Fazilka: A Journey To The Western Fringes Of Punjab

Fazilka isn't one of those places where you come armed with a to-do list. It's a place where you come to languish in the khets (fields) and wake up to the roosters crying
A farm stay in Abohar village
A farm stay in Abohar villageParul Pasricha

Drive down far enough on NH7, and you will reach a border town deep on the western fringes of Punjab. Fazilka – once a trading spot known for its fine wool – was settled back in the mid-1800s. According to one story we heard, it was named after Fazil Khan, who sold the land to the East India Company on the condition that the town be named after him. Hence, Fazil-ka (or belonging to Fazil).

Fazilka is our last stop on a 10-day road trip through little-known pinds (villages) of Punjab. A place that nothing could have prepared us for because there is hardly any information about it. Google Fazilka and you will come across a few local news articles and official government websites that contain basic travel information. Then again, this isn't one of those places where you come armed with a To-do list. This is a place where you come to languish in the khets (fields) and wake up to the roosters crying.

Our farm stay here is in the village of Abohar – half an hour before the town of Fazilka. We are welcomed by Luvpreet (or, as we would start calling him later Luvpreet-ey), a young boy in his early 20s who takes care of guests at the property. Luvpreet-ey is happy to take us through all the available rooms so we can pick one of our choices. He tells us about the owners who live on the property, the 130-acre farm that grows everything from sarson to sugarcane and a variety of fruits, and the majestic ber tree at the edge of the fields, perfect at the moment for plucking. It's late at night, and we promise ourselves an early excursion into the khet the next morning.

At the break of dawn, our little party of two makes its way to a viewing point outside the farmhouse to watch the sunrise. For city dwellers surrounded by buildings, the horizon comes as a gift. More so in the wee hours of dawn when you can witness the sky change colours from a deep blue to hints of violet, warm orange and a fiery red just before the sun peeps out at the horizon.

As we walk into the fields, the leaves are still wet with drops of dew. Birds are chirping in the trees, and the distant echoes of early morning Gurbani are heard from a nearby Gurudwara. Two words rise inside me Nirbhau, Nirvair (without fear, without hate). If you have ever imagined the idyllic life of Punjab, deeply rooted in the land and all its raw beauty – This. Is. It.

A glimpse of sunset from a mustard field in Fazilka
A glimpse of sunset from a mustard field in FazilkaParul Pasricha

Breakfast is steaming hot masala chai with ghee-laden aloo parathas. Could there be a better way to start a day in Punjab? We are meeting our local host, Captain Bedi, today for a trip to the Sadqi border – a little-known check post that holds one of the only three border ceremonies held between India and Pakistan.

On the drive to Sadqi, Captain Bedi tells us about Fazilka's history, which is marked by the ravages of war and the partition. "Our family lived in Chak Bedi in Pakistan, 10-12 km as the crow flies from here", says Captain Bedi. "When the partition was announced, they were in Shimla and had to rush back home to collect their valuables. As they were crossing the chowki (police station) at the border, there was a plan to assassinate them. But the thanedaar (police officer) was someone my great-grandfather had helped get a job. So he let them pass."

Fazilka is full of such stories. At the town's most famous shop Pakpattnian Di Hatti, one gets to sample a delicious sweet that originated across the border. Tosha was brought to Fazilka by a halwai from Pakpattan, a mere 60km away in Pakistan. Over the years, the "toshewala" rechristened his shop Pakpattnian Di Hatti, which translates to the shop of the people of Pakpattan – a tribute to the home left behind.

The last farm of India
The last farm of IndiaParul Pasricha

As a border town, Fazilka has also played a pivotal role in conflicts between India and Pakistan. During the '71 Indo-Pak war, the region witnessed one of the fiercest battles after a surprise attack by Pakistani troupes. Locals will tell you about the Beriwala bridge, where the battle went on for days; the heroics of the Indian side led by Major Narain Singh, who laid his life there; and the massive pyre built to cremate 82 dead jawans at the Asafwala village. Their remains are enshrined at the Asafwala war memorial today.

As we hear these stories, the land around us is getting greener and more isolated. At one point, Captain Bedi turns onto a mud road to show us a line of war bunkers en route. This, he says, is "India's first line of defence." Inside, the bunker is dark and dingy, with tiny slits in the walls for soldiers to man the area and catch the enemy approaching.

Audience at the border ceremony
Audience at the border ceremonyParul Pasricha

We make it to Sadqi just in time to watch the ceremony. As the sun sets, the soldiers perform their pantomimes, and crowds shout patriotic slogans, waving the national flag as speakers blare Bollywood songs about Bharat mata, the nation of veers and jawans. While the spectacle has a show of exaggerated aggression, the ceremony here feels especially intimate as it takes place in a small arena right where the fields end.

On both sides of the arena is farmland that extends well beyond the checkpost. Only the farmer is allowed to enter these fields and walk up, right to its edges, where there is a narrow track – the no-man's land – followed by a row of thick bull rushes signalling the beginning of foreign soil. Just a hop and a skip away. Our little civilian hearts flutter.

As the day ends, we find ourselves sitting around a bonfire under the moonlight, listening to the sounds of local folk songs echoing in the village outside. There is a wedding nearby, and there could be no better way to bid farewell to this land, tinged with a sense of nostalgia and bathing in that feeling of wholehearted Punjabiyat.

A war bunker
A war bunkerParul Pasricha

The Information

Getting There

Air: The nearest major airports are in Amritsar (200 km), Bathinda (90 km) and Ludhiana (234 km).

Road: Fazilka is well connected by roads. The popular National Highway 7 ends here. Bathinda is a popular stopover en route, about 2 hours away.

Train: The city is well connected with daily or weekly trains to most places in India, including the major cities like Bathinda, Ferozepur, Shri Muktsar Sahib, Abohar, Shri Ganganagar, Hanumangarh, Sirsa, Hisar etc.


Jyani Natural Farm offers warm hospitality, simple local fare, and a chance to experience farm life up, close and personal.  


Sadqi-Sulemanki Border Ceremony

Asafwala War Memorial

Pakpattnian Di Hatti for delicious Toshas    

Fun Fact

Indian cricketer Kapil Dev's family first moved to Fazilka after partition before settling in Chandigarh. His mother was born in the village of Pakpattan.

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