Tag Archives: Subcontinent

Pakistan targets cities in North India

by Wichaar

Karachi, July 25 (TruthDive): A report in the media states 25 more nuclear missiles are to be added by Pakistan with a range of 700 -1000 kms to keep parity with India. This means most of the cities and nuclear establishments in North India are vulnerable to attack.

Reproduced below is the media report: If the government successfully achieves its target, this would be the highest number of missiles Pakistan had ever produced in a year. These air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles would be able to hit a target at a distance between 700 to 1,000 kilometers, which would put nearly all major Indian cities within their range.

Sources said the plan was in line with Pakistan’s official policy of having what is rhetorically called ‘maintaining a minimum deterrence’ especially against India. They added that the Strategic Plans Division (SPD) — a high powered body that oversees Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal — was also supervising the production of new missiles.

The SPD works under the National Commands Authority (NCA) that is headed by the prime minister and has all services chiefs as its members. Sources said it was in one of the recent NCA meetings that SPD briefed the authority about the plan that envisaged the production of highest number of missiles ever in a year.

The disclosure comes on the heels of reports earlier in the year that Pakistan was rapidly adding to its nuclear arsenal and the number of its warheads might have surpassed France.

Officials in Islamabad have denied those reports but insiders said Pakistan has been ‘watching closely with concern’ India’s increasing nuclear cooperation with the United States and France.“That is the benchmark… if we see something happening in India on this front, naturally we react and we have to,” said another official.

Courtesy: → Wichaar

PEACE VIGIL Against Terrorism and For Productive Talks By the People of India and Pakistan

Movement for Tolerance of Pakistan & India Peace Coalition announced a Peace Vigil on July 27, 6:30 pm at Hyderabad Press Club organized. The vigils are being held in the various cities of Pakistan and India on the occasion of India-Pakistan foreign ministers meeting.

Courtesy: Sindhi e-lists/ e-groups, July 26, 2011.

Myths Monsters and Jihad

Myths and monsters – by Nadeem F. Paracha

In spite of the gradual infiltration of ubiquitous religious symbolism and mentality in the social spheres of everyday life, Pakistan has managed to remain afloat as a pluralistic society comprising various ethnicities, religions and Muslim sects.

However, starting in the late 1970s, an anti-pluralistic process was initiated by the Ziaul Haq dictatorship that soon spiralled beyond mere posturing and sloganeering.

With the ‘Afghan jihad’ raging against the former Soviet Union, Zia, his intelligence agencies and parties like the Jamat-i-Islami and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam started embracing a narrow and highly politicised version of Islam. This was done to radicalise large sections of Pakistani Muslims who had historically been part of a more apolitical and tolerant strains of the faith.

Most Pakistanis related to the shrine culture and the sufi traditions of the subcontinent, and thus, were least suitable to fight a ‘jihad’ that Zia was planning to peddle in Afghanistan at the behest of the CIA. Pakistanis’ beliefs were not compatible at all with this new strain of a political Islam. To compensate this ideological ‘deficiency’, the Zia regime (with American and Arab money) helped start indoctrination centres in the shape of thousands of jihadist madrassas.

Almost all of them were run by radical puritans. These were preachers and ‘scholars’ who had become critical of the strains of the faith that most Pakistanis adhered to. Accusing these strains of being ‘adulterated’, they advocated the more assertive charms of ‘political Islam’, of the likes recommended by Abul Ala Maududi, Sayyid Qutb and Khurram Murad. …

Read more : DAWN

Maududi: Islamisation Will Destroy Pakistan

Syed Farooq Haider, a son of Maulana Maududi. The language of the talk show is urdu (Hindi).

Courtesy: The Express TV (Front Line with Kamran Shahid and Farooq Haider)

via Wichaar, YouTube

Sindhi Sangat Seminar – if we all come together, we can make miracles happen!!

Sindhi Sangat Seminar In Mumbai on 30th April

Mumbai: Calling all dedicated Sindhis … All those who want to do something to save their identity… Here is the right opportunity for you… We invest our time & money in so many things – do we treat this important?

We like Hindi and English dramas, dances, music and movies – have we realized such milestones are achieved by Sindhis also in our language but only a handful know about this. Do we realize that our culture is dying out to great extent? Do we know the people behind our rich Sindhi heritage and culture?

A platform to VOICE YOUR ideas Sindhi Sangat invites all young and ‘not so young’ individuals to come and discuss their ideas. Sindhis are dynamic and practical… If we all come together, we can make miracles happen!!

This is a get together of like minded, proud Sindhis will be held in Mumbai on 30th April 2011 at 5 pm. Entry by Invitation Only. You will be informed about more details of the event via email / sms / phone.

A meaningful contribution is what we are looking for from every individual who is a true Sindhi at heart! Contribution is not in monetary terms.

Courtesy: Sindhi e-lists/ e-groups, April 22, 2011

Like army, like nation – by Nadeem F. Paracha

Excerpt:

The basic socio-political mindset of the Pakistani society is the outcome of various faith-based experiments conducted by the state and the armed forces.

The party

In 1995, sometime in May, an uncle of mine (an ex-army man), was invited to a party of sorts.

The invitation came from a former top-ranking military officer who had also worked for the Pakistan intelligence agency, the ISI. He was in the army with my uncle (who now resides abroad) during the 1960s.

My uncle, who was visiting Pakistan, asked if I was interested in going with him. I agreed.

The event was at a military officer’s posh bungalow in Karachi’s Clifton area. Most of the guests (if not all) were former military men. All were articulate, spoke fluent English and wore modern, western clothes.

I was not surprised by this but what did surprise me was a rather schizophrenic aura about the surroundings. Though modern-looking and modern-sounding, the gathering turned out to be a segregated affair.

The men’s wives were placed in a separate room, while the men gathered in a wider sitting area.

By now it become clear to me that I wouldn’t be getting served anything stronger than Pepsi on the rocks!

I scratched my head, thinking that even though I was at a ‘party’ in a posh, stylish bungalow in the posh, stylish Clifton area with all these posh stylish military men and their wives and yet, somehow I felt there very little that was ‘modern’ about the situation.

By modern, I also mean the thinking that was reflected by the male guests on politics, society and religion. Most of the men were also clean-shaven and reeking of expensive cologne, but even while talking about cars, horses and their vacations in Europe, they kept using Arabic expressions such as mashallah, alhamdullila, inshallah, etc.

I tried to strike up some political conversations with a few gentlemen but they expected me to agree with them about how civilian politicians were corrupt, how democracy can be a threat to Pakistan, how civilian leaders do not understand India’s nefarious designs, et al. …

The experiment

The Pakistan Army was once a staunchly secular beast. All across the 1950s and 1960s it was steeped in secular (albeit conservative) traditions and so were its sociological aspects.

In fact, until the late 1960s, Pakistani military men were asked to keep religion a private matter and religious exhibitionism was scorned at as well as reprimanded – mostly during Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s dictatorship (1959-69).

Continue reading Like army, like nation – by Nadeem F. Paracha

Problems of Sindhi Nationalism – What way forward?

Written by Dr Beenish Shoro

Excerpt:

…. In Pakistan the national question exists in its worst form because Pakistan itself is an example of a failed nation state. Pakistan was created as a result of the partition of the Indian subcontinent as the British imperialists and the local/national bourgeois leaders feared that a united national liberation would not stop there but would move towards a social transformation that would overthrow landlordism, capitalism and the imperialist strangle hold. To avoid a socialist revolution they conspired and split the movement along religious lines that led to the reactionary and traumatic partition of a land that had more than five thousand years of common history, cultural and socio economic existence.

Pakistan was founded not as a nation state, but as a state made up of nationalities. Even the abbreviations which form the word Pakistan are a testimony to this fact. This corresponds to its belated character. … National oppression has been brutal and rough ever since the country came into being. ….

….the separation of Bangladesh, the inability to resolve regional and sectarian disputes, the inability to sustain a clear concept and direction to Pakistan’s Nationalism and finally failure to create a modern cohesive nation state.

Pakistan’s political system is dominated by elite groups. In addition it faces the dilemma of chronic military rule. ….

….Sindh, the southern most province of the state possesses one of the most varied demographical set-ups in Pakistan. There is a very fragile ethnic balance between Sindhis and non-Sindhis. After partition many of the immigrants from Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh in India moved mainly to Karachi, but also to Hyderabad, Sukkur and other cities of Sindh.

This massive influx of Mohajirs from India and other nationalities resulted in a greater control of people from this transmigration over the economy, jobs and posts in the state apparatus. Although this phenomenon had a greater impact on urban Sindh, the deprivation was felt also in rural Sindh especially amongst the Sindhi middle classes. The acquisition of State and other lands by Punjab Generals and other settlers further aggravated this feeling of national deprivation amongst the Sindhi populace. There are several other factors which fuelled these sentiments. ….

….At the heart of nationalist sentiments in Pakistan is the perception by non-Punjabis that the Punjabi nationality dominates the economy, politics, society and the state. There is considerable evidence to support this perception. First, Punjabis constitute a majority of the population, approximately 60%; second, they dominate the civilian bureaucracy and the military; third, the Punjab is by far the wealthiest and most developed province in the state. And this perception is ironically fuelled by governmental policies designed to assuage such perceptions. ….

…. G. M. Syed can rightly be considered as the founder of Sindhi nationalism. He formed the Sindh Progressive Party in 1947 and demanded provincial autonomy within a socialist framework. In 1953 he formed the SindhAwami Mahaz. G. M. Syed himself a middle sized landlord represented the grievances of that class as well. …

… There have been several movements in Sindh over the last 60 years but there are three very significant mass upsurges that shook the echelons of power in Islamabad. These are the movements of 1968-69, 1983 and to some extent that of 1986. All these movements had different intensities, character, orientation and motivations. …

Zia was the son of a Mullah who had migrated from Eastern (Indian) Punjab and was American-trained at Fort Bragg. His atrocities, his make up and his background were enough to provoke massive hatred from the masses in Sindh. Zia’s repression of the Sindh was no less than the brutalities of British colonialists inflicted upon the mass of the subcontinent and other colonies. All this unleashed a glorious movement of the Sindhi masses against the military dictatorship. Although this movement had significant nationalist overtones, fundamentally it was linked to the general class resentment against this regime.

The movement failed because the regime was able to foster ethnic and nationalist discord especially in urban Sindh and in other main cities and provinces of Pakistan. In Karachi the Pakistani state devised the instrument of the MQM, the Punjabi Pushtoon Ittehad, Islamic fundamentalists and other reactionary outfits to break the momentum of struggle that was developing along class lines.

Still the movement raged on. In such circumstances whenever national antagonisms coincided with class contradictions they became especially hot. According to the official figures 1263 innocent people were slaughtered by the army in rural Sindh while thousands more were injured. There are heroic episodes of resistance that have now become legends in Sindhi folklore. …

… In 1986 the movement in Sindh was actually the last nail in Zia’s coffin. …

… If we in Sindh should achieve “freedom” through the same phenomenon as in Bangladesh we may well get freedom from non-Sindhi capitalists, but we will be all the more cruelly exploited by Sindhi capitalists and landlords. These nationalists do not want freedom from poverty, misery, unemployment; they just want freedom to establish control over their own market where they could extract a huge surplus by squeezing the last drop of the workers’ blood.

The feudal landlords want freedom to exploit the peasants and working class …

… We will take revenge for the crime of partition of India through the formation of a Red Revolutionary Subcontinent. As Comrade Lal khan says, “The unification of the Indian subcontinent will be on a much higher plane than the 1947 Partition.” …

To read full article :→ Marxist.com

SINDHI & URDU are the most beautiful and melodious languages of South Asia

SINDHI & URDU are the most beautiful and melodious languages of South Asia (sub-continent). Please don’t let them die. Do learn Siraiki, Punjabi, Balochi, Pashto, Brohvi, English and other languages but keep Sindhi and Urdu along.

Sindhi is the language of Shah, Sachal, Sami, Ayaz, love, peace and tolerance and Urdu is the language of Khusro, Mir and Galib. Learning different languages are skills. Sindhi language, Sindhi literature and rich Sindhi heritage are a treasure not only for our coming generations but for the world too. It is the moral responsibility of all to protect and promote Sindhi language and Sindhi culture and keep it alive for the global peace.

You Tube Link

Speech of Dr. Zafar Baloch (BHRC) to the conference on South Asia

The conference on South Asia was organized by International Center for Peace & Democracy (ICFPD) in collaboration with Baloch Human Rights Council (Canada). The conference took place at Hotel Radisson Toronto, Canada on December 11, 2010.

SOUTH ASIAN PERSPETIVE ON REGIONAL STABILITY THE ROLE OF THE STATE: DEMOCRACY, DICTATORSHIP, AND EXTREMISM

ICFPD

Following is the speech delivered by Dr. Zafar Baloch, president of Baloch Human Rights council (Canada) in the conference.

Continue reading Speech of Dr. Zafar Baloch (BHRC) to the conference on South Asia

THE ROLE OF THE STATE: DEMOCRACY, DICTATORSHIP, AND EXTREMISM

SOUTH ASIAN PERSPETIVE ON REGIONAL STABILITY

THE ROLE OF THE STATE: DEMOCRACY, DICTATORSHIP, AND EXTREMISM

South Asia is an intricate web of diverse cultures and socio-political systems with a history of invasions and colonialism. While the invading armies of Greeks, Persians, Arabs, and Mongols have left their mark on the land and its peoples; it was the European colonial powers, particularly the British that gave the region its modern political outlook and the problems that come with it. The departure of British colonial power with the division of subcontinent along communal lines ushered new era of unending disputes and tensions. The region is now the hub of global terrorism, extremism, and militarism.

ICFPD is hosting a full day discourse on the questions of extremism, terrorism, and conflicts that have plagued South Asia and the neighbouring areas for decades. We are inviting the best minds to investigate and examine the correlation between state politics, extremism, and terrorism. Analysing the role of state in advancing or curbing extremism and terrorism is often underestimated or downplayed and requires careful examination to understand possible options and barriers in dealing with it. Political systems, functioning democracy, and military dictatorships play a significant role in either confronting or promoting armed conflicts and insurgencies based on the nature and the interests of the states involved.

Speakers: Bob Rae, MP Libral (Farmar Premier of Ontario), Tarek Fatah political activist, writer, and broadcaster, Derek Lee, MP Libral, Kamran Bokhari, Hans Bathija, Dr. Zafar Boluch, Senge Sering (Gilgit Baltistan National Congress)

For more information : ICFPD

Enhancing Peace through Art and Literature

by Jamil Hussain Junejo

Peace has been remaining most desired and higher value of human society throughout the Human history. All the humanist Religious leaders, philosophers, writers, Artists have been laboriously striving hard for establishing societies where the value of peace reigns supreme. Peace holds such high esteem and concern because it is prerequisite for establishing developed and advanced societies aswel states which could be marked with social and economic justice, equality, freedom and rule of law.

Continue reading Enhancing Peace through Art and Literature

Rama Pir Sufi Saint of Sindh and Hind

 

Rama Pir Mandar

– Riaz Sohail, Karachi, Sindh

To read the report in Urdu, please click the following link;

or click the following link;

Courtesy: BBC urdu

http://www.bbc.co.uk/urdu/pakistan/story/2008/10/081010_rama_pir_mandar_rh.shtml


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‘Beyond Hindu and Muslim’:

Rethinking Iconographic Models and Symbolic Expressions in Sindh, A Case of the Tradition of Rama Pir

By Sohail Bawani

Images, signs and symbols have always been significant intermediaries between the world and its representation before individuals. These images, signs and symbols portray more than just graphical facts, figures and forms; they are a means towards construction of human perception of ‘reality’: the ‘meaningfulness’ of the material world through the same (Lichty 2003: 1). Similarly, iconography, particularly portraying religious images, had played an important role in understanding and describing human interpretations about things beyond human imaginations, for example the matter of the creation of the universe.

The valley of the Indus River, since the time of its civilization’s peak and through local inhabitants and arrival of Muslims, including the Sufi saints, has been rich in its symbolic expressions and materials related to ‘image writing’; more specifically, within the context of the interaction between ‘Hinduism’ and ‘Islam’ in the Indian subcontinent (Khan 2004: 30). Moreover, not much has been written through the iconographic perspective about the cultural heritage in shape of sacred symbols among the various religious traditions in Sindh today.

With this perspective in mind, this paper is an attempt to explore the visual culture related to a devotional worship through a temple called Rama Pir or Ramdev Pir mandir, situated in Tando Allahyar, Sindh. The first part of this paper briefly describes different aspects of iconographic legends and symbols concurrently ‘Hindu’ and ‘Muslim’ in nature related to the famous charismatic figures in Sindh at present. This will be important in contextualizing the above visual culture in the broader context of religious traditions in Sindh. Moreover, the second part will take the tradition of Rama Pir, a Rajput prince-deity, as a case for depicting ‘syncretic’ (‘Hindu’ and ‘Muslim’) iconographic figure and symbol system. The third part will lead towards the main problem, by arguing as to what extent is it feasible to identify symbols and icons as ‘Hindu’ or ‘Muslim’ by taking the tradition of Rama Pir again as a case. Lastly, this paper will conclude by synthesizing the above part to draw some general principles on the same argument.

‘Neither Hindus nor Muslims’: Iconographic Legends and related Symbolic Expressions in Sindh, Lal Shahbaz Qalandar and Uderolal in Perspective

Richard Burton, in his famous account on Sindh has mentioned some Pirs revered by both Hindus and Muslims, in the portion in which he discusses tasawwuf, Sufism in Sindh (1975: 326). Among those Pirs he mentions Lal Shahbaz Qalandar and Sheikh Tahir containing both identities, i.e. as a Muslim Pir and also as a Hindu saint: Lal Shahbaz Qalandar as Raja Bharatri and Uderolal as Sheikh Tahir (ibid.). It is interesting to note from this observation regarding the names that perhaps it accentuated the perception of a community about a charismatic figure; which could be Muslim or Hindu.

It has been said that before the advent of Lal Shahbaz there was a Shivaite temple located in Sehwan in Sindh, where the shrine of this saint is situated. It might be an ancient pilgrimage center of the Hindus before the erection of the dargah (Boivin 2003: 7). Besides, a saint named Bharatri, an icon of ascetism in Indic traditions said to have been there before the arrival of the famous saint of Sehwan (Boivin 2003: 19); perhaps later became the appellation for Lal Shahbaz by the Hindus. On the other hand, it seems that association of Raja Bharatri, already a known character for Hindus, continued to exist in the form of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar later, as a Muslim Sufi saint. We may observe the impact of these parallel identities even after the demise of the saint-pir. For instance, a Hindu originated man called Lal Das came to Sehwan from Kashmir to pay homage to Qalandar and never went back (Boivin 2003: 13). A dargah of Lal Das was also erected after his death, who was buried rather than cremated. A small population of Hindus frequently visits this ‘Hindu’ shrine (Boivin 2005a: 316). Today, one of the most important rituals performed at the time of the urs (anniversary of a Muslims saint) of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar is the mehndi; an important element for the bride and groom in Indian weddings even in present times. It may come as a surprise that the mehndi ritual is performed by the Thakurs, local Hindu inhabitants, even before the proceedings of the sajjada nashins commence (Boivin 2003: 18-19).

The Indus has been worshipped since the earliest times in the form of water and light by local dwellers. Uderolal has been invoked as the incarnation of the river-god of the Indus and known under various names such as Khwaja Khizr, Darya Shah, Dulah Lal, Amarlal, Zinda Pir and others (Dawani 2002: 63-64). Popular poster art, available at local bazaars and temples represents Uderolal sitting on a fish with his white beard and mustache, resembling that of a Muslim Sufi saint floating on the River Indus. This iconographic description resonates with the continuation of the ‘river-cult’ in the Muslim era in the form of Sheikh Tahir and Khwaja Khizr; perhaps by those proselytes who still venerated Hindu sacred spaces even after becoming Muslims. This fact can be understood by the architectural structure of the shrine of Uderolal; situated in Hala, near the Uderolal railway station, Sindh. This shrine-complex was built under the supervision of the Mughals having Kashmiri and Persian importation of design (Dawani 2002: 67). This shrine-complex has both a temple and a mausoleum. A wooden Samadhi has been erected in memory of the river-saint including his image in the temple, however, no idol can be found. An oil lamp burns there regularly (Dawani 2002: 68). After this observation, one may ask, which structure is older, the mausoleum or the temple? We may propose tentatively the ‘Mughalization’ of the ‘cult’ of Uderolal after the advent of the Muslims. The restoration of the place into a gigantic structure indicates that the Mughals perhaps attempted to appropriate the spiritual heritage within the Muslim context: continuing the tradition of river-worship by associating a similar figure called Khizr, a wali2 related to the river and a famous symbol among the Sufis; who used to guide their disciples, those not having any formal relationship with a Sufi master, but on their way towards unification with the divine in various Sufi tariqahs.

The Tradition of Rama Pir in Sindh

Rama Pir is popularly known under the name of Ramdev Pir in the Indian subcontinent. In Sindh he is also known as Ramlo Pir; lo with Rama is an expletive rhythmic Sindhi suffix (Boivin 1998b: 28), and Pir, a Persian derivative to denote a saintly figure. Apart from these names, he is also venerated as Baba Ramdev and Ram Shah, probably referring more towards Muslim appellations such as Baba and Shah. It is not far away that at Runicha-Ramdeora, where the main shrine of this saint is located in Pokran, Rajasthan, in India, some Muslim votaries suspect him to be a Muslim saint; whose dargah, later on taken away by the Hindus, was transformed into a temple (Khan 1997: 64).

Present hagiographical accounts depict Ramdev as a Kshatriya Rajput deity-saint and an avatar (incarnation) of Vishnu-Krishna; who miraculously appeared in a cradle where his elder brother Viramdev was sleeping. His father Maharaja Ajmalji (King of Pokran) secured him through a sacred boon conferred by the Lord Krishna. The child was held in awe as he used to perform miracles since an early age. As the legend goes, he killed a demon called Bhero, who used to slaughter and eat the people of that area.

Khan suspects that the present form of the tradition is a transformed version due to many reasons and now turned merely into a ‘bhakti cult’ and a pilgrimage center in Rajasthan; which is a heterogeneous tradition from ‘mainstream Hinduism’ (1997: 62). However, she classifies Ramdev Pir as a guru or a spiritual leader of the ‘cult’ rather than the founder of the ‘sect’; and possibly connected with the Nizari Ismaili dawa: a highly organized proselytizing campaign of the Ismailis to propagate Islam that recognizes the right of authority of the Imams as their sole guide3 (Khan 1997: 60-96). The Ismailis are one of the important facets of Islam related to Shiite ideologies. An alleged Ismaili Pir called Pir Shams was actually responsible for initiating this tradition by proselytizing a lineage of Tanwar Rajput in which Ramdev Pir was an important figure, as the devotional hymns related to Meghwars, the traditional followers of Ramdev, have shown (Khan 1997: 68, 82-82) (Mallison). Ramdev, as a result, happened to be an alleged ‘forgotten’ saint of the Ismailis, who went back to ‘Hinduism’ later on; since Ismaili dawa perhaps could not be able to hold its vigor on the propagating reigns.

It seems that the tradition related to Ramdev Pir in Sindh is a recent phenomenon, not before the twentieth century if we are to consider Aitken’s (1986: 182) remarks on the worship of Ramdev Pir (Bawani 2006: 27). Before Aitken (1986) we are unable to trace any source informing us about this deity-saint. However, according to a popular legend, the tradition of Rama Pir in Sindh starts with his journey towards a place called Umerkot; a desert area of Tharparkar in Sindh, situated in modern day Pakistan. It is believed that he visited this place for his wedding with a Sodha princesses called Netal Devi; Sodhas are a famous tribe that ruled Umerkot around the twelfth century (Chanuriya 2005: 91-102). Historical sources do not conjure up any event like this, though they show strong martial relations between the ruling tribes of Sindh and Rajasthan (Allana 1995: 68) (Butt 2003: 94).

Currently, for the Hindus in Sindh, who are mostly the so called ‘untouchables’, the temple of Rama Pir in Tando Allahyar is one of the third largest pilgrimage centers. It is situated in the midst of the main bazaar near the railway station of Tando Allayar, approximately 20 kilometers from Hyderabad in Sindh, Pakistan. Every year at the time of the annual fair held in the first week of September, this sacred space attracts thousands of devotees who pay homage and visit in fulfillment of their vows. For the votaries, Rama Pir is a savior deity; who also cures every kind of ailment if called upon from the heart. For the staunch bhakt or devotee he is said to appear mysteriously when his followers are faced with a terrible situation.

He has been worshipped as a hero-saint and for the ‘low caste’ Hindu communities as a caste demolisher. More particularly so, due to the suppression of the upper caste Hindu and Muslim feudal, borne by the low caste which forms a considerable number of peasantry and field labour force in various parts of Sindh.

Iconography and Symbolic Expressions

The first impression of the figure of Ramdev is an idol installed in the mandir of Tando Allahyar, which appears more like a Muslim saint riding a white horse. Popular iconography presents him with his beard and mustache like that of a Sufi with a two-sided conical banner in his hand. Traditionally, idol worship is strictly prohibited. It may possibly be related to the nirgun principle: a concept of immaculate god in Indic tradition; or perceived as a Muslim concept of unity of ‘being’. It is however, in recent times that the popular icon of Ramdev Pir has been introduced in Sindh. Before, as some of the devotees suggest, it was only a lamp that was regularly kept burning inside the main areas of the worship.

One of the important symbols related to the tradition of Rama Pir in Sindh is the constantly maintained oil lamp inside the mandir. It is believed that the temple situated in Tando Allahyar was erected when an upper caste Khatri, after the fulfillment of his vow for a child, took this lamp from Runicha; where the main center of pilgrimage of Ramdev Pir is located. Lamps have been kept in all major shrines of the Sufis in Sindh as a sacred object. One is also kept in the shrine of Uderolal already discussed. Moreover, light itself is a popular element in various sacred traditions.

One will feel amazed to observe the building of the temple, which is again close to a structure of a shrine than a temple. Usually, temples of the Hindus have cone-shaped roofs with many of the icons and carved images installed on the walls and on the pillars. However, at the mandir of Rama Pir, arches or mehrabs can be observed from the front view of the temple. Mehrab is thought to be a common characteristic associated with the structural designs of the sacred spaces of the Muslims. Moreover, the use of Hala and ceramic tiles has given this sacred site a traditional Sindhi feel.

Another prominent symbol of the tradition is the foot-print (qadam) and the banner (dhaja). The foot-print is generally painted or woven in the speared-flag mostly accompanied with a crescent and a star. This flag or banner has been carried by the devotees in atonement of a vow. In the context of the Indic tradition, this foot-mark is supposed to be of the Alakh, the formless god of the Jogis (ascetics) or it belonged to Vishnu (The Nirgun Lord), (Khan 1997: 106-107). A similar foot-mark is also common among the Muslims, for instance, the sacred qadam sharif or qadam rasul can be found in Jerusalem that has been ascribed to the prophet of Islam, Muhammad (pbuh); whereas, an impression of his cousin’s foot namely Ali, the first Imam of the Shias, can be observed in the sanctuary dedicated to him near Hyderabad Deccan in India (Schimmel 1994: 3). Moreover, related to the speared-banner is the main alam or banner installed in front of the temple. It has been raised in veneration of Rama Pir at the time of the annual festival where all the devotees take part in the sacred flag ceremony. In the Shiite tradition, one may find a similar vocabulary of alam and a flag with palm and fingers on the top, referring to the numeral five for the Panjetan Paak: the five key figures among the Shias namely, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), Hazrat Ali, Bibi Fatima, Imam Hasan and Imam Husain.

An Approach towards Rethinking Iconographic Models and Symbolic Expressions in Sindh: A Case of the Tradition of Rama Pir

The decisive principal thought behind the above discussion has continually focused: interaction between ‘Hinduism’ and ‘Islam’ on different levels; from sharing symbolic expressions to charismatic figures. Experts have tried to understand this phenomenon through different approaches and many theories had been proposed for the same. For instance, this interaction has recently been understood anew by the concept of ‘liminality’4 by Dominique Sila-Khan (2004) in the context of South Asia. The word ‘liminal’ emanates from ‘limen’ – Latin in origin – to mean a ‘boundary’ or a ‘threshold’. However, in the context of South Asia, she has used this concept to articulate the state of shared religious practices among the Hindus and Muslims; for example, rituals, formulas, literature, legends and even religious figures…a state of ‘religious identity’ that is ‘in-between’ and is difficult to draw a margin on to call something or someone a ‘Hindu’ or a ‘Muslim’. With this remark, we can argue the approach in which iconographies and symbol system has been interpreted. For example, what is the criterion that qualifies Ramdev Pir as a Muslim saint? His beard and mustache, which seems ‘Islamic’? Or does the title of Pir makes him eligible? More precisely, we may argue, if iconographic models or symbolic expressions are ‘Hindu’ or ‘Muslim’ in nature?

It will be significant to observe these ‘objects’ (signs, symbols and images) when they became ‘sacred objects’, i.e. a phenomenological approach towards them. In other words, these signs, symbols and images are more ‘cultural’ than ‘religious’. For example, the symbol of the foot-print associated with the tradition of Ramdev Pir and the Muslims is first a natural object, a stone. The use of stone is as ancient as human societies for conveying abstract meanings. Stones have been taken as signs of power and sometimes as eternal strength, perhaps due to the hardness and perpetuity (Schimmel 1994: 1). Moreover, in the Indus Valley, stones are prominent objects of worship related to the mother goddess in the form of rings (Jairazbhoy 1994: 9). The famous practice of worshipping lingum, an important symbol in the Shivaite tradition, is also associated with the stone (Jairazbhoy 1994: 12-13).

Similarly, flags or banners are supposed to be the developed form of rod or wand – which is again a symbol that is derived from the tree – widely used to satisfy superstitions and magical practices in primitive societies. Besides, it has also been thought to increases human power and used as a sign of guidance (Schimmel 1994: 29-30). However, a Peepal tree (ficus religiosa) has been a sacred object depicted in a seal found in the excavations conducted in Mohenjodaro, Sindh. The mother goddess can be seen sitting in its shade (Jairazbhoy 1994: 8). In Sindh, a Sufi master called Pir Jhandewaro (Pir of the flag’) has also been named after the flag (Schimmel 1994: 30).

The same can be said for the architectural design of the sacred spaces that are so-called ‘Hindu’ and ‘Muslim’. Both derive their architectural heritage from neighboring cultures and civilizations. For instance, architecture associated with the Muslim societies is mostly influenced by the Christians, like the Copts or Mozarabs, Jews or the Armenians; who sometimes acted as material and cultural contact agents between Muslims and themselves, by means of commerce (Irwin 1997: 214). Similarly, temple structures in Indic traditions evolved out of the Stupas5, known in India since the first century BC, but possibly were more ancient than the suggested era of their identification. The Stupas were designed to be ‘seen as the image of the cosmos’, again symbolizes a universal phenomenon of encompassing transcendent ‘reality’ through a corporeal object.

We may now conclude that ‘objects’ remain the same but the ‘vision’ or creative imagination have made them abstract and appropriate for the respective ‘religions’, or sacred traditions which are at the core of every religion. And, every religion or sacred tradition internalizes the eternal ‘existential quest’ of human beings; personal search for some questions that transcends reason: to whom I belong? Who is the creator of this universe and how it works? They become ‘meaningful’ through various religious visions by materialization of the same through cultural items. Since, ‘…vision is implicit in culture’ but it is encapsulated into social and cultural practices; similarly, symbolic expressions and images are encoded values of the religious visions, more or less common in every human culture but they vary in their meanings.

Courtesy: http://www.nuktaartmag.com/Nukta/GeneralContent/View/110

A Sindhi travelogue of India – Delhi Darshan

The book titled, Delhi Darshan, written by Zulfiqar Halepoto, has been published. This book is a travelogue of India. The book is published by Pakistan’s leading publishing center, FICTION HOUSE. Forward of the book is written by, renowned historian and intellectual, Ahmed Saleem. This is more about political discourse and it discussed Sindh’s decade’s old role in promoting peace, tolerance and secular values to make this region a diverse and peaceful region. It discussed the pains of partition of sub-continent, soreness of migration, crisis of ethnic identity and language, introduction of politics of violence and racism in Sindh, influx towards Sindh and disturbances in Sindh’s socio-economic and cultural landscapes,

Continue reading A Sindhi travelogue of India – Delhi Darshan

Remembering Shaikh Ayaz: The legend poet of Sub-Continent

ayazBirth Day celebration on March 2nd, 2009 at Karachi Arts Council main auditorium at 3.30 PM, Programme includes: Papers and Speeches- Book Launch and Music
He sangram! samhoon Aa Narayan Shayam!
hina ja munhinja Qola bi saGya Boola bi saGya
hoo kavita jo kaaka-dharni, para munhinja ranga-ratola bi saGya
DHatu bi saGyo DHolu bi saGyo hanou bi saGyo hola bi saGya
huna tay keean bandooka KhaRNa maan!
hina Khay golee keean haRNa maan!
keean haRNa maan! keean haRNa maan!
keean haRNa maan!
Translation: This sangram! in front is Narain Shayam!
His and mine tales are the same
promises are the same
He is the king of poetry, but my colorful ways are also same
land also same beloved also same heart also same horrors also same
How can I point a gun to him!
How can I shoot him! How can I shoot! How can I shoot! How can I shoot!

Sindhis throughout the history

Sindhis throughout history have battled imperialist invaders, whether these were Arabs, Arghuns, Mughals, or others… none found it easy to conquer Sindh. Many had to make several attempts. ..the story of the valiant defence of Sindh during the Soomra period against Allauddin Khliji and Sama period against the imperialist Feroz Shah who suffered three humiliating defeats at the hands of Sindhis. He finally succeeded because of natural catastrophe, if only to see his own kingdom in ruins due to his obsession of conquering Sindh. Unfortunately, textbooks in Sindh after partition praise every imperialist invader and don’t teach much about native history and their patriotic defense of motherland Sindh throughout history…