Volume 60 Number 1, September 2008
Sindh: Past Glory, Present Nostalgia
|Specifications:||180 pages, 220 illustrations|
|Dimensions:||305 x 241 mm|
This is the first lavishly illustrated book to look at the heritage of Sindh, with chapters by scholars from both India and Pakistan. Three major events have contributed to the shaping of Sindh’s history: the Muslim conquest in 711, the British conquest in 1843, and the Partition of India in 1947. The cultural impact of all three is discussed here, with chapters on textiles and cuisine as well.
Pratapaditya Pal, General Editor, Marg Publications, has been associated as curator with leading American museums with Indian collections and is a recognized authority on the arts and cultures of the subcontinent.
Dilip K. Chakrabarti
Coinages at the Crossroads: The Monetary Heritage of Sindh
The Artistic Heritage of Early Sindh
The Reconstruction of a Buddhist Stupa at Mirpurkhas
The Great Shiva Temple at Debal
Of Merchants, Courtiers, and Saints: The Islamic Architecture of Sindh
The Banbhore Palimpsest
The Living Textile Traditions of Sindh
Picturing Sindh: British Representations
Kalachi, Kurrachee, Karachi: Biography of a Metropolis
Of Migrations and Transitions: Contemporary Art in Sindh
Excavating Memories: Images on a Quilt Cover
Flavours of Sindh: Culinary Memories of the Hindu Community
Three major events have contributed to the shaping of Sindhi's culture: the Muslim conquest in 711, the British conquest in 1843, and the Partition of India in 1947. This book provides a selective overview of more than 5000 years of Sindh's material culture and artistic heritage. Although Sindh is in Pakistan, it remains very much a part of the Indian psyche. The writers are from both India and Pakistan. No comprehensive account of the living crafts of Sindh has been made since 1880 and a beginning is made in this volume. Although the diasporic communities have fared well, cultural identity will remain a problem with the declining interest in the Sindh language and in Sindh proper.
Much of our perception of prehistoric Sindh is coloured by the excavations at Mohenjodaro in 1922. Later archaeological researches in the province have added a time-depth to it, discovering both its antecedents and successors. Evidence of the Indus Valley Civilization has been found over a wide swathe of the subcontinent. Other prehistoric well-known sites in Sindh have contributed to the antiquity and richness of Sindh's cultural history for having nurtured a highly sophisticated urban civilization. However, evidence of even older settlements has been found at locations near Karachi and the Rohri hills.
The essay describes coinage in Sindh over the past two millennia in a comprehensive manner. It begins with the coins of the Indo-Parthian rulers c. 1st century CE and ends with a "cash coupon" struck during World War II to alleviate a shortfall in supply of small change. Between these two broad chronological markers are placed the coins of various dynasties such as the Parata Rajas, the Sassanians, the Sultans of Delhi, local rulers like the Qarlughs, the Jams and the Tarkhans, the Mughals, the Durranis, and regional polities such as the Talpur Mirs. The incorporation of Sindh into Bombay Presidency marked the termination of local mints.
Religion was the principal patron and inspiration for art and architecture, but the surviving evidence though not as abundant as in other regions of India reflects a flourishing artistic tradition. Beginning with the great Indus Civilization, they were deft craftsmen. Buddhism was popular in Sindh and there have been several finds from this site. There is little surviving evidence of the Brahmanical religions. The Brahma from Mirpurkhas is the most ambitious representation of this deity found on the subcontinent. Yet another fine example of Sindhi metalwork of the 7th-8th century is a brass sculpture of Surya possibly from Multan. The sculptural heritage of Sindh perhaps still lied buried in its sands, waiting to be unearthed. An 18th-century illustrated manuscript from Sindh is a vital contribution to the future study of painting in Sindh.
The Buddha and the stupa were the principal focus of worship in Sindh, confirming the assertion of the Chinese pilgrim Yi Jing that the Hinayana school was predominant. This essay on the rich remains of the 4th-5th century CE stupa at the site, one of the few examples of decorative stupa architecture in the Indus Valley, not only discusses the relation between art and religion but provides fresh insights on the architectural character of the great stupa which was discovered in the excavations of the early 20th century. The largest collection of the panels and clay tablets discovered there are in the CSMVS, Mumbai. With the help of surviving architectural fragments and other artifacts in the CSMVS collection, the Kahujodaro stupa has been graphically "reconstructed".
Debal is one of the most important early Islamic period sites in Pakistan. Dr. F. A. Khan, then director of the Department of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Pakistan, conducted extensive excavations from 1958-65. Three cultural phases were exposed: Scytho-Parthian; Hindu; Muslim. The accounts of the early historians and geographers speak of a grand temple at Debal. Where to locate this temple is a challenge. It has been recently suggested on the basis of archaeological and stratigraphical evidences that the grand mosque in the central sector is the actual site of the temple. This essay outlines aspects of this temple. Shivalingas retrieved here lead one to suggest that it was originally a Shiva temple. An attempt is made to reconstruct its features. The presence of Gupta and post-Gupta style religious buildings and sculptures on the soil of modern Pakistan are not an unusual phenomenon. Tharparkar, Banbhore, Mirpurkhas, Rokri, Murti, Bilot, Kafir Kot, Chakwal, the Salt Range, and other sites in ancient Gandhara are examples.
It was Sindh in the 8th century that became the gateway to Islam in the subcontinent. The historical milieu for the flowering of the Islamic architecture of Sindh which came with the rulers, merchants, and religious figures and continued for the next millennium is discussed. While the buildings of Upper Sindh had affinities with the domical brick constructions of Iran and Central Asia, that of Lower Sindh had affinities with the trabeate stone construction of neighbouring Gujarat. Much of the architecture was funerary and profusely incised.
Banbhore, famous archaeological site in Sindh was at one time a major inlet for long-distance and inter-regional traffic from the Arabian Sea through to the Indus delta. Shifting and silting of the estuary led to the abandonment of several sites, and one of these was Debal, a port that flourished during Arab rule between the 8th and 13th centuries. The Department of Archaeology, Government of Pakistan conducted surveys, where excavation teams have revealed, with the help of extant buildings, coinage, inscriptions pottery, and sculpture, the history of Debal through its pre-Islamic, Scytho-Parthian, Hindu-Sassanian, and Islamic periods. Banbhore, famous archaeological site in Sindh was at one time a major inlet for long-distance and inter-regional traffic from the Arabian Sea through to the Indus delta. Shifting and silting of the estuary led to the abandonment of several sites, and one of these was Debal, a port that flourished during Arab rule between the 8th and 13th centuries. The Department of Archaeology, Government of Pakistan conducted surveys, where excavation teams have revealed, with the help of extant buildings, coinage, inscriptions pottery, and sculpture, the history of Debal through its pre-Islamic, Scytho-Parthian, Hindu-Sassanian, and Islamic periods.
Situated at the crossroads of diverse cultural influences, Sindh’s physical terrain has fostered a diversity of crafts since the birth of the Indus civilization. Subsequently trade networks were established with China and Iran, resulting in the cross fertilization of textile technologies and cultural influences. The continuity of these techniques and a timeless repertoire of timeless motifs connect the traditions of past and present. Profiled here are the major traditions and their makers: ajrak, quilts, embroidery, rugs, and the motifs and colours of Thar.
The early visual records of Sindh were mainly by military officers, reflecting the strategic interests that largely determined Britain’s engagement in the area from the 1830s. From the early 1850s, Sindh came under civilian administration, and military artists were replaced by their civilian colleagues. The main focus of development was economic and social, areas of achievement which were also recorded by expanding new technologies. These, including photography, facilitated the reproduction of illustrations in a wide variety of forms, including books, weeklies, and postcards. British involvement also created interest in Sindh’s history and culture, much of which could be illustrated visually, including its arts and crafts and historical monuments. Although many of the architectural remains of the British era are now crumbling, the pictorial representation of the British presence, the developing infrastructure of Sindh, and the British fascination with many aspects of its past and present live on as a witness to their colonial presence.
Gateway to Sindh, this premier port city became the capital of the province after the British conquest. The white town was planned, clean, spacious, the black town crowded and messy. In the 1850s with Bartle Frere as commissioner, modernity came to Sindh with infrastructure and improvements. The American Civil War and opening of the Suez Canal brought prosperity and the Hindu population amplified their mastery over education, business and the bureaucracy. The Parsi contribution too was significant. Other immigrant communities too contributed to its fast growth. Included are reminiscences of people who grew up there. After Partition and till 1962 Karachi was the capital of Pakistan. The surge of refugees transformed Karachi, affecting its infrastructure and demographics, and laid the foundation for decades of discontent. In the 1970s and ‘80s bombings and kidnappings came to be identified with it. While the Hindus are only a fraction of their earlier numbers, the small but influential Parsi presence continues. Most of its citizens are outsiders – Mohajirs and Punjabis, strangers to the city’s history. Attempts are now being made to preserve its colonial and indigenous architecture.
Though Partition caused dramatic changes in the demography of Sindh, of Karachi in particular, its impact on the arts and culture was less radical. The development of modern art in Karachi began with the influx of the migrants Fyzee Rahamin and Atiya Begum, followed by Sadequain and Shakir Ali, another migrant from Amroha, Uttar Pradesh, each considered the "herald of the modern". Private and public patronage sustained numerous rising artists, and despite a social climate hostile to the expression of woman in art, women came to be represented both as the subject of art and as artists themselves. A younger generation from smaller towns has more recently appeared on the art scene.
A poignant installation, one of the best known Excavated Images, is the focus here. A contemporary artist of Sindhi origin, Nalini Malani dwells on her own narrative of being uprooted from Sindh and migration to India during Partition. On the quilt cover which her grandmother brought with her when she fled from Karachi, she paints three generations of women of her family. The work is a memorial to the journey across two divided lands, yet it is also a record of the hopes of many dismembered lives.
Situated along the Indus, Sindh was blessed with an abundance of fish, cereals, vegetables. The everyday foods, festival foods, streetside snacks are described based on information drawn from diasporic Sindhi communities. The importance of the legendary Pallo fish in their diet is detailed and some recipes are included. Like the Indus, its people have learnt to assimilate, never to remain stagnant, in whichever countries they have settled. And while they have blended, they continue to hold on to their identity through their language, cultural traditions, and their food.