Author: Rtn. Gangaram Shamdas Purswani (P. H. F. )
SlNDHl SOCIETY is an integral part of the great Indian society. And yet, because of local factors, it has a flavour of its own. The people are eclectic, not very profound, but very practical. As a wit put it, “The Sindhi rule of the thumb is to do whatever is convenient and profitable.” Their varied experience over the ages has given them a certain flexibility that makes for survival, even if not for glory. Added to the profundities of their ancestral faith, they have faced waves of foreigners and they themselves have travelled far and wide for trade. This has made them easy citizens of the world. All fanaticism is foreign to their nature. As H.T Lambric, ICS has observed: “there is something in the air of Sindhi which blurs the frontiers of ordinarily opposed creeds.”
When lslam came to India, it has staged the usual scene of murder, loot and rape. However, before long, the mischief had been contained. The new Muslims adorned their graves with the old lingas and yonis and offered them incense and flowers. Even the Arab visiting Sindh were so Sindhized that, on return home, they were told: “O returner from Sind, renew thy faith.” The Sammas and the Soomras, who were native chiefs, ruled for 500 years, even when converted, they remained more Sindhi than Muslim. No wonder Capt. Hamilton, who visited Sindh in the eighteenth century, recorded that until a. century earlier, the Hindu population had been ten times the Muslim population. Today Sindhi intellectuals like G.M. Syed reject the “Arab Chhaap Islam” they would obviously like to have the “Sindhi Chhaap Islam” that very much prevailed until the late Mughal times; ironically enough, this pro-Hindu situation changed during the Mughal period, Akbar initiated the policy of religious toleration. He gave more and more top jobs to the Hindus. This antagonized many Muslims, who now lost their monopoly of top jobs. E.B. Eastwick noted: “When we arrived at Shikarpur and Hyderabad, we found Hindu merchants as wealthy, almost as numerous in the most prosperous town under our government. He added: “As we entered in Karachim we met pilgrims returning from Hinglaj…it is the farthest western limit to which Indian polytheism extends.” Hamilton reported in 1699 that the celebration of Holi in Sindh from morning till evening. “In this mad feast people of all ages and sexes dance through the streets to pipes, drums and cymbals”.
Eastwick even saw a remarkable sight of Diwali, on 5 November 1839, four years before the British conquest of Sindh. He noted: “The Diwali happening to fall on this day, the whole river was bright with lamps. The scene was really enchanting. The mosques and ruined tombs, illumined by myriads of lights, and the broad current sweeping by them in all sombre majesty the palm groves and the island fortress of Bakhar in mid-stream, made up a wondrous picture. Ever and anon some votary would offer up his prayers to Lakshmi and launch a tiny craft bearing a cluster of lamps into the water.” Here were Sindhi Muslims celebrating Diwali along with the Hindus. Obviously the, Sindhis had evolved a Sindh version of Islam. A certain good humoured co-existence prevailed. When Mir Sarfaraz Khan made fun of Gidumal’s short stature, the latter retorted in Persian: “Manhood is tested in war; the thumb though small, is more important than the fingers.” Once the poet-saint Shah Abdul Latif teased his Hindu friend Madan with the question “How will you Kafirs fare on the day of judgement? (Hashar vela hissab mein, kafir kanda keina?” Madan did not reply at the time. Later, when they reached a ferry point, the boat had just started off. Madan took out extra money and showed it to the boatman, who stopped to pick them up. Madan now turned to shah and answered his earlier query thus “those who have an open hand will cross over ahead of all others.” (Hath jineen jo heean, se pahrein paar pya.)
The Sindhi Muslim society is more varied than the Hindu Society. The ancient mass is Koli and Santhal. And so we still have some Munda words in Sindh. For the same reason many Sindhis still have the vigesimal system of counting by twenties. When a Sindhi boy plays gilli-danda, he does not count “hik–ba-tay” Sindhi for “one-two-three”, he counts by the South numerals ,,, “vikat, laine, moon naar ! A significant factor in Hindu survival in Sindh during the Muslim period, in reasonably good shape, was the rise of Sikhism in the Punjab. Sanatam Dharam having gone moribund under prolonged Muslim rule, Sikhism came as a fresh breeze in the stale Sindhi atmosphere. The fact that the two provinces were neighbours, their people, kin and their languages allied, made Sikhisrn tick very well in Sindh. lt is believed that Guru Nanak Dev had visited Shikarpur in his wide ranging travels. One Kanayalal of Sindh joined Guru Govind Singh, who made it his duty to serve water to the wounded on the battlefield. Kanhayalal gave water not only to the Hindu wounded but also to the Muslim Wounded. Some Sikhs thought it wrong to revive enemy soldiers. They took Kanayalal to the Guru, who appreciated his action and asked him to go and preach Sikh Dharma in Sindh. He came to be known as “Khaat Waro Bao” (Khat Wala Bawa) because he gave his sermon while sitting on a cot. British rule ended the preferential treatment of Muslims under Muslim rule, and held the scales of justice even between the Hindus and the Muslims. Given equal opportunities, the Hindu forged far ahead of the Muslims, because of their traditional interest in education and business. Soon they dominated the services, the professions, trade and industry. The Muslim was confined to land and crafts. So much so that when partition took place and refugees arrived in Sindh, they wondered how Pakistan could be established in Sindh. They said there are more Muslims in Lucknow and Patna than in Hyderabad and Karachi in Sindh.”
The Sindhis had always traded with foreign lands. Their slogan was “Service is lowly, agriculture is noble, but trade alone is profitable. Thousands of years ago they had traded with, and even settled down in, eastern Mediterranean, as Phoenicians. Shah Latif has a whole lovely “Sur Samundi” on the annual trading expedition to Lanka, Java and China. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 gave a tremedous impetus to this trade. Beginning with Sindhi Arts and crafts – hence the name “Sindh-worki” for them — they soon ranged all the way from textiles to curios to diamonds.
Archaeological Findings Of Sindhu Civilisation
Amongst more than 1500 settlements consisting of small towns and cities discovered along the alluvial plain of Sindhu River Valley, the most noted areas of civilization are at Harappa in Punjab, Mohen-jo-daro in Sindh and Dholavira in Kutch. These are dated around 5000 B.C. Mohen-jo-daro located on the west bank of Sindhu River near Larkana, derives its name from Sindhi Mohen-jo-daro the ‘Mound of the Dead’. Here settlements built on high plains were found to be made of baked mud-bricks. Many large buildings found in the excavations were used as granaries for storage of abundant agricultural wealth. All major housing blocks had one or more private wells. Drains were used to remove rain or waste water into a central drainage system. Importantly, enough all drains are found covered. Streets ran on a north south and east-west grid. The most famous is the Great Bath a large water tight structure made of tightly fitting bricks that may have served as a public pool or ritual bathing area. The knowledge and civic sense in town planning employed by the Sindhu civilization represent characteristics of a highly advanced ancient society. While several archaeological findings in other parts of world emphasize lavish palaces, kings, gods, tombs and temples; the civilization of Sindhu at Mohen-jo-daro exhibits a distinct republic structure free from evils of greed, slavery and oppressive excesses of other contemporary ancient civilizations of the world.
Evidence of the Sindhu River Valley script has been found in the form of writings on wide variety of objects including seals, moulded clay, pottery tools, utensils and copper tablets. No link has been found between Sindhu Valley script and Mesopotamian or Egyptian writings. The closest link if any may be with ancestral Dravidian language spoken in Southern India. The absence of large cemeteries or any royal burial monuments suggests that dead were not buried, most probably cremated at the bank of Sindhu. This practice is strikingly similar to the present day Vedic custom of cremation of the dead along bank of Ganga river in North India. From all indications, here was a great prosperous town on the bank of a major river with robust agriculture and advanced society yet no arms or weapons were found. Apparently it must have enjoyed peaceful, cultured and secured living though its own law, order and justice. Earlier theories advanced by western scholars tried to suggest that Sindh was sacked by “Arayans”. Now however the detailed studies support the fact that Sindhu civilization itself was “Aryan” which travelled to far west and later to plains of Ganga.
Some of the techniques used by Sindhu Valley Civilization have continued to be used by present day craftsmen in both India and Pakistan. Potters in North India and Pakistan still use same methods of manufacture of pottery. The bead makers of Khambhat (Gujrat India) and Peshawar (Pakistan) use many of the same shaping and drilling techniques in manufacture of beaded ornaments. An important sense of historical continuity exists among the past and present day Sindhu River Valley Civilizations. Indeed the ruins of Mohen-jo-Daro are the most eloquent testimony of the glory of ancient Sindh. For Sindhis of the world, it is the most precious place and source of pride on this planet earth.
Sindhi Culture :
The Sindhis are peaceful, hardworking, hospitable, open-minded community. They have build up the image of Indians abroad as a prosperous and dependable people. They are free from inhibitions of caste and creed. In Sindhi Temples, you will find the images of Sri Rama and Shri Krishna placed, side by side, with those of Shiva and Durga and Guru Nanak. The Sindhis are cosmopolitan in their outlook. Someone said that today in India, it is difficult to meet an Indian (every one belongs to one province or the other). The Sindhis are the only Indians in India. The Sindhis are an enterprising and industrious people – full of the spirit of faith and courage. They know the subtle psychology of influencing the customer.
FOLK LORE :
What exactly does the word folk lore connotes? In its simplest manifestation, it symbolises the culture of the unsophisticated, the expression, mostly in song and dance, of the customs, tradition manners, aspiration, almost the entire social and religious life of the people at all levels of the common man. There is no country in the world, which has not been enriched by folklore for folk-lore, despite the fact that it has not been looked upon as the intelligent endeavour of the literate is in the point of fact, the very pulse-beat of the national conscience manifesting itself in song, dance, riddle, proverb and even in superstition. Every Sindhi likes HOJAMALO. The song, which pertains to the BAHRANO, is a very famous song of JHULE, JHULE, JHULE-JHULELAL. It is only Sindhi who can interpret the spirit of these songs, though one who listens to them will, almost without exception, be carried by its rhythmic beat like no other rhythmic beat in the world. Like the Folk songs, the folk dances are equally rhythmic and equally enchanting. These may be rugged and simple in their rhythmic beats. But they are full of life and vitality. There is a dance JHUMIR that is a counter-part of the dance of Ladda in songs.
Chhej is performed only by men. lt is somewhat similar to Dokla Ras of Kathiawar but considerably more intricate in pattern & steps and rhythmic beats. The instruments used are the SHARNAJ and the DUDUL i.e. Shehnai and the drum. Another dance which is performed only by men is DHAMAL, performed by Fakirs and disciples of a particular shrine at the time when the flag of the shrine goes up. This is a dance which is characterised by a sort of religious frenzy and has, therefore, a very fast tempo. Nagharo (a big drum) instrument provides both the rhythmic beat and the tempo for the Dhamal. There are many other dances, though the BHAGAT may be called the King-pin of them all. This is properly speaking a dance-drama enacted with the aid of song, Kalams etc.
Ladda Songs which are sung before the actual weddings, the very little of which suggests careless abandon and gaiety that mark a wedding. Sindhis are very famous for showmanship, and on the occasion of the marriage of the son, they will not hesitate to spend thousands of rupees only on decorations, music dance and photographs, movie and on video shootings, They call a Laada party of famous singers and enjoy the music one day before the marriage and even on Janiya (Thread ceremony) etc. The famous Laado SONU BAJUBAND, LADO PANHIJEE KUNWAR AURIANEDO AND DHIKH JE RAAT LADE MUNDIYOON GHARAYOON, MOOML MANA NA KAR MARUN SA, ALLA SON JO RUPAYA etc. Many other Ladies are so famous among the Sindhis that on the occasion of the marriage, specially ladies and relatives are invited on Laada ceremony where they offer the GHOR of rupees on the bride-groom whose marriage is to be performed. There are many folk songs, and many dances are composed. We cannot ignore our humorous songs. To get back however to Sindhi song, which does not treat only of love, there are some double meaning FOHIRAS too.
Bhagat is an original and pure art form of Sindhi music and dance. This is one art form which can be truly called as Sindhi folk and meant for the masses. The mere announcement of a Bhagat performance brought people from near and far off place. This song-n-dance extravaganza called to expertise in both forms namely singing and dancing. One without the other was no good. Mikes and sophisticated sound systems being not existent in those days, it is rumoured that the Bhagats of yesteryears could give many a Michael Jackson of Elton John a run for their money for not only was their singing soulful but it was loud and clear enough for a person sitting a quarter of a kilometre away from the singer. The performances were usually held in the nights and lasted till the wee hours of the morning. Requiring a minimum of two or more performers from a band of six, this folk form was highly interactive and weaved in out from pure folk and devotional songs to narratives to stories thus giving wholesome entertainment rather infotainment to the crowds. Two three of them are usually good singers with one being the lead singer and the other two known as peechhads or boliaraas (back-up singers). The lead singer or bhagat wore a chher, jamo, pagdi and kundal with a bright tilak on the forehead and sung in a style little bit similar to those if qawals. The crowd used to sit on two sides much akin to a fashion show with a ramp running into the audience. The bhagats used to sing and move back and forth in the crowd in the centre aisle. The back up singers usually stood in the back and faced the bhagat who would start of on a line with the back up singers interjecting with a smile or the latter half of a couplet. Sant Kanwar Ram was one of the most legendary performers who went on to become saint for Sindhis. His soulful voice once brought back a dead child to life, a miracle many have seen with their own eyes. Especially known for his rendition of the Sur Prabhati (which is sung early in the morning), Sant Kanwar Ram was popular not only amongst the Sindhi Hindus but Muslims also. Besides Bhagat Kanwar Ram there were others who had carved out a niche for themselves. Notably amongst them were Bhagat Naru, Bhagat Jadaram, Bhagat Leelo (arth Kanwar), Bhagat Tharu, Bhagat Parso, Bhagat Motan, Bhagat Sobho, Bhagat Dharmu, Bhagat Dilo, Bhagat Shewo, Bhagat Dwaru, Bhagat Ghansho and Bhagat Khanuram. The back up singers sometimes dressed up as female characters also and they were most known by their nicknames. Notable amongst them were ‘Shaman Guddi’, ‘Lal Chhuri’ and ‘Jalphatako’. The bhagats were in great demand usually at melas, annual darbar and dargah functions and sometimes for marriages also.