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Location of Thatta

Thatta (Hindi: थट्टा, Sindhi: ٺٽو, Urdu: ٹھٹہ) is a city and district in Sindh province of Pakistan. It is situated near Lake Keenjhar, the largest freshwater lake in the country.

Variants of name

Jat Gotras

Click to see Jat Gotras in Thatta


  • Thatta

Main Tribes

Soomro,Valliani, Palijo, Mirbahar/Mallah, Sabugar, Jokhio, Jatoi, Bhanbhro, Abro, Jatt, Malkani, Shoro, Brohi, Jalbani, Jakharo, Baran, Charan, Qazi, Pirzada, Kunbhar, Rehmani, Khwaja, Khatri, Khumbati, Khaskheli, Abbasi Kalhora, Khushk, Effendi, Jamali, Umrani, Chang, Jamari, Sarki, Lashari, Magsi, Manganhar, Sahito, Ghaha, Gugo, Ranto, Pathan, Katiyar, Qureshi, Solangi, Mendhro, Saman, Parhiyar .Uqaili


Necropolis at Makli, Thatta - World Heritage site

Thatta's major monuments especially its necropolis at Makli are listed among the World Heritage Sites. The Shah Jahan Mosque is also listed separately on the tentative list since 1993.

The city, formerly commanding the delta of the Indus River, was the capital of Lower Sindh from the 14th century. During the ruling period of Soomro Thatta was the capital of Sindh for 95 years. Between 1592-1739, it was governed in the name of the Mugha emperors of Delhi. In 1739 however following the Battle of Karnal the province was ceded to Nadir Shah of Persia, after which Thatta fell into neglect.

Thatta may be the site of ancient Patala,the main port on the Indus in the time of Alexander the Great. Siltation has caused the Indus to change its course many times since the days of Alexander, and the site of Patala has been subject to much conjecture. Ahmad Hasan Dani, director of the Taxila Institute of Asian Civilizations, Islamabad, concluded: “There has been a vain attempt to identify the city of Patala. If ‘Patala’ is not taken as a proper name but only refers to a city, it can be corrected to ‘Pattana’, that is, city or port city par excellence, a term applied in a later period to Thatta, which is ideally situated in the way the Greek historians describe”.[1]

The geographer Strabo (c.64 BC–c.24 AD) had said: “The Indus falls into the southern sea by two mouths, encompassing the country of Patalênê, which resembles the Delta in Egypt”.[2] He noted: “All these [nations] were conquered by Alexander, and last of all he reduced Patalênê, which the Indus forms by splitting into two branches… Patalênê contains a considerable city, Patala, which gives its name to the island”.[3] In the late second century BC Agatharchides of Cnidus recorded merchants from Patala, or as he called it, “Potana”, coming to the island of Socotra to trade with Alexandrian merchants.[4]

James Tod[5] writes that The warriors assembled under Visaladeva Chauhan against the Islam invader included the ruler of Thatta. - and the Nalbandi from Tatta and Multan. All this evinces supremacy over the Princes of this region : the Sodha, the Samma and Sumra.

Alexander Cunningham on Minnagar, Manhabari, or Thatha

Alexander Cunningham[6] writes about Minnagar, Manhabari, or Thatha:

[p.288]: The city of Thatha is situated in a low swampy valley, 3 miles from the western bank of the Indus, and 4 miles above the separation of the Bagar, or western branch, from the Sata, or main stream of the river. Littlewood remarks that " the mounds of rubbish upon which the houses are piled slightly raise its site above the level of the valley." 2 The place was visited by Captain Hamilton in A.D. 1699, who describes it 3 as situated on a spacious plain about 2 miles from the Indus. It is highly probable, therefore, that the town originally stood on the bank of the river, which has been gradually receding from it. Its name also would seem to point to the same conclusion, as thattha means a " shore or bank," so that Nagar-Thatha, which is the common name of the place, would mean the " city on the river bank." Its date is not certainly known ; but M'Murdo, who is gene-

1 ' Bombay Journal,' v. 356.

2 Journey to the Source of the Oxus,' p. 17.

3 'New Account of the East Indies,' i. 123.

[p. 289]: rally very accurate, states that it was founded in the year A.H. 900, or A.D. 1495, by Nizam-ud-din Nanda, the Jam, or ruler of Sindh.

Before his time, the chief city of Lower Sindh was Saminagar, the capital of the Samma tribe, which stood on a rising ground, 3 miles to the north-west of the site of Thatha. M'Murdo refers its foundation to the time of Ala-ud-din of Delhi, who reigned from A.H. 695-715, or A.D. 1295 to 1315.

Of a still earlier date is the great fort of Kalyan-kot, or Tughlakabad, which stands on the limestone hill, 4 miles to the south-west of Thatha. Its second name was derived from Ghazi Beg Tughlak, who was the governor of Multan and Sindh, during the latter part of Ala-ud-din' s reign, in the beginning of the fourteenth century.

The site of Thatha itself is admitted to be modern, but those of Saminagar and Kalyan-kot are said to be of great antiquity. This belief of the people is no doubt true, as the position at the head of the inferior Delta commanded the whole traffic of the river, while the hill-fort gave security. Lieut. Wood remarks1 that the site of Thatha is so advantageous for commercial purposes that it is probable that a mart has existed in its neighbourhood from the earliest times. " But," he judiciously adds, " as the apex of the Delta is not a fixed point, the site of this city must have varied as the river changed." This change of site would naturally have entailed a change of names ; and I am therefore led to believe that Thatha was the actual position of the Manhabari of the Arab geographers, and of the Minnagara of the author of the ' Periplus.'2

1 'Oxus,' p. 20. 2 See Map No. IX.

[p. 290]: Manhabari is described by all the authorities as situated on the western bank of the Indus, at 2 days' journey from Debal. Now, this is the very position of Thatha, which is on the western bank of the Indus, at 40 miles, or 2 days' journey, from Lari-bandar, which, as I will presently show, was almost certainly within a few miles of the famous city of Debal. The name of Manhabari is variously written as Mehabari, and Manjabari, for which I would suggest that we might perhaps read Mandabari, or Mandawari, the " city of the Mand” tribe, just as Saminagar was the "city of the Samma," tribe. This derivation of the name is supported by the fact that the Mand tribe have occupied Lower Sindh in great numbers from the beginning of the Christian era. Edrisi 1 describes the Mand as a numerous and brave tribe, who occupied the desert on the borders of Sindh and India, and extended their wanderings as far as Alor on the north, Mekran on the west, and Mamehel (or Umarkot) on the east. Ibn Haukal 2 records that "the Mands dwell on the banks of the Mihran, from the boundary of Multan to the sea, and in the desert between Mekran and Famhal (or Umarkot). They have many cattle-sheds and pasturages, and form a large population." Rashid-ud-din 3 locates them in Sindh at a still earlier period. According to his account, Med and Zat, two descendants of Ham, the son of Noah, were the progenitors of the people of Sindh prior to

1 Geogr., i. 163.

2 In Elliot, ' Muhammadan Historians of India,' i. 67 ; and in Gildemeister, ' De Rebus Indicis,' p. 172, where he gives Kamuhal as the eastern limit of their wanderings.

3 Reinaud, ' Fragments Arabes,' etc., p. 25.

[p. 291]: the Mahabharata. The name is variously written as Mer, Med, Mand, in all of which forms it is found even at the present day. To these I would add Mind, which is the form of the name given by Masudi. 1 I have already identified this people with the Medi and Mandrueni of the classical writers ; and as their name is found in northern India from the beginning of the Christian era downwards, and not before that time, I conclude that the Mandrueni and Iatii of the Oxus, who are coupled together by Pliny, must be the Sacae Indo-Scythians, who occupied the Panjab and Sindh, and who under the name of Mands and Zats of the early Muhammadan authors, were in full possession of the valley of the Indus towards the end of the seventh century.

To show that the various spellings of the name are but natural modes of pronunciation, I can refer to the two large maps of the Shahpur and Jhelam, districts, which have been published within the last few years by the Surveyor-General of India. In the latter the name of a village on the Jhelam, 6 miles above Jalalpur, is spelt Meriala, and in the former Mandiali. Abul Fazl calls the same place Merali, while Ferishta names it Meriala. Lastly, Wilford's surveyor, Mogal Beg, writes Mandyala, which is also the form that I received from two different persons, while in General Court's map it is spelt Mamriala.

To this people I refer the name of Minnagar, or " city of the Min," which was the capital of Lower Sindh in the second century of the Christian era. That Min was a Scythian name we know from its

1 Sir H. M. Elliot, ' Muhammadan Historians of India,' Dowson's edition, i. 57.

[p. 292]: occurrence in the list of Isidor of Xharax as one of the cities of Sakastene, or Sejistan. The appearance of the name in Sindh would alone be sufficient to suggest the presence of Scythians ; but its connection with them is placed beyond all doubt by the mention that the rulers of Minnagara were rival Parthians, who were mutually expelling each other. 1 These Parthians were Dahae Scythians from the Oxus, who gave the name of Indo-Scythia to the valley of the Indus, and whose mutual rivalry points to their identity with the rival Meds and Jats of the Muhammadan authors.

The actual position of Minnagar is unknown, and we have but few data to guide us in attempting to fix its site. As it is not found in Ptolemy, who wrote in the first half of the second century, I infer either that the new name had not then been imposed on the capital, or what is more probable, that Ptolemy has inserted only the old name. If I am right in identifying Min-nagara, or the "city of the Min," with Mand-abari, or the "place of the Mand," there can be little doubt that the great Indo-Scythian capital was at Thatha. Edrisi 2 describes Manhabar as situated on a low plain, and surrounded with gardens and running water. Captain Hamilton3 gives the same description of Thatha, which, he says, "stands in a spacious plain, and they have canals cut from the river, that bring water to the city, and some for the use of their gardens." According to the author4 of

1 Peripl. Mar. Eryth. ; in Hudson's Geogr. Vet., i. 22.

2 Geogr., i. 164.

3 ' New Account of the East Indies,' i. 123.

4 Hudson, Geogr. Vet., i. 22.

[p. 293]: the ' Periplus,' the merchant vessels anchored at the emporium of Barbarike, where the goods were un-loaded, and conveyed to the capital by the river. Just so in modern times the ships anchored at Lari- Bandar, while the merchants carried their goods to Thatha either by land or by water. The position of Minnagar is too vaguely described as " inland," 1 to be of any use in its determination. If it was, as I suppose, at Thatha, then it may perhaps be identified with Ptolemy's Sousikana, which I would interpret as Susi-gama, or the "town of the Su, tribe," an etymology which is supported by the fact that the Mands, or Meds, were a branch of the great horde of Sus, or Abars, who gave one name to Susiana, at the mouth of the Euphrates, and the other to Abiria, at the mouth of the Indus. I should mention, however, that according to M'Murdo, 2 " Minagar was one of the cities dependent on Multan in the twelfth century, and was the possession of a chief by caste an Agri, and descended from Alexander. It was situated on the Lohana Darya, not far from Bahmana, in the parganah now called Shehdadpur.” It is a suspicious ci cumstance that this passage has not been verified either by Postans or by Elliot. The latter, who constantly refers to his own MS. of the ' Tohfat-ul-Kiram,' quotes; 3 this notice of Minagar at second-hand from M'Murdo. I may add that the Agari is a well-known caste, of low degree, who are employed in the manu-

1 The words are, <greek>, which can only mean " inland and beyond" Barbarike.

2 Journ. Royal Asiat. Soc, i. 31 ; and again at p. 233, quoting the Tohfat-ul Giram.

3 ' Muhammadan Historians of India,' Dowson's edition, i. 66.

[p. 294]: facture of salt. I am therefore not inclined to admit that this petty place could have any connection with the great capital of Indo-Scythia. On the contrary, I am disposed to look upon this name of Min-nagara as meaning simply the city of Min.

Debal.-Karáchí.-Thatta.-Láhorí Bandar.

Sir H. M. Elliot[7] has provided us following details:

It is strange that the site of a port once so noted as Debal should now be left to vague conjecture; but amongst the fluctuating channels of the Sindian Delta we must rest content with mere surmises.

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Some of the various opinions entertained upon the question of its locality may be here noticed. Native authorities seem decidedly in favour of considering Thatta to represent Debal, following generally the text of Firishta.1 Mír Ma'súm ignorantly observes that Debal is Thatta and Láhorí Bandar.2 Abú-l Fazl is equally inexact, or rather more so.3 Idrísí (supra, p. 77) and the Arabian geographers having determined that Debal was six stations from the mouth of the Indus, Thatta was necessarily the only site which could be selected.

Modern authors have also for the most part inclined to Thatta, including De la Rochette and Rennell. Capt. McMurdo, while he says that Thatta is still known to the Arabs by the name of Debal alone, shows that the latter must have been a seaport.4 Sir A. Burnes says, also, that Thatta is called by the Arabs Dewal Sindy,5 and himself assigns Kalánkot as its position.6 Lieut. Burton says, we are certain that the modern Thatta occupies the ground of the ancient Dewal, as the Arabs and Persians know it by no other name,-Shál-i Debalí still being used to mean a shawl of Thatta manufacture.7

D'Anville more correctly establishes it on one of the mouths of the Indus;8 and some others, resigning Thatta, have assigned other localities to Debal. M. Reinaud inclines to the neighbourhood of Karáchí;9 and so does Elphinstone.10 Dr. Burnes says it occupied a site between Karáchí and Thatta, in which he follows Mr. Nathaniel Crow,11 one of the first of our modern enquirers in Sind, who combined much discrimination with ample opportunities of local knowledge.

But there can be no question that Debal was on, or close to, the sea-coast; with which the distant inland position of Thatta is by no means correspondent. For my own part, I entertain little doubt that Karáchí itself represents the site of Debal. The very name of

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[p.376]: Debal, or rather Dewal, "the temple," was doubtless acquired from the conspicuous position which that object must have occupied from the sea; where it was calculated to attract the gaze and reverence of the passing mariner, like its fellow shrines of Dwáraka and Somnát; and as there is no other so eligible and commanding a spot along the whole coast of Sind, from Cape Monze to Kotesar, it is highly probable that the promontory on which fort Manora now stands is the identical site occupied by the celebrated temple which gave name to the port of Debal,1 and which, as being the Palladium of its security, was the chief object of attack to the catapults which had been brought round by the sea to effect its destruction.2

The following may be mentioned amongst the reasons why Debal cannot possibly have been Thatta, and which incline us to view Karáchí with favour:-

The Sarandíp vessels were, in their distress, driven to "the shore of Debal" (p. 118).3 It could not, therefore, have been an inland town like Thatta, fifty miles from the nearest point of the sea, and one hundred miles by any of the tortuous channels of the Delta.

The pirates who attacked them were "dwellers at Debal, of the tribe which they call Tangámara." Now, these Tangámaras we know to have occupied the sea-coast from Karáchí to Láhorí Bandar, and to be the popular heroes of several local tales-especially their Ráná 'Ubaid, who lived even as late as the year 1000 A.H. (1591 A.D.).4

Biládurí also speaks of "the Bay of Debal" (p. 116), and of the ships which had been despatched from the Persian Gulf, arriving at Debal with soldiers and mangonels (p. 120). Elphinstone considers this latter fact as decisive against Thatta;5 but too much may be built on this argument, for, subsequently, we find these same mangonels carried by water even to Nairún.

Ibn Haukal says, Debal is a "large port on the shore of the sea,

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[p.377]: the emporium of this and the neighbouring regions. It lies to the west of the Mihrán,1 and has no large trees or date-palms" (p. 37). It is indeed a place of great sterility, and only occupied on account of its trade. Nothing can be more decisive against the fertile Thatta, and in favour of the barren Karáchí.

Again, from Debal to Mansúra is six stages, which, on the supposition that the latter, as elsewhere shown, is Haidarábád, would not suit Thatta in any respect, but exactly suits Karáchí.

The Marásidu-l Ittilá says Debal or Daibul, as it writes the name in Arabic fashion, is a celebrated city "on the shore of the sea of Hind, an emporium where the rivers of Lahore and Multán discharge themselves into the salt sea.2

Further quotations need not be added to show that Debal was on the sea-coast, and could not have been so far inland as Thatta, or even Láhorí Bandar, which, however, is the next most probable site after Karáchí.

Láhorí Bandar, or Lárí Bandar, succeeded Debal as the sea-port of the Indus, and is first named by Bírúní; but Debal had evidently maintained its position down to the time of Jalálu-d dín's incursion into Sind, in 1221 A.D. It will appear, afterwards, from the extracts taken from the Jahán-kusháí, that the Sultán conducted himself with the greatest severity towards the people of that port, for he plundered the country, and as he erected a mosque opposite to a Hindú temple, during his short stay there, it is evident that the place was considered then to be of sufficient consequence to be insulted in the wantonness of his fanaticism.

In Ibn Batúta's time, about a century latter (1333 A.D.), we have no mention of Debal, which seems then to have been superseded entirely by Láhorí Bandar.

Láhorí has itself been taken to be Debal. The Tuhfatu-l kirám, indeed, distinctly asserts that "what is now Bandar Láhorí was in former times called Bandar Debal:"-but its authority is not to be rated high in such matters,3 and while, confessedly, there are some

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[p.378]: points slightly in favour of its being Debal, there are others which are decisive against it. It is itself fifteen miles from the shore of the sea: it has no bay: and a passage in Bírúní is very conclusive:- where, after saying that the gulf of Túrán (the present bay of Súnmíání) lies between Tíz and Debal, he adds, that beyond the gulf of Túrán are the small and great mouths (of the Indus), the one near the town of Loharáni, the other to the east, on the borders of Kachh. The country (between them) bears the name of Sind Ságara, or the sea of Sind (pp. 49. 65).1 Loharání (Láhorí) is here mentioned as quite distinct from Debal, and was then evidently only just rising into importance, Ibn Batúta calls the place "Láhiríya" or "Láhari"2 -but it generally goes now by the name of Láhorí, probably from its presumed connection with Lahore. Its ruin and abandonment have now given a greater prominence to the port of Dhárája, which lies a little to the east of Láhorí.

The original name was most likely Lárí, being so called after Lár, the local name of the southern portion of the province of Sind.

The name of Lár had once a very great extension on these southern coasts,-for Ptolemy and the Periplus both mention Guzerát under the name of Larice;3 and Bírúní and Abú-l Fidá place Somnát, and even Tána, in or on the borders of the province of Lár (supra, p. 61).4 The merchant Sulaimán, also, calls the gulf of Cambay and the waters which wash the Malabar coast "the seas of Lár:"5 and Mas'údí says, that "at Saimúr, Subára, Tána and other towns a language called Láriya is spoken," so that, it seems not unreason¬able to suppose that Lárí Bandar was the original form under which this port was first known.6

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See also


  1. A.H. Dani and P. Bernard, “Alexander and His Successors in Central Asia”, in János Harmatta, B.N. Puri and G.F. Etemadi (editors), History of civilizations of Central Asia, Paris, UNESCO, Vol.II, 1994, p.85. Herbert Wilhelmy has pointed out that siltation had caused the Indus to change its course many times over the centuries and that in Alexander’s time it bifurcated at the site of Bahmanabad, 75 kilometres to the north east of Hyderabad, which John Watson McCrindle had considered to occupy the site of ancient Patala (Herbert Wilhelmy, “Verschollene Städte im Indusdelta“, Geographische Zeitschrift, Bd.56, heft 4, 1968, pp.256-294, n.b. pp.258-63; John Watson McCrindle, Ancient India as described in Classical Literature, Westminster, Constable, 1901, pp.19, 40, 124, 188; idem, The Invasion of India by Alexander the Great, Westminster, Constable, 1893, pp.356-7).
  2. Strabo, Geography, bk.XV, c.13; quoted in John Watson McCrindle, Ancient India as described in Classical Literature, being a Collection of Greek and Latin Texts relating to India, Westminster, Constable, 1901, p.19.
  3. Strabo, Geography, bk.XV, c.33; quoted in McCrindle, 1901, p.40.
  4. Agatharchides of Cnidus, On the Erythraean Sea, translated and edited by Stanley M. Burstein, London, Hakluyt Society, 1989, p.169.
  5. James Tod: Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, Volume II,Annals of Haravati,p.414-416
  6. The Ancient Geography of India/Western India,pp.288-294
  7. The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians/Note (A).- Geographical,pp.374-378

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