Shikharpur - Reincarnating Paris
Location: northwest of the Indus River.18 miles (29 km) west of the Indus River and is connected by road and rail with Sukkur (20 miles [32 km] southeast), Jacobabad, and Larkana
Terrain: Flat alluvial deposits
Repute: Major area for rice cultivation and for sheep and goat raising; other crops include wheat, gram, rapeseed, sugarcane, and cotton.
Shikarpur once described by Taj Mohd. Sahrai as the Paris of Sindh in its heyday of glory is gradually losing its sheen. Today it is a historical memorial to its old glory. This city of individuality, culture and civilization is in deep misery caused greatly by the post-partition events when its inmates had to flee their homeland and find abode elsewhere.
Shikharpur, the seat of civilisation, culture, trade and commerce acquired political and economic importance because of its strategic location on the map of Sindh, being directly accessible to those who came from Central and West Asia through the Bolan Pass
History dates back to the early 1617s when this emerald city in the northern Sindh province of Pakistan became the nucleus of a historical trade center on a caravan route through the Bolan Pass into Afghanistan. Shikarpur became the core of manufactures including brass and metal goods, carpets, cotton cloth, and embroidery. Its great bazaar (covered because of the summer heat) is famous throughout Turkistan and southern Asia.
Historically speaking, it is said that in the 17th century Shikarpur was actually a land full of forests and a favourite hunting ground (Shikar Gaah) of the Mirs. But in fact, the ancient city of wealthy and prosperous Shikarpur was a seat of civilisation, culture, trade and commerce. It acquired political and economic importance because of its strategic location on the map of Sindh, being directly accessible to those who came from Central and West Asia through the Bolan Pass. As caravans of traders and merchants passed through that route, Shikarpur developed trade and commerce with the world whose links extended to far of places.
The trade links of Shikarpuris were spread all over to Geneva, Rome, Iran, Iraq, Samarkand, Sumatra, Japan, Burma, Honolulu, etc. There was a branch of Central Bank of Asia in Bajaj Street in Shikarpur, which testified to these links.
While the people of Shikarpur were renowned for their trade links they were equally well-known for their benevolent qualities. They used to go to foreign countries and earn tons of money, which they used to spend on themselves, their hometown and on charity and welfare projects as well. No doubt, therefore, there were many hospitals, schools, charitable institutions and welfare trusts. There was one hospital - a singular example in entire Sindh, built by Rai Bahadur Udhavdas Tarachand for health care. All medical facilities like medicines, food, fruits, milk, etc. were provided free of cost to all the patients. Every employee from the lowest to the doctors were provided with accommodation. Humility and sagacity of its builder were unmatchable in the world, as he had arranged to have his name inscribed on the footsteps of the hospitals so that his name could be trampled on and walked upon by the visitors and patients alike.
The happy scenes around bazaars, Sind canal, bungalows with bath tanks, gardens with beautiful flowers, food, had always people thronging all over with gaiety and gay. Taj Mohd. bemoans, that neither those people nor those scenes can be seen today. Everything is in ruins and shambles. There were so many other places of interest. The important being, 'Dhak Bazar' and 'Shahi Baugh'. In fact, 'Dhak Bazar' was the architectural marvel. It was the longest bazar covered with woodwork (pure teak), creating a feeling of being air conditioned even in the hottest of summers. 'Shahi Baugh' was the biggest and the most beautiful garden with thousands of variety of flowers and the pavilion therein of Goethic lines of architecture.
Lakhi-Dar was another place where in the evening people would flock together to roam, stroll, eat, drink (soft drinks - thadal, lassi, milk) and make merry. The Mofti Kulfi was a famous treat which nobody could omit; it is said that the descendants of Moti still sell that kulfi. As they say, while in Shikarpur, if one does not see Lakhi Dar, one has not seen Shikarpur at all. In fact, it was the nerve center of the city.
Cultural minded Shikarpuris were fond of and knowledgeable about classical music. There was a Natak Sabha theatre on the bank of Beggary Canal surrounded by pipal trees where during the days of Holi (seven days) they used to organize 'Hando' of holi. Renowned and famous artistes from Sindh and India like Waman Rao, Patwardhan, Pandit Vyas, Omkarnath, Khan Sahib Mubarak Ali, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, singers like - Kajari Inayat Bai and Mukhtiar Begum, were invited to sing and the people used to listen to them for days together. They were duly respected and flooded with costly gifts. They were accommodated with due care in the bungalows of Hindu seths. Thakurdas Nagrani, Sessions Judge, Aga Sufi, Maharaj Tejbhandas and others established the first dramatic society - Dharamupkars Amateurs Society.
In the field of literature also Shikarpur was in the forefront. It produced vedantic titans like Saami, one of the three pillars, 'TRIMURTI' - Shah, Sachal and Saami of Sindhi poetry. Saami wrote his slokas in popular idioms for the masses. 4000 such slokas were later found by Prof. Jhamandas, though earlier about 2100 were already published in Sindhi.
Lokumal Dodeja wrote Ramayan and his son Girdharilal Dodeja also entered the field of literature.
Shikarpur has produced the greatest modern poet of Sindh, 'Sheikh Ayaz' whose contribution is also as unparalleled as it is unconventional. As regards education, Shikarpuris were marching ahead even in 1930. According to one Survey there were about 70 graduates in the city of Shikarpur in 1930; whereas, in the rest of Sindh there were only 7 graduates then. The first Sindhi college, Satramdas Chellasingh College, was also started in Shikarpur.
There were many places of worship but Khatwari Darbar is singularly important, as its founder was Baba Gurdas a descendant of Sikhs and who had miraculous powers of turning sand into sugar. Besides there was a folden khat (charpai) in that darbar and therefore Khatwari Darbar. It was well decorated inside with beautiful artwork and paintings of that period. It is through the social activities of successive mahants that it acquired name and fame. These mahants were distributing daily tons of grains to animals and birds and chappatis to the poor and needy of all religions alike. Even drinking water facilities were provided for animals also at many places in the city. By nature Shikarpuris religious bent of mind and are charitable.
According to a few historians the city of Shikarpur was revived during the Kalhorra rule and that was what brought about a turnaround in making it the financial capital of not only north-west India but also of Central Asia. Some people think that the city was founded by Kalhoras' cousins Daudpotas --- and it was named Shikarpur because the Talpur Mirs were fond of shikar (hunting). Others do not think so. They point out that Shikarpur was admittedly there before the shikar-loving Talpurs arrived on the scene; for another, Shikarpur has always been a trading centre, and never a hunting lodge. Also, the Muslims named their cities as ``Abad'' --- and never ``Nagar'' or ``Pur''. These experts think that Shikarpur is really Shakaripur --- the ``town founded by the vanquisher of the Shakas'', the Scythians. In this connection they point out that ``Quetta'' is known in Persian records as ``Shakari Kot'' --- ``the (border) fort built by the vanquisher of the Shakas''. Later, on the Indian side, it came to be known simply as ``Kot'' or ``Koita'', which the British corrupted into ``Quetta''.
1. Sikarpuris are the pioneers of the financial instrument called 'Hundi', which was acceptable in different parts of the world and was considered as good as gold. Shikarpuris brought all their earnings to their own town and filled their homes with diamonds and other town and filled their homes with diamonds and other precious stones. The trade links of Shikarpuris brought all their earnings to their own town and filled their homes with diamonds and other precious stones.
2. Dawood Potan built a mud fort around Shikarpur in the ancient days. It had eight gates Lakhi Dar, Hazari Dar, Hathi Dar,Khanpuri Dar Karani Dar, Novshahro Dar, Wagano Dar and Sevi Dar. It had a deep channel around these gates, which was later filled up by the Britishers and a circular road was built over it. The remnants of the mud fort could be seen till 1940 .The city was clean and well paved with bricks and surrounded by greenery.
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