Culture

Sindh is a repository of varied cultural values and has remained the seat of civilization and meeting point of diverse cultures from times immemorial. Sindh’s cultural life has been shaped, to a large extent, by its comparative isolation in the past from the rest of the subcontinent. A long stretch of desert to its east and a mountainous terrain to the west served as barriers, while the Arabian Sea in the south and the Indus in the north prevented easy access.

As a result, the people of Sindh developed their own exclusive artistic tradition. Their arts and craft, music and literature, games and sports have retained their original flavor. Sindh is rich in exquisite pottery, variegated glazed tiles, lacquer-work, leather and straw products, needlework, quilts, embroidery, hand print making and textile design. According to renowned European historian H.T. Sorelay, Sindhis had not only contributed to literature but also to astronomy, medicine, philosophy, dialectics and similar subjects.

Genuine love for fellow beings, large heartedness and hospitality constitute the very spirit of Sindhi culture and it is the association of the cultural elements that elevate it and keep aloft its banner among the contemporary cultures of South-Asia. Having lived for centuries under the changing sway of various dynasties i.e. the Arabs, Mughals, Arghuns, Turkhans and Soomras, Sammahs, Kalhoras and Talpurs, Sindhi culture is a fusion of multiple culture patterns.

Origins

Sindhi language has evolved over a period of two millennia; with many waves of invasions by Greeks, Arabs, Arghuns, Tarkhans, Seythians, Turks, Mughals and so on. Sindh, on the north west of undivided India, had always been the first to bear the onslaught of the never-ending invaders, and as such absorbed Hindi, Persian, Arabic, Turkish, English and even Portuguese. The language of the people of Sindh has a solid base of Prakrit and Sanskrit, showing great susceptibility towards borrowings from Arabic, Persian, and Dravidian (such as Brahui in Baluchistan).

Sindh was the seat of the ancient Indus valley civilization during the third millennium BC as discovered from the Moen-jo-Daro excavation. The pictographic seals and clay tablets obtained from these excavations still await proper decipherment by epigraphists. For more about the Language of Mohenjodaro: click here.

The Sindhi parlance has witnessed a transition over the years and there are varying theories related to the ancestry of the language. Historians working hard to fathom the origin of the language have varying conclusions to offer.

Facts and discoveries of Sindhi parlances over the years have launched a debate about the Sindhi language being a derivative of the ancient Sanskrit dialect and there a few historians who believe that it's the other way round. Dr Ernest Trumpp was the pioneer of the theory that Sindhi is a derivative of Sanskrit language. Judging from its vocabulary and roots of verbs, Dr Trumpp came to the conclusion that "Sindhi is a pure Sanskritical language, more free from foreign elements than any of the North Indian vernaculars."

The Rev. Mr.G. Shirt of Hyderabad, one of the first Sindhi scholars, considered that the language is probably, so far as its grammatical construction is concerned, the purest daughter of Sanskrit. It has small sprinkling of Dravidian words, and has in later times received large accessions to its vocabulary from Arabic and Persian.

Hindu scholars Dr. H M Gurbaxani and Berumal Maharchand Advani agreed with the concept. But Miss Popati Hiranandani in her book 'Sindhis: The scattered treasure' (pg6) has an interesting deliberation to this theory. According to her some scholars confused the words prakrita (meaning=natural) with the word purakrita (meaning - formed first), which misled them. In the same way, she says, due to affinity towards Hinduism, litterateurs like Kishinchand Jetley translated a couplet from Sindhi poet Shah Abdul Latif's poetry into Sanskrit and concluded that the similarity shows the derivation of Sindhi from Sanskrit. She rightly argues that it could be the other way round too and cites two authorities to elucidate this point. One is Siraj-ul-Haq of Pakistan who states:

"The history of Sindhi is older than that of Sanskrit and its related civilization or culture are derived from the civilization or culture of Sindh and from Sindhi language…Sanskrit is born of Sindhi - if not directly, at least indirectly."

The other is an Indian linguist, S Kandappan who says:

"Sindhi is one of the ancient languages. I say it is the most ancient languages, I know it has got its origin even before Sanskrit in the country…."

Interestingly, after further studies Dr Trumpp himself seemed to be doubtful about his findings. Testimonies to this are the remarks in one of his work of arts:

"Sindhi has remained steady in the first stage of decomposition after the old Prakrit, where all other cognate dialects have sunk some degrees deeper and we shall see in the course of our introductory remarks that rule, which the Prakrit grammarian, Kramdishvara has laid down in reference to the Apabramsha, are still recognizable in present day Sindhi, which by no means can be stated of the other dialects. The Sindhi has thus become an independent language, which, though sharing a common origin with its sister tongues, is very materially different from them."

Dr Trumpp's initial theory was first challenged by Dr. Nabibux Baloch. He believes that Sindhi belongs to the Semitic group. Mr. Ali Nawaz Jatoi holds the same view. They point out that there are some words in Sindhi that cannot be found in Sanskrit. Besides, the suffixes added to the pronouns in Sindhi suggest its relation with Semitic languages. The word 'Sanskrit' itself denotes that it is a polished or refined form of a language that was already prevalent. The grammarians Patanjali and Panini formed rules and regulations, which came to be necessarily, and compulsorily followed by writers and poets of those days. Thus, Sanskrit was only the language of literature as is evident from works of classical writers. Dr Baloch states:

"Sindhi is an ancient Indo-Aryan language, probably having its origin in a pre-Sanskrit Indo-Aryan Indus Valley language. The Lahnda and Kashmiri appear to be its cognate sisters with a common Dardic element in them all."

Sir George Grierson too places Sindhi as a near relative of the Dardic languages. (Dardistan is a region near Kashmir).

Literature

Sindh is where Persian and Indian cultures blended, for the area was introduced to Islam in 712AD. Thus, very little of Sindhi literature of the earlier period has survived. The Summara and Summa periods are virtually blank except for the few poems of Hamad, Raju and Isack. The heroic ballads of this period set to music by Shah Abdul Karim (1538-1625) are the earliest records of the Sindhi language.

Real flourish of Sindhi poetic talent came during the last stages of the 18th century. Although the time was not appropriate for cultural developments as invaders repeatedly plundered the country during this period. Several works like Shah Abdul Latif's Shah-Jo-Rasalo, the magnum opus of Sindhi literature, were produced.

It describes the life of a common man, the sorrows and sufferings of the ill-starred heroes of ancient folklore. Sachal, another eminent, poet closely followed Shah Abdul Karim. He was a Sufi rebel poet who did not adhere to any religion and denounced religious radicals. The poet Saami was a complete contrast to Kari, more pious than poetical, yet possessing a charm of his own. There was an excess of songsters in Sindhi who recited similar ideas and themes in varied tones. The notables among them are Bedil, his son Bekas, and Dalpat. Gul Mohamad introduced Persian forms of poetry replacing the native baits and Kafees. Mirza Kaleech Beg who composed on the same lines contributed a lot to Sindhi literature.

Dayaram Gidumal and Mirza Kaleech were two of the early prose writers. The former was a great scholar and he was famous mainly for his metaphysical writings. The noted lexicographer and essayist Parmanand Mewaram wrote essays that educated and instructed both the young and the old. This peer group also comprised of Bherumal Meherchand, Lalchand Amardinomal and Jethmal Parsram, and Acharya Gidwani, N. R. Malkani and Dr H. M. Gurbuxani.

Source: www.sindhishaan.com, etc

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