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Grandeur of Chakwal’s pre-partition houses

Grandeur of Chakwal’s pre-partition houses

After crossing Chakwal’s major bazaar, the ‘Chhapar Bazaar’, one enters the narrow lanes of the historic Moti Bazaar. There are two accounts associated with the name Moti Bazaar. According to some, the bazaar is named after its founder, an influential trader Mota Singh from Neelah Village. According to others, a man named Moti Lal owned shop in this bazaar and the area was named after him.

The winding streets of Moti Bazaar are dotted with grand houses, lovingly built some hundred years ago by their original owners, the Hindu and Sikh residents of the city.

Even a century later, these extravagant constructions are testament to the wealth of their owners. According to old-timers, one of these houses once belonged to Rao Bahadur Chunilal, the accountant general with Kurdistan Peshmerga forces, commanded by the British Empire at the time when Iraq was a colony. His son who spent his childhood playing in these very lanes was Madan Mohan Kohli one of the greatest composers of the subcontinent. It was Madan Kohli’s romantic compositions sung by Lata Mangeshkar which immortalised her as Lata Jee. These houses with spacious rooms, carved wooden doors and beautiful masonry were left behind by their owners in the partition of India in 1947. They came in the possession of the Muslim migrants who arrived here from India. “Although it cannot be said with certainty, which of these houses belonged to Madan Mohan’s father but it is said to be among one the buildings in Moti Bazaar,” said Khawaja Babar Saleem, a senior journalist.

Professor Yasin Saddiqui, who migrated from India and settled in Chakwal, said: “One of the houses was owned by Jogindar Kumar Oberoy, a leading trader who shifted to Delhi along with his family on an aeroplane. This was the only migration by plane witnessed in Chakwal district.”

Published in Dawn, June 7th, 2015

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