Compiled By: Rtn. Gangaram Shamdas Purswani (P.H.F.)
Sehwan (Sindhi: سيوهڻ شريف,) (a). is a historic city located in Jamshoro of Sindh province in Pakistan and is situated on the west bank of “(the Indus)” 80 miles (130 km) north-west of Hyderabad.. The city is renowned for being home of one of Pakistan’s most important Sufi shrines, the Shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar who lived in 13th century. Owing to the popularity of its Sufi Shrine, the terms “Sehwan” and “Qalandar” are often used interchangeably in Sindh. The Shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. Shrine of the Sufi saint Murshid Nadir Ali Shah, a notable spiritual successor of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar is also located in Sehwan, where large number of people are served free meals round the clock. Another famous place is the inverted city. Manchar Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Pakistan, which is at a short distance from Sehwan Sharif.
Sehwan is one of Pakistan’s most important spiritual centres, along with other shrines such as the Shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi in Karachi, Data Durbar Complex in Lahore, Bari Imam in Noorpur Shehan near Islamabad, and the lustrous tombs of the Suhrawardi Sufis in Multan.
Sehwan is probably the most ancient place in Sindh. Some historians say that this town is as ancient as the period of Prophet Shees, son of Adam. Hence it was named as Sheestan, Sewistan and then Sehwan. According to Syed Muhibullah, author of “A brief history of Sind”, Sehwan was the name of great grandson of Ham (son of Noah). But there are various other views about the nomenclature of Sehwan as well. William Dalrymple says that the name is derived from Shivistan after Lord Shiva. This place in Sind saw amalgamation of Hinduism and Islam. Notable historian Molai Sheedai writes in his book “Tarikh e Tamadan e Sind” that Sehwan was built by the Sewi Aryas and hence was called Sewistan. Another view is that its name was Sindomana, a name which is well mentioned in Greek literature. Sindhu-mán is Sanskrit word, which means “the possessor (the capital, or Raja) of Sindh”, with which Sindhu-vàn is synonymous, the latter may have been softened in common speech to the modern Seh-wan. Sindomana was the capital of King Sambos, who was defeated by Alexander in 326 BC.
Sehwan was conquered by Muhammad Bin Qasim in 711 from son of the King Dahir, and three centuries later by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1026. In all the subsequent dynastic struggles of Sindh, Sehwan continued to feature prominently. It was held successively by the Sumrahs, the Summas, the Arghuns and the Tarkhans. It was the capital of Thatta Kingdom, when an abortive attempt was made by the Mughul emperor Humayun to capture it on his way to Umarkot in 1542, but it finally fell to his son Akbar in 1590s. After the Moghul, it was ruled by Kalhoras and Talpurs.
This mysterious fort of Sehwan, which real name is also unknown to the people, is called Sikander’s Fort, Kafir Fort, Old Fort or now Sehwan Fort while the locals know the place as Utti Basti.
According to Lieutenant Willam Edwards, an official of the British army, wrote in his book ‘Sketches in Scinde’ written 171 years ago that old castle, the erection of which is attributed to Alexander is perhaps the only veritable relique of Greek, which can be traced in Sindh.
William expressed dismay at the worsening castle in Sehwan, which has now turned into a mound and hardly can guess that there had been a castle at that site adding that “The local people now call it Kafir Qila [infidel castle] presuming that a cruel king used to live in it”.
As per Willam Edwards research it is said that the fort was built by Alexander the Great that is why it’s known as Alexander’s Fort too. But many researchers believe and there are other evidences to show that the fort had existed before Alexander entered in Sindh (that era Hindustan) and it he might have repaired it for his army requirements.
The famous historian Bherumal Meharchand Advani has also referred in his book as old castle of Sehwan.
History shows that the ruler of Sehwan was King Sambus in 326 BC, and King Sambus rebelled against Sikinder. At the time of invasion of Alexander, the Great, Sehwan was called “SEVESTAN”. It is estimated that the fort was built about 600 BC before the time of Rai Sahasi II as Rai Sahasi died in 603 AD. Hence, the fort was conquered by Muhammad bin Qasim in 713 AD when Raja Dahir was defeated at the battle of Debal, after that Shah Baig Arghoon vacated Sehwan with the rulers in 1520, but yet researchers were unable to say when and how the castle was built and began to fall; only mouth to mouth stories are known today.
According to Archaeologist the arches of the fort and other characteristics are oriental and not Grecian. The brick-work, like that of Kalan Kot Fort in Thatta, and the name “Kafir Qila” also points to the fact that Sehwan Fort may have been built during Hindu Rule and it is an old town of pre-Islamic period.
The ancient fort lies north of the town and is a massive burnt brick structure laid in mud mortar. The core of the fortification wall is filled with puddle earth. The defensive walls are roughly rectangular in shape, with traces of machicolations (a floor opening between the supporting corbels of a battlement, through which stones, or other objects, could be dropped on attackers at the base of a defensive wall). At the top of the fortification ground area there are modern structures built by Sindh Government. At the side of the Fort area, there are deep ditches dug by French Archaeological Mission.
In accordance with the Dr Michel Boivin in his memory of Sindh wrote that I have keen interest in Sehwan it was because of the large amount of work already done in the Purana Qila or Alexander`s Fort by French archaeologist but none of them has come to the conclusion, however nothing has been there to come to an end.
Director General Antiquities and Archaeology Manzoor Ahmed Kanasro told Daily Times that French Archaeologist Professor Dr. Monique Kervran has worked extensively with Mazhar Ali Meerani, Assistant Director of Archaeology in 2002-2003, adding that she did a lot of excavations work on the Purana Qila or Alexander`s Fort in Sehwan.
Further he said that Provincial Minister for Culture and Tourism Sindh Syed Sardar Ali Shah, is very much serious to preserve the heritage and we are doing utmost to conserve and restore the heritages as the antiquities which were taken out during digging of French archaeologist have been kept in the Sehwan Museum. The Department has also built a rest house to facilitate visitors to Sehwan, he added.
While inspecting the area around the fort, there was a rest house where the locals proclaimed that the residence of a police officer is, there was no one in the rest house.
The Common folk tale is related to this fort, the story goes that the ruler of Sehwan grew fearsome of the popularity of Lal Shahbaz and Bodla Bahaar and ordered to slaughter Bodla Bahaar into pieces. The soldiers executed the order and scattered his body pieces. When Lal Shahbaz heard of the incident, he called the name of his favorite disciple and his chopped up body transformed back into Bodla Bahaar to answer back to his master’s call! When the ruler still did not heed to Lal Shahbaz’s preaching, Bodla Bahaar on the orders of Lal Shahbaz turned the whole fortress upside down. People claim that the ruins still show an upside down settlement.
Now this unknown and forgotten fort is not attracted by people because it’s all remaining particles are missing and somewhere the solid red bricks fixed in walls are shown. Secondly, land near to the fort has been occupied by some natives of province.
Voice of Sindh took this initiative to promote Sindh’s rich culture and heritage for tourism, for the same Voice of Sindh take some journalists to discover the hidden secrets of the ancient and mysterious castle attached to the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Shewan Sharif and to depiction the people to this ancient heritage.
“Members of Khudabadi Sonara Community living there belong to Sewani Bradri”