History of Sindh

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Statue of an Indus priest or king found in Mohenjodaro, 1927
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The history of Sindh or Sind (Sindhi: سنڌ جو تاريخ‎, Urdu: سندھ کی تاریخ‎) is intertwined with the history of the broader South Asia and surrounding regions. Sindh was at the center of the Indus Valley civilization, one of the cradle of civilization; and currently a province of modern-day Pakistan.

Ancient era[edit]

The Buddhist Kingdom of Sindh 642 A.D

Sindh has been known by various names in the past, the name Sindh comes from the Indo-Aryans whose legends claimed that the Indus River flowed from the mouth of a lion or Sinh-ka-bab. In Sanskrit, the province was dubbed Sindhu meaning an ocean. The Assyrians (as early as the seventh century BCE) knew the region as Sinda, the Persians Abisind, the Greeks Sinthus, the Romans Sindus, the Chinese Sintow, while the Arabs dubbed it Sind. Also, in ancient times, the territory of the modern Sindh province was sometimes known as Sovira (or Souveera) and also as Sindhudesh, Sindhu being the original name for Indus river and the suffix 'desh' roughly corresponding to country or territory.

The first known village settlements date as far back as 7000 BCE. Permanent settlements at Mehrgarh to the west expanded into Sindh. The original inhabitants of ancient Sindh, and other regions of the Indian Subcontinent, were the aborigine tribes speaking languages related to Munda languages. The Dravidians migrated from the Iranian plateau and settled in the Indus valley around 4000 BCE. The Dravidian culture blossomed over the centuries and gave rise to the Indus Valley Civilization around 3000 BCE. The Indus Valley Civilization rivalled the contemporary civilizations of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia in both size and scope numbering nearly half a million inhabitants at its height with well-planned grid cities and sewer systems. Speculation remains as to how and why the civilization declined and may have been a combination of natural disasters such as flooding and internecine conflicts. The Indus Valley Civilization spanned much of what is today Pakistan and Northwestern India, but suddenly went into decline just prior to the rise of Indo-Iranians. A branch of these tribes called the Indo-Aryans are believed to have founded the Vedic Civilization that have existed between Sarasvati River and Ganges river around 1500 BCE. This civilization helped shape subsequent cultures in the Indian subcontinent.

Sindh was conquered by the Persian Achaemenid Empire in the 6th century BCE, and became part of the Persian satrapy (province) of Hindush centred in the Punjab to the north. Persian speech had a tendency to replace 'S' with an 'H' resulting in 'Sindu' being pronounced and written as 'Hindu'. They introduced the Kharoshti script and links to the west in the region. Subsequently, conquered by Greeks led by Alexander the Great, the region came under loose Greek control for a few decades until Alexander's death and brief Seleucid rule and then was conquered by the Mauryans led by Chandragupta in 305 BCE. Later, during the reign of the Buddhist king Ashoka the region would solidly become a Buddhist domain. Following a century of Mauryan rule which ended by 232 BCE, the region came under the Greco-Bactrians based in what is today Afghanistan and these rulers would also convert to and proliferate Buddhism in the region. The Buddhist city of Siraj-ji-Takri is located along the western limestone terraces of the Rohri Hills in the Khairpur district of Upper Sindh, along the road that leads to Sorah. Its ruins are still visible on the top of three different mesas, in the form of stone and mud-brick walls and small mounds, whilst other architectural remains were observed along the slopes of the hills in the 1980s. This city is not mentioned from any text dealing with the history of the Buddhist period of Sindh.

The Scythians shattered the Greco-Bactrians fledgling empire and then the Tocharian Kushan Empire annexed Sindh by the 1st century CE. The Kushans under Kanishka adopted Buddhism and sponsored many building projects for local beliefs. The Kushan Empire was defeated in the mid 3rd century CE by the Sassanid Empire of Persia, who installed vassals known as the Kushanshahs in these far eastern territories. These rulers were defeated by the Kidarites in the late 4th century. It then came under the Gupta Empire after dealing with the Kidarites. By the late 5th century, attacks by Hephthalite tribes known as the Indo-Hephthalites or Hunas broke through the Gupta Empire's northwestern borders and overran much of northwestern India. Concurrently, Ror dynasty ruled parts of the region for several centuries. Afterwards, Sindh came under the rule of Emperor Harshavardhan, then the Rai Dynasty around 478. The Rais were overthrown by Chachar of Alor around 632. The Brahman dynasty ruled a vast territory that stretched from Multan in the north to the Rann of Kutch, Alor was their capital.

Medieval era[edit]

Administrative Map of Sindh 1608~1700 A.D

The book Chach Nama chronicles the Chacha Dynasty's period, following the demise of the Rai Dynasty and the ascent of Chach of Alor to the throne, down to the Arab conquest by Muhammad bin Qasim in the early 8th century CE, by defeating the last Hindu monarch of Sindh, Raja Dahir.

Conquered by Syrian Arabs led by Muhammad bin Qasim, Sindh became the easternmost province of the Umayyad Caliphate. The Arab province of Sindh is modern Pakistan. While the lands of modern India further east were known to the Arabs as Hind. The defeat of the Brahmin ruler Dahir was made easier due to the tension between the Buddhist majority and the ruling Brahmins' fragile base of control. The Arabs redefined the region and adopted the term budd to refer to the numerous Buddhist idols they encountered, a word that remains in use today. The city of Mansura was established as a regional capital and Arab rule lasted for nearly 3 centuries and a fusion of cultures produced much of what is today modern Sindhi society. Arab geographers, historians and travellers also sometimes called the entire area from the Arabian Sea to the Hindu Kush, Sindh. The meaning of the word Sindhu being water (or ocean) appears to refer to the Indus river. In addition, there is a mythological belief among Muslims that four rivers had sprung from Heaven: Neel (Nile), Furat (Euphrates), Jehoon (Jaxartes) and Sehoon (Sind or in modern times the Indus).

Arab rule ended with the ascension of the indigenous Parmar Rajput Soomro dynasty. Later, in the mid-13th century the Soomros were replaced by the Muslim Rajput Samma dynasty.[1]

Turkic invaders sent expeditions to the area from the 9th century, and part of the region loosely became part of the Ghaznavid Empire and then the Delhi Sultanate which lasted until 1524. The Mughals seized the region and their rule lasted for another two centuries, while the local Sindhi Muslim Rajput tribe, the Samma, challenged Mughal rule from their base at Thatta. The Muslim Sufi played a pivotal role in converting the millions of native people to Islam. Sindh, though part of larger empires, continued to enjoy certain autonomy as a loyal Muslim domain and came under the rule of the Arghun Dynasty and Turkhan or Tarkhan dynasty from 1519 to 1625. Sind became a vassal-state of the Afghan Durrani Empire by 1747. It was then ruled by Kalhora rulers and later the Baluchi Talpurs [2] from 1783.

Modern era[edit]

The British conquered Sindh in 1843. General Charles Napier is said to have reported victory to the Governor General with a one-word telegram, namely "Peccavi" – or "I have sinned" (Latin). In fact, this pun first appeared as a cartoon in Punch magazine. The British had two objectives in their rule of Sindh: the consolidation of British rule and the use of Sindh as a market for British products and a source of revenue and raw materials. With the appropriate infrastructure in place, the British hoped to utilise Sindh for its economic potential.[3]

The British incorporated Sindh, some years later after annexing it, into the Bombay Presidency. Distance from the provincial capital, Bombay, led to grievances that Sindh was neglected in contrast to other parts of the Presidency. The merger of Sindh into Punjab province was considered time from time but was turned down because of British disagreement and Sindhi opposition, both from Muslims and Hindus, to being annexed to Punjab.[3]

The British desired to increase their profitability from Sindh and carried out extensive work on the irrigation system in Sindh, for example the Jamrao Canal project. However, the local Sindhis were described as both eager and lazy and for this reason the British authorities encouraged the immigration of Punjabi peasants into Sindh as they were deemed more hard-working. Punjabi migrations to Sindh paralleled the further development of Sindh’s irrigation system in the early 20th century. Sindhi apprehension of a ‘Punjabi invasion’ grew.[3]

In his backdrop, desire for a separate administrative status for Sindh grew. At the annual session of the Indian National Congress in 1913, a Sindhi Hindu put forward the demand for Sindh’s separation from the Bombay Presidency on the grounds of Sindh’s unique cultural character. This reflected the desire of Sindh’s predominantly Hindu commercial class to free itself from competing with the more powerful Bombay’s business interests. [3] Meanwhile, Sindhi politics was characterised in the 1920s by the growing importance of Karachi and the Khilafat Movement. [4] A number of Sindhi pirs, descendants of Sufi saints who had proselytised in Sindh, joined the Khilafat Movement, which propagated the protection of the Ottoman Caliphate, and those pirs who did not join the movement found a decline in their following. [5] The pirs generated huge support for the Khilafat cause in Sindh.[6] Sindh came to be at the forefront of the Khilafat Movement.[7]

Although Sindh had a cleaner record of communal harmony than other parts of India, the province’s Muslim elite and emerging Muslim middle class demanded separation of Sindh from Bombay Presidency as a safeguard for their own interests. In this campaign local Sindhi Muslims identified ‘Hindu’ with Bombay instead of Sindh. Sindhi Hindus were seen as representing the interests of Bombay instead of the majority of Sindhi Muslims. Sindhi Hindus, for the most part, opposed the separation of Sindh from Bombay. [3] Sindh’s Hindu and Muslim communities lived in close proximity to each other and extensively influenced each other’s culture. Scholars have discussed that it was found that Hindu practices in Sindh differed from orthodox Hinduism in the rest of India. Hinduism in Sindh was to a large extent influenced by Islam, Sikhism and Sufism. Sindh’s religious syncretism was a result of Sufism. Sufism was a vital component of Sindhi Muslim identity and Sindhi Hindus, more than Hindus in any other part of India, came under the influence of Sufi thought and practices and the majority of them were murids (followers) of Sufi Muslim saints.[8]

However, both the Muslim landed elite, waderas, and the Hindu commercial elements, banias, collaborated in oppressing the predominantly Muslim peasantry of Sindh who were economically exploited. In Sindh’s first provincial election after its separation from Bombay in 1936, economic interests were an essential factor of politics informed by religious and cultural issues. [9] Due to British policies, much land in Sindh was transferred from Muslim to Hindu hands over the decades. [10] The exploitation of Sindhi Muslims by Sindhi Hindus had reached alarming proportions. [11] Religious tensions rose in Sindh over the Sukkur Manzilgah issue where Muslims and Hindus disputed over an abandoned mosque in proximity to an area sacred to Hindus. The Sindh Muslim League exploited the issue and agitated for the return of the mosque to Muslims. Consequentially, a thousand members of the Muslim League were imprisoned. Eventually, due to panic the government restored the mosque to Muslims. [9]

The separation of Sindh from Bombay Presidency triggered Sindhi Muslim nationalists to support the Pakistan Movement. Even while the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province were ruled by parties hostile to the Muslim League, Sindh remained loyal to Jinnah. [12] Although the prominent Sindhi Muslim nationalist G.M. Syed left the All India Muslim League in the mid-1940s and his relationship with Jinnah never improved, the overwhelming majority of Sindhi Muslims supported the creation of Pakistan, seeing in it their deliverance. [4] Sindhi support for the Pakistan Movement arose from the desire of the Sindhi Muslim business class to drive out their Hindu competitors. [13] The Muslims League’s rise to becoming the party with the strongest support in Sindh was in large part linked to its winning over of the religious pir families. Although the Muslim Leaue had previously fared poorly in the 1937 elections in Sindh, when local Sindhi Muslim parties won more seats, [14] the Muslim League’s cultivation of support from the pirs and saiyids of Sindh in 1946 helped it gain a foothold in the province.[15]

In 1947, violence did not constitute a major part of the Sindhi partition experience, unlike in Punjab. There were very few incidents of violence on Sindh, in part due to the Sufi-influenced culture of religious tolerance and in part that Sindh was not divided and was instead made part of Pakistan in its entirety. Sindhi Hindus who left generally did so out of a fear of persecution, rather than persecution itself, because of the arrival of Muslim refugees from India. Sindhi Hindus differentiated between the local Sindhi Muslims and the migrant Muslims from India. A large number of Sindhi Hindus travelled to India by sea, to the ports of Bombay, Porbandar, Veraval and Okha. [16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Siddiqui, Habibullah. "The Soomras of Sindh: their origin, main characteristics and rule – an overview (general survey) (1025 – 1351 AD)" (PDF). Literary Conference on Soomra Period in Sindh. 
  2. ^ Unofficial website on the Talpurs, retrieved 2006-03-04
  3. ^ a b c d e Roger D. Long; Gurharpal Singh; Yunas Samad; Ian Talbot (8 October 2015). State and Nation-Building in Pakistan: Beyond Islam and Security. Routledge. pp. 102–. ISBN 978-1-317-44820-4.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "LongSingh2015" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page). Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "LongSingh2015" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page). Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "LongSingh2015" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page). Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "LongSingh2015" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  4. ^ a b I. Malik (3 June 1999). Islam, Nationalism and the West: Issues of Identity in Pakistan. Palgrave Macmillan UK. pp. 56–. ISBN 978-0-230-37539-0. 
  5. ^ Gail Minault (1982). The Khilafat Movement: Religious Symbolism and Political Mobilization in India. Columbia University Press. pp. 105–. ISBN 978-0-231-05072-2. 
  6. ^ Sarah F. D. Ansari (31 January 1992). Sufi Saints and State Power: The Pirs of Sind, 1843-1947. Cambridge University Press. pp. 77–. ISBN 978-0-521-40530-0. 
  7. ^ Pakistan Historical Society (2007). Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society. Pakistan Historical Society. p. 245. 
  8. ^ Priya Kumar & Rita Kothari (2016) Sindh, 1947 and Beyond, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 39:4, 775, DOI: 10.1080/00856401.2016.1244752
  9. ^ a b Ayesha Jalal (4 January 2002). Self and Sovereignty: Individual and Community in South Asian Islam Since 1850. Routledge. pp. 415–. ISBN 978-1-134-59937-0. 
  10. ^ Amritjit Singh; Nalini Iyer; Rahul K. Gairola (15 June 2016). Revisiting India's Partition: New Essays on Memory, Culture, and Politics. Lexington Books. pp. 127–. ISBN 978-1-4985-3105-4. 
  11. ^ Muhammad Soaleh Korejo (1993). The Frontier Gandhi: His Place in History. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-577461-0. 
  12. ^ Khaled Ahmed (18 August 2016). Sleepwalking to Surrender: Dealing with Terrorism in Pakistan. Penguin Books Limited. pp. 230–. ISBN 978-93-86057-62-4. 
  13. ^ Veena Kukreja (24 February 2003). Contemporary Pakistan: Political Processes, Conflicts and Crises. SAGE Publications. pp. 138–. ISBN 978-0-7619-9683-5. 
  14. ^ Sarah F. D. Ansari (31 January 1992). Sufi Saints and State Power: The Pirs of Sind, 1843-1947. Cambridge University Press. pp. 115–. ISBN 978-0-521-40530-0. 
  15. ^ Sarah F. D. Ansari (31 January 1992). Sufi Saints and State Power: The Pirs of Sind, 1843-1947. Cambridge University Press. pp. 122–. ISBN 978-0-521-40530-0. 
  16. ^ Priya Kumar & Rita Kothari (2016) Sindh, 1947 and Beyond, South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 39:4, 776-777, DOI: 10.1080/00856401.2016.1244752