Author: Rtn Gangaram S. Purswani (P. H. F.)
Khudabadi Sonara Community is a cultural group of India, historically associated with the Sindh region of modern Pakistan prior to the Partition of India, and the city of Khudabad as well as city of Hyderabad. It is said to date as far back as the Vedic Age, and is associated in legend with Satya and Treta Yug.
The ancestors of Khudabadi Sonara community (Swarankar, Sunar, Soni or Goldsmith) is affiliated with the Lohana faction (descendents of Luv, the son of Lord Rama) of the warrior Kshatriya caste of Hindu society. Historically associated with military professions, many Lohana groups, including Sonara Community, turned to peacetime occupations like bricklaying, agriculture, and shop keeping. The ancestors of Khudabadi Sonara Community became involved in goldsmithing, a trait still associated with that community.
The Khudabadi Sonara community consists of about 2000 families, out of which 600 families live in Jaipur. About 1000 families live in other cities of India whereas about 400 families live overseas. Additionally, about 1000 individuals live outside of India, though their families or parents may still live in India. The community maintains tight cohesion, and marriages are generally internal to the community, while financial and social disputes are frequently resolved within the community rather than by outside arbitrators.
Multiple legends exist to explain the origin of the Sonara community. According to one legend, the goddess Durga created an army to fight against the forces of the demon-king Mahishasur, who was terrorizing Heaven and Earth. After ten days of fighting, Durga and her army defeated Mahishasur and killed him. As a reward for their service, Durga bestowed upon her army the knowledge of jewelry-making. Ever since, the Sonranas have been involved in the jewelry profession.
Regarding the origins of the community, a British researcher reported: “The Sunars also have a story that they are the descendants of one of two Rajput brothers, who were saved as boys by a Saraswat Brahman from the wrath of Parasurama when he was destroying the Khyatriyas. The descendants of other brother were the Khatris. The Sunar, owing to their association with the precious metal Gold and the fact that they generally live in towns and large villages, and many of their members are well-to-do, the Sunar occupy a fairly high position, ranking equal with or above the cultivating castes.”
Another origin myth relates that the Parmar community (Surya Vanshi Khyatriya) prayed to Hinglaj Mataji (another form of goddess Durga) for help. She supplied them with knowledge and tools of jewelers, leading the community to their main profession.
At later stage, the Sindhi Sonara spilted into four communities known as “Badaria”, “Suvichar”, “Dhati” and “Janjhogar” Sonaras. The “Janjhogar” Sonaras became known as Khudabadi Sonaras, because they, later, resided in Khudabad.
Migration to Sindh
According to purans, during the period of Yjar Veda (around 1200 B.C.), many Aanu Aryas left Punjab and Sindh and migrated to Agri, Aoodh and Madhya Desh (Midland Kingdoms-the provinces of India, presently called U.P., Bihar, Bengal and Tamilnadu etc.). At the same time, there were also migrations of various communities between present-day Punjab and Sindh. The ancestors of Khudabadi Sonaras, like many modern Sindhi groups, migrated together with Shavi Aryas (the descedants of Shavi Oshener Arya of Shavi Dynasty) from Punjab to Aror (modern Sukkar), near the banks of the Sindhu river. It is not known how long the Arayan Kings ruled the land, but the Sindh is next mentioned in the history in the year 516 B. C., when Darius, the King of Iran (Persia) attacked and conquered Punjab and Sindh. Taking advantage of political upheavals in Persia, the Sindh became independent under Rai Dynasty around 478 A.D. Raja Dahir became the ruler of Sindh in the year 663 CE. In 711CE, his kingdom was conquered by Ummyad Caliphate led by General Muhammad Bin Qasim. Raja Dahir was killed at the battle of Aror at the banks of Indus (Sindhu) River, near modern day Nawabshah. The ancestors of Khudabadi Sonaras were the warriors of Raja Dahir’s army and is said that lot of them sacrified their lives for the sake of their country, in fighting with the enemy. During the ensuing prolong period of lasting peace after 711 A.D., when the ancestors of Khudabadi Sonara Community could not be supported by the armies and could not find any work as warriors, they turned to peace time occupations and became involved as Gold Smith (Sonara/Swarankar) and was called Sonara Community.
Two rivers, Sindhu and Mehran (also known as Hakaro) flowed through Sindh. In the year 962 A.D., a high-magnitude earthquake struck Sindh, destroying Sakhhar and Bakhhar. The Mehran River changed its course at Aror, resulting in a scarcity of water. This compelled the inhabitants to migrate to other parts of Sindh. Sindh was then ruled by Dalorai II, who rebuilt Brahminabad, Mohan-Jo-Daro and other which were wiped out in the earthquake. The ancestors of Khudabadi Sonaras then living in Aror also migrated to small towns in south and central Sindh: Bhambore, Tando, Lakha, Bubak, Hala, Sann, Sewan, Shikarpur, Kotir and Rohri. From the names of these towns, the ancestors of Khudabadi Sonaras derived family names which are still used in the modern day. Though the ancestors of Khudabadi Sonaras were dispersed during these migrations, they continued to maintain community cohesion and intermarriage
Under the Ghaznavids (11th Century AD)
Mahmud Ghaznavi attacked Sindh seventeen times between 1008 AD and 1027 AD, partially motivated by a desire to convert Jains and Hindus to Islam. The ancestors of Khudabadi Sonaras were among the groups impacted by these attacks. According to Sindhi legend, the Sonaras assembled at temple of the goddess Durga observing reverence for three days & nights continuously without eating food and drinking water, anxiously soliciting divine help in hour of trial. The Supreme Goddess, as is well known, in ever compassionate to her aspirants, responded to their solemn appeal. On fourth day, a miracle occurred: all the men present felt janau (sacred thread) on their bodies and they realised the blessings of Durga Mata. Thereafter, the ancestors of Khudabadi Sonaras became known as Janjohar (Janau-Dari) Sonaras. Thereafter, for long period of time, they lived in peace and safety.
Soomra Dynasty in Sindh, migration to Kutch
In 1026, two Parmar Rajput brothers, Soomro and Vegho, were installed as joint-governors of Sindh by the Abbasid caliphate, founding the Soomra Dynasty (1026-1350). Soomro had converted to Islam, while Vegho remained Hindu.
Vegho conquered Kot, a town in the Rann of Kutch, renaming it Vegh Kot and making it his capital. Sonaras and other Hindus who had not converted to Islam under the Ghaznavids fled from Sindh to avoid sectarian violence and settled in Lakhpat, Porbandar and Veg Kot (All the towns in Kutch) around 1028 A.D., and live under a Hindu ruler. During this period, Kutch was ruled by the Samma Dynasty.
Samma dynasty in Sindh, return to home villages
The Samma dynasty overtook the Soomra dynasty and ruled Sindh during 1351-1521. Around that time, the ancestors of Khudabadi Sonara community returned to their home towns in Sindh, and some settled on empty land on the banks of Sindhu River near Dadu in Sindh. By the end of year 1500 AD, nearly the entire community had returned to Sindh. This period marks the beginning of Sufistic thought and teachings in Sindh.
Founding of Khudabad
The ancestors of Khudabadi Sonara community developed the empty land on the banks of the River Sindhu, naming it Khud-Abad (Self Developed) around 1351 A.D.. Other Sindhi communities were drawn to this new settlement under the Panohar Muslims. The growth of the city drew the attention of the governor of Sindh, Miya Yaar Mohammed of the Kalhora dynasty. Miya Yar Mohammed took the city from the Panohars muslims, and was buried there following his death around 1719. Miya Noor Mohammed Kalhora, who ruled Sindh 1720-1755 A.D., chose Khud-Abad as his capital and greatly influenced the development of the city. Due to Muslim domination, Khud-Abad was re-named as “Khudabad”, a muslim name.
During this period, the script called Khudabadi script, which was, later known as Hatkai was developed for the Sindhi language, for the use of shopkeepers and for sending written messages. Sindhi historical societies have stated that this script was originated by the ancestors of Khudabadi Sonara community.
Move to Hyderabad
Fateh Ali Khan (Talpur) defeated the Kalhoras in 1783 and took over as the new ruler of Sindh, marking the beginning of the Talpur dynasty. The Khudabad city continue to remain the capital of Sindh till it was inundated by River Sindh after the flooding of the River in the year 1789. The Talpur king Mir Fateh Ali Khan left Khudabad and chose Hyderabad as capital of Sindh. Great celebrations were held in the year 1792 A.D. to mark the formal entry in Hyderabad. He made glorious Pako Qilo as his residence. The change in capital no doubt induced a large number of populations of Khudabad to migrate to Hyderabad, new seat of Royalty. The Khudabadi Sonara Community along with other Sindhi Communities felt honoured to have shifted to Hyderabad with Rulers and retained term “Khudabadi” in their names of their community as an identity of their origin. Sonara Community were called Khudabadi Sonara Community, Amils were called Khudabadi Amils and Bhaibands were called Khudabadi Bhaibands.
By this period, Khudabadi Sonaras had established a reputation for skill and trustworthiness, and were even permitted to enter the women’s quarters of Muslim households to measure veiled women for jewellery fittings. The Talpur court employed many skilled goldsmiths and enamelers from the Khudabadi Sonara Community, particularly commissioning many highly ornamented weapons, which after the fall of Talpur rule were collected by European museums.
In the year 1835, the British East India Company established the Indus System Navigation Company, and in 1869, the Suez Canal was opened. These developments had a large effect on commercial trade in India, sparking demand for quality handicrafts for export. As a result, the Khudabad Sonaras were able to greatly expand their business, with Gold Jewellery exported throughout the world, and even displayed at The Great Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park, London. During this period, many Khudabadi Sonaras also migrated overseas, and were referred to as Sindhwarkis (Golden foil of Sindh). Shree Jeumal Purswani the grandfather of Gangaram Shamdas Purswani from Bhambrai Biradri, was first among the Khudabadi Sonaras to emigrate, and established his own business known as “Bombay Bazar” in Manila, Philippines, in 1912. Khudabadi Sonara emigration increased regularly during the period following, and in the modern era nearly every Khudabadi Sonara family has a member living overseas.
Khudabadi Sonara Association
In the early 20th Century, most of Khudabadi Sonara community members were living in Hyderabad. In 1921, with the encouragement of Shri Jhamandas Fatumal Purswani, members of the community formed the Khudabadi Sonara Association to promote social reforms and community improvements. Shri Jhamandas Fatumal Purswani was elected president and Shri Parmanand Menghraj Vasnani was elected secretary unanimously. In the year 1922 the association purchased a building in Juman Shah ji Ghiti, Hyderabad, calling it Dharmau Jaay. there. The community started utilising the premises for Puj Panchayat meetings, marriages and social functions. Sindhi nationalist leaders such as Shri Jairamdas Doulatram and Choithram Gidwani used the premises for meetings, seminars and other activities of freedom movements
Before the 1947 Partition of India, the Hyderabad Session Court had a jury of five prominent person of Hyderabad, out which two were Shri Gopaldas Hotwani and Lalchand Purswani from the Khudabadi Sonara community. Shri Thakurdas Tirthdas Hingorani was elected as a Corporal of Municipal Council, Hyderabad, Sindh, in the year 1944.
Indian Freedom Movement
In 1915, a group of Khudabadi Sonaras later known as the “Young Sonara Brigade” became actively involved in movements to counter British control of India. This group supported various independence movements, such as the Indian National Congress, Arya Samaj, and Hindu Maha Sabha. The Brigade turned out to welcome Bal Gangadhar Tilak during his 1920 visit to Hyderabad, pulling his decorated chariot through the city, and shaving their heads in mourning when Tilak died later that year. The Brigade also turned out in force to protest the Prince of Wales‘ visit to Karachi in 1922. The Brigade came out on roads and streets to pursue shopkeepers to close their shops. The Brigade also held protests against the trial of Bharati Krishna Tirth in the Karachi Conspiracy Case in 1922.
During the Satyagrah movement of the 1930s, Brigade members organized mass burnings of foreign-made clothes, symbolically wearing locally-produced Khadi clothes instead. In March 1931 the Brigade attended the Karachi Session of the Indian National Congress. They further participated in Gandhi’s 1932 Salt Satyagraha, producing salt at a lake near Hyderabad. During Jawaharlal Nehru‘s 1932 visit to Sindh, the Brigade presented him with a model charkha spinning-wheel made of 101 grammes of pure gold, and a Meenakari (Enamelled) medal. In 1942 the members of the Brigade participated in the Quit India Movement, and were arrested. They were later put into solitary confinement for refusing to give proper greeting to the jail superintendent.
The Sonara Association Of Sindh
With advent of World War II, the price of basic goods and materials, including gold, increased greatly. Gold more than quadrupled in price during 1939. Seeing this problem, Shri Jhamandas Fatumal Purswani came forward and invited the Sonaras of all castes (Sindhi, Bengali and Gujrati) and encouraged them to form a union and fix the labour charges of making gold ornaments. Thus was formed “The Sonara Association Of Sindh”, and the cost of goldsmith labor was standardised.
Sindhis were strong supporters of Subhas Chandra Bose, leader of an Axis-allied resistance movement against British rule during World War II, called the Indian National Army. Sindh voted unanimously for his re-election against Pattabhi Sittaramaya as Indian Congress president in 1938. Sixteen young men of the Khudabadi Sonara community, who were living overseas, joined the INA early in its formation. Shri Jhamatmal Sukhramdas Hasrajani, who was newly married and the only son to his widowed mother, and Shri Vasumal Pohumal Hasrajani who was only fifteen years old, joined the INA while in Manila. Shri Suganomal Lilaram Gulwani and Shri Gunomal Panjandas Manghnani joined the INA while in Indonesia. The remainder joined the INA while in Singapore, Malaysia, Saigon and Burma. These sixteen men of Khudabadi Sonara Community, were among the first batch of 71 Indian jawan of the INA, which arrived in Singapore for training, around Nov’1943. The association between the INA and the Khudabadi Sonara was further reinforced by Subhas’ INA meetings in the residence of Shri Manghanmal Lalchand Hotwani, a Khudabadi Sonara Community member living in Tokyo, Japan.
Two (Shri Jhamatmal Sukhramdas Hasrajani & Shri Vasumal Pohumal Hasrajani) of the sixteen Khudabadi Sonara INA soldiers died during the INA’s Burma Campaign, while the remaining fourteen members of Khudabadi Sonara community went into hiding along with many INA soldiers following the end of World War II, and resurfaced 5 to 10 years after independence of India.
Independence Of India and Partition
Following India’s independence from British rule on August 15, 1947, Sindh became a part of the new nation of Pakistan. This partition was accompanied by sectarian violence in both Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan. Sindhi Hindus found themselves discriminated against, and were unable to divest their properties due to their being declared Intended Evacuees by the Pakistani government, which planned to resettle them in India. The Sonara goldsmiths were further troubled by legislation stating that no jewelry pawned by Muslim Pakistanis could be taken from Pakistan during the official evacuation of Hindu migrants.
Office holders of Khudabadi Sonara Association (formed in Hyderabad) supported the fellow community member emigrants during the partition, employing Association funds. Due to the large number of Khudabadi Sonaras living overseas, considerable funds were raised to assist fellow community members after the migration to India, and it is estimated that only 10% of our community families were forced to stay in refugee camps. Shri Jhamandas F. Purswani and Shri Tikamdas B. Purswani acquired from Dept. of Custodium-Evacuees Properties a building “Navab Ki Haveli” in Vidhyadar Ka Rasta, Jaipur and shifted there all those community families from the refugee’s camps and widows living in Jaipur. They also constructed a Panchayati Hall for community and social activities and a temple of Goddess Durga, in the “Navab Ki Haveli” with the funds remitted by the overseas Khudabadi Sonaras. Khudabadi Sonara families were further aided by the presence of Khudabadi Sonaras employed by the Rehabilitation Office who aided them in getting refugee and ration cards. With this community support, the Khudabadi Sonara refugees quickly established themselves as merchants of cloth and sundry goods, and in their traditional occupation as goldsmiths.
Following the 1962 Gold Control Act, only a few goldsmiths could get a license to own gold, and that also only in small quantities. As a result the members of Khudabadi Sonara community, who were dependent on their traditional occupation of making gold ornaments, suffered serious financial harm.
The Khudabadi Sindhi Swarankar community has following organisations in India:
- Puj Khudabadi Sonara Panchayat (Reg.), Jaipur.
- Khudabadi Sonara Navjawan Mandal Samiti (Reg.), Jaipur.
- Khudabadi Sonara Sindhwork Society (Reg.), Jaipur.
- Khudabadi Sonara Association, Jaipur.
- Khudabadi Sonara Association Trust, Jaipur.
- Ladies Social Group, Jaipur.
- Jaipur Young Women’s Association, Jaipur
- Puj Khudabadi Panchayat (Reg.), Mumbai.
- Puj Khudabadi Sonara (Swarankar) Association, Indore.
- Puj Khudabadi Sonara Panchayat, Vadodara.
- Khudabadi Sonara Mandal, Ajmer
Khudabadi Sonara practise Hinduism, and are devotees of the Goddess Durga. Accordingly, they observe Navratra, a festival worshiping female aspects of divinity. Khudabadi Sonara also wear the traditional Hindu thread known as janau from childhood onward. Wearing of the janau is compulsory for Khudabadi Sonaras before performing Puja, Havan or any other religious rituals. Further, the community performs two unique rituals before the wedding ceremony (1) An invitation to family Deva (differs from family to family) for hurdle free wedding. (2) Munuin, a prayer to four directions of earth i.e. East, West, North and South for the prosperity and blissful longevity of the couple.
Archives of Haridwar
The families of Khudabadi Sonara Community have regularly visited the Hindu holy city of Haridwar throughout the later history of the community, to include the era when the community was based in Sindh. Haridwar is a destination for Khudabadi Sonara’s religious pilgrimages, and site of rituals. Upon arriving in Haridwar, Khudabadi Sonaras meet with the family’s pinda (Holy man), to register the purpose of the visit, document historical events, and record marriages and births. The Haridwar pindas maintain voluminous records dating back in Khudabadi Sonara’s history. These record books are known as puran for the community, and in English are titled “Surities and Smirities of the Khudabadi Sonara Community.”