Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

‘Not a soul was left living!’

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The deep-throated double hoot of the Indian Eagle Owl rising from the ruin they call the mari (mansion) rode the gusting wind across the undulating peelu-covered terrain to me on the roof of the derelict mosque. Other than that haunting call and the sigh of the north wind it was silent as it has been for over two hundred years. From my perch on the roof of the mosque I could see the full extent of the ruins of Dhonra Hingora sprawling over perhaps a hundred acres: two mosques, a domed mausoleum, remains of houses, the four corner columns of the mari, and massive brickwork that appears to be the remains of a bridge. And everywhere amid these ruins, shards and shards of glazed and unglazed pottery badly eroded by the saline soil.

Lying outside the small village of Tando Fazal, twenty-five kilometres southeast of Hyderabad on the road to Sheikh Bhirkio, Dhonra Hingora, or the ‘Ruins of Tando Fazal’ as the sign of the Department of Archaeology calls them, commemorate the lost majesty of a once thriving centre of trade and commerce. Legend recalls a holy man who lived here and took time out from his ecclesiastical duties to prepare and drink vast libations of bhung. Indeed so given was he to this narcotic drink that he always had several pitchers brimming with it, ready to be imbibed.

Now the Kalhora ruler of nearby Hyderabad disapproved of this iniquity and one day sent out a troop of soldiers to arrest the man and confiscate his hoard of bhung. But when the soldiers arrived the holy man said he only had yoghurt in the pitchers. And sure enough, so the legend goes, when the soldiers looked there was only yoghurt. From that day on, they say, the town of Hingorani has been called Dhonra (yoghurt) Hingora.

The District Gazetteer of Hyderabad gives a brief account of the village of Tando Fazal and almost in passing mentions the nearby ruins: ‘[The village] has in its vicinity some striking ruins, the most remarkable being a mari or storeyed house of which one wall, almost intact, rises to a sheer height of forty feet. These are the remains of the town of Hingorani, the former seat of a family of powerful Syeds, which was among the places wrecked by the Afghan Sardar Madad Khan in or about 1775.’

The mosque whose roof I had climbed to survey the surroundings has had a facelift. Its three domes were white washed and the high plinth atop which it sits had a facing of dressed stones. I sent up a silent prayer for whoever had made this effort. Past the mosque I paused in the undulating ground at the massive brickwork. A detached portion, clearly an arch, told me that the whole must have once been a bridge. The winding course of the dry waterway in which I stood gave further credence to my deduction. A minor stream, prone to flooding, must indeed have flowed here for that is the only logical explanation for the ruined bridge as well as the high plinth of the mosque.

As I stood there a tonga arrived. Driven by an elderly coachman with snow-white eye brows and hair, it ferried a distinguished looking gentleman of equal age. They paused and we talked of Dhonra Hingora.

‘Oh yes, it was indeed that accursed Madad Khan Pathan that had destroyed this city. He plundered it and set it alight. So great was the conflagration that for a full day it was impossible to pass nearby for the heat and for a full night the eerie glow lighted up the landscape. And when the man withdrew, not a soul was left living.’ The coachman said. But neither he nor his fare knew the reason for this savage visitation.

Inspection of the eroded site shows several layers of successive occupation and the topmost layer does indeed show signs of a conflagration. Though each layer had an ample sprinkling of animal bones – a common enough phenomenon in the case of an omnivorous society, I even perceived human bones near the top. These were surely the grotesque reminders of the abominable Afghan’s savagery.

I passed the domed mausoleum with its single grave and paused at the mari. The eagle owl glared down at me from its perch and not wishing to disturb it, I walked on. The other mosque, perhaps a little older, had no facelift, yet it seemed to be holding its own well enough. This architectural style is sprinkled all over lower Sindh and having seen several similar buildings I knew that the mosques were built not later than the middle of the 16th century. I knew, too, that such extensive ruins could only recall a city of great wealth and opulence: Hingorani was no mean little provincial town. Part of her wealth would have come from agriculture, perhaps fruit-farming – for that is the kind of country it is situated in. The rest would surely have been a result of assiduous trading. Who knows if Hingorani merchants would have vied with competitors form Shikarpur renowned for their diligence in business and commerce?

The Syeds have always been powerful in Sindh but we do not know which family ruled over Dhonra Hingora or Hingorani and when. But the layer upon layer of occupation of the site reveals a long history. What we do know, however, is of the fateful end at the hands of the marauders.

Following the death of Aurangzeb, the uncertainty at Delhi gave the opportunity to Mian Yar Mohammed Kalhora to seize independent power in Sindh in the beginning of the 18th century. A judicious man himself, he was followed by two wise successors, Mian Nur Mohammed and Mian Ghulam Shah. But then came a long line of petty quibblers ending with the weak and inept Mian Ghulam Nabi Kalhora.

The Talpurs who had for over a century followed the Kalhoras as their spiritual masters represented the only sanity in the court of Sindh in that troubled time. Encouraged by the weakness of the rulers, jealousy was rife and intrigue followed intrigue resulting in the futile murders of some of the best Talpur generals and administrators. In order to stem the surge of conspiracy and artifice, Mir Bijar Khan Talpur contrived to install the spineless Mian Abdul Nabi, a brother of Ghulam Nabi’s, on the throne of Sindh. But he who was taken as a pliable ruler open to advice, proved to be a rare breed of villain who engineered the dispatch of Bijar Khan at the hands of two Rajasthani mercenaries.

Abdullah Talpur who replaced his father as the head of the clan remained stoically passive. Driven by guilt, Abdul Nabi was alarmed by this quiet equanimity, which he took to be the sign of a brewing storm, and sought to remove the Talpurs from their powerful position with military aid from the Khan of Kalat. A series of battles ensued in which the Talpurs defeated the Kalhoras and Abdul Nabi fell back on Taimur Shah, the king of Afghanistan. The scourge called Madad Khan was dispatched at the head of a vast army to the aid of the Kalhora feudatory. The price to be paid to the Afghan was a portion of the Kalhora treasure.

Arriving in Sindh, the Afghan demanded his wages, but greed taking the better of him, Abdul Nabi advised the Afghan to make good his expenses by looting the country. This the dastardly Afghan did with his heart and soul and he brought down upon the country a bane the likes of which had never before been witnessed. Cities were plundered and sacked, the living were put to the sword in vast numbers and the dead were left to rot and feed the vultures and the jackals. Seized by a frenzy Madad Khan tore across Sindh leaving in his wake smouldering ruins where opulent towns once stood. He withdrew from the country only when he received news of Abdullah Talpur’s preparations for battle.

This was in the year 1781. Such was the slaughter that a terrible famine accompanied by pestilence swept across Sindh and the country was to struggle for years to recover from the effects of the mad Afghan’s visitation. Surely the great Shah Latif had envisioned just such an eventuality when he had said that the gravest danger to Sindh was from Kandahar.

One of the towns that the Afghans destroyed that year was Hingorani. Once the pride of its inhabitants, it is now the haunt of the eagle owl and the jackal. No longer do its impressive mosques ring with the call of the muezzin. Now, only the wind sighs through their empty chambers. Somewhere in those forgotten ruins lies a secret that tantalises: why and how did prosperous Hingorani manage to miss the full glare of history?

Excerpted from 'Sea Monsters and the Sun God' - the book is available at at Sang e Meel (042-3722-0100), Lahore

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 00:00,


At 2 June 2014 at 09:33, Blogger Zaheer Chaudhry said...

sir, thank you for sharing.

At 2 June 2014 at 09:36, Blogger Zaheer Chaudhry said...

I would love to see closr that other building too. plz

At 2 June 2014 at 13:50, Anonymous Salman Rashid said...

For a closer view of the buildings you'll have to purchase my book.

At 2 June 2014 at 14:33, Anonymous muhammad athar said...

During posting at Hyderabad i got a chance to visit the area of Tando Fazal. The people of the area says that they dig the foundation of the buildings to find out the buried old coins etc

At 4 September 2015 at 22:30, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mian Izzatyar Kalhora was then the ambassador at the Afghan Court. He persuaded Afghans and got their authorization as well as backing. He marched with 30’000 strong troops consisting of 10’000 Babar and Durrani Afghans.
Mir Fateh Khan Mankani and, Sultan-ul-Jang, Mir Mirza Khan led 18’000 Baloch troops to counter the attack of Mian Izzatyar and as the author of ‘Fatehnama’ writes, "Soon the Balochi swords turned the battleground red with Afghan Blood".

Mian Abdul Nabi remained unsatisfied and sought the assistance of the Afghans again. The Afghan Court sent notorious Madad Khan Pathan who wrecked havoc in Sindh, pillaging, plundering, and devastating vast areas Innumerable towns were destroyed, countless innocent people slaughtered and when Madad Khan pathan withdrew, he left in his wake smouldering ruins where opulent settlements once stood. The countryside, so lore asserts, was littered with rotting cadavers that fattened the vultures and jackals for months after the invasion.The year of this event was 1781. The slaughter was so great that pestilence accompanied by famine swept across Sindh. The country struggled for years thereafter to recover from this setback. Madad Khan, whose name is appended with curses in Sindh, has not been forgotten as the greatest scourge to hit that country. Those who sing the poetry of Shah Latif tell you this bane the great Sufi had foretold when he wrote about the gravest danger to Sindh coming from Kandahar. He returned with lot of plunder to Afghanistan leaving Mian Abdul Nabi alone. At the time of Madad Khan’s attack, Mir Fateh Khan Mankani was at Umerkot with only a small contingent of the Baloch force. He started to prepare for an assault on him as soon as he came to know about it. But the pillager finished his job too swiftly and returned back with his booty. Mir Fateh Khan could not prepare for defense well in time as he neither received at Umarkot any information about the attack nor any directives from the Kalhora ruler of the day. However, due to his very presence, Madad Khan did not dare to attack the Umerkot.


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Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand

Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

Books at Sang-e-Meel

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