James Tod in his Itinerary from Jaisalmer to Sehwan, on the right bank of the Indus, and Haidarabad, and return by Umarkot to Jaisalmer writes about Sehwan/Sewan (1½ coss), A town of twelve hundred houses on the right bank, belonging to Haidarabad, is erected on an elevation within a few hundred yards of the river, having many clumps of trees, especially to the south. The houses are built of clay, often three stories high, with wooden pillars supporting the floors. To the north of the town are the remains of a very ancient and extensive fortress, sixty of its bastions being still visible ; and in the centre the vestiges of a palace still known as Raja Bhartrihari-ka-Mahall, who is said to have reigned here when driven from Ujjain by his brother Vikramaditya.
Story of Bhartrihari and his wife Pingala
Although centuries have flown since the Hindus had any power in these regions, their traditions have remained. They relate that Bhartrihari, the eldest son of Gandharap Sen, was so devoted to his wife, that he neglected the affairs of government, which made his brother expostulate with him. This coming to his wife's ears, she insisted on the banishment of Vikrama. Soon after a celebrated ascetic reached his court, and presented to Bhartrihari the Amarphul, or ' fruit of immortality,' the reward of years of austere devotion at the shrine of Mahadeo. Bhartrihari gave it to his wife, who bestowed it on an elephant-driver, her paramour ; he to a common prostitute, his mistress ; who expecting to be higher rewarded for it, carried it to the raja. Incensed at such a decided proof of infidelity, Bhartrihari, presenting himself before his queen, asked for the prize — she had lost it. Having produced it, she was so overwhelmed with shame that she rushed from his presence, and precipitating herself from the walls of the palace, was dashed to pieces. Raja Bhartrihari consoled himself with another wife Rani Pingula, to whoso charms he in like manner became enslaved ; but experience had taught him suspicion. Having one day gone a-hunting, his huntsman shot a deer, whoso doe coming to the spot, for a short time contemplated the body, then threw herself on his antlers and died. The Shikari, or huntsman, who had fallen asleep, was killed by a huge snake. His wife came to seek him, supposing him still asleep, but at length seeing he was dead, she collected leaves, dried roods, and twigs, and having made a pyre, placed the body under it ; after the usual perambulations she set fire to, and perished with it. The raja, who witnessed these proceedings, went home and conversed with Pingulani on these extraordinary Satis, especially the Shikari's, which he called unparalleled. Pingulani disputed the point, and said it was the sacrifice of passion, not of love ; had it been the latter, grief would have required no pyre. Some time after, having again gone a-hunting, Bhartrihari recalled this conversation, and having slain a deer, he dipped his clothes in the blood, and sent them by a confidential messenger to report his death in combat with a tiger. Pingulani heard the details ; she wept not, neither did she speak, but prostrating herself before the sun, ceased to exist. The pyre was raised, and her
[p.1313]: remaining were consuming outside the city as the raja returned from his excursion. Hastening to the spot of lamentation, and learning the fatal issue of his artifice, he threw off the trappings of sovereignty, put on the pilgrim's garb, and abandoned Ujjain to Vikrama. The only word which he uttered, as he wandered to and fro, was the name of his faithful Pingulani ! " Hae Pingula ! Hae Pingula ! "
The royal pilgrim at length fixed his abode at Sehwan ; but although they point out the ruins of a palace still known even to the Islamite as the Am-khass of Raja Bhartrihari, it is admitted that the fortress is of more ancient date. There is a mandir, or shrine, to the south of the town, also called, after him, Bhartri-ka-mandir.
In this the Islamite has deposited the mortal remains of a saint named Lal Pir Shahbaz, to whom they attribute their victorious possession of Sind. The cenotaph of this saint, who has the character of a proselyte Hindu, is in the centre of the mandir, and surrounded by wooden stakes. It is a curious spectacle to see both Islamite and Hindu paying their devotions in the same place of worship ; and although the first is prohibited from approaching the sacred enceinte of the Pir, yet both adore a large salagram, that vermiculated fossil sacred to Vishnu, placed in a niche in the tomb. The fact is a curious one, and although these Islamite adorers are the scions of conversion, it perhaps shows in the strongest manner that this conversion was of the sword, for, generally speaking, the converted Hindu makes the most bigoted and intolerant Musalman. My faithful and intelligent emissaries, Madari Lal and the Dhati, brought me a brick from the ruins of this fortress of Sehwan. It was about a cubit in length, and of symmetrical breadth and thickness, uncommonly well burnt, and rang like a bell. They also brought me some charred wheat, from pits where it had been burned. The grams were entire and reduced to a pure carbon. Tradition is again at work, and asserts its having lain there for some thousand years. There is very little doubt that this is the site of one of the antagonists of the Macedonian conqueror, perhaps Mousikanos, or Mukh-Sehwan, the chief of Sehwan. Mousikanos was the stiff-necked king of Alor or Aror who opposed Alexander, was captured and executed . The passage of the Grecian down the Indus was marked by excesses not inferior to those of the Ghaznavede king in later times, and doubtless they fired all they could not plunder to carry to the fleet. There is also a Nanak-bara, or place of worship sacred to Nanak, the great apostle of the Sikhs, placed between the fortress and the river. Sehwan is inhabited by Hindus and Islamites in equal proportions : of the former, the mercantile
[p.1314]: tribe of Mahesri from Jaisalmer, is the most numerous, and have been fixed here for generations.- There are also many Brahmans of the Pokharna caste, Sunars or goldsmiths, and other Hindu artisans ; of the Muslims the Sayyid is said to be the most numerous class. The Hindus are the monied men. Cotton and indigo, and great quantities of rice in the husk (paddy), grown in the vicinage of Sehwan, are exported to the ports of Tatta and Karachi Bandar by boats of considerable burthen, manned entirely by Muhammadans. The Hakim of Sehwan is sent from Haidarabad. The range of mountains which stretch from Tatta nearly parallel with the Indus, approaches within three miles of Sehwan, and there turns off to the north-west. All these hills are inhabited as far as the shrine of Hinglaj Mata on the coast of Mekran (placed in the same range) by the Lumri, or Numri tribe, who though styling themselves Baloch, are Jats in origin. This famous shrine of the Hindu Cybele, Hinglaj Mata, yet frequented by numerous votaries, is nine days' journey from Tatta by Karachi Bandar, and about nine miles from the seashore.
Bhartrihari Caves in Ujjain
Bhartrihari, the step brother of Vikramaditya, is believed to have lived and meditated here in Ujjain after renouncing worldly life. His famous works, Shringarshataka, Vairagyashataka, and Nitishataka, were possibly written here.
- James Todd Annals/Sketch of the Indian Desert, Vol. III,p. 1312-14
- Smith, EHI, 100 f; McCrindle, Alexander, 395