historic region other than its name and languages? Is everyone aware of its culture and traditions? Do people have enough information about Punjab’s folklore tales?
In the modern times, where everyone wants to acquaint themselves solely with contemporary values and traditions to appear more progressive, comes an exhibition based on the historic character and soul of Punjab at Line Green, in collaboration with Purana Pakistan and Travel Names titled, Humara Watan, Punjab ki Chund Kahaniyan (Our Land, A Few Stories About Punjab). With a catchy title that intrigues you to explore further, it’s a jam-packed show full of cultural essence, diversity and knowledge that is otherwise overlooked or not given adequate value. This exhibition hits you deep inside and brings out the forgotten love to learn about the legacies left behind by the people who came before us.
Humara Watan, Punjab ki Chund Kahaniyan, celebrates the untold and meaningful stories of Punjab where some characters are hidden gems in the history. From the tragic folktale of love of Heer Ranjha, and one of the strongest wrestlers of all, ‘The Great Gama’, to the breath-taking Katas Raj temples, this project has unraveled some remarkable and impactful stories and sites from the past.
One tale that stands out is of Tehzeeb-i-Niswan, a weekly magazine that started before Partition in 1898 and continued till 1949. Research shows it to be a feminist magazine, an initiative started by the husband-and-wife team of Sayyid Mumtaz Ali Deobandi and Muhammadi Begum. However, the name Tehzeeb-i-Niswan, which directly translates to ’Cultured Women’, was suggested by the famous Muslim reformer and educationist, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan. The husband, Sayyid Mumtaz Ali used to be an advocate for women rights even in the 1800s which is quite inspiring, and the wife, Muhammadi Begum was the first female editor in the province of Punjab. These facts leave the viewers awestruck as one typically assumes that era to be regressive, especially for women. The magazine promoted matters like education, emancipation, wifehood and motherhood, which are all still relevant in the 21st Century.
Sayyid Mumtaz Ali Deobandi
As children, we have all read, heard and watched the tales of Robinhood, but who would have thought that a Punjabi version of Robinhood existed in the sub-continent under the name, ‘Dulla Bhatti’? Dulla Bhatti and his father Farid were quite the revolutionaries, who fought for the rights of the people against the oppressions of the Mughal Empire. Just like Robinhood, Dulla used to steal from the rich and distribute among the poor, never keeping a dime for himself. Other than financially helping the needy, Dulla also rescued helpless young girls from landlords who used to exploit them for their own pleasures. Bhatti saved one Hindu girl named Mundri, and married her off to an apt groom on the festival of Lohri. This act of courage and kindness brought the Hindu and Muslim communities together during that time. Unfortunately, Bhatti was captured by the Mughal rulers and hanged. The tragic end of his life left a mark on this world and he remains a living legend and a hero. During the 16th Century, it was very difficult to challenge the rulers, because they were crushed ruthlessly.
Ranjit Singh, Mooran Sarkar & Basant
Lahore is the hub of historical architecture and heritage, and Maryam-us-Zamani mosque is one of the oldest mosques in the city that is still operational. It was commissioned by a Hindu princess who married into a Muslim family. Her Hindu name was ‘Jodha Bai’, who was the wife of the Mughal Emperor, Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar and the mother of his successor, Emperor Jahangir. Maryam-us-Zamani bridged the gap between the Hindu and Muslim communities residing in the sub-continent during the pre-Partition era. It seems unrealistic for someone of Hindu descent to commission a mosque, because from the current day perspective, people have become quite intolerant of different religions and sects.
Coming back to the exhibition, the tales from this project are numerous and mesmerizing, taking you on a journey into the past. These were narrated live by Laraib Asdafa and Schanze Asdaf from Purana Pakistan while the data of the geographical locations was preserved by Mahad Nayyer from Travel Names. Along with the narrations, the written versions of the tales were displayed with a QR code depicting the exact locations where these stories took place. Alina Akbar, the Director of Line Green, not only provided a platform in the form of her studio, but also worked on digitally illustrating the narratives exhibited next to the write-ups. This exhibition is considered to be the first chapter of a big project aiming to uncover the truths about other provinces in the future, as well as the stories not confined to any specific region. The live narrations and conversations continued for two days, 10th and 11th of June, paired up with traditional music and food whereas the artworks are still on display.