The city of Jhang was built in 1288 by Rai Sial with the advice of Hazrat Shah Jalal Bukhari (his peer). The first ruler of Jhang was Mal Khan in 1462. Sial tribe ruled this city for 360 years and the last ruler of the Sial Tribe was Ahmad Khan from 1812 to 1822 before the Sikhs took over. And from the rule of the Sikh, Jhang was taken over by the British.
Jhang is more famous for its people than for its products. The Jhangvis are hardy peasants, healthy, tall, strong and of whitish complexion. The people live in the plains and therefore are plain and straight-forward, broad minded, hospitable and progressive. Jhang is the centre of a purely agricultural based society. Agriculture is the chief source of income and employment in Jhang. About 85 percent of the Jhang’s cultivable land is irrigated. Wheat and cotton are the principal crops. Other crops grown include rice, sugarcane, corn (maize), oilseeds, fruits, and vegetables. Livestock and poultry are also raised in large numbers in district Jhang.
Jhang is characterised by extreme climate – the temperature is generally hot, with marked variations between summer and winter. The monsoon reaches the area exhausted and therefore the rainfall is quite meager. There is also occasional rain during the winters. The summer may be somehow discomforting, but for the greater part of the year the climate is ideal and invigorating. The best part of the year is from the middle of February to the middle of April, which is the spring in the Jhang. It is neither cold nor hot but simply pleasant and enjoyable. The entire district-side becomes a vast stretch of greenery. The mustard fields are covered with yellow flowers, trees put on new leaves, fruits begin to blossom and there are flowers every where.
Jhang is connected by road or railway to some main cities of the country. Multan Sargodha road passes through the centre of the city. It is on this road that I used to travel from Multan to come to Mandi Bahauddin during my long stay in Multan. And, that is when I got acquainted with the place.
Every time I passed through the city, I was reminded of Heer Ranjha – the story performed in the form of an opera as well as a ballet and sung by youth and vocalists. This is a part of our literature heritage. Heer was the daughter of a feudal landlord Chuchak Sial who lived in a village in the suburbs of Jhang. Before Heer’s sacrifice for Ranjha, she proved herself to be a very courageous and daring young girl. It is said that Sardar Noora from the Sambal clan, had a really beautiful boat made and appointed a boatman called Luddan. Noora was very ruthless with his employees. Due to the ill treatment one day Luddan ran away with the boat and begged Heer for refuge. Heer gave him moral support as well as shelter. Sardar Noora was enraged at this incident. He summoned his friends and set off to catch Luddan. Heer collected an army of her friends and confronted Sardar Noora. When Heer’s brothers learnt of this incident they told her, “If a mishap had befallen you why did not you send for us?” To which Heer replied, “What was the need to send for all of you? Emperor Akbar had not attacked us.” It is the same Heer who, when she in love with Ranjha, sacrifices her life for him and says, “Rangha Rangha kardi ni mein aape Rangha hoi, menu Heer na aakhe koi (Ranjha, Ranjha all time I myself have become Ranjha. No one should call me Heer, call me Dheedho Ranjha.)
Heer Ranjha is the most famous true love story of the South Asian history. Similar to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet it tells a story of two lovers “Heer” and “Ranjah”; whose families were in conflict with one another and became separated for many years. Heer is known to have been an extremely beautiful woman with a wealthy father named “Chuchak.” Ranjha was the youngest of four brothers, all of which were married except him. In his late teens he set of to find work in a distant village where he found Chuchak who offered him a job to take care of his cattle. Having met Ranjha, Heer became mesmerised by the way he played the flute and eventually fell in love with him. They would meet each other secretly for many years until they were caught by her parents and found who Dido really was. Heer was married against her will to another man, while Ranjha was left broken hearted and left to walk the quiet villages on his own until eventually met Gorak, a Jogi (devoted believer in God). Having entering Gorak’s Tilla (Shrine), Dido could only see his departed lover and being emotionally scared he voluntarily became a Yogi. Reciting the name of the lord on his travels around the Punjab he found the village of “Kher” where he was reunited with his devoted lover. They both escaped and came back to Heer’s Village, where her parents agreed to their marriage and end the conflict between the two families. The marriage preparations went well but on the wedding day, Heer’s jealous uncle, “Kedoh” (who was a limp having been beaten by Ranjha’s brothers many years earlier) poisoned her so the wedding wouldn’t take place. Having heard the news Dido rushed to aid Heer but was too late as she died in his arms, but tragically becoming broken hearted once again, Dido also died holding Heer to his chest. Now only the poet’s poetry remains in everlasting remembrance for no one has written such a beautiful Heer as Waris Shah.
But there is no “romance” left in the sleepy and dusty district headquarters Jhang. Those who take chance through the rustic city have to muscle their way to the city through waves of Tongas, rickshaws, donkey and bullock carts and lines of vendors selling gandeerian. And that is the first taste (and smell) of the city. Jhang is so full of animal transport that its avenues are like roads of respiratory illness and fatal accidents. Over crowding, population increase, litter, power outages and water shortages have all played a part in turning small hamlet, founded by the Sials in early thirteenth century, into a teeming sprawling slum. Rai Sial would not be able to recognize the city if he comes back. A short walk in the city reveals the neglect of all concerned. First thing a city needs is a By Pass.
Lalamusa-Sargodha-Khanewal railway is a profitable rout that passes through Jhang. At present only one Peshawar-Karachi train – Chenab Express – runs on this route. It could be useful to introduce at least one more Peshawar-Karachi express train for passengers, agricultural products produced in the area. Moreover, this track is strategically important in case of any threat to Peshawar-Lahore-Karachi main railway track. In that case, Lalamusa-Sargodha-Khanewal rail route could take all the rail traffic.