By Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro
21 Dec 2018
There is dearth of scholarly research on
oral history in Sindh. Whatever was written is fraught with biases which have
never been challenged by the contemporary historians of Sindh. The Talpur Mirs,
who ruled over Sindh from 1783 to 1843, were negatively portrayed by colonial
era writers and later by local historians. They believed that the Talpur Mirs
were necessarily biased against minorities. Many stories were cooked up to
prove them as prejudiced towards minorities – particularly to the Hindus. The
dominant images which emerge from the writings of those writers depict the
Talpurs as indolent rulers who spent most of their time in hunting, even
wasting the fertile land of Sindh by turning it into hunting grounds.
I believe that the Talpur Mirs of Khairpur
State (1783-1955) were the most liberal rulers of 18th, 19th and 20th century
Sindh who not only patronized Hindus and other minorities but also erected
temples for them.
Hindu temple and Udasi Sikh Samadhis at
To substantiate my argument, I want to
share some examples from Khairpur State. If the Talpur Mirs were biased against
Hindus to the extent that they are accused of, then there would not have been
many temples and Darbars built during their reign (1783-1955) in Khairpur
State. Hindu and Udasi Sikh religious architecture flourished during the rule
of the Talpurs Mirs of Khairpur State (1783-1955). Some of the most splendid
Hindu temples and Sikh shrines were built during the reign of Mir Sohrab Khan
Talpur (1783-1811), Mir Rustam Khan Khan Talpur (1811-1843), Mir Ali Murad Khan
Talpur (1843-1894), Mir Faiz Muhammad Talpur (1894-1907), Mir Imam Bakhsh
Talpur (1907-1921) and Mir Ali Nawaz Khan Talpur (1921-1935). In almost every
Mohalla of Khairpur town was located a temple and Darbar of Hindus and Udasi
Out of the several temples and Darbars
built during the Talpur period, the Godhu Shah Darbar located in a narrow street of Godhu Shah locality of
Khairpur is quite prominent. The Darbar is known under various names such as
Godhu Shah; taking the name from its locality; Nanga Darbar and Gurpota Darbar.
The term Darbar is used for Sikh shrines in Sindh while the term Nanga is used
for Udasi ascetics who used to wear loincloths hence were called Nanga (not
fully naked but rather half naked – Udasi ascetics) and Gurpota, the grandsons
of Sikh Gurus (not to be confused with Nath Gurus). It is believed that the
Darbar was founded by one of the grandsons of a Guru who was initiated into the
Udasi Panth by a Mahant. The Godhu Shah Darbar is believed to
have been built by a rich Hindu merchant of Khairpur.
There were about 32 Hindu temples, Udasi
Sikh Darbars and Samadhis erected during the Talpur period in the Khairpur
State. The Hindus built temples and Darbars not only in Khairpur town but also
in Pir Jo Goth, Piraloi, Babarloi, Halani and other towns and villages
The distinctive features of the Darbar are
mural paintings, woodwork and Jharokas which reflect the opulence and
affluence of the builders of the Darbar. The main wooden gate of the Darbar
depicts Sikh Gurus. There are two shutters of door, each with twelve panels
depicting Sikh Gurus, which have never been vandalized by the neighbouring
Muslims. The prominent wood carvings include the images of Baba Guru Nanak with
two of his companions Bhai Bala and Bhai Mardana. The main gate opens to the
courtyard of the Darbar which further leads to the main hall of the Darbar
where are placed a marble murti of Baba Sri Chand and the Guru Granth Sahib.
The wooden ceiling of the hall is ornately carved. All of the Udasi Darbars in
Khairpur town have wooden painted ceilings, a peculiarity of Sindhi Darbars.
But unfortunately, this Darbar has recently been demolished by the Hindu
community to reconstruct it. With demolition of the Darbar, many of the
fabulous pieces of art were damaged. Providentially, the main entrance wooden
door which depicted Sikh Gurus is still extant.
Apart from the Godhu Shah Darbar, there is
a five-domed tomb, formerly a Hindu temple where once Bali, (the wife of Mir
Ali Nawaz Khan Talpur) was buried temporarily before her mortal remains were
transported to Karbala. According to local legend, this was actually a temple
which Mir Ali Nawaz Khan Talpur built for Hindus. It functioned as a temple for
a long time and finally was abandoned by the Hindu community. Later, it was
used as burial place for Bali for some time. Afterwards, a female Majzub
Allah Ditti Faqiriani was buried in the structure and later it came to be
called the “Muqbaro of Allah Ditti Faqiriani”.
Wood carvings of Sikh gurus on the door of
Gudhu Shah Darbar, at Khairpur
Apart from these structures, some religious
buildings were also built by Hindus at Luqman in Khairpur. Close to the
National Highway are four one-century-old Hindu temples and the Samadhis of
Udasi saints. All the temples and Samadhis are now in shambles and are fast
crumbling to pieces due to the indifferent attitude of the concerned
authorities. Shivalo, the temple of Shiva, is in a dilapidated condition. The Grabha
Griha (inner sanctum), where once the image of Shiva was placed, is nothing
but the site of total ruin. The upper structure of Shivalo, the Shikhara,
is also in very bad state of preservation. The interior of the Shivalo
is adorned with floral designs. Arches below the domed ceiling were once
decorated with images of Sikh Gurus and Hindu deities. But unfortunately, all
these were damaged during renovation after 2000. When I first saw these temples
and Samadhis in 1998, there were beautiful paintings of Sikh Gurus and Hindu
All three nearby structures are also
crumbling brick by brick. All these are Samadhis rather than temples. These
seem to be the Samadhis of Udasi Sikhs as Khairpur State was a centre for them.
Likewise, Kandhra town was a centre of the Khalsa Sikhs, and it was also under
the dominion of the Talpur Mirs. All three Samadhis depicted images of Udasi
Mahants and Sikh gurus which were also damaged – not by the local community
but by the concerned authorities during the restoration of the buildings.
However, the traces of a few images of Sikh Gurus can still be seen.
All of the Darbars, temples and
Samadhis built during the Talpur period reflect the tolerant behaviour of the
Talpur Mirs of Khairpur State (1783-1955) towards other religious groups.
There were about 32 Hindu temples, Udasi
Sikh Darbars and Samadhis erected during the Talpur period in the
Khairpur State. The Hindus built temples and Darbars not only in Khairpur town
but also in Pir Jo Goth, Piraloi, Babarloi, Halani and other towns and villages
– which again, for me, reflected the tolerant attitude of the Talpur Mirs.
The fact is that the Talpur Mirs of
Khairpur were undoubtedly generous and liberal rulers who welcomed many of the
Udasi saints from the Punjab to establish their Darbars in their kingdom, a
positive part of their history which needs to be highlighted and the critics
should stop dancing over the notes of hatred written by colonial era writers
and repeated by modern arm-chair scholars.
Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro is an
anthropologist and has authored four books: ‘Symbols in Stone: The Rock Art of
Sindh’, ‘Perspectives on the art and architecture of Sindh’, ‘Memorial Stones:
Tharparkar’ and ‘Archaeology, Religion and Art in Sindh’.