Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The ruins of Behat

Listening to my husband talk about his family is like having someone recount the stories from some storybook that comes from the era of black and white films. His father was born in a haveli and his family till date boasts of a living Sufi saint who presides over the Kaliyar Sharif Dargah. They have had Sufis for generations. And I strongly suspect the Sufi gene in my husband for the dharamshala that our house turns out to be at times!

They are the Shahs of Behat and according to Wikipedia, "Behat is an ancient town and a nagar panchayat (municipality) in Saharanpur district on the northern tip of the state of Uttar PradeshIndia..." Wikipedia cites from A Gazetteer of Saharanpur District District Volume XIV: Gazetteers of the United Provinces edited by H. R Neville what is the origin of my husband's family - "During the reign of Bahlul Khan Lodi (1451–1489), a Muslim colony was founded at Behat by Shah Abdullah, who was a descendent of the Saint Sheikh Baha-ud-din Zakariya Suhrawardi. Western part of Behat along the Naugaon Rau is named after him as Abdullah Mazra." Thus, the Shahs of Behat are the direct descendants of Shah Abdullah which is why, I later understood, everybody in the family writes Shah before their names and not after their names. When I first met my husband years ago, I was curious about his name - Shah Nadeem. And "kahan ke Shah ho tum? (and you are the Shah/emperor of which place)"  used to be my favorite refrain. When I met the men of his family, I realised what the case was. And when I saw the shrine of Shah Abdullah in Behat, I must say I did get goose bumps.

Here, I seek to post some pictures of the ruins of Behat, the ancestral haveli of the Shah family which is in ruins. But there are portions of the haveli where the members of the family are still living. Partition marred the haveli and its residents. Most of the family members migrated to the haveli they were given in lieu of the one in Behat in Pakistan. But my husband's grandfather stayed back. And his stock now bears testimony to the life and times of Behat and its ruins.

  one of the entrances to the haveli

 the small charming lanes of Behat

 next to the main gate is this old 'kacheri' (court of justice) where the Shah family's grandfathers of several generations presided

 family members enjoy evening tea in the parts of the haveli which are still in use

 a well, covered, as old as the place

 the double-storied haveli in ruins now...

 ruins which have a lot of stories to tell


  1. A lovely read...please write some more!! :-)

  2. thank you Puja :) will surely bring out a series of Haveli Stories now :)

  3. Lovely to know about Behat, of which you too are a part now. Pictures say a lot about the hey day of the Shahs.
    Would love to read more stories like this...

  4. Thank you Rupa Aunty. Hopefully will bring out more stories from this family. And I tell you, they are so storybook/film like. Especially because of the times they have seen pre and post Partition.

  5. Great read,my eyes were desperately looking for Shah Abdullah's Shrine's picture...

    The worry is, educated lot of family members are migrating from Behat, be it your husband's family members, Shah Mehmood's brothers or even his own family members....

  6. thank you Javaid Bhai. i have to take a lot of pictures this time when i go to Behat and talk to a lot of people, especially Baba's generation. and it's really sad that people are moving away from Behat. but times change like that although it is sad. nonetheless I hope that your family stays in touch with the roots forever...

  7. I sense a novel, spanning across generations, pivoting around a central structure - The Haveli of Behat. Wonderful read, Juanita!

  8. Hi, though i belong to that area and did my schooling in Behat only but never got the opportunity to see the haveli. Of course I know about the Shahs of behat and even one shah was my batch mate but I dont remember his name. Thanks for sharing :-)

  9. thank you Arvind Kumar! nice to hear from you :)

  10. i am from behat itself bro. never knew about this story. where's the haveli located can u pleasetell me


My short story 'Where is Arsalan Miyan?' in Himal Southasian on 27 April 2018

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