Thatta City in the Barmati Panth Tradition
By: Mohan Devraj Thontya (Karachi).
Owing to its historical and architectural beauty, the city of Thatta has earned distinct place in the history of Sindh particularly between 12th Century A.D. and up to 18th century A.D. Thatta had hundreds of academic and learning centres around the city. Every corner of this ancient city represents its splendour past, which can now be seen in the beautiful architectural buildings called Māriyuń, tombs and shrines of the great saints, sufis, dervishes of high status, some of them anonymous but most of them are well-known in the history. Nonetheless, due to its historicity and provenance, this archaeological wonder piece has attended the full reception in the eyes of the tourists and researchers of the world. Some forgotten traditions and events were once deeply connected to the Lower Sindh of which Thatta was a centre of all activities and the royal city particularly during the Samma rule. This article will contribute some revealing features about Thatta district, its history and traditions in the context of Barmati Panth – a new religious faith which was started by Shree Dhaņi Māţańg Dev in the 12th century A.D. and which itself has marvellous history of Sindh, and its neighbouring areas like Kutchh and Saurshtra.
Thatta – the ancient city
Thatta is located in the Southern Sindh and remains an important part of the Indus Delta. Thatta district has three main Talukas, Sujawal, Ghorabari, and Jati, further subdivided into Tappas. The antiquity of the city can be attested from the fact that a big part of the Sindh’s history is attached with its most famous Sindhi royal dynasties who had ruled Sindh from this historical city with pride and pomp. Another more significant part of the Thatta city is Makli hill which is the final abode of the kings, rulers, soldiers, saints, and dervishes.
It was the time when Thatta was on the zenith of cultural, literary and economic progress but later it gradually decayed and lost its glory after 18th century A.D. Reverty in his Mihran of Sind says that Thatta was founded by Jam Tamachi1 but some other record mentions that it was founded by the Samma ruler Jam Bambhniya2 in the Fourteenth century A.D. and made it a capital city which remained the royal seat till the 15th century A. D. Jam Lakho Ghuraro, was the founder of Samma dynasty who is said to have ruled Lower Sindh and Kutchh simultaneously from the capital named Pat Nagar as informed by Karani3 while he mentions about the origin about the Sammas. It can be thought that Pat Nagar meaning ‘Royal City’ in Sanskrit language was the ancient name of Thatta. Another Kutchhi author Mehta Madhavaram mentions that a local Samma ruler Lakhiar of Kutchh had won victory over Sammai Nagar and handed over to his son Lakho Ghuraro who died in the age of 108 years.4 Makli Namah also agree on this point but mentions capital as Samoi5, a part of Thatta. Barmati Panth traditions tells that Lakho Ghuraro (Dhuraro?) dwelt in the time of Shree Dhani Matang Dev, who helped him in establishing Samma rule in Sindh.6 Some Ginans furnishes further information that the Samma rulers and the Barmati Panth spiritual gurus had had good relationship as the Samma rulers showed reverence and devotion towards them. Owing to the internal rifts the Samma rule ended and had been replaced by the several other dynasties till the end of local rule.
The past glory of Thatta is mainly owed to the Sammas but history shows that the city existed even before 13th century A.D. Before Sammas, an important dynasty the Sumras (1010-1351 A.D.) had temporarily made Kalan Kot as their capital near Makli area in Thatta7 after the ‘fall of Tharrai, Muhammad Tur (Mahatam Tur) and Shah kaPur.’8 It was the same Tharai town where the traces of Barmati history are also found as evidently the Shrine of Lurang Dev, the Second spiritual guide of Maheshvari Meghwar Barmati Panth followers is located at the proper site of Tharai and is visited by the devotees every year, thus it is said: ‘Tharai Lurang Jot Karam’9. The city of Thatta might still have not acquired its existing name as yet before the Sammas further developed Thatta to the great extent that its fame spread far and wide.
Since the time of the Samma rule, Thatta is known as Sammai Nagar. The city is locally known by other name also such as, Nangar Thatho10 (this is commonly called by Maheshvari Meghwars) or Thatto Nangar. In the name, Sammai Nangar, Nagar is Sanskrit origin word meaning ‘the City’. No doubt, Thatta was a developed and prosperous city during the rule of Sammas and even later, therefore it earned the status of a capital city. In Barmati Ginans, the name for this city is given as Sammai Nagar11 which clearly shows that in the time of Mamai Dev (14th/15th century A.D.) Thatta was known as Sammai Nagar. The word Sammai is derived from the royal dynasty Samma therefore the word Sammai in the Sindhi dialect can be meant as ‘of Sammas’, so the name Sammai Nagar means ‘the City of Sammas’ representing the fact that the Samma rulers built and made Thatta as their capital. Another name Samoi is also related to the Thatta city, sometimes considered synonymous to the word Sammai and sometimes to the word Mamoi12. In the first case, i.e., Sammai, we may once again assert on the point that Samoi might have been abrogated from Sammai; while in another case, i.e. Mamoi, it seems to be a derivation from the same root. Here let me say that the word Mamoi recalls to Mamai, who was nonetheless, Shree Mamai Dev, the 15th century A.D. charismatic personality of Sindh. In the Sindhi folk poetry, the ‘Seven Mamoi Fakirs’13 are known due to the enlightened prophecies. In my research article, Mamoi Fakiran ji Haqiqat14, Kalachi, published under the Shah Latif Bhittai Chair, University of Karachi In which I have tried to prove that those were not Seven Mamoi Fakirs but there was only one who is known, among the Maheshvari Meghwars the followers of Barmati Panth as Shree Mamai Dev. As above it has been said that the Ginanic traditions of Barmati Panth tell us that the ruler of Thatta, named Bambhniya who had developed some differences with Shree Mamai Dev and killed Shree Mamai Dev to prevent him to preach the faith of Barmati Panth among the lowcaste Meghwar Maheshvaris.15 There is a famous event that Mamai Dev took his severed head in his own hands and walked through the streets of Thatta and revealed the Enlightened Predictions about Sindh, Kutchh, and other parts of India in particular and the whole World in general. The fabulous prophecies of Shree Mamai Dev have recently attracted the attention into the learned circles of the scholars who have shown keen interest into Mamai Dev’s Enlightened Predictions. Such a verse from the Ginan Mamai Dev ji Agam Vani16 mentions the old name of Thatta beside it clearly attributing the city to the Samma rule.
Maesri na roja Sindh mein, Puran praya beya adaiyja ghar,
Nagar Sammai jaghro theendho, vari uddhi khe,
Mamai bhane Maesriya, kapaba putar pe.
O Maheshrwaris! Do not live in Sindh, beyond the Puran build your new houses.
In Nagar Sammai there will be fight, storms of dust will shatter,
Mamai warns Maheshvariyas, the son and the father both will be slayed.
A similar bet of Shree Mamai Dev is found in a book on Thatta, which goes as follow:
Matan vihja Maruha, Nagar ji adhar
Puran parar navan ma adija nijhra17
Settle ye not oh people, becoming dependent on the Nagar
Build ye not thy homes on the other (western) side of the Puran18
It is worth to be noted that the actual royal seat of the Sammas was located at the particular area in Thatta which is now known as Samoi Goth or Samoi jo Goth. That place Samoi or Samoi Goth is located into the northern direction of Makli, where some historical shrines, for instance, Sat Satiyen jo Mazar19 (the Graves of the Seven Ladies), the shrines of Sheikh Jhande Patani and Mulla Abdulrehman Luttar (famously known as Mulla Luttar20 who is said to have lived in the time of Mamai Dev according to the Barmati Panth traditions which call him Luttar Mullu exists besides some others. Between the Samoi Goth and the Makli Hill, there is an elegant structure of shrine of Shree Mamai Dev. The affairs of the shrine are run by the Maheshvari Meghwar Barmati Panth community, who come to visit to perform religious rite yatra (pilgrimage).
Thatta was continued to be ruled by the Arghun dynasty (1520-1552 A.D.)21 since an Afghan warlord Shah Beg Arghun defeated Jam Feroz and brought an end to the Samma rule with the help of his cousin Jam Salahuddin.22 After 40 years, Mirza Issa Khan Tarkhan looted and burnt city of Thatta, and massacred the populance hauling gold worth rupees two crores in A.D. 1554.23 Tarkhans dynasty existed till A.D 1621.24 For a short span of time, Thatta came under the control of Mughal empire, which left its traces in architectural buildings at the city. Mirza Jani Beg Tarkhan handed over the rein of Sindh to the Mughal emperor Akbar, who had been appointed the Mughal Nawabs in Thatta and stayed there up to A.D. 1736.25 During that period Mughal emperor Shahjahan, the then governor built Shahjahani Mosque in Thatta. After them, Kalhoras (1700-1783 A.D.) and Talpurs (1783-1843 A.D.)26 gained power in all over Sindh. The last Ghulam Shah Kalhora is known for his adventures in Kutchh. The local rule culminated by the arrival of the British who won victory over Sindh in A.D. 1843.27 The rest is the history with which we are accustomed to know.
Makli Graveyard —-The Famous Necropolis.
In the time of the Sammas, Makli Hill was mere an outskirt area of the main city but its serene atmosphere inspired the rulers to make the hill as their final abode. If we come from Karachi, Makli Town occupies the two significant historical sites; on the left, the Makli royal graveyard while on the right side an ancient temple of Kalka Mata is located. The Hill of Makli was previously considered a mountainous branch of Harhe and Pubb but new researches have revealed that it is a far-off branch of Kheer Thar mountain range.28 Since, it is geographically connected with Thatta so the antiquity and environment of both the areas go hand in hand. On the Makli hill, the tombs of the rulers of the Samma, the Arghun, and Tarkhan dynasties are scattering here and there, also the famous generals, saints and poets are also buried there. The Sind Gazetteer mentions that the Makli Monuments are standing on the Rock with a graceful length of ten miles and elevation varying from 80 to 150 feet, while the ancient temple of Kalka Devi is built into a cave on the right side of the Road and in the same range of the Makli Rock.29 Due to its veracity and significance with respect to archaeology and history, Makli has been put on the World Heritage List by the cultural body UNESCO of the United Nations Organization.
The work of calligraphy on the Makli grave stones presents unique style and design which can hardly be found in any other corner in Sindh. The pride of Makli is not just for owning to the royal occupation but the tombs of the holy saints and dervishes of the same eras are also erected. Whole the year the crowds of devotees visit to pay homage to these sacred personalities. Makli is often called an abode of Sawa Lakh Oliya30. In one of the Ginanic traditions of Barmati Panth, these Sawa Lakh Oliya have been praised in Omaro.31 That is why the graveyard is equally supposed to be sacred sepulcher as well as the royal necropolis.
The etymology of the name Makli has remained perplexing as several scholars have put forwarded some theories in order to explain the origin of its name. So, the question arises in our mind that how the Makli got its name and became so popular among common folk? Some stories are revolving in this regard, for example, there is a grave of certain female saint known as Mai Makli32 due to which the whole area became known by this name. A similar tradition runs among the Maheshvari Meghwar Barmati followers who consider that Samma ruler Jam Bambhniya’s mother’s name was Makli bai33 but it is neither attested from any record of history nor the Ginans of Mamai Dev whose sacred compositions are considered as a reliable source for the Barmati history. Some other traditions are also running for example, Makli Namah tells a oral tradition that the famous hill earned the name from ‘Makkah li’.34 Now it seems that the name Makli got its name from the ancient historical temple of Kalka Devi. To my own opinion and as the related traditions follow the fact, it appears that the name Makli was derivative of Ma Kali – ‘The Mother goddess Kali’ an enchanted sacred formula repeated by the ascetics and the pilgrims who came up the shrine for devotion. This ancient temple of Mata Kalka Devi also known as the temple of Mata Singh Bhavani under a story who took the incarnation as Mata Singh Bhavani for the killing of a demon Mahishasura.35 The local Hindus believe that this temple exists from the time immemorial as several yugas have passed nevertheless its antiquity is proven by its location and the peculiar structure built into a cave. Ali Sher Qan’e has used the name ‘Kalkan’ for the goddess36, with an excessive letter ‘n’. The Hindu, Bheel, Kohli including Maheshvari Meghwar worship the goddess as a guardian deity. Thatta has many other Hindu religious sites, Sahsa Linga Talao and Kala(n?) Kot and the Sant Baba Srichand ashram etc.
In this article we have studied that some forgotten traditions those are scattering in the Lower Sindh are directly connected to the old city of Thatta – the city, otherwise known as Sammai Nagar, is nevertheless, significant to the point of Barmati Panth history, culture and literature. The only need is to fill the gaps of missing links in order to complete the either history of Sindh or Barmati Panth.
- Reverty, H.G. (1979). Mihran of Sind & its tributaries. Lahore. Sang-e-Meel Publications. Originally printed in 1892 at Calcutta.
- Qan’e, Mir Sher Ali. (1967). Makli Namah translated by Syed Hassamuddin Rashdi from Persian into Sindhi. Hyderabad. Sindhi Adabi Board. p.78.
- Karani, Dulerai L. (1968). Cutch Na Kaladharo i.e. Chandra Vansh Charitra, by Dulerai L. Karani. Printed at Bahadur Sinhji Printing Press, Palitana. 1934.
- Mehta, Madhavji Shivram. (1978). Kutchh na Karnadhara Vol.I. Bhuj-Kutchh. Kamlesh Prakashan, p.8-9.
- Qan’e. ibid. p.78.
- Baghvant, Malsi Ladha. (1991). Matang Puran ane Meghwar samaj ni utpati. (Matang Puran and Origins of Meghwar society). Kutchh. Printed by Jatashankar Baghvant.
- Qan’e. ibid. p.678.
- Panhwar, M.H. (2003). An Historical Atlas of Soomra Dynasty (1011-1351 A.D). Karachi. All Soomra Council-Pakistan. p.51.
- Unpublished MS. Unpublished Manuscript. Shree Mamai Dev. Ginan: Chhutka Ved. Four verses. 14th century A.D. Originally written in Shastri Bhasha. Copied by Bhanji Matang in Gujarati script under the same title of the Ginan. 1958. Note Book No3. The Ginans of Shree Mamai Dev. Personal collection.
- Qan’e. ibid. pp.8, 40, & 94.
- Unpublished Manuscript. Shree Mamai Dev. Ginan: Mamai Dev sir diyen viyo Sammai Nangar mein. 8 verses. 14th century A.D. Originally written in Shastri Bhasha. Copied by Kheraj Velji Thontya in Gujarati script under the same title of the Ginan. 1958. Note Book No.1. The Ginans of Shree Mamai Dev. Personal collection.
- Burton, R. F. (1851). Scinde, The Unhappy Valley, Vols.-I&II. New Berlington Street, London: Bradbury and Evans Printers. p.158.
- Burton. ibid. p.158.
- Thontya, Mohan Devraj. Mamoi Fakiran Ji Haqiqat. (Sindhi). In Kalachi. Vol-IV. December 1999. pp.55-66. published by Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai Chair, University of Karachi, Karachi.
- Thontya, Mohan Devraj. History of Barmati Panth (draft book) unpublished.
- Versingh R. Lalan. (n.d.) Pujya Shree Matai Dev Tapobhumi Yatradham Smriti Ank. Bhuj-Kutchh. Akhil Gujarat Matai Dev Tapobhumi Yatradham Trust Kutchh. p.13.
- Dani, A. H. (1982). Thatta – The Islamic Architecture. Islamabad: Institute of Islamic History Culture & Civilization, notes, p.202.
- Dani. ibid. append. p.198.
- Makli Namah. ibid. p.79.
- Makli Namah. ibid. p.699.
- Shaikh, M. Sumar. 2006. Kutchh Jo Rann-Tareekh ji roshni mein (Desert of Kutchh-in the light of history), Hyderabad. Sindhi Adabi Board. p.126.
- Shaikh. ibid. pp.126-7-8.
- Panhwar, M. H. (1980). Sind Cutch Relations. Sind Archives Lecture-Series-History of Sind. Karachi. Sind Archives.
- Shaikh. ibid. p.131.
- ibid. p.133.
- ibid. p.137.
- ibid. p.137.
- Qan’e. ibid. section: Makli. p.1.
- Hughes. (1996). Sind Gazetteer. Karachi. Indus Publishers. p.3.
- Qan’e. ibid. section: Makli. p.3.
- Unpublished Manuscript. Ginan: Omaro. 99 verses. 14th century A.D. Copied by Versi R. Lalan in Gujarati script under the same title of the Ginan. 1958. Note Book No.8. The Ginans of Shree Mamai Dev. Personal collection.
- Qan’e. ibid. p.85. cf. Tohfatul Kiram. pp.184-185.
- Baghvant. ibid. p.316.
- Qan’e. ibid. section: Makli. p.4.
- This local tradition was told by the priest of the temple.
- Qan’e. ibid. p.29, 458.