Sindhi heritage: With exhaustive mapping, academic documents the slow disappearing of Shikarpur
By Mahim Maher
KARACHI: A heritage carved wooden door from the Government Girls Siddique Mari Primary School in Shikarpur is selling on the website OLX for Rs120,000. And thus, the city that was once a gateway to Afghanistan continues to be stripped of its past.
The extent of the damage has become comprehensively clear in a startling and painful documentation undertaken by Dr Anila Naeem whose book, ‘Shikarpoor: Historic City, Sindh, Pakistan – inventory and mapping of heritage properties’ was launched on Saturday at the Dr Nabi Baksh Baloch memorial lecture. Dr Naeem, who works at the heritage cell of the department of architecture and planning at NED University of Engineering and Technology, took five years to complete this project. Volume I of union councils 1, 2 and 3 alone takes up over 350 pages and weighs nearly 2kg. The book’s pages are not numbered, but the contents are easy to navigate as they run through the UCs. The research, part of a PhD, was made possible by the Higher Education Commission’s grant. The foreword has been written by prominent Sindhi Illahi Baksh Soomro.
Shikarpur first caught Naeem’s eye in 1999 during a tour of Sindh. The result is nothing but stupendous and heart rending in its detail of the pillage of this city’s historic treasures and demolition of its beautiful buildings.
Shikarpur city was established by the Daoodpotras in 1617AD and under Afghan patronage Hindu traders settled here. At one point, it became a rare example of a city in Sindh whose population was over two-thirds Hindu. By Partition, however, there was an exodus of these inhabitants.
Shikarpur was originally a walled city with a circumference of 3,800 yards and eight guarded gates. The famed Dhak (covered) bazaar cuts across the centre. In 1998, it had a population of 0.13 million but that has understandably grown since. The city has, however, not really expanded beyond the walls. Much of its fame is drawn from the havelis that were built as status symbols by the influential and wealthy Hindu and Muslim residents. Unfortunately, they are being demolished and thus Naeem’s effort to document Shikarpur’s heritage is essential to arrest this.
Naeem has thus documented 1,203 historic entries, including 1,175 buildings. The book provides details such as the name of the building, date of construction, architectural merits, and more importantly the level of threat to it.
As you flip through its pages, you can look at photos of places with names such as Murlidhar Haveli, Dr Pessu Ram Clinic, Baba Modi House, Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah House, Lala Mahal School, Dwarkadas Gianchand Jaisingh’s residence, Sidik Manzil (TFJ Cottage, 1945), Poppati Haveli, Bhawanidas Churamal Pishing Ltd, dry fruit merchant, Vishal Cottage, Murlimal Haveli. It is a sad undertaking, as photograph after photograph tell the story of neglect and irreversible damage.
The only disappointment was that Dr Anila Naeem was in Canada and could not attend the launch, there weren’t enough copies of the book available and there was no time for a discussion on its highlights, which could have ideally been done by her in person with a slideshow. A gentleman who came from Larkana just to buy the book seemed a bit dejected but was assured by Abdul Hamid Akhund of the Endowment Fund Trust that the book would be available in a week.
For copies please contact the Endowment Fund Trust at eftsindh.com
Source: The Express Tribune