A town of unimpeachable antiquity, Sehwan, some eighty miles north-west of Hyderabad, lay on the opposite bank of the Indus. Most historians have accepted the link between Sehwan and the Greek settlement of Siwistan. It was significant enough during the 8th century to be conquered by Muhammad bin Qasim in 711 A.D., and two centuries later by Mahmud of Ghazni. An abortive attempt was made by the Mughal emperor Humayun to capture it on his way to Umarkot but it finally fell to his sort Akbar. Apart from the remnants of the ruins scattered about its environs, the most famous monument in Sehwan remains the shrine of Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar.
RUINS AT SEHWAN, c. 1838
Lithograph published in Sir K.A. Jackson Views of Affghaunistan (London, 1841), plate 12.
The accompanying notes provided by Jackson read: ‘On the north side of the town is the ruined castle or fortress of Sehwaun, by which it is completely commanded; this is perhaps the most extraordinary building on the Indus, and no doubt constructed before the invasion by Alexander the Macedonian. It consists of a natural mound sixty feet high, encased in many parts with burnt brick. In fact, the fortress and mount are so amalgamated, that it is difficult now to distinguish what portion of it are the work of art. The gate is opposite to the side of the town, and has evidently been an arched one. The Emperor Humaioon in A.D.1541, attempt to take it, and was unsuccessful, it was invested b is son Acbar for seven months, who at length succeeded in its capture.
Captain Del Hoste of the Bombay Army, writing in 1839, provided this additional description: it is an artificial mound 80 or 90 paces high; on the top is a space of 1500 by 800 feet, surrounded by a broken wall. We examined the remains of several old towers of brick, and I took a hasty sketch of the gateway, which is remarkably lofty. The mound is evidently artificial, and the remains of several towers are visible. The brickwork seems to extend to the botom of the mound, or, at any rate, to a considerable depth, as we could see down the the parts war away by the rains. A well, filled up, was observed. We were told that coins and medals were frequently found in and near the place’ (quoted in Hughes (1876), 724).
ENTRANCE TO SEHWAN, 1844
Lithograph by Charles Haghe based upon a sketch by William Edwards,1844. Published in Sketches in Scinde (London, 1846), Plate 7.
Edwards described the entrance and situation of Sehwan in the following words: ‘The approach to Schewan is through a grove of beautiful tamarind and alm trees. The city is built’on a rising ground on ‘ banks of the river Arul, and is distant about
Two or three miles from the mighty and classic Ind us. In the environs are many fine mosques and
Tombs, and within the city is a remarkably splendid musjid built in honour of the celebrated Muslim saint, lalShah Baz. An object of great interest is the old of Schewan, which, although now in ruins, is yet sufficiently perfect to attest its former strength.’
About its most famous patron Edwards wrote: ‘Lal Shah Baz was a saint of Khorassan, said to have been buried here about 600 years since. His sanctity and miracles are in such repute that pilgrims flock from Afghanistan and India, and even the Princes of the country did him homage.’
Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, a Persian by origin, died in 1272. His real name was Shaikh Usman Marwandi. An initial tomb for the saint built by Malik Iktiyaruddin in about 1356 was expanded by two rulers of the Tarkhan dynasty, Mirza Jani and his son Mirza Ghazi, and later in 1639 improved and embellished by Nawab Dindar Khan. The gateway and the balustrade of hammered silver around the tomb had been reputedly provided by Mir Karam Ali Talpur. The Urs of Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar is normally held on the 18th of Shaban each year.
FORTRESS AT DERA BUGTI, 1845 Lithograph by Charles Haghe based upon a sketch by William Edwards, March 1845. Published in W. Edwards Sketches in Scinde (London, 1846), Plate 9.
Following the annexation of the territories of the Mirs of Sindh, the Baluchi chiefs began a series of attacks on the prosperous villages near Shikarpur in upper Sindh. In the winter of 1844-45 Napier mobilised a force and cornered the chief amongst them Bejar Khan near Dera Bugti. Edwards, one of the officers in the 8000 men strong expeditionary force, recorded his observations of the fort at Dera Bugti: ‘Deyrah was an oblong mud fort with four bastions and a tower over the gateway. In the campaign of the early part of 1845, against Bejar Khan and the Hill tribes, it was first occupied by General Simpson and the Bandelcund Legion. The Deyrah valley is fertile and supplied abundant subsistence for the cattle of this force. On the proper left appears the encampment of the British troops. When General Simpson moved from this position the ground was occupied by the headquarter division under Major General Sir Charles Napier, who ordered the fort to be dismantled, which was done by blowing up the bastions and gateway’ (Edwards, text to plate 9).
SOUTHERN ENTRANCE TO TRAKI, 1845 Lithograph by Charles Haghe based upon a sketch by William Edwards, March 1845. Published in W. Edwards Sketches in Scinde (London, 1846), Plate 10.
Bejar Khan finally took refuge in a narrow defile at Traki, entering it from the northern end which was then blocked off. A small picket (seen in this illustration) was placed at the southern end. For some days both Bejar Khan and Napier planned their moves, and eventually on 9 March 1845, four days after some of the other sardars had sty rrendered, Bejar Khan himself was captured.
Edwards’ own published notes read: ‘Truckee was the stronghold or mountain fastness of Bejar Khan, in the campaign against the chieftain in the early part of 1845. The view shows the southern entrance to it, which is through a slit or crack in the stupendous wall of rock, bounding the Dyrah ValIey on the North. It is an extraordinary perpendicular ridge 1200 feet high at its extreme point of elevation. Along the ridge covering their position on the other side of it, Bejar and his followers were posted in considerable force, crowning each side of the crack or fissure, and thus defending the only access to Truckee in front. At the top it is extremely narrow and at the bottom is about 130 yards long, and only broad enough (in some places scarcely that) to admit of the passage of two camels abreast. All approach to the ridge is impracticable. Had Bejar held out, this passage was to have been forced by the headquarter division. The view is taken from the camp of the force under Major-General Sir Charles Napier, two days before the unconditional surrender of Bejar Khan and his followers.’