Sehwan

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Location of Jamshoro

Sehwan (Urdu: سیہون) (aka: Sehwan Sharif) is a city located in Jamshoro District in the Sindh province of Pakistan.

Variants of name

Location

Sehwan town is of great antiquity and stands on the west bank of the Indus, 80 miles (130 km) north-west of Hyderabad (which is on the east bank).

Origin of name

It is possible that the name Sehwan originates from "Siwistan" or "Seevistan", the kingdom of Raja Dahir which even extended to Punjab under the name "Shivi".[1]

History

James Todd[2] writes... The Yadu was the most illustrious of all the tribes of Ind, and became the patronymic of the descendants of Budha, progenitor of the Lunar (Indu) race. Yudhishthira and Baladeva, on the death of Krishna and their expulsion from Delhi and Dwaraka, the last stronghold of their power, retired by Multan across the Indus. The two first are abandoned by


[p.102]: tradition ; but the sons of Krishna, who accompanied them after an intermediate halt in the further Duab1 of the five rivers, eventually left the Indus behind, and passed into Zabulistan,2 founded Gajni, and peopled these countries even to Samarkand......


1 [The capital of Sambos was Sindimana, perhaps the modern Sihwan (Smith, EHI, 101).]
2 [This is very doubtful.]

It was significant enough during the 8th century to be conquered by Muhammad bin Qasim in 711, and two centuries later by Mahmud of Ghazni. An abortive attempt was made by the Mughal emperor Humayun to capture it on his way to Umarkot but it finally fell to his son Akbar. Before this, it was the capital of the Thatta Kingdom under Juni Bek.[3]

Apart from the ruins scattered about its environs, the city is known for its Sufi patron saint Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar who lived here in the 13th century. The famous mausoleum of Shahbaz Qalandar attracts hundreds of thousands of faithful every year.

Another famous place is the inverted city beside the Dargah of Shahbaz Qalandar, which may be the Debal Bandar of Raja Dahir. Manchar Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Pakistan, is a short distance from Sehwan Sharif.

Chapter xvi. Campaign against Oxycanus and Sambus.

Arrian[4] writes....THEN he (Alexander the Great) took the archers, Agrianians, and cavalry sailing with him, and marched against the governor of that country, whose name was Oxycanus, because he neither came himself nor did envoys come from him, to offer the surrender of himself and his land. At the very first assault he took by storm the two largest cities under the rule of Oxycanus; in the second of which that prince himself was captured. The booty he gave to his army, but the elephants he led with himself. The other cities in the same land surrendered to him as he advanced, nor did any one turn to resist him; so cowed in spirit~ had all the Indians now become at the thought of Alexander and his fortune. He then marched back against Sambus, whom he had appointed viceroy of the mountaineer Indians and who was reported to have fled, because he learned that Musicanus had been pardoned by Alexander and was ruling over his own land. For he was at war with Musicanus, But when Alexander approached the city which the country of Samb held as its metropolis, the name of which was Sindimana, the gates were thrown open to him at his approach, and the relations of Sambus reckoned up his money and went out to meet him, taking with them the elephants also. They assured him that Sambus had fled, not from any hostile feeling towards Alexander, but fearing on account of the pardon of Musicanus. He also captured another city which had revolted at this time, and slew as many of the Brahmans as had been instigators of this revolt. These men are the philosophers of the Indians, of whose philosophy, if such it may be called, I shall give an account in my book descriptive of India.

Alexander Cunningham on Sindomana or Sehwan

Alexander Cunningham[5] writes about Sindomana or Sehwan: [p. 263]: From the city of Oxykanus, Alexander " led his forces against Sambus, whom he had before declared governor of the Indian mountaineers." The Raja abandoned his capital, named Sindomana, which, according to Arrian, 1 was delivered up to Alexander by the friends and domestics of Sambus, who came forth to meet him with presents of money and elephants. Curtius 2 calls the raja Sabus, but does not name his capital. He simply states that Alexander, having received the " submission of several towns, captured the strongest by mining." The narrative of Diodorus.3


1 'Anabasis,' vi. 16.

2 Vita Alex., is. 8.

3 Hist. Univers., xvii. 50.


[p. 264]:also omits the name of the capital, but states that Sambus retired to a great distance with thirty elephants. Strabo1 merely mentions Raja Sabus, and Sindomana his capital, without adding any particulars. Curtius2 alone notes that Alexander returned to his fleet after the capture of the raja's strongest city, which must therefore have been at some distance from the Indus.

I agree with all previous writers on the ancient geography of this part of India in identifying Sindomana with Sehwan ; partly from its similarity of name, and partly from its vicinity to the Lakki mountains. Of its antiquity there can be no doubt, as the great mound, which was once the citadel, is formed chiefly of ruined buildings, the accumulation of ages, on a scarped rock, at the end of the Lakki range of hills. De La Hoste3 describes it as an oval, 1200 feet long, 750 feet broad, and 80 feet high ; but when I saw it in 1855, it appeared to me to be almost square in shape, and I judged it to be somewhat larger and and rather more lofty above the river bed than Burnes's estimate. 4 It was then on the main stream of the Indus; but the river is constantly changing its channel, and in all the old maps it is placed on a western branch of the Indus. In ancient times, however, when the river flowed down the eastern channel of the Nara, Sehwan was not less than 65 miles distant from its nearest


1 Geogr., xv. 1, 32.

2 Vita Alex., ix. 8 : " Rursus amnem, in quo classem expectare se jusserat, repetit."

3 Journ. Asiat. Soc. Bengal, 1840, p. 913.

4 Westmacott, in Journ. Asiat. Soc. Bengal for 1840, p. 1209, says about 100 feet above the Arrul river, or Aral, which, in his time was a branch of the Indus.


[p. 265]:point at Jakrao, where it leaves the sand-hills. At present its water supply is entirely derived from the Indus, which not only flows under the eastern front of the town, but also along its northern front, by a channel called the Aral river, from the great Manchur lake, which is supplied by the other Nara, or great western branch of the Indus. But as the site could not have been occupied unless well supplied with water, it is certain that the Manchur lake must have existed long previous to the change in the course of the Indus. Judging by its great depth in the middle, 1 it must be a natural depression ; and as it is still fed by two small streams, which take their rise in the Hala Lakki mountains, to the south, it seems probable that the lake may have extended even up to the walls of Sehwan, before the floods of the western Nara cut a channel into the Indus, and thus permanently lowered the level of its waters. The lake abounds in fish, from which it would appear to derive its name, as Manchur is but a slight alteration of the Sanskrit Matsya, and the Hindi machh, or machhi, " fish." I think, therefore, that Manchar may be only a familiar contraction of machhi-wala Tal, or Fish Lake.

The favourable position of Sehwan, on a lofty isolated rock, near a large lake, with food and water in abundance, would certainly have attracted the notice of the first inhabitants of Sindh. We find, accordingly, that its early occupation is admitted by all inquirers. Thus, M'Murdo2 says, " Sehwan is undoubtedly a place of vast antiquity ; perhaps more so than either Alor or Bahmana." The present name is


1 Westmacott, Journ. Asiat. Soc. Bengal, 1810, p. 1207.

2 Journ. Royal Asiat. Soc, i. 30.


[p. 266]:said to be a contraction of Sewistan, which was so called after its inhabitants, the Sewis, or Sabis. But in all the early Arab geographers the name is somewhat differently written, as Sadustan, or Sadusan, or Sarusan, of which the first two syllables agree with the Greek Sindomana. I therefore reject the reading of Sewistan as a modern innovation of the Hindus, to connect the place with the name of their god Siva. The Sindo of the Greek, and the Sadu of the early Muhammadans, point to the Sanskrit name of the country, Sindhu, or to that of its inhabitants, Saindhava, or Saindhu, as it is usually pronounced. Their stronghold, or capital, would therefore have been called Saindhava-sthana, or Saindhu-sthan, which, by the elision of the nasal, becomes the Sadustan of the Arab geographers. In a similar manner Wilson derives the Greek Sindomana from " a very allowable Sanskrit compound, Sindu-man," the "possessor of Sindh." I am inclined, however to refer the Greek name to Saindhava-vanam , or Saindhuwan, as the " abode of the Saindhavas."

It seems strange that a notable place like Sehwan should not be mentioned by Ptolemy under any recognizable name. If we take Haidarabad as the most probable head of the Delta in ancient times, then Ptolemy's Sydros, which is on the eastern bank of the Indus, may perhaps be identified with the old site of Mattali, 12 miles above Haidarabad, and his Pasipeda with Sehwan. The identification of Ptolemy's Oskana with the Oxykanus, or Portikanus, of Alexander, and with the great mound of Mahorta of the present day, is, I think, almost certain. If so, either Piska or Pasipeda must be Sehwan.


[p. 267]: Hwen Thsang takes no notice of Sehwan, but it is mentioned in the native histories of Sindh as one of the towns captured by Muhammad bin Kasim in A.D. 711. It was again captured by Mahmud of Ghazni in the beginning of the eleventh century ; and under the Muhammadan rule it would appear to have become one of the most flourishing places in Sindh. It is now very much decayed, but its position is so favourable that it is not likely ever to be deserted.

Raja Bhartrihari

James Tod[6] 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. 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 Pmgula ! 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 [7]. 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 2 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.

References

  1. R.C. Aggarwal, Introduction To Political Science: Political, P. 150
  2. James Todd Annals/Chapter 7 Catalogue of the Thirty Six Royal Races,p.101-102
  3. John F. Richards, The New Cambridge History of India: The Mughal Empire (New York: Cambridge University Press, 19930 p. 51
  4. Arrian Anabasis Book/6b
  5. The Ancient Geography of India/Western India,pp.263-267
  6. James Todd Annals/Sketch of the Indian Desert, Vol. III,p. 1312-14
  7. Smith, EHI, 100 f; McCrindle, Alexander, 395

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