Compiled By: Rtn. Gangaram Shamdas Purswani (P.H.F.)
The Once Paris of Sindh
Shikarpur, the city once known as the Paris of Sindh is a district present in the Upper Sindh. Shikarpur district, in Larkana Division consists of Shikarpur, Khanpur, Lakhi and Garhi Yasin.
Shikarpur is located Upper Sindh. It borders with district Jacobabad, Larkana, Sukkur, Ghotki and Khairpur. It is situated about 18 miles from the right bank of the River Indus. The city was known as Paris of Sindh because of its commanding location and strategic importance for trade. Shikarpur was the commanding trade route through Bolan Pass and merchants from it had trade dealings with most of Central Asia.
Members of Khudabadi Sonara Community living in Shikarpur belonged to “Shikarpuri Bradri”
Shikarpur is spread over 3000 Square kilometers and hosts a population of 1,000,000 people. Languages spoken in Shikarpur include Sindhi, Balochi, Brahvi, Saraiki and Urdu. Being a tropical area, extreme winters and summers are experienced here as the weather is hot and humid. The economy of Shikarpur consists of industries, trade, commerce, fishing and agriculture. Shikarpur consists of seven gates (dars in Sindhi) including Lakhi gate, Hathi gate, Karan gate, Hazari Gate, Wagoono gate, Siwi gate and Khan Puri Gate and, a window known as Siddiq Marri.
Shikarpur is known for its famous Achar (pickles) throughout the world. Besides that people also look forward to Shikarpur’s mithai (sweets) and Lakhi gate’s famous Kulfi Faluda. In the olden times, it was famous for grandeur in the form of floral wood carvings on doors, windows and balconies of the houses attracting several visitors. Now remains and glimpses of this grandeur can be spotted in different buildings in the district. As Sarfaraz Memon puts it in his article, ‘centuries ago, it was better known for its schools and as a hub for trade in gold, spices, cotton – all part of merchant traffic to Central Asian states.’
Shikarpur has a railway station as well.
Interesting Facts about Shikarpur
The first dramatic society known as the Dharamupkars Amateurs Society was established by Thakurdas Nagrani, Session Judge, Aga Safi, Maharaj Tejbhandas and others at Shikarpur, Sindh in 1897.
Professor Shawairan of Bombay University was a professor of Sociology and belonged to Shikarpur. He is credited with writing the first book of sociology in Sindhi.
Shikarpur, used to have its own currency (coin) long ago which Shikarpur written on it.
K.V. Joshi was the first engineer in pre-partition time period to have done remarkable work in Shikarpur, which is evidently seen today as well. His work remains a bench mark to date which no engineer has yet been able to match.
In pre-partition days, Shikarpur used to have mobiles libraries. Books were driven on carts around the town, borrowed by people and returned. This signifies the intellectual capabilities and education of Shikarpuri at that time. Shikarpur city was famous for its underground drainage system. The streets of Shikarpur were washed by hydrants twice daily in the pre-partition time.
In pre-partition times, Shikarpur had music schools where Hindu girls learnt dancing as well. Widwa mandals (Houses for widows), were run by Hindus where widows were taught skills to be able to support their livelihood.
The Kohinoor diamond, with Shah Shuja, grandson of Ahmed Shah Abdali was brought to the Shahi Bagh (Royal Garden) of Shikarpur. Shikarpur was the first city to have an intermediate college. Hindu traders of Shikarpur invested a lot in the city. The city was built beautiful as they invested their earnings in the city.
Two traders namely Sital Das and Chella Sing donated Rs.100,000 and Rs.50,000, respectively for C&S College which was built from 1927 to 1932. It was inaugurated by the governor of Bombay as Sindh was a part of Bombay province at that time.
As per Professor Israr Ahmed Alvi, Shikarpur was the first in Pakistan to get an independent power plant more than a century ago. It belonged to a Hindu trader and used to provide the city an uninterrupted supply.
Shikarpur was originally a planned city, where all its seven doors and window closed after 8 p.m.
Professor Anwar Figar Hakro has prepared a map of the Shikarpur city from 80 years ago. He estimates its population was not more than 50,000 at that time. The first ever eye hospital in the subcontinent was built in Shikarpur in 1893 known as Sir Henry Holland Eye Hospital.
Shikarpur was the first town to have an old-age house.
Sikarpuris are the pioneers of the financial instrument called ‘Hundi’, which was acceptable in different parts of the world and was considered as good as gold.
As the name says, the literal meaning of Shikar is hunting and Shikarpur is derived from Shikargah or hunting ground which was originally used by past rulers as a game reserve. The place where Shikarpur is located is said to be a large forest or large tract of pastoral land which was used for grazing and hunting by the affluent class till early 17th Century.
There are different accounts of how Shikarpur came into existence, but historical accounts agree to the fact that this hunting ground was used by Daudpotas. Daudpotas, sons of Daud as the name says were sons of Daud Khan and a tribe of weavers and warriors. They are credited with finding Shikarpur in 1617 A.D when the large forest/pastoral area came in their possession. In about 1748 A.D, these Daudpotas were expelled from the area due to continued rebellion and went and settled in former Bahawalpur State.
Daudpotas returned to gain control of the area and during the days of Mughal ruler, Jehangir (1605-1628). The Mahars, led by Sher Khan Mahar, resisted their migration back from Bahawalpur which ensued a battle. The Mahars had a bigger army but as the Daudpotas had come prepared, Amir Bahadur Khan Daudpota in a great battle defeated Mahars and Jatois near present Shikarpur and regained control of the area. He then found a new town of Lakhi, 14 kilometers south-east of Shikarpur which exists to date with the same name.
When Amir Bahadur Khan Daudpota died, Bakhtiar Khan Kalhoro, jagir of Bakhtiarpur (now part of Jacobabad) took over Shikarpur in 1695 defeating his inexperience son Amir Mubarrak Khan Daudpota and looked after government affairs till 1701. In 1701, Mian Yar Mohammad Kalhoro was accepted genuine ruler and Shikarpur was handed over to Amir Mubarrak, who ruled for 48 years (1678-1726). Enemity developed between the Daupotas and Kalhoros and after Amir Mubarrak’s death, Mian Noor Muhammad Kalhoro, son of Mian Yar Mohammad attacked Shikarpur and fought with Amir Sadiq, son of Amir Mubarrak, took over it and annexed it.
In 1739, Nadir Shah attacked Sindh and Shikarpur was given back to Amir Sadiq in 1740. After Amir Sadiq was killed in a battle in 1745, the Kalhoros took over Shikarpur again. In 1748, Shikarpur was annexed to Qandhar state and Sindh was annexed to Kabul by Nadir Shah in 1754. Talpurs took over Sindh then but till 1828, Shikarpur continued to be a part of Kabul.
In 1835, Shah Shuja fled Qandhar and took refuge in Shikarpur but vacated it soon under the efforts of Pir Nizamuddin Sarhandi. In 1842, the English took over Shikarpur. These were the last days of the Talpur rulers and Shikarpur being in a remote area had fell victim to mismanagement and was an easy target to take over.
They had planned this much ahead through extensive travels and research to the city and kept in mind Shikarpur strategic location which gave them access to Afghanistan and Central Asia. It served as an entrance to Punjab and Balochistan and, had better chances of progress due to which it became an important trading centre. Businessmen of Shikarpur became known around the world because Shikarpur was located on the waterways and land routes. Shikarpur’s Hundi system, a forerunner to the current banking system had flawless credibility.
Shikarpur was built with substantial planning and was a walled city. It had schools, colleges and central shopping centres. Trade was thriving in this area and the city had plenty of fertile land, greenery, fruit gardens, etc. People of Shikarpur were known to be honest, loveable and men of character. Historical records show that between 1770 and 1842, at least 24 libraries existed which had a huge collection of books and manuscripts.
The English built the civil hospital in 1843 and Municipal party in 1855. It has 7 talukas in 1901 and administratively was one of the largest districts of Sindh. Its prosperity attracted Muslims, Hindus, Balochs and others to come settle here and it grew to become one of the most prosperous cities. From 1855, people began taking part in building it up when more amenities were added to the city and it is known to be the only city that was built by the civil society. Shikarpur rose to the political arena when landlords and wealthy businessmen from the city joined the political mainstream. One significant name is of Shaheed Allah Buksh Soomro, who was Chief Minister of Sindh from 1920s to 1941. In 1940s, Shikarpur was a peaceful and settled place. Cinema and stage dramas were popular in those days and Shikarpur gave Sindh some of the best stage plays. This art form later became an establish institution. Shikarpur also made rich contribution to classical music in Sindh and annual music festivals known as Handas were a permanent feature of life in Shikarpur. The architecture of Shikarpur was significant and the beauty of the city consisting of beautiful wood carvings and masonry that had took years to complete. Newspaper and articles also used to focus on international issues.
Famous Places in Shikarpur
Famous Places in Shikarpur include:
Dhak Bazaar (Covered Market)
Located in the center of the old city, Dhak Bazaar or covered market is a long, narrow street with shops on both sides. It is covered with woodwork of pure teak. This served as a cool shade during the hot summers. Shikarpur along with other contemporary cities like Bukhara, Samarkand, and Istanbul at that time had a covered street market.
Shahi Bagh (Royal Gardens)
Shahi Bagh, literally translated to be royal gardens was built in 1871. These were the biggest and most beautiful gardens with thousands of varieties of flowers found in them. There was also a zoo present here which has a large population of lions, cheetahs, bears and wild boars. These animals were later shifted to Karachi Zoo. The garden also had a wooden pavilion that was designed by Perston Phel and constructed by Sir W. Merewether.
The 7 gates of Shikarpur
The 7 gates of Shikarpur signify and are a remembrance of the mud fort that was built here by the Daudpotas.
Shikarpur these days
These days Shikarpur is a disowned, crumbling city, gripped with poverty, illiteracy, corruption, mismanagement, ignorance and lawlessness. After partition, several Hindus settled here left for India who were assets and real builders of the city, after which the city has been less owned. Education is in a deplorable state, historical buildings destroyed, infrastructure destroyed, streets getting narrower due to encroachment, temples devastated, wood work sold or taken away, heritage not maintained and immense pollution.
Renowned People of Shikarpur
Shikarpur has produced several renowned people. These include politicians like Shaheed Allah Bux Soomro, the Chief Minister of Sindh before partition, Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah, the1st Governer of Province Sindh, Barrister Ahmed Mian Soomro, Mohammad Mian Soomro, Former Governor Sindh and Chairman Senate of Pakistan, Ghuos Bux Khan Mahar, Imtiaz Shaikh, Dr.Ibrahim Jatoi, Iftikhar Soomro, Aftab Shahban Mirani, Former Defense Minister, Raheem Bux Soomro, Agha Siraj Khan Durani and others.
Among well-known poets are Sami and Shaik Ayaz. Well-known writers include Agha Saleem, Badam Natawan, Moonis Ayaz and others.
Other renowned personalities include Professor Dr. Anwar Figar Hakro, the first Ph.D from SALU, Khairpur who is a renowned scholar with several books to his credit, Professor Israr Ahmed Alvi and Shahab Osto. In the field of medicine, Dr. Younis Soomro (Orthopedic Surgeon) and Dr. Rufina Soomro (Breast Cancer Specialist) are prominent names due to their expertise and accomplishments. In the field of music, Bedil Masroor and Shaman Mirali have made a mark in singing.