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Alexander’s Garrison in the Salt Range

This article appeared in daily the Nation

The Salt Range derives its name from extensive deposits of rock salt. The Range stands as remnant of forts with bastions and temples. Exceptionally, this region maintains an almost continuous record of history that can define the evolution of society. Forts and temples surviving along the range are a reminder of how untouched many of the ancient remnants are. Alexander from Macedon came to this Range twice; one from Taxila and later when his forces refused to go any further from the banks of the River Beas. From here he marched towards the Arabian Sea on his way to Babylon. And, now an NGO is constructing a monument of Alexander near Jalalpur town in the foot of the Salt Range in district Jhelum.

For those who take their first chance to the area, the landscape all along the Salt Range is rock-strewn, lacking in softness and loveliness. In many parts, it becomes barren and uninviting. But, in truth the range is dotted with historical wonders, romantic legends, archaeological remains, and varying geological formations. Surroundings are very quiet. Urial is also found in the Range though facing extinction. A journey along the range is exiting as well as informative.

After crossing the River Jhelum from Rasul Barrage, one passes through Rasul Barrage Wildlife Sanctuary. Environs are green and the wetland is full of lotus. Flocks of Siberians Cranes and Strokes and local black winged Stilts are the common sights in the area. Though at the dawn of a hot June day, I was able to see only few Tobas perching over their morning catch and a few flocks of Murghabis (wild ducks).

Turn west along the Range from Mishri Mor bus stop in the beautiful 'bela' of the River Jhelum and the road will take you to the town of Jalalpur. One could come on this road from Jhelum side but these days the Jhelum-Pind Dadan Khan Road is closed due to want of bridges on the torrents coming down the range to join River Jhelum so you can only come through Rasul Barrage. The River Jhelum used to flow full to the capacity but now it remains mostly dry. Water of the River Jhelum is transferred from Rasul Barrage to the River Chenab for strategic water management in the country.

Jalalpur Sharif, as the town is called, is opposite village Mong where the conflict between Alexander and Porus took place. Mong used to be the garrison of King Porus who had assembled 30,000 men, 2000 cavalry, and 200 elephant to fight against the Macedonians.

Right on the Jhelum-Pind Dadan Khan Road, tucked inside the Salt Range, is ancient Jalalpur that was built by Alexander in the memory of his general who was killed in the battle with Porus. Coins found among the ruins date back to the period of Graeco-Bactrian kings. Remains of the ancient walls are still there at the summit of the hill, which rise 1000 feet above the present-day Jalalpur.

It is at Jalalpur that in the absence of any route marking or sign posting, we started asking for the monument that is being made in the memory of Alexander. An old driver came up to help and gave us some directions to go onto a road leading to village Wagh inside the range where we were to find the unfinished monument structure.

The structure of the monument stands on the bank of a torrent, which flows during rainy seasons. The towering pedestal is very graceful and on the platform stands a room. On the roof of the wide room, and flanked by Grecian style arches, is painted a map of Alexander's empire from Greece to South Asia showing the route (Hund - Taxila - Jalalpur - Beas - back to Jalalpur and to the Arabian sea along River Jhelum) he followed in this part of the world.

There is no doubt that this scenic place could be turned into a lucrative and busy tourist attraction and may be a research facility. Presently, not much is going on and thorny bushes are placed on the stairs to stop any one going up on the roof to see the map. The colors of the map are already peeling. The pits all around the monument suggest that some trees were also planted but only a couple of them have survived. Names of the donors have been written in different colors (along with the legend for the color code) on the wall facing road. There was no one, not even a janitor, who could tell us about the current state of affairs or why the construction work has been stopped. Why? Lack of funds, lack of interest, or both!?

Alexander was undoubtedly a man of great substance: "He was an illustrious soldier who always followed the rules of war. He brought disciplines of medicine (Tibb-e-Yunani) and philosophy to what is now Pakistan. More than two thousand years ago he recognized the enormous potential in terms of commerce and trade of the immediate hinterland of Karachi. He called this place the bridge between east and west," reads a report of Wildlife and Environment Quarterly. Not always. Travel writer and researcher Salman Rashid says Alexander did not only get away with murdering 7,000 soldiers from the central subcontinent who had joined the Pakhtoons in an attempt to defend the Masaga Fort, he also gives him a lenient title of a daghabaaz (at its most mundane a fraud, at worst a cheat). And, "we all by now know that it takes a general more than this to conquer the world," adds Ashaar Rahman.

People with time and will to explore are constantly looking for quiet and new destinations. Locally, if nothing else, this monument could give a boost to rural tourism and economy.

Images by Husain Qazi

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 12:56 PM,


At 3:17:00 PM, Blogger SAQIB said...

nice article about alexnder having lot of info alzo nice location hav visited it also but some of place is so much damaged there there z not any arrangment of safety for ths antique..

At 11:25:00 PM, Blogger Jennifer Brown Banks said...

Very interesting post. Well presented. Thanks for this info.

At 6:01:00 PM, Blogger Shiirazi said...

Jennifer: Coming from you, I love it. Thanks.

At 6:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I come from Wagh - a village inside the Salt Range. I agree that this place could be turned into a busy recreation spot and better still a research center. But I don't see it happening because of so many reasons. May be some one listens to you. I wish that. Col Janjua

At 7:30:00 PM, Blogger jalalHB said...

Very well researched post. But why lament of the neglect of the area? There are many other places where people live and are not even ever had facilities to make those worth living. So dont ask many whys - we know the hidden answers.

At 8:16:00 AM, Blogger Durrani said...

Well, a very informative article. Through the Monument stone it was learnt that somebody in the past was able to convince the impotance of the site with relation to Greece and Alexander. Ofcourse it was historical part of the glory of Greece. The necessary followup has probably not been done for the further dovelopment of this site through the government of Greece. From our side Ministry of Tourism & Development may be asked to do whatever is necessary to get the attention of Greece and the Tourist there. They may also make some logistic arrangements from Islamabad/Karachi to the site. Necessary Guides and print material may also be made available. Shirazi, you may like to make use of your good offices to bring the attention of the Greece Ambassy and the Tourism Department :-) Zaffar Iqbal Durrani

At 10:39:00 AM, Blogger Shiirazi said...

Zaffar Iqbal Durrani: Thanks for your informed comment. I am trying to do exactly what you have suggested. But who listens in this din. That is why I am asking you to help and share this concern in your own circle. May be we can make some 'noise; collectively.

At 11:40:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

It is very informative, but it can be explore further to read the historical back ground of this area Girjhakh, currently named Jalalpur Sharif.

At 11:41:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Well, it's very informative but more historical back ground of this area GirJhakh can be explored.

At 11:46:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

It is very informative, but it can be explore further to read the historical back ground of this area Girjhakh, currently named Jalalpur Sharif.

At 1:38:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Article is informative. As a matter fact Raja Porus deserve more appreciation for his bravery and fighting spirit.Since he was only King who forced Alexander to move forward in India.I would recommend that Raja Porus monument should build rather than Alexander.

At 1:36:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Salves can only upraise the masters like we did by building a monument of an invader and happy to see that place where A son of soil RAJA POURS stop him and defend his mother land ….it a pity that we slaves cant speak about our own Raja Pours I am ashamed

At 10:33:00 PM, Anonymous Sheikh Lala said...

Alexander the Great was severely defeated by Raja Porus and the emperor’s soldiers refused to move any further from that point. So he had to lick the dust and to move back to Babylon. But alas, we are the only people who build monuments of attackers who were strangers to the land but we forget brave sons of this soil who desperately fought for this land. In this case monument was needed to be built in memory of Porus who was a brave son of this soil but we neglect him just because he was a Hindu. As a matter of fact, Hinduism and Budhism were the religions of this part of land as light of Islam had not spread here till then. I don’t know who will teach us to boast on our own history, heritage and heroes despite falsely owning the outsiders.

At 12:08:00 AM, Anonymous William Javaid said...

My Hero is Raja Porous who defend this soil against Alexander the Invader, I am a proud Punjabi man and I love all those heroes who defend this land against any invader even in the 326 BC. My hero is Dulla Bhatti who fought against Akbar, my hero is Bhagat Singh who fought against British, we should made monuments of such heroes.


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