From Amer to Attock
“Sabe bhumi Gopal ki, ya mein atak kahan?
Ja ke man mein atak hai, so hi atak raha.”
(All land belongs to one god, who can hinder that?
He who harbours hindrance in his heart, alone is hindered.)
It was with these words that Man Singh*, the commander in chief of Akbar’s Mughal army and heir to the throne of Amer (later Jaipur) challenged his reluctant troops, hoping they'll encourage them to cross the swollen Indus at Attock (now in Pakistan). To be fair to the troops, their fears were hardly unfounded. Fording the Indus in spate, on horseback was too dangerous a proposition for the seasoned soldiers of one of the finest armies in the sixteenth century world. Additionally, for the native Indian soldiers in the contingent (a large part of which were Rajput men), the Indus marked the western extremity of Hindustan. Crossing over meant aggression into foreign lands, an unthinkable crime guaranteed to result in loss of caste and ostracization from the community. And this for a tribe celebrated the world over for preferring death to dishonour!
Location of Attock (Source: Google Maps)
However, Man Singh’s words had the desired effect. The army followed its leader across the raging river without breaking a sweat. In fact, it marched on to successfully quell the opportunistic rebellion of the Mughal governor of Kabul. Man Singh was to later hold that seat. His exploits in the region included defeating a coalition of all the 5 major Afghan tribes, who had risen in revolt against the Mughals; a task that his fellow Navaratna in Akbar’s court: Raja Birbal, was unable to accomplish and paid with his life for. In commemoration of this momentous victory, the state flag of Amer was changed from one bearing the Kutchnar tree to the Pachranga - the five coloured flag where each colour represents one Afghan tribe that was defeated. It flutters proudly over the handful of heritage properties still in possession of former royalty, to this day. Descendants of Afghans that Man Singh brought back with him to Amer, are amongst the oldest inhabitants of Jaipur given that the predate the city itself by more than 125 years.
Pachranga: the state flag of Jaipur (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
This story is just one of a few gems of Indian history that find resonance in the atmospheric Sound and Light show at the Amer fort, outside Jaipur. It made me think how easily we forget that Pakistan and Bangladesh were an intrinsic part of the history of India’s civilization, for most of its 5000+ years.
Amer fort, Jaipur in 2015 (Source: Jaunty Roads)
Amer was deserted, when Jai Singh, a descendant of Man Singh, built his new capital (Jaipur) in 1727. It was the first planned city in the Subcontinent since the collapse of the Indus valley civilization, over 3000 yrs earlier. Amer never regained its past glory. The fort is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, sharing the honour with the other
Attock fort on the banks of the Indus, as it stands today (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Attock is today a town of about 1,00,000 people in the Punjab province of Pakistan. It has a hilltop fort overlooking the Indus, built by Akbar to guard the road to Peshawar and onwards to the Khyber Pass - a route that served for millennia as the gateway to rich and fertile India for the marauding armies from the harsher climes of Central Asia and beyond. It was renamed Campbellpur by the British. On independence, the Pakistani government restored the older British name: Attock - believed to be an Anglicization of the Urdu/Hindi word Atak (meaning to hinder or stall).
That could put Man Singh’s choice of words in 1581 into perspective. Or, maybe, throw light on how Attock got its name?
What do you think?
*Some sources attribute the quote to one of Man Singh’s Charans (travelling poets)