119 Years of Trust


Saturday, July 24, 1999

This above all

regional vignettes

Kurali down the ages
A slice of history
By Gur Rattan Pal Singh

KURALI in Ropar district, situated 25 km from Chandigarh, came into the national limelight when a refugee camp of about 60,000 Muslims was set up during the Partition. However, in Ropar and Kharar subdivisions, it is known for its hakims, sadhus, astrologers, fairs and the Army Recruitment Centre.

Muslim camp at Kurali in 1947

Heart-rending and nightmarish conditions prevailed in the refugee camp in Kurali. One can vividly recall the miserable and pitiable conditions of the Muslims stationed in the camp. Refugees from Ropar and Kharar subdivisions were given shelter in this camp as the riots, arson, murders, rapes and looting had started endangering their safety and security.

In the deadly riots, millions of people were forced to leave their homes to protect themselves from blood-crazed mobs. A countless number of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims were killed. But no, not just killed. They were brutally murdered and even the children were not spared. It was a bumper year for the vultures, as man had become worse than a beast. "If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be without!" Humanity wept tears of blood.

Bas ke dushwar hai har kaam ka asan hona.
Aadmi ko bhi mayassar nahin insaan hona

(How difficult can an easy task prove to be! Even man is not fated to be a human being).

When the military took the refugees in the camp to Pakistan, there was nothing left in the mango grove except the bottom portion of the trees as all the leaves had been eaten due to a dearth of food. The branches had been burnt for cooking meals.


The late Hakim Atma Ram of Kurali was gifted with supernatural powers. Just by glancing at a bottle of urine, he could tell the patient about the disease he suffered from, and the food that he had taken the previous night.

In order to test the effectiveness of uroscopy being practised by the hakim, a potter mixed his wife’s urine with the urine of a donkey and brought the mixture in a small bottle. After examining it, the hakim snubbed the potter: "You fool. Have you come to test my knowledge? Go home with the happy news that both your wife as well as your animal are pregnant."

Hakim Badan Singh, a contemporary of Hakim Ajmal Khan of Delhi, could even cure a patient of leprosy. Curing a patient of leprosy at that time, when medical science was at its rudimentary stage, was, indeed, a miracle. People from far-flung places used to visit Kurali for consulting hakims.


Swami Bishan Dass, a theologian and writer who belonged to the Gehar Gambhir faith, authored numerous books. He translated the classic Atam Bodhni. After the death of Swami Bishan Dass, Swami Shankar Dass became his successor. Through sustained meditation and spectacular discipline in life, Swami Shankar Dass perfected the art of yoga and ghor jantar. He could meditate at a stretch for as many as seven days and he could also communicate with people stationed at far away places.

Another saint, Swami Shiv Sarup Atma, popularly known as Nadi Paar Wale Swami ji, deserves special mention as he has become the spiritual guide of the people of Kurali and its neighbouring villages. He has chosen the path of renunciation which involves non-attachment and knowledge of the self. Thousands of his devotees visit Kurali for his darshan. This swami came to Kurali about 50 years ago from Kerala.


Jyotishi Mukand Ballabh Sharma was an expert in preparing jantaris which contained relevant details about the lunar and solar eclipses and the other allied details. Once a foreigner posed a query about the place of his birth. The jyotishi told him that as per his calculations, he was born on land surrounded by water. The foreigner found the reply perfectly correct as he was born on a ship.


Two fairs — Mata Rani wala mela and Gosain wala mela — are held here every year in March and August, respectively. A large number of people, irrespective of their caste and creed, participate in the fairs. Bullock-cart races are the main attraction of the fairs.

Gosain wala mela is held in memory of Sant Gosain Wala who was known for performing miracles. His disciples take a dip in the huge sarovar there.

The Mata Rani Wala Mela is held for seeking the blessing of Mata Rani and prayers are offered for keeping contagious disease like smallpox and chickenpox at bay.

Hitler desired to visit Kurali

During World War II (1939-45), Kurali, after Ambala cantonment, was the biggest recruitment centre of the Indian Army. When Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), the German dictator, interviewed the prisoners of war from India, the majority of these fighters belonged to the Kurali Recruitment Centre. Hitler expressed a desire to visit Kurali, if fate and circumstances permitted.

Visits of national leaders

On November 27, 1938, Subhash Chandra Bose, accompanied by Dr Satya Pal, Duni Chand Ambalvi and S. Kulbir Singh (brother of S. Bhagat Singh) visited Kurali and delivered a highly spirited speech, asking the British government to quit India.

Guru M.S. Golwalkar, the then Chief of the RSS, and Baba Kharak Singh also graced Kurali. Guru Golwalkar in his speech called on the people of Punjab to patronise Punjabi, their mother tongue.

‘Ladies’ of Kurali

Kurali was one of the centres of prostitution after Ambala and Ropar in the then Ambala district . Kanso was a devastatingly beautiful lady endowed with sharp features. She used to be the star attraction, every night and so numerous were her the admirers the narrow lane leading to her house was always crowded. The following lines epitomise her charming personality.

Balae Jaan hai Ghalib us ki her baat
Ibarat kya isharat kya adda kya"

(Heart-inflaming is the speech of the sweet-heart, whether her mode of expression, gesticulation or blandishment).

Kanso, like Noorbai, the beautiful courtesan of Delhi, however got enamoured by a tailor-master, Jabru, who was only three-foot tall.

Kanso came in contact with Jabru as she perforce had to depend on him for her special undergarments, as he was an expert in making the lady’s dresses.

However, Jabru’s fall from Kanso’s grace was as quick as was his rise in the world of sensuality. She shifted her loyalties to a rich alchemist who claimed that he could change base metals into gold. Eventually, she married a rich railway official posted at Kurali.

After the Partition, with the changed times these ladies of taste, grace and beauty faded into oblivion. How relevant are the words of Bhartrihari’s Vairagya Shatak.

Alas, my brother! mighty
kings and lords, proud princes,
Courtiers, loveliest maidens gay
Bards and their tales of ancient chivalry
Homage to time! all these
have passed away.

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