Volume - 4 : Issue - 4

Published : Oct. - Dec. 2005

Group : Language


Back to the List

History of Sindhi Language

Forwarded by Jagu Lalwani

Sindhi is one of the oldest languages of the sub-continent, with a rich culture, vast folklore and extensive literature and is one of the major languages of Pakistan, spoken in the province of Sindh by approximately twenty million people. Sindhi has extended its presence beyond the geographical boundaries of the province of Sindh. In Northern Sindh it flows over the north-west into Balochistan province; to the North and North-west into the Punjab and the former Bhawalpur State; on the West it is bounded by the mountain range separating Sindh from Balochistan. This boundary has not been crossed, except in the Southern part of the hilly area of Kohistan. Here in general, the language spoken is Balochi but Sindhi is also spoken by a good number of the population in the former Lasbella State, now a part of Balochistan Province. It has spread its influence still further towards the Persian Gulf in the Markran area of Balochistan and is spoken as a first language amongst Balochi (Markrani) by a large number of people in Jadgal, Guwadar, Ormara and Pasni, and having crossed the Gulf is spoken in Muskat, Abu Dhabi and generally in the coastal region. In the east and southeast, Sindhi has crossed the Rann of Kutch and is spoken by a large number of people in Kutch, Gujarat and the peninsula of Kathiawar and Saurashtra in India. In the east, it has influenced the speech of the neighbouring part of former Marwar and Jaisalmir states of Rajputana in India.

After the partition of India, numerous Sindhi Hindus migrated from Sindh and settled in Central, Western and Northern parts of India. Sindhi is not only spoken in the Indo-Pakistan sub- continent but is also spoken by approximately 4,00,000 peoples, as  their first language, in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Congo, South Africa, Madagascar, East Africa & in U.K. U.S.A., and Canada by those who have migrated to U.K., U.S.A., and Canada from Uganda and other countries of the world. It is also spoken in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Srilanka, and in some other countries in the Far-East and South-East-Asia by some traders who settled there in the first quarter of the nineteenth century or even earlier.

Origin and ancestry of Sindhi language:

There are five different opinions about the origin and ancestry of the Sindhi language. The first believes that Sindhi is derived from Sanskrit through Varchada Apabhransha. Dr. Ernest Trumpp was the pioneer of this theory, although he seemed to be doubtful later. He states: “Sindhi has remained steady in the first stage of decomposition after the old Prakrit, where as all other cognate dialects have sunk some degrees deeper. The rules which the Prakrit grammarian Kramdishvara has laid down in reference to the Apahransha are still recognizable in present Sindhi, which by no means can be stated of the other dialects. Sindhi has thus become an independent language, which, though sharing a common origin with its sister tongues is materially very different from them.”Dr.Trump’s theory was first challenged by Dr. N.A. Baloch and then by Mr. Sirajul Haque Memon. Dr. Baloch states:”Sindhi is ancient Indo-Aryan language, probably having its origin in a pre- Sanskrit Indo-Aryan Indus-Valley language. The Lahnda and Kashmiri appear to be its cognate sister with a common Dardic element in them all”. Mr. Sirajul Haque Memon does not agree either with Dr. Trumpp or with Dr. N.A.Baloch. “Sindhi is one of the Dravidian language, and has its roots in the civilization of Mohen-jo-Daro.” The excavations of Mohen-jo-Daro have opened a new chapter for the study of the origin and ancestry of Sindhi language. It has been agreed upon by all the scholars, archaeologists, historians and anthropologists that Indus Valley was occupied by a Non-Aryan (Dravidian) people before the Aryan settlement in the Indus Valley.

They had a very rich culture and a language of their own. The Scandinavian scholars, having tried to decipher the script of Mohen- jo-Daro seals, consider it a proto-Dravidian language, and state:”The language (that of Mohen-jo-Daro) is an early form of Dravidian, called by us proto-Dravidian’. It appears to be very close to the south-Dravidian, especially Tamil, and decidedly younger than the parent language of all Dravidian tongues.” After deep study of Sindhi phonetics, phonology, morphology and syntax, the peculiarities of non-Aryan origin have been observed in Sindhi, and these non-Aryan peculiarities are similar to those of Dravidian languages. It can, therefore, be said that Sindhi has retained the characteristics of indigenous tongue which was in use in ancient Sindh before Aryan settlement in the area. The name of that language was perhaps ‘Saindui’.This theory finds support in Dr. Trumpp’s book, “A grammar of Sindhi language”, in which he wrote:”We shall on the other hand be able to trace out a certain residuum of vocables, which we must allot to an old aboriginal language, of which neither name nor extent is now known to us. But which, in all probability was of the Tatar Stock of languages and spread through-out the length and breadth of India before the advent of the Aryan race, as all other vernaculars contain a similar non-Aryan residuum of words, which have been already designed as ‘provincial’ by the old prakrit grammarians.” The report of of the Scandinavian, American & Russian scholars have greatly helped the scholars of linguistics in the study of the structure of Sindhi language. Their reports also assist the scholars in establishing that Sindhi is a non-Aryan & pre-Aryan language, having its roots in the civilization of Mohen-jo-Daro, and the dialects of Dravidian languages. It has been found that phonetically, phonologically, morphologically and syntactically, Sindhi and Dravidian languages are very close to each other, and have a lot of similarities. Many examples in this regard can be given. This is, however, a subject still under research and for final conclusion by the scholars.

After Aryans had occupied the Indus Valley, their culture, language and religion came into contact with the culture, language and religion of the Indus Valley people, and the amalgam produced a fine blend of culture and language for the people of Sindh. Many phonetic sounds, phonemes, morphemes, words and phrases were borrowed by the Aryans from the rich language of the people of Mohen-jo-Daro and vice versa. During the long period of history, Sindhi language has absorbed influence of the old Iranian language during Achamenian and Sassanian rule. This influence was followed by Prakrit and Pali during Buddhist and Brahman period.

After the Arab conquest in eighth century A.D., Sindhi borrowed plenty of words from the Arabic language, which became the official as well as the religious language of Sindh for nearly three hundred years. Thus during this long period of history, Sindhi borrowed thousands of word and phrases from Persian language. But the existence of words and phrases of the borrowed stock did not or could not influence much the indigenous structure (phonological, morphological and syntactical) of Sindhi. It has thus retained the peculiarities of indigenous language even today, and draws attention of scholars to its origin and ancestry.


Sindhi is now written in Arabic Naskh Script, formally adopted by the British in 1853. Sindhi is also written in Devanagari script in some parts in India. Before the adoption of the present script, Sindhi was written in a number of different but cognate scripts derived from Devanagari. Historically the first written from of any language in Sindhi is off course the Indus Script, presently being deciphered by different scholars all over the world. In the Arab period, we hear from Ibn Nadeem and Alberuni, that Sindhi was written in ‘many’ scripts. The earliest evidence of the proto-Devanagari script has been excavated from Bhambhore and Brahmanabad. Only a few Sindhi words are extant on pieces of broken pottery found in these mounds. Later we are told by Sir Grierson in his “Linguistic Survey of India” Vol: VIII, that Sindhi was at a more recent time written in more than eight different scripts namely Thatta, Khudavadi, Luhanki, Khojki, Devanagari, Gurmukhi and Hattai etc. Sir Grierson has given specimens of all such scripts. To achieve universality in writing for spreading education and in view of the majority of the population being Muslims having an acquaintance with it the Arabic Naskh script was adopted with slight modifications of letters to suit typical Sindhi sounds, not found in most other languages of the world.


Sindhi language is not only very old but it is also very rich in literature. It is a living and thriving language. Its writers have contributed extensively in every field. It has never lagged behind any developed language of the subcontinent in the field of literature. The earliest reference to Sindhi literature is contained in the writings of Arab historians. It is established that Sindhi was the first and the earliest language of the East in which the Holy Quran was translated in the eighth or ninth century A.D. There is evidence of Sindhi poets reciting their verses before the Arab Caliphs at Baghdad. It is also recorded that treatises were written in Sindhi on astronomy, medicine and history during the eighth and ninth centuries. Short ly afterwards, Pir Nooruddin, an Ismaili Missionary, wrote Sufistic poetry in the Sindhi language. His verses, known as “ginans”, can be taken as the specimen of early Sindhi poetry. He came to Sindh during the year 1079 A.D. His poetry is an interesting record of the language which was spoken commonly at that time. He was a sufi and a preacher of Islam. His verses are, therefore, full of mysticism and religion.

After him, Pir Shams Sabzwari Multani, Pir Shahabuddin and Pir Sadruddin are recognized as poets of Sindhi language. We even find some verses composed by Baba Farid Ganj Shakar, in Sindhi language. Pir Sadruddin (1290-1409 A.D. ), was a great poet, saint and sufi of his time. He composed his verses (ginans) in Lari and Katchi dialects of Sindhi. He also composed the “ginans” in Punjabi, Seraiki, Hindi and Gujrati languages. He modified the old script of Sindhi language, which was commonly used by the luhana catse of Hindus of Sindh who embraced Islam under his teaching and were called by him ‘Khuwajas’ or ‘Khojas’. During the same period and afterwards in the days of Arghuns, Tarkhans, Mughal governors (1521-1700 A.D.), Sindh produced may scholars and poets of Sindhi, Arabic and Persian languages. Qazi Qadan, Shah Karim of Bhulri, Shah Lutufullah Qadri, Shah Inyat Sufi Nasarpoori, Mir Masoom Shah, Makhdoom Nooh of Hala, lakho lutufullah, Mahamati Pirannath and many other are the renowned literary personalities of this period.Bhagu Bhan, Sumang Charan, Shah Abdul Karim, Shah Inayat and many other poets of this period have enriched the language with mystic, romantic and epic poetry. Many centers of learning (Madressas) flourised during tenth to fifteenth centuries where celebrated scholars of Sindh used to teach religion, philosophy and logic. The great scholars among them who earned high reputation even in the Muslim centres of Mecca and Madina were Makhdoom Abdul Hasan, Makhdoom Ziauddin, Makhdoom Muhammad Hashim Thattavi and Makhdoom Muhammad Muin Thattvi. Their works are mostly in Arabic, Persian and Sindhi languages.

Shah Abdul Latif of Bhit (1690-1573 A.D.) is the greatest thinker and poet of all times, produced by Sindh. According to Dr. Sorely, who compared the poetry of the great poets of all major language of the world, including Greek, Latin and Arabic, in his book ‘Musa Pravaganus’, gives first place to Shah Latif on his language and thought.Shah Latif gave a new life, thought and content to the language and literature of Sindh. He traveled far and wide in the remotest corners of Sindh and saw for himself the simple and rustic people of his soil in love with life and its mysteries. He understood the ethos of the people and their deep attachment to the land, the culture, the music, the fine arts and crafts. He described Sindh and its people in the finest language human mind can conceive of, through simple folk tales, Lateef has expressed profound ideas about universal brother-hood of mankind, patriotism, war against all kinds of injustice and tyrannies, and above all the romance of human existence. He is in fact a peace maker and a catalyst for every generation and genre of Sindhi literature. He was a great musician also & he evolved fifteen new melodies (Surs). The great beauty of his poetry is that every single line or verse is sung till this day with a specific note or melody. His shadow is ever-lasting and all pervading. Sachal Sarmast, Sami and Khalifo Nabi Bux Laghari are celebrate poets of the Talpur period in Sindh (1783-1843 A.D.).

Khalifo Nabi Bux is by far the greatest epic poet of Sindh. His description of patriotic pathos and the art of war defies words. Rohal, Sami, Bedil, Bekas, Misri Shah, Hammal Faqir, Dalpat Sufi, Sabit Ali Shah,Khair Shah, Fateh Faqir and Manthar Faqir Rajar are some of the more note-worthy poets of pre & early British era. Like all languages of the sub-continent, modern literature begins with the conquest of Sindh by the British in 1843 A.D. With them came the modern world to these shores. Printing press was introduced and magazines and
newspapers brought about a revolution in Sindhi literature. Books were translated from various European languages and specially from English. People were hungry for knowledge and new forms of writing.

The pace of literature can be judged from one single instance of Mirza Qaleech Beg who in the last two decades of the last century and the first two decades of the twentieth century, wrote more than 400 books—poetry, novels, short stories & essays etc. He also wrote on science, history, economics and politics. Thousands of books indeed were turned out at that time on all forms and facets of literature.

Hakim Fateh Mohammad Sewhani, Kauromal Khilnani, Dayaram Gidumal, Parmanand Mewaram, Lalchand Amardinomal, Bheruamal Advani, Dr.Gurbuxani, Jhetmal Parsram, Sayaid Miran Mohammad Shah, Shamsuddin ‘Bulbul’ and Maulana Din Muhammad Wafai are some of the pioneers of modern literature in Sindhi language. After the first world war, the social and economic scene of the world underwent a tremendous change. The aftermath of the war and the socialist revolution of Russia affected the literature of every country. Sindhi literature too was influenced by these trends. Creating new awakening in the minds of the people working in the field of literature, they began to translate the new social consciousness into artistic forms of literature. They were now more objective and less romantists.

Progressive thoughts opened the door for new trends in Sindhi literature. Soon the struggle for freedom from the British also gathered momentum. This gave further momentum to literature.

Consciousness about history and cultural heritage of Sindh served as a catalyst for research and intellectual upsurge. Great scholars like Allama, I. I. Kazi, Dr. Daudpota, Pir Ali, Muhammad Shah Rashidi, Pir Husamuddin Shah Rashidi, Maulana Din Mohammad Wafai, Chetan Mariwala, Jairamdas Daulatram, Bherumal, Mehar Chand Advani, Muhammad Ibrahim Joyo, Tirath Wasant and many others were producing learned treatises on various aspects of history, culture and other social subjects. Mir Hasan Ali and Mir Abdul Hussain Sangi, Khalifo Gul, Fazil Shah, Kasim, Hafiz Hamid, Mohammad Hashim, Mukhlis, Abojho, Surat Singh, Khaki, Qaleech Beg, Zia & Aziz were the pioneers of poetry in the Persian meter.

But the modern form and content of Sindhi poetry were given a new impetus by ‘Bewas’, Hyder Bux Jatoi and Dukhayal. There have been innumerable poets who have composed verses in the same vein. Novel and short story became the main forms for prose. Hundreds of novel and short stories were translated from the European and modern Indian languages. The Second World War saw the emergence of novelists like Narain Das Bhambhani, Gobind ‘Malhi’ and many others. Throughout the thirties and the forties, young writers experimented with new forms of prose as well as poetry. Free verses, Sonnets & ballets have been written side by side classical forms of poetry like Kafi, Vaee, Bait, Geet and Dohira etc and it is a source of happiness to see that this has continued till date.