Okara: A Historical View

The universally excepted vernacular from of the name is Ukanwala, although from a desire, apparently, to involved a Banglow namely Ukanwala, in the doubtful compliment, the form Ukanwala has also been perpetrated in 1865 when the headquarter was Gugera Town situated at a distance of 10 miles from Okara City.

Khawja Muhammad Akram Ansari (Secretary General)

Khawja Muhammad Akram Ansari (Secretary General)

At prepartation the area of Okara Tahsil Headquarter was 460307 Acres equal to 719 square miles which now has been extended upto square miles.
The District Headquarters station lies on the main Lahore Karachi line of the Pakistan Railway, and is almost exactly equidistant from Okara to Lahore and Okara to Khanewal, its position having been fixed, if tradition is to be believed, with a pare of compasses, Its latitude is 30-40 feet north, its longitude 73-10 feet east, and approximate height above sea level is alleged to be 500 feet.
The District Okara Forms roughly a parallelogram lying in the general direction north-east to south west, between the river Ravi and Sutlej. It is approximately 60 miles from northeast to southwest and 45 miles from northwest to southeast- Ravi to Sutlej. the Ravi now forms the northwestern boundary for the whole length of the district, with the district Faisalabad on its further banks; similarly, on the southeast runs the river sutlej, dividing the district from Bahawal Nagar and the Ferozepur District (India).
The district now comprises three Tahsils Okara Dipalpur and Renalakhurd. The Okara District lie north of the old bed of the Bias, and receive Irrigation from the Lower Bari Doab canal. The Depalpur Tahsil lies to the south of it and or now served by canal Sutlej Valley project.
The soil of the District is generally of good quality; saline tract are rare, and of no grate extent water is generally sweet and near the surface the level of which now going down due to natural change of the land; vegetation is more abundant and a considerable portion of the country is under cultivation.
The uncultivated tracts of the district are known as the bar. They are thus described in Lieutenant Elphinstone’s settlement report “is waste is divided by the jats of the Bari Doab Into for distincts tracts the Ravi bar, or Jungle Traversed by the old Ravi; the Gangi Bar which occupies the crest of the ridge called Dhaya; the Bias Bar, traversed by the bed of the old Bias; and the Nili Bar, which intervenes between a latter and the cultivated lands adjoining the Sutlej. The Gangi Bar at might be expected from its elevated situation, is the most arid and naturally barren portion of the hole district.
It is now the District Headquarters of what use to be the Gogera Town, Before colonization started, though there was no actual Mandi at Okara, produce destined for other Mandies in the neighborhood used pass through the town and sited there were bought and sold for very fair prices. The sites occupied by the factories were all in private hands before colonization started. The Mandi and the residential area were north of the railway line. The area originally occupied for residential purposed has now been enhanced across the railway line in north southern bank of Lower Bari Doab Canal to the southern side touching the Baipass of Motor highway.
The Old city of Okara is divided occupy broad metalled roads into six blocks consisting of residential and shop sides. The link roads with in these were unmattled and liable to floating when rain falls. The drainage system of Okara is still in Deplorable Condition due to which inhabitants of Okara are facing a lot of difficulties during rainy reason. It is hoped that the Government will look into the matter shortly so that comprehensive/ proper drainage scheme may be afforded. The public gardens which are maintained by the Tehsil Municipal Authorities are a credit to Okara. Adjoining the Railway to the west is the Grain Market and the old Lakar Mandi (Timber Market) beyond them to the north of Railway Station as well as to the south east was lye the factory sides.
These factories were mostly concerned with the Ginning and Pressing cotton. With the passage of time these factory side have been converted into residential colonies.
Okara is supposed to have got its name from the Ukan (Tamarisk) Tree. When the Railway line was built. The residential quarter, such as it was, removed to the north of the, railway line but this was demolished in 1915 when on the arrival of the Lower Bari Doab Canal the present town was founded. The Mandi was opened in that year and a number of sites were put up for auction. Before partition, about 3/5 of the population was Hindu and about 30 percent Muslims and 15 percent Sikh. The residences are occupied principally with the wheat and cotton trade. In 1918 Okara town was declare Notified Area Committee, to whom matters of local Self-Government have been entrusted drainage and water works schemes. Its Disposal works was utilized for agriculture purposes. The population of the town in 1931 was termed as 10712. The Notified Area Committee had provided slaughter houses, Meat, Vegetable Market, Hospital, Schools, High schools, Parks, Gents and Ladies Parks and a town hall. There are some large villages of considerable historical interest.
For instance, Hujra Shah Mukim (Dipalpur Tahsil) was the headquarters of a Tahsil in the time of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and is said to have been founded by Hazrat Shah Mukim, the great grandson of Hazrat Miran Bahawal Sher Kalandar said to have migrated to the banks of the Byes from Gilan in the time of Akbar. It is said that Hazrat Miran Bahawal Sher built himself a mosque and a Hujra. Hujra Shah Mukim having been born in this Hujra to the town, he founded. The tombs of Hazrat Miran Bahawal Sher Kalandar, Hazrat Shah Mukim and Hazrat Sheikh Muhammad Bari are the principal show places in Hujra. There is a Canal Rest-house, a police station, Girls middle and Boys High School, College and a number of Hospitals as well. The endowments and Jagir enjoyed by the descendants of Hazrat Shah Mukim from the days of the Moghul Emperors are said to have been taken over by Bedi sahib who occupied Hujra in Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s time. Most of the Syeds were then killed. After annexation to the British Government Madad Ali Shah, a descendant of Hazrat Shah Mukim established as Sajada Nashin and his grandson Imdad Ali Shah holds that position. He holds a Jagir of several villages together with cash Jagir. A fair is held at this place annually when a number of pilgrims are entertained by the Sajada Nashin.
Basirpur (Dipaplur Tahsil) where there is a railway station on the Kasur-Lodhran line in the time of the Moghul Emperors belonged to Arains. The original owners are said to have been turned out by their Qazi, also an Arain, who represented to the Emperor and alleged that the owners were not paying their land revenue. Baba Sahib Singh Bedi was awarded a Jagir of 3 lakhs by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1842 which included land in the neighbourhood of Basirpur. His son built a fort in this place. There is now a Mandi at Basirpur Fairs are held on the 25th and 26 of Sawan.
Haveli Lakha (Dipalpur Tahsil) has a population according to the 931 Census was 3040. It is said to have been originally founded in the time of the Mogal Emperor Muhammad Shah by a Wattu Lakha Khan. His descendants crossed over to Bahawal Pur in Sikh times, but regained in some degree at least their former position after annexation by the British Sikhs, Hindus and Arians had been a share in the proprietorship. The village was famous for the manufacture of Huqqas and cotton bed sheets. Most of the weavers live in Haveli Mandi, a new site near the railway station. Another Mandi was built and there were already 150 shops in the village.
Colony villages, both in the Lower Bari Doab and the Nili Bar, retain some of the features of the old type of village, but was all on regular rectangular lines, and was designed to give greater facilities for sanitation and fresh air. Detailed plans and measurements were founded in the Colony Manual and in the headquarter offices of the colonies. The villages were rectangular in shape, with an open central Chowk, in the centre of which is the village well; round the chowk were the shops and the public building such as the Mosque, Gurdwara or Temple (according to the religion of the villagers mixed villages being rare), and guest-houses, broad streets radiate from the central chowk, usually only four in number, and the ahatas, or house-building.
The population was distinctly divided into marked sections the purely agricultural inhabitants and the pastoral tribes. The farmer were consist of the castes, both Muhammadan and Hindu, which were generally met with throughout the Eastern Punjab, Arains, Kambohs, Hindu, Jats, etc. The most important tribes are the Kharrals, Fattianas, Murdanas, Kathias, Wahniwals, Baghelas, Wattus and Joiyas. The two latter were chiefly confined to the Sutlej, but the others only possess land on the Ravi, and graze their herds in the tow Doabs adjoining that river.
The Ravi tribes just enumerated a call themselves the great Ravi, and include all the purely agricultural class residing within their own limits under the name of ‘Small Ravi’ or ‘Nikki Ravi’ a term of reproach with references to the more settled pursuits of these people, their comparatively peaceful habits, and probably the state of subjection in which they placed when the ‘Great Ravi’ had uncontrolled authority in this region. Besides the ‘Small Ravi’ There was another class in this tract, who unhesitatingly recognize the ‘Great Ravi’ men as their superiors.
The ‘Great Ravi’ Jats have always been handsome and sturdy race. Favourable comments on their appearance have been made by numerous writers from the time of Arrian (supposing the identification of Kathias with Arrian’s Kathaeoi to be correct). Most of the ‘Great Ravi’ tribes lay claim to Rajput origin
Colonial development had not lead them to modify their aversion from early marriages which was previously recorded as the most characteristic custom attributed to them and to which it was believed to be due that their physical superiority was so long maintained. There is a good deal of similarity among the traditions of the different tribes regarding their origin. The ancestor of each tribe was, as a rule, Rajput, a Raja of the Solar or Lunar race, and resided at Hastinapur or Daranagar. He scornfully rejected the proposals of the Delhi Emperor for a matrimonial alliance between the two families, and had then to fly to Sirsa or Bhatner, or some other place in that neighborhood.
The Kharrals are Rajputs. Their ancestor was Raja Karn of Hastinapur. His defendant Bhupa left that place and came to Uch, where he and his son Kharral were converted by Makhdum Jahania Shah. From Uch the Kharrals spread over the country about the Ravi. They appear to have settled first in the Sandal Bar (Lyallpur District). No doubt with a view to having plenty of pasture for their cattle. Ranjit Singh is said to have induced or compelled them to move to villages nearer to the river, possible with a view to exercising more effective control over them. Their principal muhins or clans in the Montgomery District are Rebera with headquarters at Fatehpur. Gogera with headquarters at Gogera. Ransinh with headquarters at Pindi Cheri and Pir Ali.
The Kharrals are traditionally quarrelsome among themselves, but they were supposed to had a bond of union in enmity to the Sials. There is an old story, how a Kharral called Mirza fell in love wit his cousin Sahiban, the daughter of the chief man of Khewa in the Jhang District. Her parents betrothed her to a youth of the Chadhar tribe, but before the marriage took place Mirza ran away with her. He was pursued and slain. Her relations strangled Sahiban. These murders were the cause of such bloody feuds between the clans that it at length was thought inauspicious to have daughters and as soon as they were born they were strangled as Sahiban had been. However, it does not appear whether Sahiban’s father was a Sial or a Kharral.
The Wattus, who occupied both banks of the Sutlej for about 60 miles and the tract about Gogeral, acclaim descent from Raja Slavahan of Sialkot. They had probably a close racial connection with Hindu Bhattis, Mussalman Bhattis, Joiyas, and with Sindhu and Barar Sikh Jats. One of Slavahan’s sons was settled in Bhatner. Adham, the 12th in descent, came to the Sutlej near Ferozepore. There he found the Rajada Kharrals, the Dogars, and the Joiyas. They picked a quarrel with him, but he beat them. On account of venting his displeasure on them he was called Wattu, wat meaning displeasure. The next great man was Khewa, who was converted by Hazrat Baba Farid Shakar Ganj. He expelled the Kharrals, Joiyas and Dogras.
After him there was no famous chief till Lakha appeared. His achievements had been recorded. It did not appear when the Wattus of the Ravi settled there; but they came from the Sutlej, and were hospitable received by the Kharrals. There is very little to choose between the two tribes on the Ravi. The tract owned by the wattus was possessed little jungle; that part of the clan therefore had taken of late years to agricultural pursuits. Some of their estates are well cultivated; their herds have diminished, and many of them could not be distinguished in appearance from peaceful Arains of Khokhars. The change in their habits was remarkable, as they still speak of the kardars they used to kill during the Sikh rule, and of the years in which they had been paying no revenue because the Sikhs were unable of afraid to collect it. The Wattus pride themselves on their politeness and hospitality. They were of only moderate industry, profuse in expenditure on special occasions,
The Khaggas on the Ravi and the Chishtis on the Sutlej were two of the tribes in the district claiming peculiar sanctity. Others are of course the Sayyids together with Bodlas and Udasi Falkirs of the Dipalpur Tahsil. The Khaggas came to the district after the conquest of Multan by Ranjit Singh. They claim to be Qureshis; and name as the first Khagga Jalal-ud-Din, disciple of Muhammad Irak. Khagga is said to mean a peculiar kind of fish; and the name was given to Jalal-ud-Din by his spiritual teacher on the occasion of his rescuing a boat overtaken by a storm.
Ravi Biloaches were, though always Muhammadans, they practipated some Hindu ceremonies; but attach more importance to learning the quraan than their neighbors do. One of their principal clans, the Murdana, possessed much land on the main road from Multan to Lahore, between Gogera and Harappa. A number of Biloches of the district were recruited in the old grantee Camel Crops receiving grants of land in return form maintaining camels available as required for service in the army. There were a number of estates in the Lower Bari Doab colony allotted on these terms to Biloch families who in pre-colony days were among the nomad grazers of the Bar. Up-to-date they have been generally poor cultivators and the Biloch community as a whole with the exception of the Murdana Biloch is not particularly prosperous.
Apart form the main tribes cited at the beginning of this section there were certain others which have been notified under the Land Alienation Act. Bhattis and Kharrals who were sometimes classed as Rajputs, Bodlas, Khaggas and Qureshis of whom the first two have been discussed above, Dogras, Gakhars and Moghals none of whom figure as such in the census returns.
The great majority of the immigrant colonists in that part of the Nile Bar Colony comprised in the Sutlej Tahsils of the district was also military grantees. The same classes were represented as in the Lower Bari Doab, with, unfortunately, an even wider divagation into classes (such as clerks in Army Headquarters) which are not likely to contribute much to an agricultural economy.
Another important estate was assigned in 1851 to the Pathan family in the Dipalpur Tahsil. The original assignees were Farid Khan and Najib Khan. The descendants of Farid khan hold four villages. The descendants Fazal Khan hold Faridpur-Sohag and Nawan Kot; the representative Lambardars being Khan Bahadur Khan and Allah Dad Khan. Mohammad Usman Khan holds Farid Pur Jagir of hold Kariwala, the Lambardar being Khaliq Dad Khan. The great grandsons of Najib Khan hold Vaindla village, the Lambardar being Mohammad Khan. Mohammad Usman Khan, great grandson of Farid Khan was a Zaildar and a Provincial Darbari and Karim Dad Khan great grandson of Najib Khan was a Divisional Darbari. Succession to these assignments had not been governed by the Descents of Jagirs Act. There are two other Cattle Farm grantees among the Divisional Darbaries, Chaudhry Mahla Singh, son of Chaudhri Bahadur Chand, Arora, who resided between Gugera and Okara, and Chaudhri Dost Muhammad Khan, son of Chaudhri Jahangir Khan Wattu, of the Dipalpur Tahsil. His cattle farms were existed at many places.

Compiled by:

Khawja M. Akram Ansari
Secretary General (OCCI)


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