Panhwar.com: An online digital library

Here we wish to start presenting various digital collections of documents pertaining to Sindh, Pakistan and South Asia in general. We chose to begin this section of our research notebook (‘Resources’) with the impressive collection of digitized manuscripts and other publications set up on a single website dedicated to the life and work of M. H. Panhwar.

Born in the district of Dadu (Sindh), Muhammad Hussain Panhwar (1925-2007) completed his higher studies in the USA (1953), specializing in engineering (water and agricultural development). Besides working as an engineer for both Sindh and West Pakistan governments until 1969 (about which he published extensively), he always dedicated most of his free time to the study of various aspects of Sindh, its history and geography, environment and society. M. H. Panhwar was undoubtedly one of these non-standard intellectuals with an encyclopedic knowledge of Sindh, even if he sometimes drew much criticism from academic historians. Because he dedicated his life to enhancing the knowledge of Sindh, he was often coined as the “one-man Sindhologist”. He is considered by many academics and intellectuals a pioneer for his approach “from below” to the history of Sindh. To some extent, he could have been more broadly recognized as a historian from the subaltern studies movement.

It is noteworthy that M. H. Panhwar published several books and articles not only about irrigation, drainage, climate, geology, etc., but also about the history and society of Sindh, while focusing also on archaeology but mobilizing a number of other materials such as maps, pictures, sketches, etc. Among the most significant works completed by Panhwar which have been recently uploaded on his website, let us mention A Chronological Dictionary of Sindh (1983) and An Illustrated Historical Atlas of Soomra Kingdom of Sindh (2003). One should not miss also one of his major contribution entitled Source Material on Sind (1977, 700 pages), which will be uploaded soon on the website.

During his lifetime, M. H. Panhwar accumulated an astonishing amount of documents. At the time of his death (21st April 2007), his personal library contained a wide range of publications and research materials, among which not less than 12, 000 books, 3 000 maps referring to the Sindh region and a large collection of pictures, all well arranged according to subjects or chronologically ordered (see here its detailed classification). This is probably one of the largest libraries on the Sindh. The library is, as of now, not yet opened to the public so researchers still have to wait to consult this massive amount of information. Panhwar’s descendants plan is to transfer it to the University of Sindh, Jamshoro campus.

Meanwhile, one will be satisfied with all open-access documents displayed on the website, in which 180 digitized books dating from the colonial period are stored. All these can be downloaded free. It constitutes an important digital library where one can navigate freely and get access to a diverse range of historical documents pertaining to Sindh, such as letters, manuals and gazetteers of British India, catalogues, travellers accounts, biographies, reports, histories and geographies of Sindh, historical maps, journal issues, etc.

By Rémy Delage


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