Sindh Ja Aguna

 

Note: This is a translation of the first chapter of the book “Sindh Ja Aguna Hindu” (Olden Hindus of Sindh) written in Sindhi language by Mr. Teckchand Nawalrai Tarachandani in 1966. This book is reputed to be authentic and this chapter has been translated as faithfully as possible.

CHAPTER 1:  SINDH

Sindh is a small state just west of India. The state is named for the river Sindhu (called Indus in English), which passes through the middle of the state and flows into the Arabian sea in the south. According to historians, Aryans called the river “Sindhu” when they established settlements there. The river is wide and flows all year around. Apparently, the word originated from the Sanskrit word “Sindh” which means flowing.

 

Each region of Sindh has a different name. The southeast region is called Thar, which originated from Thal, which means dry. In this region there is no river or canal; there are only sand dunes.  So, people of Thar depend on rain for cultivation. The southwest region is called Lar, and it is at a low altitude. The river Indus makes a turn in this region and then flows into the Arabian Sea. The central region of Sindh, east of the Indus River is called Sahiti. Originally, Sahita people used to live there and the name is apparently derived from them. On the west side of the Indus River, there is a valley next to Kherthar mountain and the valley is called Kachho. There is no river or canal in the valley and cultivation depends on rain. The region north of the central Sindh is called Saro. In that region, Larkana and surroundings are called Chandka, because Chandya community used to live there. A leader of the Chandya community, Ghaibi Khan Chandyo lived there. The northern boundary of Sindh is called Sarhad (which means boundary). The region between central Sindh and the northern boundary is called Uttar Sindh, which means north Sindh.

 

People in each region were named after the region they lived in. People in Thar were called Thari. Even though Thar is a part of Sindh, the people there speak Dhatki language which is a mixture of Kacchi, Gujarati and Marwari. Their customs are like Marwaris and they inter-marry with Marwaris. Thari men used to wear turbans and keep long beards which they divided at the chin and turned to either side. Among them Bhil, Kolhi, Dhedh and Menghwar people were considered Harijans. Others of higher caste were Sodha, Bhati, Thakar, Maheshwari and Karar.  The people of Thar did not inter-marry with Sindhi Hindus. Also, no Sindhi Hindus were considered Harijans.

 

This book is a description of Sindhi Hindus, i.e. of Hindus who lived on both sides of the Indus river and who spoke the Sindhi language.  Names of the regions in Sindh and the communities follow:

            Region                          Name of community

            Lar                               Larai

            Khairpur                     Khairpuri

            Hyderabad                  Hyderabadi

            Sahiti                            Sahiti ja (ja means of)

            Kachh                          Kachhi

            Chandki                       Chandkai

            Sarhad                         Sarhadi

            Uttar Sindh                Uttaradi

            (Uttar means North )

            Sakhar                         Sakhru, included in Uttaradi

            Shikarpur                     Shikarpuri, included in Uttaradi

 

To the northwest of Sindh, close to Kalat, there are two villages named “Bhag” and “Nari” and together they are called Bhagnari. People from there are called Bhagnari and many Hindu Bhagnaris migrated to Karachi.  People in the mountainous region in the southwest Sindh are called Chhapru. Most of the original settlers in Karachi were Bhagnari and Chhapru Hindus.

 

The prosperity of Sindh depended on the Indus River which flows all year around. The river begins in the Kailash Mountain, passes through Kashmir and West Punjab, and then through Sindh. The river water contains a lot of soil particles which are very beneficial for agriculture.  When the river water overflows on both banks it deposits silt on the banks. In the winter, the water recedes, leaving behind very rich silt on which many crops, e.g. wheat, oats, coriander, chickpeas, peas etc. are grown; without any fertilizers.  Only plowing and seeding is necessary because the silt from the receding water of the river provides enough nutrition. The soft ground is called Kacho or Keti. Cattle also graze in this area. Due to plentiful grass, diary products, e.g. milk, butter and ghee are quite inexpensive in this region.

 

Away from the Indus river agriculture depends on canals, which originate from the river.

When the river water recedes in the winter, some small canals form naturally. In the olden times people lengthened these canals so that crops could be grown in additional areas. These canals used to flow when the river was full and Rabi crops were grown.  During the rule by England, these canals were improved and some additional canals were dug. Then regulators were installed on the canals to enable better water distribution for cultivation.

 

Later on during the rule by England, a large dam was proposed to be built at Sukkur. The plan was approved at the time Sir George Lloyd was Governor of Bombay Province (which included Sindh) and the dam was named the Lloyd Barrage. The Barrage was completed in January 1932. Canal gates were installed and new canals were constructed, so water became available all year around. Therefore, a lot of previously barren land became fertile.  Previously summer crops were grown only close to the river banks or close to wells. With the construction of the dam and the canals, the planting started in additional areas where the canals provided water.  Then the summer crops exceeded the winter crops.

 

The Indus River has made Sindh green. Cotton, pulses, oilseeds and wheat production was more than enough for consumption in Sindh; so some of it was exported. Sindh’s economy depended on agriculture and trade of agricultural products. Sindhis were satisfied with the economy; therefore, there was not much interest in development of crafts. However some people were interested in painted wooden articles, hand weaving of bed covers and longis, ceramics etc. Some of these hand-crafted items were exported from Sindh.

 

There were no known mineral deposits in Sindh. There were some forests near the Indus river and lumber from these forests was used in construction of  houses.

 

Due to the prosperity around the Indus River, people from other areas especially Punjab, Rajisthan and Kutch (northern part of Gujarat) came to settle in Sindh and they made it their homeland.

 

The Indus was considered a wayward river because it often changed its course. Previously, the river used to flow in the east, where there is Eastern Canal at this time. At one time the Arabian Sea covered the Thar area. Due to an earthquake the sea receded and  left sand dunes in that area. Similarly, to the south of Thar there is Rann of Kutch, which was under the sea at one time and then it was raised by an earthquake. The Indus river adopted its present course in 1758 AD.

 

The Indus flows fast, which causes erosion of its banks and many villages near the banks get destroyed.  In some cases new villages were built away from the banks to replace the villages destroyed by the river.  However, most large cities, except Sukkur, Rohiri, Hyderabad and Kotri were built away from the river.

 

The above four cities are near the river but they are built on hilly terrain and therefore, they are not in much danger from the shifting course of the river.  Sukkur and Rohri are on the opposite banks of the river.  Between them is an island called Bakhar. To the north of Bakhar there is Zindah Pir and to the south there is Sadh Belo.  Downstream from Sadh Belo is the Lloyd Barrage.  The terrain around there is hilly which eliminates the risk from  the change of  course.  Near Hyderabad also, Gidubandar and Kotri are towns on opposite banks of the river.

 

Fishing thrives on the Indus river and the lakes. The villages near the river were named after fisher women. For example, near the Indus river the following villages were named after fisher women: Amri, Mitiari, Laki, Phulji, Mithiani, Pat, Radhan, Badah, Dokri, Bakrani , Madeji, Ruk, Arani, Bhagirji, Begmanji and Ghotki. Also the following villages near lakes were named likewise: Sakrand, Bubak, Sanghar and Halani.

Sehwan and Thato are old towns of Sindh and there are forts there. The fort at Sehwan is called Sevistan and the fort in Thato is called Deval Kot. At one time the sea was near Thato. There was a seaport near Deval Kot and it was called Deval Bandar. Also there were two other seaports nearby, Shah Bandar and Keti Bandar. During the reign of Ghulam Shah Kalhoro, Thato and Shah Bandar were seaports and the British obtained his permission to establish their offices at these ports. These ports were abandoned when the Arabian Sea receded from there. During the British rule, Karachi became Sindh’s seaport. Previously it was a fishing village called Kolachi, which was named after a fisher woman.

Note: The above chapter has been translated from Sindhi by Briji and Gul Asnani.  They have attempted to locate the author and the printer of the book.  They were unable to locate either one.  If any body knows the author or the printer, please contact the translators by email at gulasnani@hotmail.com

 

 



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