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Heritage: A glorious past
By Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro
Sreman Khan Chandio had two sons, Haji and Husan from whom sprang the clans of Mirzanis (named after Sreman’s father, Mirza Khan) and Husnanis respectively. He was considered a cultural hero in the tribal history of Sind. He laid the foundation to Chandia jagir in 1501, which was bestowed upon him by Jam Nizamuddin Sarno (1461-1508), the ruler of Sama dynasty, in return of the help extended by Sreman Khan and his tribe against the Arghuns who were frequently invading western Sindh.
The Chandia tribe repelled every advance of the enemy and defended every inch of their land. Scattered all over the jagir are graves of those who died while defending their territory. Many archeological and historical sites can also be found there. One such historical site locally known as Dau Ja Quba is located some eight kilometres southeast of Gebi Dero. The necropolis has been under the threat of encroachment by local farmers.
On way to the necropolis, I met Mohammad Ayub Marphani Chandio and requested him to accompany me to the necropolis, to which he agreed. Mr Marphani has much knowledgeable about his tribe and he unerringly recalls the battles of his tribe against other tribes, particularly the Bughtis, Magsis and Sabhayas, etc. In addition to battles against the other tribes, Chandios also fought with one another. He forlornly narrated the battle which was fought between the two sections of the Chandio tribe at Mahu (not far from Gebi Dero), locally known as Battle of Mahu.
Mohammad Ayub took me to the place where the battle was fought. A land once marked with sand dunes has now been brought under cultivation. Near the battleground is the necropolis which is spread over two hundred acres and contains eight derelict and dilapidated tombs, belonging to Daud Khan, Sewa Khan, Rais Chakar Khan, Ghazi Khan, Rais Wali Rakhio, Rais Jan Mohammad Khan, Rais Mohammad Baqar,and Rais Ahmed Khan, respectively. This necropolis, however, is attributed to Daud who was the chief of the Husnani tribe. He was killed in 1614 during a battle against the troops of Mirzani tribe at Mahu near Gebi Dero. Later, his descendants erected tombs for Daud, his relatives and also the soldiers. These tombs were completed in a short span of six years between 1819 and 1825 (except the tomb of Ghazi Khan, which was built in 1840).
After the gory battle which involved much bloodshed, the Husnani tribe decided to move to the present Shahdadkot and Miro Khan Talukas of Larkana where two clusters of their tombs still stand in both places, reminding us of their material glory of the past. According to the local accounts, the battles between the Haji and Husan tribes claimed 1,600 lives.
All the tombs in the graveyard are invariably of the same type, differing only in sizes. The tombs are plastered with lime and built entirely of burnt bricks with walls raised in three strata. One of the distinctive features of these tombs is the paintings. The paintings on the Husnani tombs are significant for their perfect technique and subject, and cover every niche and arch of the tombs’ interior. The endless variety of geometric and floral designs, and human and animal figures spread over the interior surface. The surface has various panels of different shapes and dimensions according to the space available. The basic elements of decoration are varied. Some of the patterns appear very natural like trees, which seem to have been inspired by close observation of the local surroundings and some fruit trees are particularly well done.
Three tombs are bedecked with folk tales, of which the tomb of Ghazi Khan, also known as ‘Jangi Qubo’, is replete with folk tales and battle scenes. The western wall has three beautifully animated panels.
On one of the panels there is a depiction of Laila and Majnu sitting on a cot apparently talking to each other under a tree with a horse standing close by. Though the tale of Laila Majnu is not indigenous, yet it has inspired the local artists considerably. The second panel depicts two people sitting on a cot whilst a man plays Surando (a very popular musical instrument in Sindh) behind them.
A third panel shows two people mounted on horses, and they seem to be raising flags of victory. This scene represents the legend of Mir Chakar Khan Rind and Mir Gohram Khan Lashari. The battle they fought lasted for 30 years and left deep imprints on the artists. Above this, there is a battle scene in which two tribes, Sabaya and Husnanis, are shown fighting with each other. This battle took place in 1839.
After the battle of Bungah in 1829 that the Rinds lost to the Chandia backed Magsis, Mir Noor Mohammad Khan Talpur, the then ruler of Sindh, decided to take revenge from either Magsis or Chandias that the defeat that his supporters suffered in the battle of Bungah. Mir Sher Mohammad Khan Rind who led his tribe in the battle of Bungah also died in the battle. He was Mir Noor Mohammed Talpur’s father-in-law. In order to avenge the death of his father-in-law, Mir Noor Mohammad called on a meeting of his cohorts to chalk out a strategy for attacking the enemies. It was decided in unison to first attack Sardar Wali Mohammad Chandio.
Four well-known personalities of Chanduka, namely Aboro Shaikh, Shah Wali Khan Chandio, Sardar Miral Sabayo and Ali Sher Kalpar Bughti were also present in the meeting. Aboro Shaikh alone opposed the idea of attacking Wali Mohammad while the rest suggested that it was not easy to attack Wali Mohammad as he was always escorted by his best fighting men. It would, however, be advisable to first kill his commander Ghazi Khan who fought in the battle of Bungah and had also killed Miral Sabayo’s son. Miral Sabayo gave his word to Mir Noor Mohammad Talpur that his tribesmen would kill Ghazi Khan. One evening, as Ghazi Khan was returning back home along with his friends Sher Mohammad Khan, Khan Mohammad Khan and Moula Dad Khan, the Sabayas ambushed Ghazi Khan’s party, killing him and his friends. Only Moula Dad, also known as Moula Bakhksh, managed to escape. This took place on the bank of Saroh lake, situated near Gebi Dero. When this news reached Wali Mohammad Khan, he dubbed Moula Dad as timid and swore to his tribe that this act would be avenged.
Within just a week, the Chandias, under the command of Tillo Khan, attacked the village of Sabayas and killed hordes of people and safely returned to their environs. Later on when the tomb of Ghazi Khan Husnani was erected, the painter elegantly painted the whole story on the west wall of the tomb. Moula Dad or Moula Bakhsh is depicted as retreating from the battleground.