Alexander Monument in Pakistan’s Salt Range
By S.A.J. Shirazi
The Salt Range in Pakistan known for the salt mines, is also the site of historically important, centuries old Hindu temples, forts and monasteries. Here the Alexander Monument and Research Center was built where the forces of Alexander stopped over before reaching the plains of Punjab for his famous battle with Raja Porus at Mong village, Chillianwala.
The monument to Alexander, built with the collaboration of the Greek government and supervised by historian Ahmed Hasan Dani, is situated along the banks of the Jhelum River at Jalalpur Sharif on the road leading to Chimkon Valley in the Salt Range. Jalalpur Sharif is located opposite Mong where the battle between Alexander and Porus took place. Mong used to be thegarrison of King Porus who had assembled 30,000 men, 2000 cavalry, and 200 elephants to fight against the Macedonians. Remains of the ancient walls are still there at the summit of the hill, which rise 1000 feet above thepresent-day Jalalpur.Coins found among the ruins date backto the period of Graeco-Bactrian kings.
Atop the as yet unfinished monument a covered platform stands flanked by Grecian style arches. On it is a painted map of Alexander’s empire from Greece to South Asia showing the route he took in this part of the world with arrows (Hund -Taxila – Jalalpur – Beas – back to Jalalpur and to the Arabian sea along River Jhelum). But for many years it has been waiting for historians to come and do research on the great king and his arrival in the sub-continent. Construction of the monument has stopped, entry is restricted and its doors are locked. Thorny bushes on the stairs prevent anyone going up on the roof to see the map, the colours of which are already peeling. There was no-one, not even a janitor, who could tell us about the current state ofaffairs or why the construction work has been stopped. Why? Lack of funds, lack of interest, or both!?
Alexander was undoubtedly a man of great substance: He was an illustrious soldier who always followed the rules of war. He brought disciplines of medicine (Tibb-e-Yunani) and philosophy to what is now Pakistan. More than two thousand yeas ago he recognized the enormous potential in terms of commerce and trade of the immediate hinterland of Karachi. He called this place the bridge between east and west.
Former vice-president of the Society of Asian Civilizations Brig. Naeem Rana said the monument was constructed with a view to conducting research but, unfortunately, the aim has not been achieved. He said law and order, among other things, kept international researchers, historians and diplomats from visiting historical places such as the monument. Both the gates were locked by a local watchman, Mohammad Khan. When asked, he said no government official was present there. He said the last time any government official visited the site was some five or six months back. To a question about the visits of tourist groups at the site, he said hardly a few number of tourists had, especially foreigners, had visited the place. He said there were no facilities of boarding and lodging in the area, a point of concern for the tourists.
Tufail, a local resident, while talking with the scribe outside the monument said, after the completion of the monument, the governments of Pakistan and Greece had abandoned the project. He said the project had great attraction for international tourists but, due to lack of facilities, no one was willing to come to the area. About the issue of law and order, he said the area was peaceful enough and locals were very hospitable.
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