Anila Naeem, Recognising historic significance using inventories: a case of historic towns in Sindh, Pakistan, Joint Center for Urban Design – Oxford Brook, 16 November 2009.
“This research deals with two connected problems in the context of Sindh, the south-eastern parts of Pakistan: the lack of adequate and flexible methods for assessing urbanized historic traditions, and the lack of knowledge and understanding for these. Addressing both issues, the research aims at developing methods for assessing historic built form traditions in the region, using its historic towns as case studies. This research derives its frame of reference by combining methods of historical urban geography and urban morphology, with principles of urban area conservation, to study the historic urban traditions in Sindh, and identify their value of significance as not only important historic sources, but also as economic and environmental assets of the region.
The defined objectives of research are achieved through investigations at two levels – regional and town. The regional level work develops a historicogeographic map of Sindh identifying the significance historic urban centers and presents their typo-morphological analysis. The town scale research develops a method for systematic documentation and inventory of historic places, and presents a method for analysis and evaluation to reinstate their significance and guide the development of effective policies and proposals for a possible revival of historic urban centers. The process of research involves a literature review on the history and background of the region and its case study towns. It further builds research data through inductive field research to develop a comprehensive documentation of the case study town. The outcomes of the research indicate a rich and unique urban fabric that represents socio-economic, political and cultural developments of the region. In addition, it represents a historic urban environment shaped through local building traditions and materials that developed in response to the climatic and environmental conditions in the region. The present state of affairs, as evident from the research outcomes, points towards an urgent need for conservation initiatives to ensure the survival of this historic built fabric into the future.
Historic towns of Sindh have never been surveyed or documented methodically in order to build inventories of historic places. The absence of effective implementation tools added by threatening development pressures, jeopardize survival of the historic built environments. There is thus an urgent need to identify and document the existing historic fabric and develop viable policies for their preservation; ensuring economic sustainability for the communities involved and allowing management of natural and environmental resources to achieve a balanced growth and development in the region.”
Uderolâl, also known as Jhulelal, is God to some Sindhi-Hindu believers. Legend has it that Uderolâl was born as saviour of the people of Thatta in Sindh. The people here felt helpless when faced with the atrocities of the Muslim ruler Mirkshah who forced them to follow Islam. They offered prayers at the banks of river Sindhu (Indus). Uderolâl was an answer to their prayers. For the Sindhi-Hindus in India, He has become an important mark of identity; especially because they were forced to leave Sindh due to the Partition of India. Sindh is now in Pakistan. Jhulelal offers a distinct mark of identity to the community in India.
The panjrâs of Jhulelal are prayers sung to the glory of Jhulelal. It is the panjrâs that add to the liveliness of the bairanas, a festive occasion to offer prayers and thanksgiving to Jhulelal. The crowd gathered for the occasion, colourfully dressed, sing loudly the panjrâs to the beat of musical instruments. Of these the dhol, a kind of drum, is the most important. Another important instrument is the earthen pot, which is turned upside down and tapped rhythmically. Devotees accompany the music with their claps. As the force of the music and singing catches on devotees also start dancing.
About the translator
Charu P. Gidwani holds a PhD from Pune University, May 2004, Depiction of Childhood in the Works of Rabindranath Tagore. She is the daughter of a Sindhi linguist and lexicographer, Dr Parso J. Gidwani. She has inherited her love for Sindh and Sindhi from him. She teaches English Literature at RKT College, affiliated to the Mumbai University.
1. O my Jhulelal Sain
Mounted on a blue* horse, my Lal Sain Riding a pallo* fish, my Lal Sain Makes every Sindhi prosper, my Lal Sain Makes us carry offerings* every year, my Lal Sain Makes us keep bairanas*, fulfils all our wishes, my Lal Sain He is the true glory of Sindhunagar*, my Lal Sain Ferries* everyone across, my Lal Sain Fulfils hopes of devotees, my Lal Sain At your feet, all bow their heads, My Lal Sain, O my Lal Sain
Source: Anonymous panjra, Jhulelal Ji Mahima, second edition, April 2008, edited by Kavi Bharat (Bhagat) Bhatya, p. 14.
blue: blue colour is the colour of gods, it represents divinity in the Hindu religion.
pallo: a kind of a fish that belongs to the clupa ilisha genre. Legend has it that Jhulelal, referred here as ‘Lal Sain’, had this fish for his vehicle. A special feature of this fish is that it swims against the current.
offerings: offerings to Jhulelal are made in pots, these are then immersed in a river or flowing water, after the bairana is over.
bairana: it is an occasion to worship, offer prays, offer thanks to Jhulelal. One of the most important times of bairana is conducted is on Cheti Chand, the time, in March, marking the birth of Jhulelal. This is also the Sindhi New Year.
Sindhunagar: This is the proposed name for Ulhasnagar, a place of British horse-stables converted to a camp for Sindhi refugees. Literally, ‘Sindhunagar’ means ‘settlement of Sindhis’.
ferries everyone across: in Hinduism very often life is compared to an ocean. Faith in God, and God alone, can carry a human being safely across this ocean of life. To put it simply, faith in God makes life smooth.
2. O Lal keep my honour safe Jhulelan
This anonymous panjrâ is a favourite of Sufi singers in and around Sindh. Famous Sufi singers in Sindh, Punjab and even Bangladesh have sung it.
Lal keep my honour safe* Jhulelalan*, O thou of Sindhdi*, of Sewan*, of Sakhar*, Hail Mast Qalandar*, we’ve Dulhe* in our hearts Four lamps always burn at your shrine, The fifth one I have come to light O Jhulelalan, O thou of Sindhdi, of Sewan, of Sakhar… You bless mothers with children, You safeguard fortunes of young girls*, O thou of Sindhdi, of Sewan, of Sakhar… All who have lit the flame of Dulhe, You fill their coffers Jhulelalan, O thou of Sindhdi, of Sewan, of Sakhar… O Peer* of Peers come to the centre of the ocean, In the name of the Lord ferry my boat across Jhulelalan, O thou of Sindhdi, of Sewan, of Sakhar…
Sources: Jai Jhulelal Beda I Paar (Collection of stories, songs, prayers of Jhulelal), Ahemadabad; Ke Saahitun Sajanan Saan: Sain Dr Rochaldas Sahibun Ji Satsangi Rihaan (Some Conversations with Dr Rochaldas), by Shri H.M. Damodar, 1991.
‘Keep my honour safe’: is reference to the fact that the devotee has surrendered to God. Here the devotee pleads with God to keep his name, respect, dignity in society intact. That is all what the devotee seeks of God in humility.
Jhulelalan: the ‘an’ ending is the suffix used to show endearment.
Sindhdi: the ‘di’ suffix is one showing endearment. Literally, Sindhdi, means Sindh. Sewan, Sakhar: places in Sindh. Mast Qalandar: refers to Qalandar Lal Shahbaaz, a peer. History gives different versions of him. According to Dr Rochaldas, a well-known saint from Sindh, Shahbaaz Qalandar even met Jhulelal. Shahbaaz Qalandar, fond of excursions, breathed his last at Sehwan, where a shrine is built in his name. Because his name as well as Jhulelal’s name has ‘Lal’, today, many consider both names referring to one person. This song is a fine example of how the Sindhi mind is not rigidly fanatic about one religion. Here Jhulelal -a Hindu God- is seen as one with Mast Qalandar -a Muslim Peer.
Dulhe: another name of Jhulelal.
You safeguard fortunes of young girls: this is a subtle way of praying to Jhulelal that he bless young girls with good husbands. A girl’s getting married to a worthy boy was seen as all that was needed for her well-being. This concept of a girl’s good life has not changed much even today.
Peer: a peer is believed to be close to the Almighty. Peers are known to have shown miracles to save their followers from trouble. There have been many peers in Sindh. It is not unusual to hear of Sindhi Hindu families in India also knowing and believing a peer. Even today festivities are held related to one peer or the other which are attended in huge numbers by both Hindus and Muslims. Singing of folk devotional songs throughout the night are a special feature of these fairs. These fairs are held in Sindh (Pakistan) and also in Kutch (India) even today.
3. Panjrâ by Ram Panjwani
Ram Panjwani was a Sindhi writer (1911-1987). He has written many plays, novels, essays mainly on social issues. His most important contribution to the Sindhi community lies in the fact that he reintroduced Uderolâl to Sindhi-Hindus in India, especially in Ulhasnagar, after the Partition.
Jhule Jhule Jhule Jhulelal Lal Sain Uderolal We, humble, full of vices, Dulaah*, at your door sell ourselves* Our state is not hidden from you Please keep us well Satguru* Sain* you fulfil our hopes Babal* Sain you ferry us across the ocean of life I am naked*, O pall-giver* Saviour of the helpless Jhule Jhule Jhule Jhulelal Sain
Source: Bharatiya Sindhu Sabha, Mumbai, Volume VI, Oct-Nov 2000, “Sindhi of the Millenium: Bhagat Kanwar Ram”, Editor and Publisher: Mohan Motwani, 5, Sai Parsad, Shivaji Park, Mumbai 400028.
Dulaah: a term for Jhulelal.
sell-ourselves: the idea here is that the devotee is worth nothing at the doorstep of God.
Satguru: ‘guru’ refers to teacher. ‘Sat’ refers to truth or the ultimate reality. Satguru here refers to Jhulelal.
Babal: endearing form of Baba. Baba is a term of reverence used to address any old man. Grandchildren usually address their grandfather as Baba.
Sain: term of address showing respect.
‘I am naked’: this line suggests complete surrender of the devotee to God. The devotee has nothing to hide from God. Pall-giver: God as giving the protective cover of the pall, covering the devotee’s nakedness to protect his honour.
Richard K. Wolf is Professor of Ethnomusicology at Harvard University. While working first on the Kotas of South India, he did fieldwork on Shia and Sufi rituals in Pakistan. Dr Frédérique Pagani, a MIFS member, interviewed him in May 2009 about his fieldwork in Sindh, including his methodology.
How did you come to study Sufism?
I started out studying ritual drumming. I looked at all the different contexts in which drumming was important. I didn’t start out with the intention of doing something Sufi at all. There was a close connection between Sufi and Shia things in a kind of a popular realm even though rather strict Shias don’t necessarily like to be associated with Sufism; still, we found a Shia family for example that was in charge of a Sufi shrine in Punjab, and I guess this is not all that uncommon.
You talk about a kind of porosity of religious boundaries between Shia and Sunni in Sindh which was very interesting. What was your understanding of this situation in Sindh?
Among Sindhis, my impression was that Shias and Sunnis both practice Muharram in the same places and engage in some of the same kind of activities. In some processions, at least, both populations would be together; Shias would also be musicians and so the kinds of distinctions between the two groups, which is more pronounced in most urban areas and outside of Sindh, did not seem to be so pronounced even in the relatively urban area of Hyderabad.
You said that when you cannot attend a musical event, you ask the people to do a demonstration, can you explain in a more detailed way the way you work with the musicians? Perhaps if you take a precise example…
For example, the drummers who played on my video tape of Madho Lal Hussain, I took their names and addresses at the event because I couldn’t talk with them there. And then, I tracked them down later and had them come to my apartment in Lahore. There I had a longer discussion with them about what they were doing there and their relationship with the dancers; I asked them to play their versions of the different rhythms I had been studying.
In Lahore the best place to record and interview was at my home; there, other people would not come and interrupt us, give their own opinions, and things like that. But sometimes I was forced to discuss these things in crowded places where there were a lot of interlopers and distractions. It was sometimes difficult to find a place where drummers could demonstrate because it’s so loud. The drumming would alert people and they would wonder why it was going on.
Has it also something to do with the fact that, you’re explaining in your paper on Madho Lal that there are appropriate ways to do music and inappropriate ways. Is it sometimes inappropriate to do music in front of you? Is it disrespectful? For example if it’s a musical religious event and if it’s detached from the context, has it something which sounds a bit disrespectful?
No. Not in that way. It’s not disrespectful. There are a number of different kinds of issues. So like among the Kotas, if you play funeral music when it’s not a funeral, then you don’t play any of this stuff, loud instruments, outdoors except for maybe some celebratory and not particularly marked occasion; but it’s OK if you go at distance, away from the village. Because otherwise people think that there is a funeral and they start feeling bad and so people would come and say, “Don’t do that.”
As for Muharram performance, if a group of musicians agree to go out to an open field and play the different rhythms, it usually doesn’t matter. But in urban contexts it could matter. In one Karachi neighborhood, as I discussed in my Muharram drumming article in the Yearbook for Traditional Music, a community that supported Muharram drumming was under pressure to curtail this activity and a number of related rituals such as carrying the taziyah. Their processions and drumming during Muharram were sort of tolerated; but reformers didn’t really think that’s a proper way to observe Islam. So members of this community were under pressure not to go outside and perform for me even though it was still the general period of Muharram (but not the first ten days). They did it indoors for me. Sometimes playing out of immediate context can be a sensitive issue, but it’s not a matter of musicians lacking respect for the context of the music exactly.
You give the concept of emotion a fundamental place in your paper on Muharram drumming and in several other publications. Can you detail a bit more the relation between emotion and music?
Well I got interested in that mainly because of funerals. Many people have been interested in why there are celebrations even on occasions of mourning. I was particularly interested in how we deal with the combination of different emotions that are associated with occasions like this – and the fact that musical pieces or styles can be associated with some components that have explicit emotional connotations.
In your paper on Madho Lal Hussain, you speak of the `urs as a “highly heterogeneous event”. Can you explain the notion of heterogeneity in relation to the rituals and the way you try to deal with this?
I think it’s very hard to talk as if you are dealing with a single culture when you’re looking at a very complex event. So many things are going on at once. But it turns out that there are usually some themes that people hold in common. They might deal with them differently. We can’t just say: “This is so heterogeneous, there is nothing at all in common and we have no grounding whatsoever.” People experience the same kinds of events over and over and develop certain expectations that are based on that experience. They’re also exposed to certain kinds of poetry in the respective languages that brings up so called Sufi themes… So it’s inevitable that there is going to a certain amount of common knowledge.
That means that you really need to be used to the event…
Ideally yes. It’s pretty hard to get used to the events themselves, but the picture starts to look more cohesive when you put together general observations with the points that participants make repeatedly during interviews.
Can you explain for instance how you worked on precise events?
I usually heard that something was coming up and I would decide I would go; I didn’t necessarily have time to prepare…
Yes, for example, you record, you try to analyze this, you show it to the participants…
Yes, that’s what I try to do. I would record interviews. Back in 1996, I would go over the recordings carefully with my Urdu teacher, and listen for where our discussions were ambiguous; there was often an issue to be explored at such places in the interview. So in general just working through the materials in multiple ways is very helpful. Often I found out about interesting places to research from these interviews with drummers. I would ask them to tell me stories of what happened when they were playing or about the pieces. Then I would want to go and see them in those contexts.
More on Richard K. Wolf
Richard K. Wolf has written about classical, folk and tribal musical traditions in South India as well as on musical traditions associated with Shi’ism and Sufism in North India and Pakistan.
(ed.) Theorizing the Local: Music, Practice, and Experience in South Asia and Beyond,
Oxford University Press, New York, 2009.
The Black Cow’s Footprint: Time, Space, and Music in the Lives of the Kotas of South India, Permanent Black, 2005 and University of Illinois Press, 2006.
Pratapaditya Pal (ed.), 2008, Sindh. Past Glory, Present Nostalgia, Mumbai, Marg Publications, vol. 60, n° 1, 180 p.
This collective book aims at making the public aware of the long and rich cultural heritage of Sindh, at the crossroads of Iranian, Central Asiatic and Indian Rajasthani-Gujarati worlds, and open on the Arabian Sea. From the remains of the protohistoric Mohenjodaro to the history of the modern Karachi and its inhabitants; from Budhhist and Hindu art and architecture, Islamic conquest and the development of Islamic architecture, to contemporary art, traditional crafts, and regional cookery; from history, political and cultural encounters through coinages to British production of representations on the region. It also points out some crucial studies that should be undertaken, for example about Buddhist sculptures, Hindu art and architecture, the medieval port of Banbhore which needs a new survey, etc. In sum, it highlights a composite Sindhi culture and identity, spoiled with the Indo-Pakistan Partition, in 1947.
Monik Kervran, a researcher at CNRS, headed the French Archaeological Mission in Sindh (MAFS) between 1989 and 2002. We interviewed her in October 2008 to reconstruct the scientific itinerary that led her from the Persian Gulf to the Indus Valley and the region of Sindh, specifically the site of Sehwan Sharif.
On the excavation site, Sehwan Sharif
Can you describe us the steps that led you to open new sites of excavation in the Indus Valley?
In the 1970s the Persian Gulf opened up to scientific expeditions from the West, including archaeologists, iranologists and islamologists. At that time, the scientific challenge was to deepen our knowledge of commercial activities between the Arab and Iranian coast. Trade with Asia, India and China, was also a field to be studied, in particular the period from antiquity to the Islamization of the Indian subcontinent. When I did excavation in Bahrain and Oman, I was intrigued by the strong presence of a very special sort of ceramic, which is red and strongly micaceous. Following this discovery, I decided to find the export ports of this ceramic, which led me on the side of the Indus Valley.
The common thread running through your scientific route is the presence of these red glazed tiles, so you wanted to discover its origins.
Yes indeed. During a private trip in Sindh in 1987 or 1988, I was quickly fascinated by the presence of red glazed tiles in the oldest ports that we could find, that of Barbariké/Daybul now called Banbhore. We dated it between 400-300 BC and 950-1000 AD.
Is it there that you opened the first excavation site of the MAFS?
No, not at all. In fact, after negotiations between France and the Government of Sindh for the opening of an archaeological excavation site, an agreement was reached and the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs was ready to finance the project. But in 1989, when we arrived in Pakistan to begin the excavation, the new Director of Antiquities in Karachi did not agree that we work in Banbhore, ostensibly for security reasons. We finally started our excavation work at Ratto Kot (see map), an outpost of Banbhore located fifteen kilometers downstream. Between 1989 and 1995, the MAFS was principally interested in this outpost and then in a second port, the Juna Shah Bandar or Lahori Bandar, mentioned in written sources from the 10th century. During this mission, six ports were discovered in the lower Indus Valley, but only some of them were excavated.
What have you learned from this first campaign of the MAFS?
The excavation of these two ports has helped us to highlight the mechanism with which ships were cleared for entry into Sindh. Such a device was also described by a source dating from the 16th century. But this system met its match when faced with more important invaders, for instance the Arab armies who conquered Daybul and Sindh in 711 or the Portuguese invasions of the 16th century. Having no reference study, we had problems dating the ancient and medieval ceramics. So we had to find a new site in order to have a stratigraphic reference, necessary for the calibration and timing of our samples found in the Indus Valley. After an initial refusal by the authorities (1994) to open an excavation site in the city of Hyderabad, again for security problems, we obtained the necessary permits for the site of Sehwan Sharif.
Why did you particularly choose the site of Sehwan Sharif?
Firstly, this city, which had suffered the invasion of Alexander in 325 BC and of British troops in the 1840s, had the advantage of having a tell overlooking the city and separated from it by a ditch. The site had never been excavated and archaeological layers were clearly visible. The first sounding, from the top of the tell up to the initial layer, that is more than twenty meters sounding, delivered vital information. Seven phases of cultural occupation of the city were made clear and were easily interpretable, from the 4th century BC until the 16th century AD. Finally, we were able to draw up the necessary stratigraphic reference for dating the sites discovered in the Indus delta. This has also delivered a number of clues allowing a better understanding of the history of the city and the region. For instance, we found confirmed that in the 13th century, when the city fell under the thumb of the Delhi Sultans, the tell became essentially a garrison and local people occupied the southern part of the fortress. The stratigraphic reference from Sehwan Sharif between 1996 and 2002 allowed us to put forward many other hypothesis for historical research. The opening of another site in the town of Sehwan itself would have enabled us to look for signs of more ancient urbanization.
More on Monik Kervran
Monique Kervran (2005), “Pakistan. Mission Archéologique Française au Sud-Sind”, Archéologies. 20 ans de recherches françaises dans le monde, MAE, Maisonneuve et Larose/ADPF-ERC, pp. 595-598.
Monique Kervran (1996), “Le port multiple des bouches de l’Indus: Barbariké, Dêb, Daybul, Lâhorî Bandar, Diul Sinde”, Res Orientales, VIII, pp. 45-92.
Monique Kervran (1993) “Vanishing medieval cities of the northwest Indus delta”, Pakistan Archaeology, 28, pp. 3-54.
Monique Kervran (1992), “The fortress of Ratto Kot at the mouth of the Banbhore River (Indus delta, Sindh, Pakistan)”, Pakistan Archaeology, 27, pp. 143-170.