Part 2 of a series of letters to young sindhi boys and girls
Sample this. This conversation actually took place in a party.
Celebrity: I go to the gurdwara often, as I am a sindhi punjabi. (I was assuming politely that she was half punjabi, as there is no caste or community called sindhi-punjabi).And jhulelal ji being an avatar of guru nanank Dev ji, I am more inclined to go to the gurdwara
Me : huh???? where did you get that information .
Celebrity: from a sindhi friend of mine .
I explained to her that uderolal, also known as jhulelal was born more than 600 years before guru nanank. So how could he be an avatar of guru nanak.
Celebrity : oh, is that so. Pretty Celebrity opens Wikipedia on her phone , begins to read. Then says thank you and over the next one hour, asks me half a dozen questions about sindhi history.
Curiously it led me to understand that most sindhis today confuse themselves to be punjabi. Sindhis are not , repeat NOT punjabi. They are not Sikh either. They might like to go to the gurdwara but they aren’t Sikh. Neither do they have Sikh names. Ever heard of a sindhi called Manjeet Singh Lalwani?
I often hear from most sindhis that our culture is just like the punjabis. When I ask the same question to many punjabis, they say not at all. It’s very different.
So what explains this affinity as to why sindhis go to the gurdwara or why there is a guru granth sahib in many sindhi temples.
For this you have to bear with me and wind the clock back 500 to 1000 years. If you still curious and still with me , continue reading.
Sindh was invaded by the Arabs in 712 AD , under the forces of Muhammad bin qasim, a general of the ummayad caliphate of arabia. After Sindh was conquered, the Arabs began a bloody campaign of islamization of Sindh . This was a common practice in the medieval era of military conquests.
It was so bloody that brahmanabad which was famous as the city of learning and housed a huge brahmin population , was wiped off from the face of the earth with over 50000 sindhi people massacred. Shikharpur, which was famous as the city of perfumes and trade, was turned into a graveyard with over 80000 people massacred.
However the eastward expansion of the islamic caliphate after Sindh was halted due to a series of battles known as “Battles of Rajasthan”, an incredibly bloody series of wars between the arab caliphate and a coalition of indian kings that affected mostly Sindh and punjab throughout the middle ages, even before the start of the Indian invasion by mughals in 1398. You won’t find this in your history textbooks in school. Because it isn’t considered important by the leftist bengalis who write our history books. But we will come to that later.
As time went by and the non Muslim population of Sindh suffered , a reformist was born who explained to the Arab governor about the importance of religious tolerance. His name was udero. Also known as jhulelal. His methods were of a non military nature , hence he rose In popularity among both Muslims and Hindus. “Mast kalandhar” being a popular song even today among sindhi Muslims .
Over the next 5 centuries , the local rulers managed to retake Sindh. But there were now many Muslims as well among the local rulers. Sindh then fell into a series of regular battles with various Hindu and Muslim Rajput factions playing a game of thrones for control . They were the sooras, sumras, solankis and many more. The local culture started turning into a mosaic of Hindu and Islamic beliefs.
The population was eventually more Islamic in nature due to various factors.
Also many locals among the local population, especially along the Iranian border areas converted to a branch of twelver shia islam known as Aga khanis or ismailis. Hence you might find many ismaili shia Muslims with surnames like rupani,panjwani, hajiani.
However Sindh faced a blossoming of sufism during this period as people started to look for more syncretic and peaceful beliefs.
Come the 15th century and Sikhism starts to become a very powerful force in the Indian subcontinent taking the mughal empire head on. Eventually the blood letting on both sides began again in full swing.
As time went by a large population of punjabis moved into safer areas in Sindh. They primarily came in via northern Sindh and Shikharpur. As is a natural phenomenon , gradually mixing with the local sindhi population over the years. Hence the punjabi sounding surnames like ahuja, panjabi, rohra, chhabra/chhabria, bhatia among many sindhis of shikarpuri descent.
Sikhism offered many oppressed Hindus of that period a voice which they didn’t have for many years. Hence a large part of the population started to gravitate towards the teachings of guru nanak.
As guru nanak ji passed away, over the years his son began a process of keeping Hindu priests known as ” udasis” to manage the gurudwaras.
Many sindhis who are their descendants have this surname till today. Each gurudwara being managed by a mahant. You might not have even heard or seen a mahant at any gurudwara in your life. That has to do with the khalsa/akali movement of punjab in the early 1900’s , but we will come to that part later. The teachings of Sikhism that came into Sindh were not so militant as it was still early years for Sikhism . As Sikhism entered it’s strongest military phase after the formation of the khalsa panth in anadpur sahib in 1699. Most of Sindh was untouched by this violent phase of Sikhism. Never the less many sindhis took up arms and joined the armies of the Sikh gurus to save their beliefs.
The result of all these conflicts was that unlike most Hindus, sindhis didn’t have a rigid caste system . They had groups based on trade and region. Like the Amils being the educated class, the bhaibandhs being traders, the people of Shikharpur being Shikharpuris. But sindhis never fought among themselves over these divisions. Neither did they discriminate.
Hence over time when the British came to control India they found Sindh to be a place where many cultures and beliefs were found like sufi islam, barelvis, shias, Sikhism, Hinduism.
After partition many suffering sindhis who came penniless to India, were so busy in surviving and looking after their bruised families that they never had time to dwell on what their culture was.
So what did we learn so far?
1. We learnt about our history .
2. So now you know why most sindhis end up going to gurudwaras, even though they are not punjabis. It’s more out of respect than faith. However that is debatable , to each his own.
3. And punjabis wouldn’t share the same views as sindhis about the culture being same. Because it isn’t .
There is no community called
sindhi-punjabi. There might be some historical links but the comparisons end there.
Enjoy the weekend.”
Sent from my iPhone