History of the Sindh

History Main article: History of Sindh Indus Valley seal with a seated figureIn ancient times, the territory of the modern Sindh province was sometimes known as Sovira (or Souveera) and also as Sindhudesh, Sindhu being the original name for Indus River and the suffix ‘desh’ roughly corresponding to country or territory. The first known village settlements date as far back as 7000 BCE. Permanent settlements at Mehrgarh to the west expanded into Sindh. This culture blossomed over several millennia and gave rise to the Indus Valley Civilization around 3000 BCE. The Indus Valley Civilization rivalled the contemporary civilizations of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia in both size and scope numbering nearly half a million inhabitants at its height with well-planned grid cities and sewer systems. It is known that the Indus Valley Civilization traded with ancient Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt via established shipping lanes. In ancient Egypt, the word for cotton was Sindh suggesting that the bulk of that civilization’s cotton was imported from the Indus Valley Civilization. A branch of the Indo-Iranian tribes, called the Indo-Aryans are believed to have founded the Vedic Civilization that existed between Sarasvati River and Ganges River around 1500 BCE and also influenced Indus Valley Civilization. This civilization helped shape subsequent cultures in South Asia. Sindh was conquered by the Persian Achaemenid Empire in the 6th century BCE, and became part of the Persian satrapy (province) of Hindush centred in the Punjab to the north. Persian speech had a tendency to replace ‘S’ with an ‘H’ resulting in ‘Sindu’ being pronounced and written as ‘Hindu’. They introduced the Kharoshti script in the region and established links to the west. In the late 300s BCE, Sindh was conquered by a mixed army led by Macedonian Greeks under Alexander the Great. The region remained under control of Greek satraps only for a few decades. After Alexander’s death, there was a brief period of Seleucid rule, before Sindh was traded to the Mauryan Empire led by Chandragupta in 305 BCE. During the rule of the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, the Buddhist religion spread to Sindh. Mauryan rule ended in 185 BCE with the overthrow of the last king by the Sunga Dynasty. In the disorders that followed, Greek rule returned when Demetrius I of Bactria led a Greco-Bactrian invasion of India and annexed most of northwestern lands, including Sindh. Demetrius was later defeated and killed by a usurper, but his descendents continued to rule Sindh and other lands as the Indo-Greek Kingdom. Under the reign of Menander I many Indo-Greeks followed his example and converted to Buddhism. In the late 100s BCE, Scythian tribes shattered the Greco-Bactrian empire and invaded the Indo-Greek lands. Unable to take the Punjab region, they seized Sistan and invaded India by coming through Sindh, where they became known as Indo-Scythians (later Western Satraps). Subsequently, the Tocharian Kushan Empire annexed Sindh by the 1st century CE. Though the Kushans were Zoroastrian, they were tolerant of the local Buddhist tradition and sponsored many building projects for local beliefs. The Kushans were defeated in the mid 200s CE by the Sassanid Empire of Persia, who installed vassals known as the Kushanshas. These rulers were defeated by the Kidarites in the late 300s, though Sindh became part of the Gupta Empire. By the late 400s, attacks by Hephthalite tribes known as the Indo-Hephthalites or Hunas broke through the Gupta’s northwestern borders and overran much of northern and western India. During these upheavals, Sindh became independent under the Rai Dynasty around 478 AD. The Rais were overthrown by Chach of Alor around 632 CE. The Chacha Dynasty ruled Sindh until the coming of the Muslim Arabs in 711 CE. Rohri – Sukkur, by James Atkinson, 1842During the reign of Rashidun Caliph Umar, an expedition was sent to conquer Makran. This was the first time that Muslim armies had entered Sindh. The Islamic army defeated the Hindu king of Sindh, Raja Rasil, on the western bank of the Indus. The armies of Raja accordingly retreated to interior Sindh. Caliph Umar, on getting the information about the miserable conditions of Sindh, stopped his armies from crossing the Indus and, instead, ordered them to consolidate their position in Makran and Baluchistan. Umar’s successor Caliph Uthman also sent his agent to investigate the matters of Sindh. Upon getting the same information of unfavourable geographical conditions and the miserable lives of the people, he forbade his armies to enter Sindh. During the Rashidun Caliphate only the southwestern part of Sindh around the western bank of the Indus, and some northern parts near the frontiers of Baluchistan remained under the rule of the Islamic empire.[5] Sindh was finally conquered by Syrian Arabs, led by Muhammad bin Qasim. Sindh became the easternmost province of the Umayyad Caliphate referred to as Al-Sindh on Arab maps with lands further east known as Hind. These maps resemble the current border between the two nations of Pakistan and India. The defeat of the Brahmin ruler Raja Dahir was made easier by the tension between the Buddhist majority and the ruling Brahmins’ fragile base of control. The Arabs redefined the region and adopted the term budd to refer to the numerous Buddhist idols they encountered, a word that remains in use today. The city of Mansura was established as a regional misr or capital. Arab rule lasted for nearly three centuries, and a fusion of cultures produced much of what is today modern Sindhi society. Arab geographers, historians and travellers also sometimes used the name “Sindh” for the entire area from the Arabian Sea to the Hindu Kush. Arab rule ended with the ascension of the Soomro dynasty, who were local Sindhi Muslims, and who controlled the province directly and as vassals of the Arabs from 1058 to 1249. Turkic invaders conquered the area by 977 CE and the region loosely became part of the Ghaznavid Empire and then the Delhi Sultanate which lasted until 1524. The Mughals seized the region and their rule lasted for another two centuries, while another local Sindhi Muslim group, the Samma, challenged Mughal rule from their base at Thatta. The Muslim Sufi played a pivotal role in converting the millions of native people to Islam. Though part of larger empires, Sindh continued to enjoy a certain autonomy as a loyal Muslim domain and came under the rule of the Arghun Dynasty and the Tarkhan Dynasty from 1519 to 1625. Sindh became a vassal-state of the Afghan Durrani Empire by 1747. It was then ruled by Kalhora rulers and later the Balochi Talpurs[6] from 1783. British forces under General Charles Napier arrived in Sindh in the 19th century and conquered it in 1843. It is said that he sent back to the Governor General a one-word message, “Peccavi” – Latin for “I have sinned”,[7] these words later appearing as a cartoon in Punch magazine. The first Aga Khan helped the British in the conquest of Sindh and was granted a pension as a result.[citation needed]. After 1853, Sindh was divided into provinces, each being assigned a Zamindar or Wadara to collect taxes for the British (a system adopted from the Mughals). In a highly controversial move, Sindh was later made part of British India’s Bombay Presidency much to the surprise of the local population, who found the decision illogical. Shortly afterwards, the decision was reversed and Sindh became a separate province in 1935. The British ruled the area for a century and Sindh was home to many prominent Muslim leaders including Muhammad Ali Jinnah who strove for greater Muslim autonomy. In 1947, when the British left, Pakistan was created from the partitioning of British India. All of Sindh was allotted to Pakistan. In 1947, 25 per cent of the population of Sindh was Hindu Sindhi. Most of the Hindu Sindhis were city dwellers and were largely occupied with trade and commerce. They were responsible for the export of products made in Sindh and contributed significantly to the economy of Sindh. When the partition of British India occurred the Sindhi Hindus expected to remain in Sindh. Generally, there were good relation between Hindu Sindhis and Muslims Sindhis. When large waves of Indian Muslims started to arrive in Sindh, violence erupted on the streets. The Hindu Sindhis fled Sindh, leaving everything behind. Popati Hirandani, who was a Sindhi Hindu, tells in her autobiography that the police were merely onlookers when violence erupted and they did not protect the Hindu community.[8] Many Hindu Sindhis wanted to return to their native Sindh when the violence settled down, but this was not possible, as the border between India and Pakistan was sealed. Property belonging to the Hindus was appropriated by the “Muhajirs” (“immigrants”) in the same manner that their properties in India were given to Hindu refugees. Hindu Sindhis are scattered throughout the world and many feel like a stateless people and still regard Sindh as their homeland, Sindhis in India have resisted attempts to have the word Sindh removed from the Indian national anthem, though Sindh lies entirely within Pakistan.[9] It should be noted, that many Sindhi Hindus still reside in the province of Sindh and relations have considerably improved. In later years, Sindh has been the destination of a continuous stream of illegal immigration from South Asian countries, Burma, and Afghanistan, including Bengali, Pashtun and Punjabi immigrants to Karachi. Many native Sindhis resent this influx. Nonetheless, traditional Sindhi families remain prominent in Pakistani politics, especially the Bhutto and Soomro dynasties. In recent years native Sindhi dissatisfaction has grown over issues such as illegal immigration, control of the natural resources of gas, petrol and coal, the construction of large dams, perceived discrimination in military/government jobs, provincial autonomy, and admission to educational institutes. Many Sindhis also resent the success of well-educated, liberal newcomers, such as entrepreneurial Indian Muslims and industrialist Punjabis. They may also resent the overwhelming dominance of Pashtuns in security and Karachi’s public transportation.[citation needed]

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