Volume - 7 : Issue - 2

Published : April - June 2008

Group : Revival

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A Journey towards Excellence in Preservation and Promotion of Sindhi Culture

By Devendra G. Kodwani

In 1989 an idea of a Sindhi cultural organization with a difference was conceived. In November 1990 an institution became functional in a rented premises at Adipur with two passionate souls embarking on the journey destined towards preservation and promotion of Sindhyat – INDIAN INSTITUTE OF SINDHOLOGY (IIS).

Indian Institute of Sindhology at Adipur Kachchh is a registered trust known as Bharati Sindhu Vidyapeeth. Adipur is a small town with about 50,000 people residing there and should be appropriately considered part of Gandhidham town, which was established in 1948 near Kandla port on the western coast of the state of Gujarat, India. Gandhidham is the first planned town of Independent India, much before Chandigarh and Gandhinagar! This coastal town is in the Kachchh region of Gujarat. Kachchh has had historical links with Sindh; a long coast and greater portion of desert of Kachchh. It is said that many Sindhis used to visit Narayan Sarovar and Koteshwar temples in Kachchh as this was considered to be a holy pilgrimage for Hindu Sindhis. The land of Kachchh and its people have affinity with Sindhi language; the local language of the region is considered to be one of the dialects of Sindhi. So it is quite plausible to visualize this land providing much needed notional matrubhumi for Sindhis who have now heralded it as the only place in India where one smells the fragrance of the soil of Sindh. In addition to this feeling there is also the fact that Dr. Satish Rohra and another pioneer Prof. P L Varyani had started their careers in teaching in this town only. So all these factors, which include allotment of land by Sindhu Resettlement Corporation Ltd., made it almost natural that the IIS would emerge here and also flourish.

One can trace the origins of IIS to a meeting of Sindhi literary scholars at Pune on 10 October 1989. Dr. Satish Kumar Rohra, who was the first director of IIS from 1990 till 2002, and Mr. Lakhmi Khilani, (Director at present) who is actively involved with activities of IIS from its inception are the two key persons who played a pioneering role in the development of IIS. Both Dr. Rohra and Mr. Khilani share absolute passion about Sindhi community, its language and culture. Dr. Rohra with background in formal linguistic theory and research had been thinking of doing something that would help preserve and promote one of the richest cultures in the world i.e. Sindhi culture representing Indus Civilization. The idea was in incubation for long time within him. Mr. Khilani felt so passionate about his mother tongue and the community that he migrated from Kolkata to settle in Adipur with a view to preserve and promote Sindhi culture through performing arts and contributing to Sindhi literature. In the second half of eighties Mr. Lakhmi Khilani came to Adipur and along with few other like minded people set up Sindhi Sahit Kala Mandal as a registered trust with the blessings of Kavi Hundraj 'Dukhayal'. According to Mr. Lakhmi Khilani the idea of having a colony of Sindhi writers and artists, which was to develop later on as MALEER, came to him and some of his friends while they were strolling in the gardens of IFFCO Township at Gandhidham.

The meeting of Dr. Rohra and Mr. Khilani was to bring together two scholars for a common purpose of preserving and promoting Sindhi culture in organized manner. A separate autonomous body was created under Sindhi Sahit Mandal with a separate governing body of which first chairman was Prof. Harish Vaswani. Dr. Satish Rohra took charge of IIS as Director. The main programs and activities of IIS are as under.

  • To conduct courses on the subjects like culture, Sindhi Folk Lore, Sindhi language and literature, Museology, Ancient Sindhu Culture, Teacher's training, Personality Development, Sindhi Handifcrafts, Sindhi Entrepreneurship, Diplomacy and Foreign relations etc. ;

  • To provide facilities for research in the fields related to Sindhi language, literature, art and culture.

  • To develop a museum with a view to presenting a historical perspective and development of Indus Valley Civilization;

  • To set up an Art and Crafts Gallery to present the exhibits related to Art and Crafts of Sindhu – Kachchh region;

  • To publish magazines, bulletins, monographs, encyclopedias, dictionaries, rare books and any other relevant material;

  • To hold seminars, national and international conferences, workshops and training programs

  • Any other activity related to its main aims and objectives.

That IIS has achieved significant milestones in the preservation and promotion of Sindhi language, culture and literature has been possible only because of the complete commitment of the core group of few individuals who have been working tirelessly without any remuneration. They are Dr. Satish K Rohra, Mr. Lakhmi Khilani, Prof. P. L. Varyani, Mr. Sahib Bijani, Mr. Hari Merani, Mr. Parsram Varandani and Dr. Moti Prakash, who joined on a full time basis from 2002. These Sindhi scholars and educationists render full time service to the activities of the institute. IIS has been fortunate to have many other prominent Sindhi well wishers who have supported the institute by providing generous financial support and / or their time. But for the moral and financial support provided by patrons and life members and other well wishers of Sindhi culture, the IIS would have found it difficult to grow as it has.

Dr. Rohra along with Mr. Khilani provided organizational and intellectual leadership to the institute. Dr. Rohra with his lucid communication style and visionary ideas made IIS mission understandable to the people who mattered in India and abroad. Mr. Khilani provided ideal complement by helping mobilize funds, organizing the activities and launching activities for preservation and promotion of Sindhi performing arts. Joining of Prof. P L Varyani provided impetus to educational and training activities of the institute and ultimately shaping up in form of an international quality school named as Sadhu Hiranand Navalrai Academy. Dr. Moti Prakash now as Director of the institute is working hard to raise the quality of SHNA School to international level. His vast experience in management of Indian High School in Dubai should come truly handy here. Every organization requires sound administrative support and prudent financial management. Mr. Hari Merani shoulders that responsibility. Mr. Sahib Bijani, whom I call living encyclopedia of Sindhis, is and architect by profession. Having left his lucrative practice in Delhi Mr. Bijani has given shape to the dreams of all by designing beautiful homes at Maleer and the building SHNA. His contribution is most visible in the beautiful exhibition that he has developed on Sindhi culture and Sindhis. An important objective of IIS is to develop into and advanced research center for studies on Sindhi language, culture and literature. This requires an information center and library to cater to needs of the scholars. Bijani's love for Sindhi literature strikes any visitor when s/he visits the library of Sindhology.

The achievement of IIS are remarkable because neither does it have a religio-spiritual bend, nor political affiliations, nor any big corporate support, nor huge membership base, nor popular cultural appeal and not even an ethnic identity crisis blown out of proportions, as many such organizations do.

IIS has provided Sindhis a place where they can get together to reflect on their past, present and future. However, to briefly mention some of the tangible achievements following list is given :

  • An Ambitious project of setting up an International Residential School “Sadhu Hiranand Navalrai Academy”, named after two famous Sindhi educationists in Sindh, has been taken up on a huge campus of 4.66 acres. At present the school has a strength of 502 students and 21 teachers. Dr. Moti Prakash, an eminent educationist of International repute after retiring from Indian High School Dubai has taken up the charge as Director of S.H.N.Academy.

  • Maleer a Writer, Artists & Scholars' village with 21 Bunglows at present is established on three acres of land, for writers, scholars and staff working in Sindhology.

  • Constitution of India in Sindhi has been published by Indian Institute of Sindhology on behalf of Ministry of Law and Justice. It was released by Hon. Ex. Prime Minister of India Shri Atal Behari Vajpai on 28th July 1998 at Parliament Bhavan Annexe. New Delhi.  

  • Sindhi Encyclopedia and Learner's Encyclopedia has been compiled with the assistance of Central Institute of Indian Languages Mysore which contains 520 scholarly entries about the geography, history and culture of Sindh. These are to be published very soon, with Govt's grant.

  • A socio linguistic survey of Sindhis in Adipur-Gandhidham was conducted and the report has been published as a research monograph.

  • Art Gallery and Museum. There are more than one thousand photographs and paintings in the art gallery, which display, the history, geography of  Sindh as well Culture of Sindhi Community, along with the portraits of  prominent Sindhi personalities and the places of Sindh.

  • Book Publications Indian Institute of Sindhology has published nearly 30 books including fiction, Biography Essays, Text books for Sindhi teaching, Seminar papers etc.

  • Audio CD's and Cassettes have also been brought out by Indian Institute of Sindhology which include set of five volumes of Bhagwanti Nawani, set of six volumes of Master Chander and Dada Hundraj Dukhayal, Prof. Ram Panjwani, Teji Bhojwani & other artists of Adipur – Gandhidham.

  • RACHNA - a quarterly magazine of literature and art in Sindhi is regularly published by Sindhology.

  • SINDHOLOGY - a quarterly bulletin in English and Sindhi enumerating the activities of Sindhology with articles on many topics, is published by Sindhology.

  • Let's Learn Sindhi - a CD Rom in collaboration with Sindhi Sangat (Dubai) is a Computer based learning programme which is available for all the Sindhis and even others who are interested in learning Sindhi through English.

  • Cultural Actvities - Music, Dance and Drama Programmes are presented through three wings of Sindhology - “Sangeet Kanwar”, “Nritya Kanwar” and “Natya Kanwar”. Sindhology's artists have presented the programmes all over India and abroad including Dubai, HongKong, Singapore, Manila & Bangkok.

  • International Sindhi Sammelan was organised in 1999 which was attended by 1000 delegates from India and abroad, and International symposium was organised in 2003 where scholars from all over India and abroad debated the issues affecting future of Sindhi Community.

  • Seminars & Workshops on literary, educational and cultural topics are being organised from time to time in collaboration with Sahitya Akademi, National Council for Promotion of Sindhi language & other Govt. & N.G. organisations.

  • Personality Development Course for Sindhi Boys and Girls of 10-16 years age group are conducted in Adipur, Ahmedabad , Indore, Rajkot to make our new generation physically fit, mentally alert and emotionally balanced.

  • Hando -  a festival of Classical Music is organised every year by Sindhology in the first week of November on the occasion of Varsi (Death anniversary) of Sant Kanwar Ram.

  • Help Provided to Sindhi Students appearing for Indian Administration Service. As Sindhi is one of the subjects, Sindhology provides the books and tuition if required by the students, appearing in I.A.S. Examination.

  • Preparation of Text Books for teaching Sindhi language has been taken up by Sindhology in right earnest. These are useful for the students learning Sindhi.

  • Sindhology's Branch at Ahmedabad was inaugurated on 23rd Sept. 2007, to spread its wings in other town & cities. There are also Chapters in Mumbai, Pune, Ulhasnagar, Indore and at HongKong. These Chapters shall be upgraded soon as its full fledged branches to give wider application to Sindhology's aims and objects.

IIS library and Documentation Center provides a treasure of resources for any scholar interested in doing high quality research on Sindhi community, its culture and language. Broadly there are three divisions of library and documentation center namely; library, documentation center and exhibition cum museum. IIS library has got more than 13,000 books in Sindhi including some of the rarest publications in and on Sindhi life. One can find a Sindhi book published in 1852 A.D. called Dharti Nirvar. A book which would be a proud volume for any library on culture and literature is Shah Jo Risalo by Dr. Ernest Trump which was published 137 years ago in 1866 A.D.  Life, Religion and Poetry of Shah by Lilaram Singh Vatanmal published in 1890 A.D. Shah Jo Risalo by Tarachand Shaunkiram published in 1900 A.D.  Harishchander a play by Lilaram Lalwani published in 1900 as well as the bound volumes of some of the oldest Sindhi literary magazines and journals like Sindhi Sahit Society (1914), Sindhu (1932), post independence magazines like Kahani, Nai Duniya, Koonj, Rachna and Sipoon are also readily accessible in IIS library. The library also has more than 1,000 books written in English and Hindi languages about Sindhi community and its culture and language.

The documentation center has a Script Bank wherein more than 500 scripts of old and recent dramas and plays written in Sindhi are available. There are many books on Sindhi theater also available in the Documentation Center. One can also have glimpse of the handwriting of important Sindhi personalities like Sant Kanwar Ram, Dada Vaswani, Dr. Gurbaxani, Lalchand Amardinomal, Jethmal Parsram. There are special corner collections on 10 important literary figures of Sindhi so that researchers can do high quality research work on Sindhi literature. For example there are dedicated collections on Kauromal Chandanmal Khilnani, Mirza Qalich Beg, Kishanchand Bewas and Mangharam Malkani and others. Manuscripts of various accomplished writers and poets of Sindhi are preserved at the library. These include Rohol's Kalam, Bedal's Kalam and most loved Sindhi poet of recent times Narayan Shyam's complete works (published as well as unpublished) is well preserved at IIS Documentation Center. In this way IIS is meeting one of its objectives of preserving the Sindhi literature in a most systematic and scientific way. Future generations of Sindhis and scholars of Sindhi language will appreciate this contribution of Sindhology to our community.

Did you know who was the person to deliver speech in Sindhi for the first time in Indian Parliament? He was Acharya Bhagwandev. Perhaps it will interest many to know that Mughal Emperor Akbar was born in October 1540 A.D. at Umarkot in Sindh. These and many other such interesting and important historical events about Sindh, Sindhis and Indus Civilization are meticulously collected and based on documentary or some other authentic source they are verified and then classified chronologically and theme wise. To make the new generation of Sindhis aware of their rich cultural heritage, many articles of woodwork, metal, textiles, leather work have been collected. All this is being done as part of building up world class exhibition and museum about Sindh and Sindhis. The nature of this task makes it very challenging and is likely to go on for long. Modern computing technology is used to preserve some of the oldest books which are either out of print or rarely available. The leaders and dedicated workers at Sindhology may take pride in creating these archives for the world.

Human beings have always shown desire to connect with their land. The concept of mother land has powerful hold on human behavior. Nostalgia of Marui is reflected in our Sindhi writers and scholars who started Sindhology and decided to name the colony of Sindhi writers, artists and educationists as Maleer. King among Sindhi poets Shah Latif immortalized the village Maleer in the famous tale of Umar Marui of Sindh. Thinking with hindsight one finds that the name Maleer would strike chords in minds of many Sindhis. And curious ones who do not know what was Maleer may find themselves guided to Umar Marui and Shah Latif's masterful poetry. One hopes that this symbolism works.

It is a pleasant place and one gets the unique feeling of togetherness in Maleer. Beautiful houses and beautiful minds surrounded with uncommon greenery in Kahchh make life peaceful and enjoyable. Adipur-Gandhidham is a place which shows the best in Sindhis. Bhai Pratap's vision for a town for displaced Sindhis has now come true and it would not be out of place to mention that Indian Institute of Sindhology and Maleer are two feathers in the cap of Sindhis of this town.

Dr. Satish Rohra has been expressing desire and articulating it very emphatically at all the forums about need for a cultural University for Sindhi. The institution of his dreams seems to be an intellectually stimulating place which will examine the Sindhi culture as part of world culture. According to him Sindhi culture is one of the richest cultures of the world and if we lose it for any reason the loss is irreparable for both the Sindhi community in particular and world community in general. Actually it was this fear, which he some times shares, which was at the root of his desire to set up an institute like Sindhology. The institute of his desire is beyond national boundaries, beyond linguistic and cultural boundaries; a unique institution that can facilitate communication between cultures and thereby enrich the human culture further. One acre of land has been acquired from SRC Ltd., adjoining Maleer to build Sindhi Cultural University. A Board under the chairmanship of Dr. Satish Rohra has been constituted to set up the University.