Revival of Secular Traditions of Sindhi Culture
By Dr. Baldev B. Matlani
Our society is based on human relationships. These are the relations which keep the spirit of our social life intact. With the evolution of our society, the basis of our joint relations have also reformed and evolved. The results of such social evolution also encompass integration as well as reformation of human relationships. Those relationships which are decided by nature, are termed as blood relations; while other relationships are decided by our society, as per its own priorities.
Culture is an amalgamation of finer social, moral, mental, artistic and industrial elements of any group, association, community or a nation. It reflects the complete life of people. Culture contains description of people’s rites and rituals, day-to-day living, trends, traditions, beliefs, myths and aspirations. Sindh and its cultural history is very old. It was ruled by Iranians, Greeks, Scythians and others, before the advent of Islam, which had profound impact on Sindhi culture. Sindh has always remained a cradle of cultures, right from the dawn of civilization, where people of different socio-cultural background migrated and settled down and accepting it as their abode enriched Sindhis’ culture, civilization as well as language.
Aryans entered the Indus valley approximately 1500 B.C. About 500 B.C., Sindh was annexed to the Persian empire by Darius Hystaspes. Alexander the Great, passed through the country in 325 B.C. After his death, Sindh fell to the Maurya. In the 2nd century B.C., the Parthians annexed it once more to Iran. They were followed by the Scythians, and then by other invaders of Central Asia. The last group in this sequence of dynasties was the Rai dynasty, which was overthrown by Chach, in the mid 7th century. During the reign of Chach’s son, Dahir, a Muslim Arab, named Mohd. Bin Qasim, conquered Sindh, and was welcomed by the remnants of the Budhist population known as the ‘Chachnama’ states.
From the 10th century to the beginning of the 16th century, Sindh continuously remained under the rule of Soomras and Sammas. On 11th Moharam, in the year of 1520 A.D., Arghun forces entered Thatta and looted, plundered, killed and terrorized the local inhabitants, until 20th of the same month. This way Arghuns, as well as their cousins Turkhans carried on with their act of plunder and loot of their co-religionists of Sindh, until it was brought under the direct rule of Mughals of Delhi, in 1591 A.D.
Thereafter Mughal rule lasted until 1679 A.D., then came the Kalhoras to rule Sindh. They too, divided Sindh into pieces and ruled it mercilessly. 1783 A.D. saw Talpurs gaining control of Sindh. Though good natured, they too were partisan towards Muslims. Even a minor mistake, on the part of a Hindu would result in his forcible conversion to Islam and subsequent circumcision.
Different eras heaped different injustices and cruelties, in the name of religion, on the innocent Sindhi population. Be it the maltreatment of Sindhi Hindus or assassination of Shah Inayat Shahid by deception during the period of Kalhoras. Religion has always dominated the history of Sindhi society. Every religion has treated Sindhi society through the glasses of a victor. All of them, whether Aryans or Iranis, Greeks or Arabs, including the Guptas, believers of non-violent Budhism, introduced their religion through victorious perspective. It was just around a century of British rule that did not impose religion to perpetuate political and civilizational superiority. Rather the British introduced the Sindhis to religious freedom which was later on termed as ‘Secularism’.
Basically a common Sindhi person has always remained a flag bearer of Love. Dr. H.T. Sorley has also written in his book ‘Shah Abdul Latif of Bhit’, that Sindhis didn’t exhibit any military expertise. This area has not produced any victor worth mention in history. Sindhis were hardworking and peace loving, but remained entangled with their local problems and their life revolved around ploughing their agricultural lands and sustenance.
Such an opinion from Sorley has clearly indicated the basic nature of a Sindhi person and their humanism. They never usurp others’ rights and are content with whatever little they have. Tassawuf has always remained a basic tenet of their life. Every classical piece of Sindhi literature revolves around Tassawuf. Shah Abdul Karim Bulriwaro, Qazi Qadan, Khwaja Mohd. Zaman of Lunwari Sharif, Shah Inayat Sufi, Shah Abdul Latif, Sachal Saeen, Sami, Rohal, Dalpat and many more poets have propounded different aspects of Mysticism and Tassawuf.
In Sindh, the two faiths, i.e. Islam and Hinduism are found mixed up in an unusual way. The Hindu will often become the Murid (disciple) of a Muslim Pir, or vice-versa. So too, the same Pirs buried in different parts of the country, are not only respected by individuals of both the religions, but Hindus will have one name for each, and Muslims another. Thus, the former venerate the river god, as ‘Zindah Pir’, and the later call him ‘Khwaja Khizr’, Lalu Jasraj is converted into ‘Mangho Pir’ and Lal Shahbaz Qalandar is offered prayers by Hindus as Raja Bhartari. The Sindhis, whether Hindus or Muslims, broadly follow the doctrine of Sufism. None adheres to a strict version of his own religion. Both are most tolerant, compared to the other communities of Indian sub-continent. From the perspective of Devbandi school of thought Muslims or Wahabis, Sindhi Muslims would not fit the definition of a strict Muslim. Likewise Sindhi Hindus would not toe the path of a strict Hindu, as they are least inclined to idol worship and follow the edicts of Sikhism, pray before the holy ‘Granth Sahib’ and regard it as their eleventh and living Guru. ‘Guru Granth Sahib’ is full of couplets from Muslim mystics, like; Khwaja Ghulam Farid, Baba Bule Shah and Kabir etc. Baba Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikh religion, was always accompanied by two persons; a Hindu named Balo; and a Muslim named Mardano. Interestingly enough, so was the case with our own poet Hazrat Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, whom a Hindu named Madan used to accompany.
Saeen Ghulam Murtaza Sayyed, popularly known as G. M. Sayyed, was instrumental in the passing of the resolution in 1944, for the inclusion of the province of Sindh into Pakistan. Subsequent events forced him to offer remorse for his earlier action. The steps taken by various central governments of Pakistan cemented G.M. Sayyed’s worst fears and verbal assurances from different governments of Pakistan, to allay the fears of aborigines (Sindhi Muslims) couldn’t assuage their hurt feelings. Even today, Sindhis are deprived of the basic requirement of water to sustain life. To add insult to injury, Sindhis are being threatened with the construction of ‘Kala Bagh Dam’ and ‘Greater Thal Canal’, to snatch away whatever little is left for them. These types of instances have led to the revival of their longing for their erstwhile brothers, Sindhi Hindus, though not related to them through common blood or common religion.
The independence of India coupled with its partition, saw nearly every part of it going up in flames. Blood thirsty groups of Muslims as well as Hindus bayed for the blood of each other. Punjab saw the worst ever communal riots in the wake of creation of Pakistan, but the province of Sindh was the sole oasis of peace, in the otherwise arid land of undivided India. Sindhi Hindus didn’t migrate to India, due to the province being included into Islamic Republic of Pakistan, but the engineered communal riots by migrant Muslims, forced Sindhi-Hindus to seek refuge in alien lands of India. Even then they hoped that the moment religious frenzy subsides they would be able to come back. This belief led many Sindhi-Hindus to handover their immovable properties to Sindhi-Muslims, so that they could reclaim them, once they returned. But the powers to be of Pakistan didn’t permit any such lofty ideas. These immovable properties were snatched from the possession of Sindhi-Muslims and handed over free of cost to Indian immigrant Muslims against provision of a simple affidavit.
Even now, the generation, that lived just for a short period in Sindh, and is presently living in different parts of India, longs to have a darshan of their motherland. At least once, in their lifetime.