Someone mentioned Shirin Farhad Shrine at Neela, Chakwal and I had to see this for myself.
Why is love Important?
There was a time that the people in Pakistan knew how to love.
In those times, Love, passion, and affection were preached in tandem with spirituality as these are all synonymous.
Love was more than an obligation to your children, parents, and the outer rung of extended family.
Then, Love was not ritualistic adoration of the divine.
Furthermore, Love has never been considered taboo or something shameful – it has always been celebrated –as it should be.
After all, there is no point in making life more miserable than it should be, by denying people the right to love.
History of Shirin Farhad Shrine in Pakistan
Back in 490 BC Persian Empire’s Easterly boundary included present-day Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Baluchistan.
· Also, see Pakistan’s Persian Ethnicity
Naturally, the language, poetry, customs in these parts were influenced by Persian ways for a long time to come.
If there is one legend replayed in Persia for centuries, it would be the love triangle of Khusrau, Shirin, and Farhad.
When this story landed in the regions that became Pakistan, this Persian Romantic qissa simply became “Shirin Farhad.”
Why is the Shirin Farhad Shrine in Neela, not the original one?
I have visited three sites in Pakistan where locals swear the shrines were original Shirin Farhad themselves – which is highly unlikely.
My hope is that they did not kill some poor loving souls and bury them in the single, unmarked graves.
Where are the three Shirin Farhad Shrines in Pakistan
The Story of Khusrau, Shirin Farhad
The story of Khosrow, Shirin, is set in Persia, somewhere in the 10th century when Seljuk Turks ruled the roost in the Muslim world, right up to Armenia.
Khusrau was an exiled Persian king, Shirin was an Armenian princess of exceptional beauty and Farhad was their royal stone sculptor.
Farad was a skilled royal builder, who was pretty sought after in those days.
Khusrau was mesmerized by Shirin’s beauty and asked for her hand in marriage so that she becomes a good luck charm for his impending conquest of the Persian throne.
Shirin politely declined the king in waiting and asked him to get the throne first, then check up on the offer.
Khusrau in the meantime married a roman queen and got Roman help in snatching back his throne.
In all this melee, Farhad, the royal mason, could not help falling for the gorgeous Armenian Shirin – and I do not blame him.
Have you seen Armenia ladies?
· Also, see Top Pakistani Actresses
So now, Khusrau has his throne but not his lady.
Farhad has the lady’s heart, but not the power.
Khusrau did what any powerful man would do – sent the poor guy to dig a channel of milk across a solid rock mountain, using sculpture tools.
Legend says that the mountains are Behistun, near Kermanshah, Iran.
· Also, see Pakistan Iran relations
Farhad, was so obsessed with his love interest that he, with a divine nudge, did manage to dig a channel of milk to the Persian King’s palace.
Khusrau seeing his plan fail, send a fake condolence letter to Farhad, falsely claiming that Shirin had killed herself.
Farhad, could not bear the loss of his beloved and committed suicide right inside the stream that he built.
Shirin, on hearing the sad news of Farhad’s passing, killed herself with Farhad’s sculpture tools.
Khusrau’s diabolic plan did not work and the rich a powerful could not buy love!
The moral of the story is that Love never fails.
Shirin Farhad Story in Baluchistan, Pakistan
This story had the making of an epic blockbuster, and it is no wonder it has survived 1000 years.
Punjabi and Balochi variant of this story is almost the same, except that the Baluch still revere the shrine as living saints.
The story had to be similar as Persian preachers have been spreading their message through fables in these areas for centuries.
My trip to Shirin Farhad Shrine in Neela Village Chakwal
I drove to Neela village on the motorway and it took me 1.5 h to get there.
Neela village has its own interchange called Neela Dulla.
This village is 15 min from Neela Interchange on the Lahore Islamabad Motorway.
The Shirin Farhad Shrine of Neela village is across two huge cornfields, on top of a mud hill.
There are flags marking the site and can be seen from quite a distance.
What else is there to see at Neela Village Chakwal?
The people of Neela Dulla are very hospitable and friendly, unlike shrewd city folks.
Neela Village has a Hindu temple, an old Hindu Mansion, and the remains of a Palace fort.
This Neela village used to have its own Hindu population as well. They all left in 1947.
Hindu Temple of Neela village Chakwal
There is an odd-looking Hindu temple right at the center of Neela village that does not look like any Hindu temple I have seen in Pakistan.
The Neela Hindu Temple looks more like a narrow Victorian clock tower, but its spire was unmistakably Hindu.
There is a dilapidated old Mansion of some Hindu family that fled during the riots of the 1947 partition, right beside the Hindu temple.
No Hindus remain at Neela – at least that’s what the locals tell me.
The only Hindus I saw were the farm workers local landlords had brought from Sindh province and they had no idea there was a Hindu temple there.
The Palace Fort of Neela
When I walked around the temple, I saw a prominent structure built on top of a raised hill.
Locals told me this place is where the British built a police station but was originally a fort-like palace.
This palace story could be true, as I found pot shards on the corners of this plateau that is now a police station.
· Also, see Forts in Pakistan
One wall of the ancient palace is still intact.
Views from Top of Neela Hill
The views from the top of this mountain of Soan River and Neela Town were spectacular.
In springtime, crops of Saffron, Corn, and Olive light up the earth in different hues of green and yellow, which is easy on the eyes.
Seeing people wading across Soan River to their beautiful and peaceful land, with real and loving people, I realized why the legend of Shirin Farhad found traction here.
Then, the peaceful Soan River curving right under your feet in a U-turn looks marvelous under the Winter Sun.
· Also, see Views of Rawalpindi
After collecting my olive saplings, I drove back to Chakri and then Rawalpindi from the village roads.
My monologue on Love
For all those Shirin-Farhad dying in silence from this cruel system of necessity, pragmatism and rationality, and practicality, keep the flame alive.
Love never dies.
I am your patron saint, I am your priest, I am your supreme advocate and
I absolve you Shirin Farhad!
May you live forever
· Also, see I am no fortunate son
For my rational contemporaries, you have not lived if you have not loved.
Furthermore, for my Pakistani leaders, let the people be free to love, it does not threaten your power base nor your riches.
If you like what you read, please comment on the link, share, and subscribe to my blog.