Sanjay Godbole

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Ancient Temples of Sindh

By Sanjay Godbole

the   ‘Thar’  Division  in  Pakistan has an  expanse  of twenty thousand square kilometers. During the census of this area in the year 1981 A.D., it was revealed that 0.5 million people were settled over there. Geographically, this 'Thar’ (desert) has been created out of heaps formed from the sandy dunes, saltish residues and oysters from the kutch desert and carried naturally over there over a period of years. The  desert  of  ‘Thar’  was  controlled   by the  ‘Rajputs’   (a  warrior community). Many rulers from Rajput dynasties such as Sodha, Sumera, Sanna, Rathod etc. ruled here. Mehmud Gaznavi traversed the Thar desert and came to Somnath for attacking and destroying the temple. During   the   British   regime,   one   Capt.   Recks  studied   this  terrain geographically. According to him, ‘Parinagar’ was an important and large port in the pre-Christian era. A large tributary of the River Sindhu contributed its flow into the Arabian Sea. The river was called ‘Hakdi’ at that time. Subsequently on account of onslought of natural calamities such as earthquake, the river changed its course and many towns and villages vanished in the blue. The ‘Kutch’ province was created due to turmoil on account of earthquakes and subsequent drying up of the Arabian sea in parts. Sindh has many ancient legacies such as temples, Mathaslamaseries, kundassacred tanks and such other ancient holy places. The Government of Sindh had published a Gazzettier in Sindhi language. Mr. Jagdish Rathi, a Sindhi author, sent me a few pages from this Gazzetter. These give an oblique reference to many such holy pilgrimage sites. There is a holy water tank situated at Nagarparkar which   owes   its  origin  by  dint  of the  legendary  story  given  in Mahabharata   that   Bheema    kneeled   down   here.   This   Kunda admeasures 30' x 20' in size.

In the direction of North West from ‘Nagarparkar’ lies a place called ‘Achalshor’ where there are natural springs. There is a temple of Lord Shiva and a charitable rest house built by ‘Satramdasa’, where many ascetics dwell. A natural spring stemming and originating at the foot of a mountain near the old town is called ‘Zarano’ in the local dialect. There is also a cave in the mountain at the east side of nagarparkar, which can accommodate about 25 persons. During emergency and period of crisis, the womenfolk was safely put in the cave and the opening of the cave was closed with stones and the men faced the enemies. This place was called as ‘Bavanji Bibo’. A Fort was built near Nagarparkar by one Shri. Govind Rai, which was levelled with the ground by the British. ‘Ghordharo’ is an ancient place near ‘Karunjar’. The place is revered as a sacred place in Sindh, it exists from Vedic times. There is a lake called ‘Lorai'. The water from this lake goes right upto ‘Katch’. There are many ancient remains in the Vicinity of ‘Ghordharo’

This ‘Thar’ desert and the ‘Thar’ region has also been alluded to by many literatures from Pakistan in their works. Similarly, special mention has been made by some travellers about the sand dunes, desolated barren lands and peaceful tranquillity of this region. ‘Mazrul Islam’ a famous author and storyteller has said that his heart and Thar’ are identical with the same desert. In the South East direction of Thar lies the ‘Nagarparkar’ district which is still undeveloped, there are huge egg-shaped hills measuring 12 miles long and 1000 feet high. There are many temples belonging to Hindu and Jain faiths. During the pre-independence times, all these temples were always thronged by pilgrims. These are, however, in a deserted state and in neglected conditions in that the patrons of them have settled in India.

But these temples are, even as on today, known and are referred to for their Architecture and legacy. In an area at the foot of ‘Karunjar’ hills, within a periphery of 50 kilometers, there are five Derasars (Jain temples). Out of these, two temples are in good shape and structurally sound. Out of these five Jain temples, the most famous is called ‘Gori Mandir’ and is at a distance of 40 km. in the North-West direction from ‘Karunjar’. This temple was built, it is believed, since olden times. It was built during the regime of rulers from ‘Sodha’ dynasty, who ruled the province of Sindh during 1376 A.D. Since no inscriptions are available in the Mandir, confirmed conclusions and inferences can not be drawn as to the establishment of the same. This temple is of the size of 39 M x 15 M and is built in Jodhpur stone, which is quite akin to Marble. There is a court yard in the front side of the temple, in the North direction; and there are acmes in the shape of Umbrellas, on the top of the temple. After entering the temple from the Southern end, one can have glimpses of the rectangular spaces [Khana: means the space between two consecutive pillars] and the acmes over it. Long ago, way back, some idols had been installed there. Since, now that, these idols are  no more existent, the acmes and the pillars and the Umbrellas are all in a broken state. At the back side of the main market at Nagarparkar, there exists a Jain temple in a neglected and deserted state. The temple has acmes in the shape of “triangle and there is a lot of carved work on the walls and the pillars. There are many sculptures depicting Jain Mythology. Way back, there were many painting and sketches also. But these are all destroyed and sculptures are broken. The colourful tiles set in the temple have also vanished. There is no one to look after the temple. When there was partition, the Jain community, en masse, chose to go to India.

The ‘Karunjar’ hill, for the Hindus of the Sindh is like a permanent holy place. The town of Sardharo is situated centrally amongst these hills, which are composed of Granite stone with a reddish tinge. In total there are three temples and the Shiva-Parvati temple is very famous. There is a temple of the Goddess on the Dharohar hill. Sardharo next to ‘Hinglaj’ is considered to be the 2nd important holy place in Pakistan. People come here for immersion of the bones of the dead in the ‘Kunda’ over here. For the upkeep of this holy place, the ‘Nehalpuri’ family consisting of 8 members is permanently settled here.

The residents of Sindh treat and rever the fountain water as holy as the water from the river Ganges. On the auspicious day of Mahashivratri around twenty thousand devotees come here to offer their prayers and Puja. In this temple there are some idols of deities and some paintings of God and Goddesses. Though this temple is nothing special from architectural points of view, it enjoys special importance due to a legend mentioned in Hindu scriptures; and therefore this place is held in high esteem by  the masses. This legend runs as follows- Once upon a time, a couple of deer and doe was returning homewards in the valley of ‘Karunjar' and the deer slipped’ from a high cliff and fell in the lake below. It got drowned and died. The doe rushed forward to rescue the deer and in doing so, got herself entangled in a nearby bush. Her head got stuck in the bush and rest of her body bogged down in the lake. Subsequent to this incident, the doe was reborn in a merchant family of ‘Patan’ She, unfortunately suffered from chronic headache (migraine) and could not be cured of this disease in spite of treatments and medications. A Brahmin priest from the town, with the help of his deep studies and intuitive powers visualized the past of this unfortunate girl and told her parents to retrieve the remains of the head of the doe and immerse them in the lake. The parents of the girl acted upon the advice of the priest and the girl got totally rid of the sufferings. In kind remembrance of this, the parents of the girl erected three temples by the side of the lake.

Due to geographical situation, ‘Nagarparkar’ is accessible with great difficulties. In the olden days the pilgrims took two full days to traverse a distance of 490 km from Karachi to reach ‘Nagarparkar’. But now with the construction of concrete roads, one can reach ‘Mithi’ from Karachi within 7 hours. ‘Mithi’ happens to be the district head quarters of the 'Thar Parkar’ desert area. From ‘Mithi’ one can reach ‘Nagarparkar’ within a short period of 3 hours. From ‘Nagarparkar’, with the assistance of local guidance one can go to ‘Sardharo’. Lodging and Boarding arrangements of pilgrims can be made by paying charges of Rs. 1500 per day at the residence of a local man. There is no road in good condition for going to Sardharo from ‘Nagarparkar’. Hence the pilgrims have to pass many obstacles and obstructions. According to a local resident Shri. ‘Maun Puri’, though the Hindu Panchayat Committee is looking after the up keep of the temple; it is not in a position to raise funds to make proper arrangements for lodging and boarding of the pilgrims. If, according to Shri. Maun Puri, the Govt, makes adequate arrangements to construct a permanent Road from ‘Nagarparkar’ to ‘Sardharo’ the aged and the women can also have glimpses of this holy place. A few days back Mr. Maqbool Ahmad undertook a detailed survey of the temple and published an illustrated report of the same in Herald. He also appealed to the Govt, authorities to take concrete steps to preserve and conserve this valuable heritage of historical importance. In the year 2003 A.D. Mr. Aziz Sanghdar, prepared an exhaustive report about the neglected and ignored remains existing in this area. Janab Zulfikar Syed, too, published a report about ‘Karunjar’ under the name and title ‘Lost world’.

Some  days  back,  I  was  acquainted with  Mr.  ‘Jethanand’  a "resident of ‘Dhano’,  a town  in  Sindh.  Mr.  Jethanand gave  me  a reference to a Baloch gentleman Janab Ali Khosu, who is 94 now and has thorough and in-depth knowledge of the history of Sindh - very recently, G.O.T.V., had broadcast a programme about Janab Khosu.

When contacted, Janab Khosu informed that upto the year 1971 many Jain ascetics visited this holy place. About 1200 Jains were settled in Nagarparkar and the Jain population in ‘Parshvanath Gori’ was 2000. But majority of them migrated to India. There is a water tank here (Kund) which has natural sources of water, which subsequently joins the river water. This kund is called ‘Mrigakund’. A Huge fair is held here by end of ‘Kartik’ (the 8th month of Hindu calendar.) There is a temple of Lord Shiva at Sadhu Bela near Sakkar, where a fair is held in the month of June. The famous Hindu ascetic, ‘Parashar’ had carried out his penance on the hills of ‘Sarodhar’. There are prints of his feet here. Janab Khosu further added that prior to Partition, this region was famous for Communal harmony. Many fairs were held and various festivals were celebrated. Yogis and Saints flocked here. In the precincts of this area many remains of Jain, Hindu and Buddha idols were surfaced. An image of Lord Shiva was also found. In addition ancient utensils and containers, along with other remains were also found. In the area surrounding ‘Sarodhar’, ‘Agriculture’ was professed on a very large scale. The honey was exported. Today, there is only one household of the Jains. The Name of ‘Nagarparkar’ has its origin with three words. Nagar means city, Par means to go beyond or transcend the limits and kar means to do - according to Mr. Khosu.

Janab Khosu has his formal education upto the second standard and that too in Sindhi medium. On account of his affinity for culture and history, he has visited all the holy places of pilgrimage and has studied ‘Ramayana’, ‘Mahabharata’ and history to great detail. He has sharp memory even now and he has a flare to teach and elucidate the cultural history of Sindh to many scholars and students he comes in contact with.

Erudites like Janab Khosu are furthering the cause of the study of the cultural pride of the past and the bygone areas. And surely it is a matter of pride for all of us that he continues with his endeavour with the same zeal. 

(The author is a noted archaeologist, based in Pune).

Source: Kashmir Sentinel

  

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