By Fazal Amin Beg
This important contribution tries to target the old houses and cultural sites that exist in Hunza valley but they have not yet appropriately drew the attention of the related stakeholders.For this purpose, the intiation could be seen from Gulmit, the headquarters of Upper Hunza or Gojal Sub-division of Hunza district.
After a conceptual exercise and contextualization,the key areas of importance in line with the existing old houses in Gulmit have been brought to the limelight so the audience and the concerned stakeholders should be made aware of their significance at different levels.
Though, this contribution comes to a logical conclusion with some practical measures to be taken by the related stakeholders, it could not be considered as final as gradual improvement and important addition in the volume will follow with the course of time and more and more inclusion in the body of this study.In addition, some related but important stuffs have been annexed at the end of this write-up.
Concepts and Contexts
Could anyone claim for being absolutely free in the world? Interestingly, not a single human, at individual or collective level, could claim illogically for being free at any cost but rather is part and parcel of both a culture and the nature, or in other words he or she remains within the environment or society.If it’s true that not a single person, male or female, can continue their generations without one another, the family thus proves to be a highest level of institution within the respective cultural communities in addition to the boon of intellectual power and intelligence, which sharply distinguishes him or her from other animals.
Although, the term culture is perceived something very specific by the laypersons by confining it to the language, literature, art, cuisine, and few others, anthropologically it has its highly broader and deeper concepts behind.Uncountable notions and concepts are found among the anthropologists in different realms. However, I normally refer to one of my favorite models which I quote very often and it is in the words of an American anthropologist, Ferraro (2001), who describes: “Culture is that what you think, what you do and what you have.” Within this abridged and holistic definition, the entire universe and space are embedded in it.If we take the first part, “Culture is that what you think” is do diverse that “thinking” relates to not only in the present context but rather could be of the past and in the future.It could be either in tangible or intangible domain.”Culture is that what you do” can refer towards the present context where people do or bing in practice their thoughts. In light of such concepts and models, the buildings and built environments, whether old or new, are part and parcel of the cultural communities.
It should therefore be kept in mind that when we talk about the old buildings, they are not just the existing or ruined structures on the ground but rather provide us lots of insights into and knowledge about the people of the past, their living styels, conditions, traditions, and so on. In this regard, it may be significant to note that for being a student of anthropology, I’ve conducted enormous interviews , focus group discussions , general discussions and the like in addition to participant observation in the fields (more than 50 fieldwork and over four thousand respondents interviewed) within Northern Pakistan, Southwestern Xinjiang of China, Northeastern Afghanistan and Southeastern Tajikistan but an aggressive type of survey and audio documentation I started in Summer 2013 in Hunza valley among the Wakhi community in order to look at the actual nature of the housing structures in different realms including technical, scientific, social, religious, environmental, economic and so on within the traditional and historc houses. I did survey and got interviews of the related people in Gulmit, Ghulkin, Hussaini (Sisuni), Passu, Murkhun and Sost. Undoubtedly, fascinating findings came up and they significantly added to my earlier knowledge on the subject matter.
Though, I’ve become visually disable, especially after qualifying my doctoral coursework in July 2011, it could not disable my spirit of and passion for anthropological and linguistic fieldwork in addition to the consultancies in the applied side of societal development. However, the constant curse of unemployment for many years in my case due to the strongly corrupt practices in the concerned institutions and organizations (Public , NGOs and others) including disabling environment for the disabled people like me in Pakistan has been hampering time and again on the frequency of work in the academic and applied domains to process the huge data collected from the fields. Therefore, when I started my own YouTube channel, especially literally functional after the onset of the COVID-19 in Pakistan, I chose to continue my work and contribute in video form from March 2020 instead of audio so that all stakeholders should get benefit out of them.
More importantly, it is also noteworthy that we do advocate for and work in line with conservation of nature, culture and language but we have either forgotten or neglected to preserve the old-aged human fellows who are the actual source of information and experiential knowledge for us in the societal laboratories almost in all respects across different cultural entities. I thus thought to contribute my little part in preserving the human fellows productively on various topics and themes, especially in such a period where globalization has brought blessings and connected all humans, nature and cultures. In turn, some negative aspects are also evidenced and experiences across the globe. Thanks to the technologists and scientists for their refined contributions to the humanity and why not to bring the positive sices of such positive development for positive and sustaining societal development.
When my eyesight was normal and with the course of time got some deterioration, I even used to make the videographies and taking pictures myself, especially when doing my fieldwork in China and Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007 respectively. However, being a visual disabled field researcher but with the help of my assistant cum videographers, on the old and traditional Wakhi Pamiri/Tajik houses I began to make the videos recently in November 2021 so to explore the states of affairs in further depth and also to show them to the people on my YouTube Channel, the EaglesWorld (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCylcIPrOlJ2tzmAfXf2JWVA) as well as publishing some important findings from the fields or otherwise on my website (www.fazalamin.com).
Existence of Old and Traditional Pamiri Houses in the Northern Pakistan and Gulmit in Focus
Though, modernity has brought lots of changes and development in the whole country and the societies across Northern Pakistan, there are yet many old structures found in the region including Hunza valley.When we talk about Gilgit-Baltistan Region as a rendezvous of Central and South Asia plus China, at once, the old structures come in minds of many in line with the historic buildings like forts, shrines, traditional houses and so on or the innumerable archaeological sites having their deep imprints on the rocks, petroglyphs, grafittis and inscriptions.
In the context of Hunza valley, the existing old traditional houses, Baltit and Altit Forts, Qalandarchi fort of Misgar, Bobo Ghundi and other Shrines as well as the Haldeikis̃h site (Sacred Rocks of Hunza) and the Gulmit Ondra Fort are not possible to be forgotten or ignored by any means.
Gulmit in the Northern Pakistan could be witnessed for dozens of old houses that do exist yet, though some changes are seen in the traditional Wakhi houses within the interior and around the exterior domains. It is situated at a distance of 140 kilometers from Gilgit city. It is considered one of the old settlements of Hunza and has been the autumn-winter capital of the former Hunza State and presently playing its critical role as the headquarters of Gojal sub-division of Hunza district. Gulmit could be seen blessed in different contexts in line with human, cultural and natural resources, old and historic buildings and archeological sites, forward looking people, receptive towards societal changes and development, and the like.
This fascinating, beautiful and resource rich settlement could be seen fed by three glaciers including Kũmars-e Yaz, Shũtũbar-e Yaz and Bũlkis̃h-e Yaz. Gulmit is divided in its natural order by the stream of J̃ũc̃har fed by Shũtũbar and Bũlkis̃h glaciers (Yaz)on the West.
The southern part of Gulmit on the right bank of Hunza River is named as Chamangũl (garden of flowers and Gulmit Proper). Though, the great boundary wall of Gulmit remained on its southern part in Chamangul in addition to the Gulmit cave Treasury Site, it was settled recently by the native population in line with construction of their houses. On the other, Gulmit Proper in the northern part could be evidenced in many respects for being old and ancient as the human records in are still the testimony in terms of the old buildings and structures such as the ruined Ondra Fort, the shrines and the traditional Wakhi Pamiri houses.
Situated on the plateau-like hillock of Ondra, the ruined fort is known as Gulmit Ondra Fort (GOF).The respondents and key informants describe that before the abolition of the Hunza State in September 1974, the Ondra Fort had relatively attractive structure as it consists on residential quarters, a sizeable granary, the watch towers on the corners, and the like on a high altitude an on an expansive area. The abolition of the Hunza state , especially led towards its carelessness and exploitation by some selectable people known to the community.Although, the informants relate the history and stories back to some generations and try to connect it with some of their ancestors, the reality could however be found beyond such narratives. In brief, Gulmit Ondra Fort is an impressive archaeological site which could be traced back to the antiquity for more or less two thousand years and its relationships could be established with the ancient forts in Tashkurhgan, Badakshan, Bacteria, Haldeikis̃h (Sacred Rock of Hunza, the rock arts of Gilgit-Baltistan, and other concerned sites in regional contexts. This important site cries for the immediate attention of the archaeological experts before it is transformed into something else as some influential community members with ignorance try to convert the historic site into either tourism hub or business center and the like.
Though, many in-depth interviews I have taken of the elderly and native key informants in audio form on the subject matter, one of the detailed interviews of a community leader of Gulmit I conducted recently about the state and status of Ondra Fort and the due significance it holds but the people in leadership level sound either ignorant or insensitive about it.The video interview in Urdu could thus be accessed and watched on the following link of EaglesWorld:
To elaborate further, Gulmit is known internally by its sub-settlements as Center area (also including Qalha), Goz, Menghshi, Lakhs̃h, Dalgiram (Wuch Diyor in Wakhi), Odverben, Odver and Kũmars. Although, there are a lot of aspects to be covered and written about this wonderful settlement, the focus of this little contribution will remain and gradually highlight the old and historic buildings and update the stakeholders.
Based on my own time to time surveys (especially in 2013 and also in 2022), there are more or less 40 old houses out of over 600 houses that even exist today with little changes in their interior parts, of the traditional Wakhi Pamiri houses, though external changes have been brought in them significantly and in most of the cases new houses are seen on the landscape.
Settled at the bottom of the ancient Gulmit Ondra Fort, the Qil’a, (natively termed as Qalha) literally as the fort , is the old coloney area where the local population was concentrated for centuries primarily due to the security reason on top. Here the existing houses and the dismantled ones could be evidenced attached together as neck to neck, shoulder to shoulder or back to back.Out-migration from the coloney could be evidenced four or five generations earlier, at least in the case of Gulmit Center.
To reiterate and emphasize , the old and historic structures include the Pamiri houses belonging to different families of their respective clan groups such as Buduley (or Abdul Kũtor), Hari Kũtor, Bori Kũtor, Chorshambi Kũtor and Rũzdor kũtor), the earstwhile Ismaili mosques, the shrines, , the watermills, and the double story Mir’s palace in the core of the settlement in the northern edge of the pologround (locally termed as Shavaran borrowed from Burushaski and S̃hina, though in Wakhi it could be termed as jugun-e maydon).
The shrines in Gulmit include those of Shoh Chirogh (at odver), Khoja Mard-e Wali (at the bottom of Ondra hillock, which has now come under the sliding),and Panja Shoh of Rishipzhrav (in the Chipursan valley.The existing mosques are known behind Arbob Bai Nazar I, Grandma Bibi Zenab, grandma Dawlat Sultan.one of the mosques in the central part was known behind Grandma Gul Bahor daughter of Qozi Makhzum of Wakhan, wife of Oshũr Beg, mother of Arbob Bai Nazr I and foster mother of Mir Shah Silum Khan (the first Ismaili ruler of Hunza State) but unfortuatnely it has been dismantled in the 1980s, which was attached to and in front of the old house of Arbob Diwona Shoh.Similarly, within this old colony, there has been a mosque of Mir Malik and that has also been abolished unfortunately and could be found in oral narratives and literatures only.
It needs to be noted again that when the Mir’s Palace in Gulmit was not built during the reign of Mir Nazim Khan son of Ghazan Khan son of Shah Ghazanfar Khan son of Mir Shaah Silum Khan son of Khusraw, the family members of them used to live with their foster family houses. Even after construction of the Mir’s palace of Gulmit, we could witness, for instance, the rulers children living in the houses of their foster parents. When traced back historically, the old houses are found belonging to those of grandma Gul Bahor daughter of Qozi Makhzum of Wakhan and wife of Oshur Beg, Arbob Bai Nazar I son of Oshur Beg, Arbob Sultan Muhammad I son of Bai Nazar I, Arbob Muhammad Ali son of Sultan Muhammad I, Hassan Ali son of Sultan Muhammad I, Rahmatulloh son of Sultan Muhammad I, Bai Nazar Arbob Diwona Shoh son of Hassan Ali I, Arbob Khairullah Beg son of Muhammad Ali I, Arbob Shukufa Shoh son of Muhammad Ali I, Hassan Ali II son of Muhammad Ali I, Arbob Gohar Hayot son of Ghulomuddin, Arbob Gulbast son of Akbar Shoh, and the like. Arbob is an Arabic term came in Wakhi Pamiri languages via Persian, which refers to the Chief of the village, though literally it also refers to a person who raises a child of other family members and enters in foster relationship.
There is another significant house Pertaining to the plowing ritual celebration by the festival openers (Shogũn-pũtũk) of the Bori Kũtor (clan) and it belongs to yusuf Baig , which is currently under his grandson Ayazuddin son of Ghulam Sultan.Before celebration of the festival at communal scale, the ritual openers of the clan first observe it in this house and then move towards the open ground to take the initiative in the public ground.
In addition, dozens of old Wakhi houses are found yet in the old residential area or the colony termed as Qalha denominated behind the earlier generations and include those of navruz Hofiz, Navruz Akram, Nazar, Murwat, Ghaybi, Muhammad Rahim, Wazir, Asmat, Dil Nazar, Muhammad Hussain and others. Similarly, out of the central coloney, there are also some existing old houses in the sub-villages like Laks̃h, Dalgiram, Odver and Kũmars. They include those of Abdul Aziz, Dulay, Chamun, Noor Baig, Mir Khor, Shayun, Bozun Baig, Arbob Shukufa Shoh, Arbob Kherulloh Beg, Hassan Ali II, Iqbol Shoh, Muhabat Shoh, Mirzo Qand/Baig Murod, Abdal, Oshur, and the like.
Though, the importance and function of the watermills have almost ceased after introduction of the modern flour mills, some of the old watermills out of more than a dozen and they include, for example, those of the old Muhammad Hussain, Khalifa Panoh, Yuks̃hmol, Muhammad Royi, Burti, Diwon Shoh, Izat Shoh, Ijozat , Bali, and others. Last but not least, many old graveyards are also found in Gulmit including those of the people in political power such as Shah Silum Khan son of Shah Khusraw Khan (the first Ismaili Mir or Ruler), Mir Ghazan Khan son of Mir Nazim Khan, and their foster families plus others.
In brief,those who are the Wakhi speakers and/or can understand Wakhi language and like to broaden their understanding on the subject matter from the field, may watch an overview of the old and historic buildings as wel as archaeological sites of Gulmit on the following link of EaglesWorld:
Background and Significance of Grandma Gul Bahor and Arbob Bai Nazar’s House: the First Ismaili Tradition of Chirogh-e Roshan to Mir Shah Silum Khan in the former Hunza State
In different literatures produced by the native authors in the recent past such as those of Haji Qudratullah Beg, wazir Fida Ali Esar, Abdullah Jan and others, mention of the introduction of the death ritual of Mir Shah Silum Khan son of Shah Khusraw Kahn in Gulmit according to the Shia Isma’ili tradition are found by them but unfortunately they have not ventured to know if that historic house still exists in its proper condition.This house during Mir Shah Silum Khan’s period belonged to his foster brother Arbob Bai Nazar son of Grandma Gul Bahor and Oshur Beg.
According to the key informants as well as written by Arbob Diwona Shoh son of Hassan Ali, a renowned religious scholar of his time, Oshur Beg was son of Fozil Beg and grandson of Abdul Bai behind whom the entire Abdul Kũtor or Abduley is known and for being the largest tribe in upper Hunza. Abdul Bai has been dhast-e chap, leftist in doing work, who migrated to Gulmit from the Chaprot valley of lower Nagar perhaps in the first quarter of 1700 CE. However, it should be noted that in distorted or contracted form, Abduley is pronounced as Bũdũly, or Bẽdley, too. Abduley or Abdul Kũtor ( has thus its own branches in consanguine and male lines as well as in terms of the developed alliances or allied clans such as Oshur Kũtor (or Arbob Kũtor), Chughi Kũtor, Gulbast Kũtor, S̃harel Kũtor, Bahor Kũtor, Siyogus̃h Kũtor, Boq Kũtor and follow their sub-branches.
Well, moving ahead, Arbob Bai Nazar son of Oshur Beg had a son named Arbob Sultan Muhammad I and he had five wives. Excluding one, the four wives had one son each named as Arbob Muhammad Ali I, Hassan Ali I, Bai Nazar II and Rahmatulloh I.Muhammad Ali and Hassan Ali’s mothers were real sisters who were daughters of the renowned Bakht Rustam of Ghulkin behind whom the Bakht Kũtor lineage continues. Mother of Bai Nazar II was from the family of Arbob Noor Ali of Chorshambi Kũtor. While mother of Rahmatulloh is said to have been a daughter of Buru (perhaps contracted from Dabur) of the Rũzdor Kũtor of Gulmit.
Here I’m going to add an important point and it needs to be kept in mind that according to Wakhi inheritance tradition within the set customary law, the old house of a parent goes to the last or youngest son and the large tract of land/field goes to the first or oldest son. One of the rationales behind is the existing house where all joint family members lived before splitting out is supposed to be in a good condition and the youngest son may not be abled to construct house for himself. That’s why he inherits it ready-made. While the oldest son, being senior, could work hard and construct house for himself. Due to such rationale, this historic house is observed to have gone to Rahmatulloh, the youngest son of Arbob Sultan Muhammad I and the youngest grandson of Arbob Bai Nazar I. At present this historic house belongs to Riaz Ahmad and Aliyar Khan sons of Rahim Shah son of Alyar Khan son of Khaybar son of Rahmatulloh.
This house of Arbob Bai Nazar in Gulmit has therefore its high significance in religious as well as political context at the entire Hunza level. As described earlier, there was no palace or residential quarters of the Mirs (Rulers) of Hunza themselves and they would therefore live with their foster families when visit the upper part. Gulmit was therefore the second or autumn-winter capital of the former State after Mir Shah Silum Khan son of Shah khusraw Khan. It was this house where the development oriented ruler, mir Silum Khan, passed away in 1824 and was buried along side the graveyard of his foster family.
Many interesting stories are found behind the childhood, youth and death of Shah Silum Khan.However, let me focus and highlight here a bit about his death and death ritual in this house.Shah Silum Khan, after administering and constructing different structures including watch towers, forts and Bobo Ghundi shrine in Chipursan valley through forced communal laboring, the people is said to have become so fed-up and they have cursed him for the frequent and exhaustive laboring at Bobo Ghundi shrine. He was thus not feeling well and has returned towards his capital and in Gulmit, while with his foster family in this house, has passed away.
It is narrated by some key informants as well as in the native writers books as mentioned above, that earlier in his life, Shah Silum Khan had come across and met with a religio-spiritual guide/guru from Badakhshan named Shah Ardavil and he had clandestinely accepted and had pledged on his hand the Shia Ismaili faith. Earlier , he a follower of the Shia Twelevers (Ithna’asharia). Though, Shah Silum Khan embraced the relatively new religion, he was concerned that after his death how and who will perform his death ritual? For this purpose, Pir Shah Ardavil, has assured him not to remain concerned and on the occasion, a person will appear and perform his death ritual.
Well, when Shah Silum Khan had his last day in this world, he was so worried behind his death ritual observation but he had not yet disclosed his faith to his foster family and subjects at this point He would ask his family members to watch at the lower Gulmit area (termed as Goz) as the route follows towards upper and lower part from that area. People would anciously look and wait for the person to come. Well, finally, a person is seen appearing there riding a bluish type of horse that took its direction towards this house where Shah Silum Khan was in his bed.He reached and met with the Mir and he finally had his last breath. This person is thus known as Pir Shah Hussain son of Pir Shah Ardavil who performed the Mir’s death ritual and introduced the Ismaili tradition of Chirogh-e Rushan (the bright light), which is still in vogue among the Ismailis of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral as well as the Pamirs and Badakhshan region.
However, being a researcher, I’m less convinced for such stories behind introduction of the Ismailism in Hunza because it had its intimate relationships with the princely states of Badakhshan, Pamir and Sariqol from the earlier times. Even there are different clan or lineage groups that had come from Wakhan, Ghoron and Shughnon and their descendants continue. The matrimonial and kinship relationships thus continued with the course of time. Even, the foster mother of Shah Silum Khan, with whom Mir Silum Khan spent his childhood, was an Ismaili for being daughter of Qozi Makhzum of the settlement of Chilkand in Wakhan valley and in Wakhan and other parts of Badakhshan, Ismailism had already in practice for centures after Pir Nosir Khusraw. When shah Silum Khan grew up and was even in exile in Badakhshan, he spent his time with his foster families in Wakhan as well as his interactions with the Mirs and religious scholars and didn’t these have any influence on his faith? Even, his own apical ancestor named Shah Khan son of Sikandar Khan (for being Pamiri) migrated many generations earlier from Darwoz of Badakhshan to Hunza had no influence at all on his faith? Many genuine questions arise to be explored for relatively objective answers.
Whatever, the stories may be pertaining to Ismailism at mass level, it’s clear that the dath ritual of Shah Silum Khan was performed in this house of Arbob Bai Nazar I and was buried along side his foster family in central Gulmit above the pologround.This historic house is therefore of so high value and significance in religious as well as political context, which needs to be immediately preserved and promoted as a human cum communal heritage.
In brief, as part of EaglesWorld video documentaries, I managed to gather the immediate and wider family members plus community leaders On November 2, 2021 so that to collect the related information and see how do they perceive its significance, at least, at family, Gulmit and community level. It was so encouraging that the elder women and men (above 60 and 80) did enthusiastically took part in the field study and offered their invaluable contributions on the subject matter.As the research involves huge budget for planning, executing, processing, analyzing and presenting the data, I however have been doing all these on my own in voluntary capacity with the help of all those who take part in the fieldwork and host such sessions as well as few of my siblings, especially Amin Beg and family.
I hope the concerned stakeholders would try to understand the states of affairs and come up with positive and productive strategies.The video could be accessed and watched on the following link of EaglesWorld:
Hakeem/Tabib Muhammad Ali’s House of Gulmit
It is important to note that based on the generational calculation and the evolution of the interior structures, the history of construction of this house of Muhammad Ali may go back to the first half of 1800s . The exterior part of this wonderful house has been replaced by the modern rooms and washrooms. However, the interior part of the main house could be seen in most of the cases in its original form.The roof or ceilings of the traditional house is the same.
Moving ahead, let me describe a bit about this wonderful personality and house owner of the past in 1800s. Though, in administrative and political realm, Muhammad Ali has been a renowned Arbob of Gulmit, he has been one of the respected and distinguished physicians or Hakeems or Tabibs who provided voluntary treatement to the people of the area through the practice of indigenous knowledge on the subject matters, especially in line with bone fractures, cracks and joint dislocations of not only the humans but also of the animals. One of the incredible treatements during a battle is regarding Hakeem Muhammad Ali’s surgery of a Wazirzada (son of a Wazir) who was wounded and Muhammad Ali is said to have carried out the surgery and the patient survived.
One of Muhammad Ali’s great grandsons (son of his granddaughter), named Yuks̃hmol (orcommonly known among the people as Shomol, would sing the folksongs in Wakhi and Persian, which depicts the outstanding performances of him, his other family members and colleagues in the field across the boundaries in Sariqol with the Kirghiz in Tagharmi and his arrest and imprisonment in the neighboring and former Nagar State.The song illustrates that how did Muhammad Ali sang the songs in the prison and the Rani of Nagar covertly fell in love with him who asked her husband, the Ruler of Nagar, to arrange a musical program for him where he would sing and dance as Muhammad Ali had a good voice and she had listened him singing in the prison.
The Mir of Nagar consequently asks his servants to arrange a music session, and Muhammad Ali is asked to be present there. Interestingly, the imprisoned Muhammad Ali in principle agrees but makes it conditional. He demands that if he is provided with a new dress, water to bath and make his hsaves then could appear and perform. Otherwise, it won’t be possible. In short, his demands are accepted and he does prepare himself accordingly.The courtiers say that let’s see if he really belongs to a respected family, he would know where to sit among the courtiers in the event after performance.
When Muhammad Ali reaches on the spot and starts his performance, singing in Persian and dancing accordingly, the Rani of Nagar throws her scarf on him in respect and honor. Sooner the show ends, he does go and sits with the elders in the court and not with the common people.The ruler and courtiers then understand and realize that he was a respectable person from Hunza. Following discussions with him, Muhammad Ali is finally released from the prison of Nagar as his ancestary was traced back in his state in Chaprot with the Wazir’s family.
Although, there are series of stories connected with Arbob and Hakeem Muhammad Ali of Gulmit pertaining to his bravery, medication to his colleagues in the field and at home, his judgement and spending his last days and death in Wakhan with his grandfather’s mother’s family, his corps transport on horses back by his colleagues, I chose to present one of the stories only here.
Hakeem Muhammad Ali son of Sultan Muhammad had two wives and six sons (three each from both of them).The first wife is said to have from the family of Maturkuts of Ghulkin and her sons were Hasan Shoh, Teghun Shoh and Kukan Beg, who were settled in Murkhun and his descendents continue as currently they have seven houses there.The second wife was daughter of the renowned Din Ali of Passu (behind whom the Din Ali Kũtor is identified). Out of this wife, Muhammad Ali’s sons were Arbob and Hakeem Kherulloh Beg, Hassan Ali and Arbob Shukufa Shoh.
For being the foster family, the Mirs of Hunza and their immediate family members therefore would also stay in this house of Arbob and Hakeem Muhammad Ali. For instance, one of the rulers of Hunza, Mir Ghazan Khan son of Mir Nazim Khan and father of Mir Muhammad Jamal Khan (the last ruler of Hunza State) was also raised and treated in this house of Hakeem Muhammad Ali by his elder son Arbob Kherulloh Beg , who had inherited the indigenous knowledge of medication from his late father. Earlier than this house, Mir Ghazan Khan was in foster relationship in Sisuni (Hussaini) in the family of Muhammad Jali and his wife. However, the crown prince Ghazan Khan became sick and was about to die and he was therefore handed over to Hakeem Kherulloh Beg as his father Muhammad Ali had passed away by this time.Kherulloh Beg thus successfully treated him and was rescued from the death.
In nutshell, Muhammad Ali son of Sultan Muhammad had a versitle personality : for his whole life he could be evidenced to have been a renowned Hakeem or Tabib (physician), somewhere he is seen as an administrator and political figure for being the Village Chief, still in some places he is observed as a warlord or warrier across the Hunza State’s boundaries and still somewhere as a poet and singer and the like.
The focus group discussions I conducted in his house was with his progenies and wider family members plus community leaders. I hope the audience will enjoy this little contribution on the subject matter. The video discussion could be watched in Wakhi on the following link of EaglesWorld:
The Old Guest House of Hakeem Muhammad Ali
Attached with the old house of Arbob and Hakeem Muhammad Ali is a small house, which has been his Guest House and its history also goes back in 1800s. In addition, it’s also narrated that the peasants of Muhammad Ali would also live in this house.Whatever the status may be, it is a fact that late Kherulloh Beg, the older son of Muhammad Ali out of his second wife, possessed this house and in turn, it belonged to his only son Hakeem Attoulloh Beg, which then transferred to his grandson Hakeem Zafarulloh Beg son of Attoulloh Beg and at present it belongs to the children of Zafarulloh Beg. For being the foster family, the Mirs of Hunza and their families would visit this house as it is located in the central part of the settlement.
Kherullah Beg had also a diverse and an enriched personality. He was a distinguished Hakeem or Tabib (physician),a prudent Arbob (an administrator and a political leader), a sportsman of polo and tent pigging (nizabozi) and a warrior in the field as has been mentioned and testified in a folksong (see the Annex). It was his time of administration when the irrigation channel of central S̃his̃hkat was constructed during the reign of Mir Nazim Khan. Likewise, the irrigation channel of upper S̃his̃hkat is reportedly constructed during the administration of his youngest brother Shukufa Shah.
Though, this Guest House legally belonged to Hakeem Kherulloh Beg and his progenies in inheritance, it served more as a voluntary clinic to the people of the whole valley where thousands of patients were successfully treated, especially in line with orthopedic cases and issues such as fractures, cracks, joint dislocations and so on.
Like his renowned father Muhammad Ali, Kherullah Beg was also a respectable Hakeem/Tabib well-known for his indigenous therapy and orthopedic treatment. Innumerable and poor patients he has treated successfully in voluntary capacity during his lifetime. One of the frequent cases quoted by the old and key informants is regarding his marvellous surgery of a gentleman from Ganish (central Hunza) named Trangpa Zawara who was about to die during tent-pigging when he was fallen down from his horse during the game and the lance crossed his entire belly. Hakeem Kherullah Beg thus so wisely did the surgery an Zawara survived.
Hakeem Kherullah Beg also mentored his only son Attaullah Beg as well as his other family members and after his death, his son Hakeem Attaullah Beg continued the great tradition during his lifetime and passed away in February 1979.in turn, Hakeem Attaullah beg had already extended his mentorship to his children and his second son Zafarullah Beg picked it effectively and continued the tradition even during his father’s lifetime as well as during his own for more than sixty years. He passed away on December 21, 2014 when he was 86 and successfully treated between forty to fifty thousand patients free of cost.
Although, none of Hakeem Zafarullah Beg’s children (four sons and five daughters) got the great tradition of their paternal family, it is encouraging to note that one of his grandsons, Mu’izullah Beg son of Rahmatullah Beg (at present 30 years old in 2022) received the mentorship from his grandfather. Mu’izullah Beg did apprenticeship with his grandfather for more than ten years and has been continuing his family tradition and has provided the same voluntary treatement and services to thousands of patients so far.
Though, no one lives in this house after 1986 due to transfer in the new house, a short video discussion I conducted in this house with my mother Bibi Husni Khan wife of Hakeem Zafarullah Beg and elder brother Rahmatullah Beg so to come up with the old memories they possess about it. You may get access to the video on the following link of EaglesWorld:
The Grand House of Arbob Diwona Shoh in Gulmit Center
Going behind either six or seven generations back, we could reach with the four brothers of different mothers. As described earlier Arbob Sultan Muhammad son of Arbob Bai Nazar I had four sons from four wives and they could be thus identified or recognized behind their respective sons including Muhammad Ali, Hassan Ali, Bai Nazar II and Rahmatullah.These four brothers have therefore four houses each in Gulmit Center as well as at Kũmars (upper Gulmit). At both places, the houses could be found at one site either in a queue or line.
In Gulmit center, the houses of two brothers including Muhammad Ali and Rahmatulloh (or Rahmatullah) are still found at the same place attached with the Mir’s palace, while the houses of two other brothers, Hassan Ali and Bai Nazar II have been dismantled from the earlier place and their roofs/ceilings or upper parts have been shifted and put over the newly constructed houses in other locations (a bit away from their previous sites. For instance, the ceiling of the house of Hassan Ali son of Sultan Muhammad has been taken to the upper or western side of the Mir’s palace and known as Arbob Diwona Shoh House or Gulmit Old House. It should be noted that the Mir’s Palace (visible today with an elegance and dominance has been constructed during the reign of Mir Nazim Khan son of Mir Ghazan Khan I (1891 to 1938). To reiterate, the Mirs and their families when would visit Gulmit, they would stay in these houses of their foster families.
Hassan Ali had four sons named Muqeem Khan, Diwona Shoh, Khuram Shoh and Bahadur Shoh. The last two, Khuram Shoh and Bahadur Shoh are settled at Ghulkin village currently having over 15 households and are allied with Bakht Kũtor and Qirghez Kũtor of Khawaja Ahmad Busing tribe.Muqeem Khan had a daughter named Dawlat Sultan who was married to Arbob Shukufa Shoh son of Muhammad Ali. Behind Grandam Dawlat Sulton, there is a mosque in the Mir’s garden down to the palace.
Diwona Shoh in the later phases of his life became Arbob of Gulmit after his uncle Arbob Muhammad Ali.In the newly constructed Wakhi house, there were two mosques, one behind Grandma Gul Bahor (foster mother of Mir Shah Silum Khan) and another on top of the roof, which exists yet, though its condition has deteriorated and apealing for preservation.This small mosque is named behind another grandma named Bibi Zenab and some textual description are also found on the beams and columns.
On a lighter note, I would like to also describe a bit about the house of still another brother, Bai Nazar II son of Arbob Sultan Muhammad. The ceiling of this house was dismantled recently in the 1980s as new house was constructed down to the previous site and in inheritance, the house went to the grandson of Bai Nazar II named Muhabat hayat son of Sheikh Hassan son of Muhammad Rafi.Following further split of the families led the house to be part of Karimuddin, the second son of Muhabat Hayat. Though, the ceiling of the house existed on the top of the roof of the new house for two or more decades, Karimuddin has sold the old and gold wooden to a local businessperson , the owner of the Muksha Guest House.
Well, let me revert again to the Old House of Arbob Diwona Shoh so of Hassan Ali. According to the key informants of the respective families, the ceiling of Hassan Ali’s house has been put on the house of Arbob Diwona Shoh, which is known today before the tourists as Gulmit Old House and wrongly promoted as 700 years despite the fact its age even hardly reaches to 200 years (maximum seven generations). . For instance, if we take the family tree unilineally, it would follow in this manner: Arbob Diwona Shoh (son of Hassan Ali) > Sultan Muhammad II > Sultan Mahmud > Sultan Muhammad II > Masnavi Khan > Didar Khan > and Didar’s son. It thus becomes seven generations along with Arbob Diwona Shoh behind whom the house is denominated. When we multiply the age per generation with 25, it would turn out as 175 years. The miscalculation has come up by the persons outside the related family members and they might have perceived the age of one generation as 100 years and got mistaken. The information thus continued wrongly. Being a wider family member and a researcher, it becomes incumbent upon me to provide correct information to the related stakeholders.
This old house of Arbob Diwona Shoh in Gulmit Center, in terms of its new land site, walling, structures and the like, could be determined younger than the house of Hassan Ali at Kũmars, though in terms of its ceiling, it may retain its old status to a significant level. However, more and more in-depth studies are required on these old houses to reach to a logical and convincing conclusion.
Though, like his other family members, Diwona Shoh son of Hassan Ali has been an Arbob (administrator and political leader), he was also a distinguished religious scholar in addition to his critical role as a dominant warrior and sportsman. He has been to yarkand (xinjiang) and has studied some aspects of religion from the concerned Pir there. He is also well-known for acquiring a significant level of spiritual knowledge whereby he was able to bring the notorous witch named in Wakhi as Vag̃hd as her mother. Becoming happy, she in turn has given one side of her scapula (fiyak in Wakhi) and a nail of hers to Diwona Shoh as souvenirs and asked him not to loose them but rather keep them at his home and his descendents should take care of them and they won’t be in troubles. These souvenirs are yet found with his progenies at seventh generations such as Javaid Iqbal son of Abdullah Jan of Kũmars who has inherited the house of Arbob Diwona Shoh.
In the house in Gulmit, the crown prince and other children of the Mir are seen to have been raised. They include Mir Ghazan Khan son of Shah Ghazanfar Khan, Sahib Khan son of Mir Nazim Khan and Amin Khan son of Mir Nazim Khan.
Before concludeing the discussion of this section, Let me describe an important point here. A special video, which I’d made on November 2, 2021, depicts and illustrates various aspects of this grandeur house filled with series of stories.The immediate and grand or wider family members, both men and women, could be seen refreshing their old memories in comparison with the current existence. The immediate family members, Didar Karim and his wife Hassina Jabeen, are seen to have converted this traditional house somehow like an attractive and impressive museum, where lots of tourists (domestic and foreign) do visit this house.The video can be accessed and watched on the following link of EaglesWorld:
. Hassan Ali/Arbob Diwona Shoh House at Kũmars (Upper Gulmit): Magical Stories of Witchcraft, the Construction and Significance in Scientific Realm
One of the interesting video documentaries I published already on a traditional but old Wakhi Pamiri House situated at Kũmars, Upper Gulmit, in Hunza Valley of Gilgit-Baltistan Region, Northern Pakistan. The documentary could be accessed and watched on the following link of EaglesWorld:
This house currently belongs to Javed Iqbal son of Abdullah Jan of the Arbobon or Oshũr family of Gulmit within the Abdul Bai clan/tribe.He himself is a descendant of Arbob Diwona Shoh. The purpose was to focus the enriched and complex concepts behind the traditional Wakhi house in addition to the magical and supernatural stories behind it such as that of a Vag̃hd in Wakhi, means an evil spirit within the witchcraft.
Hassan Ali or Arbob Diwona Shoh’s House at Kũmars Gulmit is so old that it stretches back to two hundred years. From the original owner of the house, named Hasan Ali, eight generations have passed on and have spent their lives in this existing house. Although, some structural changes have been brought by the present owner named Javed Iqbal, the main traditional Wakhi house could be witnessed yet almost the same of the past. The room and ceiling along with pillars and beams plus other structures are of the earlier time.It has been this house where Mir Ghazan Khan son of Mir Shah Ghazanfar Khan was raised by his foster parents named Hassan Ali son of Arbob Sultan Muhammad.Hassan Ali had a huge house in Gulmit center, too, which was deconstructed and reconstructed and today known before the tourists as Gulmit old House (of Arbob Diwona Shoh).
Being a field researcher for over three decades in anthropological and linguistic realms, I’ve tried my level best to provide the viewers most of the first hand information and also look at the states of affairs in a bit analytical manner.Although, I’m so critical to look at the problems, many logical or scientific investigation are required to be carried out around various topics under discussion. It should however also critically be noted that the phenomena happening around could not be understood only through the five sensory organs to term the approaches as scientific but rather the true knowledge could also be traced and comprehended beyond the five sensory organs in the spiritual world. And in this domain, the languages may be limited to describe, communicate or explain many important aspects of the phenomena in the natural and cultural environment.For instance, those who have personallly experienced some domains of the spiritual world as are seen through the lenses of inummerable individuals having the NDE (Near Death Experiences) and those who have genuine experiences in this field could better inform about many complicated issues within our environment.
As the video documentary is in a great detail and in English itself, I therefore would not like to describe in more detail in this description. I hope the interested and related viewers would look on it in a critical manner to see what kind of similarities and differences could be found in line with the structure and architecture of a Wakhi Pamiri houses within Hunza and Gilgit-Baltistan Region, especially across the borders with the Pamiris or Tajiks of China, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kirghizistan, Turkey and Russia.
Arbob Shukufa Shoh’s House
This house, where I conducted a kind of focus group discussion is that of Arbob Shukufa Shoh son of Arbob Muhammad Ali and his wife Daulat Sultan daughter of Muqeem Khon. They had five sons and four daughters.Their sons included Muhammad Budol, La’l Beg, Sharofat Shoh, Muhammad Azim and Muhammad Ali.This house in turn came as part of Muhammad Azeem having three sons Bai Nazar, Ahmad Jami and Babar Hussain. At present, the family of late Ahmad Jami’s son late Ali Ahmad Jan and his wife La’l Parveen having a son named Kamran Ali and four daughters including late Faiza Ali, Fariha Ali, Muniza Ali and Saniha Ali.
It was this house where late Ghazi Johar (also known as Haritham) son of Mir Nazim khan was raised by his foster parents known as Muhammad Azim and Bibi Najaf. For the purpose of discussion, the elderly women and male key informants of the respective families were gathered in their houses in the first week of November 2021 and their old memories were collected attached with this house.The video could be accessed and watched on the following link of EaglesWorld:
My apologies for continuing with Wakhi language in the video as due to time constraint and genuine limitation and growing size of the video, I could not translate their important discussion in English.I hope whenever I got time will do translate the important videos and audios in English so the concerned people may benefit out of them. However, I also hope that those who are within the research world may manage to do this aspect of the field studies.
The Mir’s Palace of Gulmit
The Mir’s Palace, locally termed as Mir-e Mahal, or S̃hig̃hun, is situated in Central Gulmit locally also termed as Qalha , a distorted word of Arabic Qil’a as all houses of the people were constructed and concentrated here. This Palace or Bangwlo was started during the reign of Mir Nazim Khan son of Mir Ghazan Khan I (1891-1938).It is comprised on two storeys: the ground floor and the first floor. Lots of rooms and portions are there in this palace. The upper floor has been constructed by the last ruler of Hunza, Mir Muhammad Jamal Khan son of Mir Ghazan Khan II(r. 1945 to 1974).
A lot of historic, interesting or otherwise stories are found attached to this palace such as the coups , political demonstrations and protests, Even many revolutionary changes in the current era including visit of Field Marshal General Muhammad Ayub Khan (then President of Pakistan), highly important meetings regarding construction of the mighty Karakoram Highway (KKH), announcement to support or become part of Pakistan by the last ruler of Hunza in 1948, and many more.
Though, the present condition of the palace has become so much exhaustive , moving towards its last breath and screaming for its preservation and restoration, no voice of the related family and community members are heard in time, neither by the Aga khan Cultural Services, Pakistan (AKCSP), Wakhi Tajik Cultural Association (WTCA), nor by the concerned institutions/organizations of the Government of Pakistan or the heritage or forums at international scales.
The video on the Mir’s Palace is interesting in many terms in which I’ve tried to bring some important aspects of the history through first hand accounts. The documentary I had made in the first week of November 2021 after celebration of the Liberation Day of Gilgit-Baltistan Region organized by the Wakhi Tajik Cultural Association (WTCA).
I wish if the related and immediate family members of the Mir , late Muhammad Jamal Khan, were there on the spotWhen the winter season starts in Hunza, they then migrate to Islamabad and they were thus not present on the spot. However, I managed to organize, at least, some of the wider family members of the Mir,the consanguine and fictive or foster.All of them are elderly women, most of them in their 80+ age. I thus thought to discuss with them for a while on the significance of the palace, their own eyewitness accounts while living in the surrounding of the building as the Mirs of Hunza, while in Gulmit, would visit their fictive families . It is also important to note that prior to the construction of the Palace, the Mirs of Hunza would stay with their immediate foster families in Upper Hunza. The elderly and respected women in the video include Mrs. Bibi Anjeer Khan daughter of Muhmmad Siyyab Khan and wife of Muhammad Abbas,Mrs. Bibi Husni Khan daughter of Muhammad Siyyab Khan and wife of Zafarullah Beg,Mrs. Bibi Nageen dauther of Muhammad Azeem and wife of Gulistan Khan, Mrs. Bibi Sayyim daughter of Muhammad Nishat and wife of Bai Nazar, Mr. Sajid Khan son of Naushir Khan and Mrs. Kaghaz Begum daughter of Muqeem Khan and wife of Sajid Khan.
About the Mir’s Palace, Ustad Muhammad Rahbar son of Abdul Bari (in his 70+ age, a respected community leader, a model teacher and former Senior Vice President of the Wakhi Tajik Cultural Association or WTCA) greatly informs the viewers/audience in Urdu. He thoroughly explains many important accounts (as an eyewitness and heard from the elders) related with this historic building. This video could be accessed and watched on the following link of EaglesWorld:
Besides, I have planned to come up with separate video clips in which the immediate and extended family members of the Mir would also discuss about the significance of and their reminiscence with the building. What do they think about it in the present and future context will be interesting and brought to the limelight.
Like some places in Gilgit-Baltistan Region , Gulmit is also so important in terms of its old buildings as dozens of them such as the old Pamiri houses plus other structures of historic and archaeological significance exist yet.It is therefore imperative that the related stakeholders including the families, the community organizations, the NGOs, the INGOs, the public sector organizations should concentrate towards their restoration, revival and promotion at various scales by keeping in view their due significances.
The existing buildings or sites on the ground are not important only in terms of their structures but rather should be perceived as information hubs and knowledge deposits in a holistic context.It is so much shocking to note that their importance are not realized initially by the concerned families and local community leaders due to various factors in hand. However, sensitization campaigns in different domains are necessary to be taken well in time as most of the old structures and colonies have already bitterly experienced their dismantling in the hands of their respective families and local community.
Annex: A Folksong on the Famous People of the Past Sung by Late Yuks̃hmol of Gulmit, Hunza
Audio recording by Late Rai Ghulamuddin Khan (in the second half of 1990.)
Written by Fazal Amin Beg in Anglicized Wakhi on November 25, 2018
Spreg̃hi gũl miri a nozmin shakargũl
Kalũk sawor yow sipoyi a nozmamin shakargũl
Sipoyi Mamad Ali a nozmin shakargũl
Da zankar vitki jangi a nozmin shakargũl
Da dũshman’eni qiti a nozmin shakargũl
Ya dũshman gok̃hti tobi a nozmin shakargũl
Ya dushman ta’r salomchi a nozmin shakargũl
Z̃hũ spreg̃hi gũli lola a nozmin shakargũl
Ce bodũr z̃hũ Daywona a nozmin shakargũl
Sẽk dhasti’b dez̃hg pũlod niza a nozmin shakargũl
Ce jahoni dar larza a nozmin shakargũl
Dũshmani be kert azobita a nozmin shakargũl
Z̃hũ spreg̃hi gũl ambar a nozmin shakargũl
Ce bodũr Ali Gohar a nozmin shakargũl
Sẽk dhasti’b dez̃hg pũlod niza a nozmin shakargũl
Rẽ yurm kẽt̃etk chikan sapar a nozmin shakargũl
Da dũshman en sar ba sar a nozmin shakargũl
Sawori be vitk asp-e kahar a nozmin shakargũl
Ya kahari bozingar a nozmin shakargũl
Yow pẽtan takhtayi be zar a nozmin shakargũl
Pẽ pozi’b k̃hetk Ali Member a nozmin shakargũl
Ya niyeng Ghulkin-e bar a nozmin shakargũl
Rukhn Khũdhoyer reg̃hde qar a nozmin shakargũl
Z̃hũ spreg̃hi gũl rano a nozmin shakargũl
Cẽ bodũr z̃hũ Khayrulloh a nozmin shakargũl
Yowi sawor asp-e siyo a nozmin shakargũl
Siyo-e tuk ruyi be hawo a nozmin shakargũl
Cẽ bodũr ya z̃hũ sano a nozmin shakargũl
Z̃hũ sano dili’b daryo a nozmin shakargũl
Baf palawon Shukufasho a nozmin shakargũl
Shani ki k̃han z̃hũ Oshiqsho a nozmin shakargũl
Ũstodh ki k̃han z̃hũ Fayzulloh a nozmin shakargũl
Mullo ki k̃han z̃hũ Yũsũfsho a nozmin shakargũl
Baf palawon z̃hũ MasũmSho a nozmin shakargũl
Baydguy ki k̃han z̃hũ Ghoyibsho a nozmin shakargũl
Rabob sẽk dhast z̃hũ Tayfũrsho a nozmin shakargũl