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  • Writer's pictureSanah Alban

Sindh: The History, Culture and Food of the Region

Updated: Oct 15, 2021

Sindh - The land of the Sufis, Pakistan's second largest province by population and home to the nation's most populous city.


This is a weekly series in which I share some information about each of the regions in Pakistan and share a specialty recipe from the area.


This week, we'll be covering Sindh.

Mazar-e-Quaid, The mausoleum of Jinnah (founder of Pakistan) in Karachi. Photo by Hassan Anwar on Unsplash.

Location

The Province of Sindh is located in the Southeast of Pakistan. It borders the Pakistani provinces of Balochistan and Punjab and the Indian states of Gujrat and Rajasthan. Sindh is bounded by the Arabian Sea to the South.


Sindh is the third largest province by area and the second largest by population after Punjab.


The Provincial Capital is Karachi which is also the most populous city in Pakistan! Other major cities in Sindh are Hyderabad, Sukkar, Larkana and Nawabshah.


Map showing the location of Sindh in Pakistan

Etymology

Sindh gets it's name from the major river that runs through it, what we know today as the Indus. This river and the surrounding area has had many names depending on the main language at the time:

  • Sindhu is the Sanskrit word for river. What we know as Indus today was called the SINDHU.

  • Persians and Mughals converted Sindhu to HINDU

  • Greeks converted Hindu into INDOS

  • Giving us the modern day INDUS

The Indus River runs through Sindh. The region was named after this river.

Although Sindh is part of modern day Pakistan, words like Hindustan, Hindi, India and Indian have all come from this region! (And Indus River pretty much means River River!)


History

Sindh was the center of the Indus Valley civilization and is home to Mohenjo-Daro (photographed below) and Kot Diji. These Harrapan cities show evidence of modern urban living despite being almost 4000 years old!


The region was invaded and ruled by different empires and dynasties including the (Persian) Achaemenid empire, Alexander the Great, Seleucus I Nicator, Chandragupta Maurya, the Indo-Greeks and Parthians, Scythians, Kushans and Persian Saasanids, each bringing their own influence to the region.


Sindh was the first place where Islam spread in South Asia after being conquered by Muhammad bin Qasim in 712 AD. Sindh is known as 'The Gate of Islam' because of this.


Sindh was ruled by the Mughals from 1591 to 1700, followed by several independent Sindhi dynasties. They lost to the British in 1843.


Mohenjo-Daro in Sindh, one of the world's earliest major cities. Photo by Noman Bukhari on Unsplash

In British India, Sindh was under the Bombay presidency from 1843 to 1936 also known as Bombay and Sindh. Just so you know, Karachi is closer to Bombay in India than the major cities of Pakistan like Islamabad, Lahore and Peshawar. The first civil aviation flight that took place not only in India, but in South Asia was in fact from Karachi to Bombay in 1932!


In 1937, Sindh was established as a province in British India.


After the independence and partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, Indian Muslims migrated to Sindh and Hindu Sindhis migrated to India. The Sindhi diaspora in India and all over the world come from this region in Pakistan.


This video about Sindh and Sindhis is a very interesting watch and I highly recommend:

Bombay Presidency in 1909, northern portion

Sindh lost its Provincial status in 1955 and merged into a single province of West Pakistan, but became a province once more in 1970.


Population has grown rapidly in Sindh since the partition of India and Pakistan, which is concentrated in the cities and the valley.


Topography

Sindh has three parallel land belts from North to South, the Thar desert in the east, along the Indian border, the Kirthar mountains in the west which is mostly dry and barren and fertile plains in the center along the Indus river.

Climate

Sindh has a subtropical climate. It is hot in the summers and cold in the winters. The temperature can fall to 2° in the winter (December to January) and reaches 46°C in the summers (June to September). The average annual rainfall is about 9 inches/ 230mm, falling mostly between June and September.


Economy

Agriculture is the basis of the economy in Sindh. The province produces crops like cotton, wheat, rice, sugarcane, corn, millet and oilseeds, fruits like mangoes, dates, bananas and plenty of livestock.


Manufacturing is an important part of the province's economy. Sindh produces cement, sugar, steel and automobiles, and has many of the nation's cotton mills, contributing a substantial part of the country’s raw-cotton production.


Karachi port is one of South Asia's largest and busiest deep water seaports.


A farmer in Nawabshah, Sindh. Photo by Huzaifa Waheed on Unsplash.

Language

The Indigenous languages of the province are Sindhi, Seraiki and Balochi. Sindhi was the first eastern language the Quran was translated into.


Urdu, Punjabi, Guajarati and Rajasthani are spoken in urban areas with the entry of numerous linguistic groups after partition. Urdu is the national language and taught in schools in Sindh along with Sindhi.


Culture

Sindh is known as the Land of the Sufis, as many famous Sufi Saints and Mystics, literature, poetry and music have come from this region. Sindhi literature is one of the world’s oldest literatures.


Many amazing artists and well-known songs have come out of Sindh. A few honorable mentions are:

Lal Meri Pat (I'm in love with the coke studio rendition!)


Hindu Sindhis worship the Hindu Deity, Jhulelal. The Sufi mystic, Lal Shabaz Kalandar, was referred to as Jhulelal (which you'll recognize in the song Lal Meri Pat) and so Hindu Sindhis will come to worship at his shrine and believe he is the reincarnation of Jhulelal. The shrine Udero Lal is used by both Hindus and Muslims.


Sindh is famous for the Ajrak (unique form of block printing) and the sindhi topi (hat).


Sindhis celebrate Sindhi Cultural Day, worldwide, every year on the first Sunday of December. Have a listen to this Sindhi Cultural song, Allay (Munja Mar Wara) to give you a flavor of the beautiful culture.


Sindhi man wearing the Sindhi Topi (cap) and Ajrak (scarf). Photo by Iqbal.Khatri on Flickr.

Sights

Sindh has a rich history, which you can experience when you visit sites like:

  • The ruins of Mohenjo-Daro. Built around 2500 BCE, it was one of the largest settlements of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization, and one of the world's earliest major cities, contemporaneous with the civilizations of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Minoan Crete, and Norte Chico.

  • Makli necropolis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the world's largest funerary sites.

  • Ranikot fort is one of the world’s largest forts. It is also known as the Great Wall of Sindh as the fort’s ramparts have been compared to the Great Wall of China.

  • There are many Sufi shrines across Sindh, including Udero Lal, the shrine of Lal Shabaz Kalandar.

  • Shah Jahan Mosque. Built during the reign of Shah Jahan, the mosque is considered to have the most elaborate display of tile work in South Asia.

  • Mazar-e-Quaid, the mausoleum of Jinnah who was the founder of Pakistan. Photographed above.

  • Mohatta Palace, built in 1927 and was the summer home of a business man from the present day Indian state of Rajasthan. The palace was built in the tradition of the stone palaces of Rajasthan.

Left to right: Mohenjo-Daro, Ranikot Fort and Makli Necropolis. Photos by Noman Bukhar, Muneer Ahmed ok and Zeeshan Zulfiqar respectively on Unsplash.


Food

Sindhi cuisine has been influenced by Central Asian, Iranian, Mughal, and Punjabi food traditions. The daily food in most Sindhi households consists of wheat-based flat-bread (phulka) and rice accompanied by two dishes, one gravy and one dry with curd, papad or pickle.


Veggie dishes include:

  • Kadhi (chickpea flour based curry)

  • Seyal mani (levftover roti pieces cooked in tomatoes and spices)

  • Dal pakwan (chana daal or chickpea served with fried flatbread)

  • Aloo tuk or taryal patata (boiled potatoes, fried in oil and then seasoned with spices)

  • Kakdi sabzi (lotus stem curry)

  • Chaap chola (potato cake served on chickpea curry)

  • Palli (chickpea leaves cooked like spinach)

Seyal Maani by Sanjeev Kapoor

Some Sindhi bread specialties are:

  • Koki (fried flatbread with onions, green chilli and coriander leaves within the dough)

  • Mitho lolo (sweet flatbread)

Sindhi meat dishes:

  • Bhugal teewarn (mutton chops)

  • Palla machli (fried or barbequed fish or cooked with onions and potatoes)

  • Sindhi biryani

Special Sindhi desserts are:

  • Seviyan (vermecilli in sweetened milk)

  • kheer kharkun (slow cooked milk and dates)

Sindhi Drinks:

  • Thandai (drink made from almonds and poppy seeds)

  • Khirni (hot drink made from milk, cardamom and saffron)

  • Sharbat (made from rose petals or sandal wood).


Sindhi Koki by Vanita's Corner

My thoughts

Once again, my mind has been blown after learning about Sindh, it's history and culture. I did not realize how far back the history goes and how this region made up the center of the Indus Valley Civilization, which was so far ahead of its time with innovations we didn't see in Europe till much later! I also didn't quite understand the Indian Sindhis are literally from this region in Pakistan, I learnt a lot from Whack's video, which I linked above so please watch it! The food from this province sounds absolutely delicious, with many veggie options which makes me so happy! I will definitely be sharing more Sindhi recipes on my blog as there are so many of them I'd like to try! Finally I'd like to acknowledge the amazing artistry and craftsmanship from this area, which I grew up around but did not realize were Sindhi, such as the mesmerizing Sufi music and the beautiful Ajrak! Sindh has taken me aback and I would love to visit and explore the province one day!


Jahaan jeeyu tahaan sikhu.

There is no end to learning, and that while one continues to live, one continues to learn.











Stay tuned for this week's Sindhi Specialty Recipe!

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