Sindh has numerous historical places that were once at the height of their magnificence and glory. These places might have lost their importance in modern times, but when we peep into the past, we can realize the incredible status they used to enjoy. Drighbala is one of such retrospections.
Drighbala background and location
Drighbala is located about 42 km west of the present-day city of Dadu. It is an important historical site, founded as a village, by Salar-e-Jang, Mir Allahyar Khan Talpur, the first. The Talpur Mirs, who migrated from Choti, Dera Ghazi Khan, first lived in the Drigh Haithyun (Lower Drigh). (Kingrani, Kachho Hik Abhyas)
Etymology of Drighbala
While we know that the term ‘bala’ refers to ‘upper’ (in contrast to ‘zereen’, which refers to ‘lower’), we do not really know for sure the etymology of the word ‘drigh’.
Opinion of scholars and knowledgeable persons vary on this. The point of view of the author of the book, “Kachho Hik Abhyas”, Aziz Kingrani is that word “Drigh” is a Sindhi language word and comes from Sindhi word “dung” or “Dibb” which means a dune or a hillock. (Kingrani, Kachho Hik Abhyas)
However, Abdul Fattah Dahri, who is a knowledgeable resident of the Drighbala-Johi area has a different opinion. He relates the word “Drigh” to “Degh” in Sindhi, which means “length”. He points to all places which carry the word “Drigh” in their names are located near waterways, water streams or rivulets, or even lakes. Is this just a coincidence or for a purpose? We do not know. He also cites examples of three drighs located near such water reservoirs. (1) Upper Drigh (Drighbala), (2) Lower Drigh, and (3) the Old Drigh. Besides this, a Drigh on the Tando Adam – Shahdadpur Road is also located on the banks of an old Dhoro (tributary). Maybe this has to do something with the word “Drigh”, we can’t say with any surety. (Khoso)
The arrival of Talpurs in Sindh
Mir Manak Khan Talpur s/o Mir Sulaiman Khan (Mir Kakko) was the first to enter Sindh.
Built over Mir Allahyar Khan Talpur’s tomb, the grand mausoleum is ample testimony to the strong role he enjoyed in this part of the world. No other ruler of his day had as large and grand mausoleum over his tomb as his. But how and why did Talpur Mirs migrated to Sindh from the Choti?
Mir Manaks’s maternal grandfather, Rais Haji Khan Marri Baloch, had already shifted from the Marri area, Kahan, to here. This incentive might have motivated Mir Manak Khan to migrate to Drigh in Kaccho. Rais Haji Khan Marri is the ancestor of Hajizai Marris and his tomb is in the Chandio Jagir. But it looks like the one among many other reasons for which Talpur Mirs migrated to the ‘Vicholo” or the central parts of Sindh. Sindh extended until the Dera Ghazi Khan in the north and this part was therefore referred to as “Vicholo”
Kingrani believes that Talpur Mirs received Jagirs during the time of Mian Naseer Muhammad Kalhoro (1657-1692).(Kingrani, “Drighbala Sheher”)
Famous historian, Dr Nabi Bux Baloch’s views
“It was during the last decade of the 17th century that two brothers of a distinguished Talpur family, Hotak and Manik, migrated from Choti in Dera region to Vicholo or mid Sindh. The elder Hotak settled down in the area in between Hala and Sanghar taking to agriculture on the irrigation channels of the Indus, while Manik, the younger, had his own settlement at Drigh Bala, on the banks of the hill torrent Nain Gaj (in the present Dadu district). Employing their relatives and local labor and doing hard work, they bought expensive tracts of land lying fallow under cultivation and became Zamindars of repute.
“Mir Shahdad progressed more quickly and distinguished himself in extending agriculture on the more stable irrigation channels of the Indus. This increased his income as also the land revenue to the government. The areas managed and bought under cultivation by him were situated in Mahal (circle) of Pa’rganah (district) of Hala-Kandi, in the Sarkar (Administrative division) of Nasarpur of the province of Thatta. Mir Shahdad had attracted the attention of Mughal Subedar (Governor) of Thatta. Not only had Mir Shahdad extended agriculture which and increased the land revenue, but he also extended his influence among the local agricultural communities all around and secured their co-operation for the security and safety of the whole area from depredations of the lawless elements.
“It was under these circumstances that the Pinghara estate with its large area was granted to Mir Shahdad during the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb. This was prior to the year 1116 A.H./ 1704 A.D., the 48th year of the Emperors reign, when the same grant was confirmed and renewed under orders of the Thatta Governor Ahmad Yar Khan by Mir Muhammad Mahdi the ’Diwan of Suba Thatta’ (Revenue Commissioner of the Thatta Province). Further, renewals with additional grants were made during the reigns of the later Mughals, Farrukh Siyar and Muhammad Shah. From the document of Famkh Siyar dated 1129 A.H., it is to be concluded that Mir Shahdad Khan had founded Shahdadpur just before 1129 A.H., say during 1125-28 A.H. (1713-15 A. D.)” (Talpur)
Kalhoras were basically farmers. Mian Yar Muhammad Kalhora occupied Sindh with a sickle in one hand and sword in another with support from Kalat. Mughal prince Muizuddin, who actually came to battle them, ended up in awarding him the title of “Khudayar” after smelling fishy for their Bakhtiar Khan vassal. Mian Sahib had now become a new ruler, recognized by the Mughals but lacked internal strength to tackle insurgencies. He, therefore, requested Talpurs to support and give stability to the country and handed over the military command to them. (Maolai Sheedai)
The Kalhoras had no other choice because Talpurs were already substantial power in the Vicholo of Sindh. Mir Manak, Hotak, and Shahdad had direct access to the Mughals on the one hand and to the commoners on the ground. Mian Yar Muhammad was wise and took the sensible decision to handover the affairs of the country to Talpurs and himself be the sovereign ruler.
The Gazetteer of the Province of Sindh adds, “At length, about A. D. 1701, Yar Muhammad Kalhora, assisted by Sirai tribe (another name for the Talpur Tribe), managed to get possession of Shikarpur, which he made his residence, and obtained from the Mogal a “firman” conferring upon him the Subhedari of the Dera Districts, as well as the imperial title of “Khuda Yar Khan”. By the year 1711 Yar Muhammad had greatly extended his territorial possessions by acquisitions of Kandiaro and Larkano districts and of Siwi (Sibi) [then comprising Shikarpur and Sukkur] …” (Hughes) Thus, after the initial support from Kalat, the real military strength was provided to Kalhoras by the Talpurs especially Mir Allahyar Khan, which enabled Mian Yar Muhammad Kalhoro to establish himself as the ruler of this area.
Estimates of Mir Allahyar Khan Talpur
Mir Allahyar Khan- I was a warrior, victor, and a hero of his time. He was a founder not only of Drighbala but of the power and state of Kalhoras in Sindh. He was a constructor, planner, strategist. He has played a pivotal role not only in creating the Kalhora state in Sindh but also in making it sustainable, food-safe, and a region that generates revenue and wealth.
Drighbala – his town
Drighbala is still known as Mir Allahyar Khan ‘s town. He had built a fortress and lived there for various reasons. Some of these are as follows.
- The region was awarded to him by the Mughal rulers and consented by the Kalhoras so that he could remain there and provide a line of protection from Kalat and Afghan invaders to the rest of the Sindh. The region was always under the threat of invasions by Afghan and Kalat and as a warrior, he could easily deal with them and help to consolidate the Kalhora and Mughal influence in the surrounding areas.
- He has been advised to stay close to the better security of Kalhoras.
- Drighbala ‘s land was fertile and fed by Nai Gaj rain-stream. Water supply was sufficient, and the building of canals and water reservoirs was simple for him to provide water for growing food crops.
- The availability of water, fertile land, food security would help attract artisans and craftsmen to Drighbala, and this would help to increase business and trade activities.
- Business and commercial operations, artisans and craftsmen’s shops, revenue generation, and wealth creation were not difficult.
Mir Allahyar Khan’s constructions include a fortress at Drighbala. There he lived with his family, and he used it as his court to hold the business of his Kacho state. In Drighbala, shops and places were built for artisans, craftsmen, traders, and sellers of agricultural produce.
In the district, on the lowland as well as on the hills and highlands, dozens of other small structures were built for self and for the soldiers. Some Gorakh highland fortresses had been intended to temporarily live during the scorching heat of the summer months.
Drighbala ‘s new fortress was rebuilt a few years later as the first was devastated due to the floods of Nai Gaj. (Dahri)
Canals and irrigated agriculture
Kalhoras were wandering religious mendicants.(S. F. D. Ansari) Their rise is attributable to the arrival of Talpurs. As religious and moral leaders Talpurs highly revered Kalhoras. They and their fellow Balochis turned the Sindh into a rich agricultural area generating a lot of revenue for Kalhoras. They achieved this by constructing irrigation canals from rain streams and from the River Indus. Mir Allahyar Khan constructed lots of irrigation canals in the Kachho and adjoining areas and Mir Shahdad Khan in the Sindh Vicholo (central). The country flourished during the Kalhora era with increased revenue and wealth creation. During the whole Kalhora period, more than seven hundred canals were constructed, and large areas were brought under cultivation.
Patronizing arts and crafts
Mir Allahyar Khan patronized arts and crafts. Artisans and craftsmen were welcomed in the Kachho and as well as the adjoining areas. Local arts were developed and arts and crafts from the Gujarat and Rajputana were welcomed there. Buildings, especially the mausoleum of Mir Allahyar is living testimony of his patronage of artistic craftsmanship. After his death, they built his mausoleum over his resting place. On its walls inside it, one can find frescos of floral designs as well as birds and animals depicting stories of those days.
Another testimony or the arts and crafts is “the great tomb of Yar Muhammad, the first ruler of Sindh, which is some little distance to the west of Jami Masjid, is a square massive building, the front of which is fully decorated with enameled tiles. High up around the other three rows of large arched windows fitted with perforated terra-cotta screens of delicate geometric tracery. Similar windows, upon the front, are fitted with perforated glazed tiles. Suspended around the tomb, within, is a great collection of clubs or stout sticks, placed there to show how easily Sindh was taken from Panhwars by Kalhorahs, swords have not been necessary.
“The great panel of coloured tiles above the entrance is a remarkable piece of work. Nearly ten feet square, it is made up of no less than 240 square tiles, no two, except in the outer border, being like The usual way in which these large single patter panels are drawn out by the present makers, is by layıng the plain tiles out upon the ground, closely packed to the same size as the panel, and then drawing and painting in the pattern as if the whole were one flat surface, and, with what success, may be judged from the photograph The tiles are then again fired to fix the colours, and attached to the building in then respective positions to reproduce the design In this case, the great size of the panel must have made this a difficult piece of work, considering the rough tools and appliances used. The result, however, is perfect. The large arched panels on either side of this, and below, are also worked out m the same way, though their designs, being that of a diaper, do not produce the same effect The great central panel recalls, somewhat, the great rose windows in Gothic work.” (Cousens)
Mir Allahyar Khan’s Necropolis
Mir Allahyar Khan’s Necropolis is also known to some people as Mir Manak’s Necropolis. The necropolis has many graves and tombs. Local community residents know only about some of the famous tombs. There are also graves, about which there is little known. Most of the Talpur Mirs graves can be marked. Others may be the graves of the Talpurs family members or other influential people of those days.
Mir Muhammad Bux Talpur was able to get hold of the earliest published article about the necropolis, in the 1970s. It was written by Mostapha Quinn and published in Arabic language magazine, “Fikr-o-Fun“. It was translated from the Arabic language by Molvi Muhammad Siddique. (Khoso)
Tombs and graves in the necropolis
The two dominant mausolea in the necropolis are of Mir Allahyar Khan – I (died in 1729) and his brother Mir Chhuto Khan (died in 1759). The necropolis is said to have existed before Mir Allahyar Khan settled in the region. However, after his death, the people started to identify the place as Mir Allahyar’s Necropolis. It is due to his commanding stature, and because he was a well-known warrior.
The other tombs of the necropolis include the tomb of Mir Sulaiman Khan Kako and Mir Manak Khan, a Mir Allahyar’s mother, and a tomb called Ghot-Kunwar’s Tomb.
Every tomb tells its own story!
Mir Allahyar’s Mausoleum
In one interview, Abdul Fattah Dahiri has given details of Mir Allahyar’s Mausoleum which was constructed in 1731 AD. Based on his information, let us examine the structure of the building.
The walls of Mir Allahyar’s tomb are about eleven feet thick. It has a staircase to go up as well. It stands over a big platform over which a quadrangular walled structure of the tomb stands. There is an octagon above the quadrangular structure and a round dome over it.
The mehrabs of the tomb are not semicircular but angulated. The walls of this tomb have limestone plaster upon which frescos have been made.
Such wall paintings are mostly in black color. A red color can also be seen occasionally.
These frescoes tell stories of battlefield and folktales and have both floral and animal designs. The battlefield-themed frescoes depict horse riders, foot warriors, fallen soldiers, and people riding elephants.
The smaller mehrabs have durbar-setting frescos. Some are seen carrying fans, others sitting on the throne, and some standing before their chieftain.
Sitting at its easterly approach, the fresco displays Sassui Punhon ‘s folk story. It features mountains, camel riders, and a woman. The first camel has two riders in front. Behind this are camels, with one rider each. And, last one is a woman on the scene.
It is incredible that a building like that has been constructed in such a distant location. (Dahri)
Mir Chhuto Khan’s tomb
This gravesite is somewhat smaller than the mausoleum of Mir Allahyar.
Similar in structure. The quadrangular walled building stands on the foundation, over which an octagon and a curricular dome lead up to the top.
In this tomb too, the frescos are mainly black in color. All the frescos feature only vegetative and floral designs, unlike the mausoleum of Mir Allahyar, where animal figures are plenty. Much the same as a mosque, this tomb has mehrab too. (Dahri)
Tomb of Mir Sulaiman @ Kakko
The tomb has two sepulchers. One belongs to Mir Sulaiman Khan. Mir Manak Khan is buried in the second grave. This tomb is somewhat different from the others.
The frescoes depict lion and elephant fight. Apart from that, monkeys, peacocks, were frescoed on the inside walls. The depiction of an elephant and a lion can be seen on the mehrab.
The elephant and a lion possibly point to the two Mirs buried in the tomb. Or maybe the animals depict the warlord type of their nature. (Dahri)
A few frescoed peacocks are seen with feathers spread out. Others show up with feathers closed. There are tall coconut trees frescoed on the Southern and Northern walls, with monkeys climbing over them. There is no cultivation of coconuts in the region, so maybe the artists who produced these art pieces came from some coconut growing area. Or maybe they just painted coconuts and monkeys, but this cannot be said with certainty.
Khairo Jamali’s tomb
Khairo Jamali appears to have been a notable figure in the Talpurs army. His tomb lies on the necropolis’ western side. And the entrance to the tomb is also unusual, i.e., from its western side. This tomb seems to have been built much later.
This tomb is much smaller in size and the walls are not vertical, as is the case for other larger tombs. Instead, as these rise higher, walls lean slightly inwards. Many other tombs later constructed have their walls leaned inward as they rise. The tomb of Khairo Jamali also has nice floral frescoes inside. Unfortunately, during the torrential rains of 2011, the tomb’s dome has collapsed. (Dahri)
There is a tomb in the necropolis, called the Ghot-Kunwar tomb. This basically means a bride and groom’s gravesite. Nobody knows the names of the two individuals buried under the grave, a man, and a woman. Nevertheless, it is said that on the same day of their wedding they had died for a reason which no one knows. It is also unclear what are their relations with the Talpur Mirs. But since a nice tomb was erected over them, it can be said at that time that they enjoyed a higher position in the society. They might well belong to the Talpur family.
The Ghot-Kunwar Tomb also has nice frescoes on the walls inside.
Another prominent tomb in the necropolis is the tomb of Mir Pinyal. History scholar Kingrani says it only has horse riders’ frescoes. Which might be the explanation for that? We do not really know. (Kingrani, Kachho Hik Abhyas)
Mir Allahyar’s mother’s grave is also situated in the necropolis.
There is no information on other graves in the necropolis.
Arts, crafts, and architecture
The frescos and paintings have Rajput influence and it is quite possible that the artisans and craftsman who constructed the tombs belonged to Rajputana. (Khoso)
Two or three types of fresco paintings can be seen. The greenish color is more widely used in the tombs of Mir Sulaiman Khan. You will not find much green color in other tombs. These arts were probably created by different craftsmen in different periods of time. This is the reason the frescoes of the tomb are quite different from each other. Construction and artistic depictions of Mir Allahyar and Mir Chhuto’s tombs were made in the same period. The black color is the dominant color in this tomb art. (Dahri)
Nai Gaj and torrential rains causing destruction
Due to the flow of Nai Gaj and the rare but sometimes heavy torrential rains, this necropolis has been widely destroyed. The domes of many tombs have collapsed, and soil erosion is threatening the foundations of the tomb. Unscrupulous tourists have destroyed some of the frescoes and printed their names by spraying colors and making graffiti on the old artistic frescoes. There is no security offered by the government to prevent all this destruction.
Cracks are visible in the mausoleum of Mir Allahyar. Dahri attributes the destruction of the necropolis to the construction of the Sukkur Barrage in the 1930s. Originally, the necropolis was on the right side of the Gaj waterway. And on its south, there was a flat field with some irrigation canals. The water of the Gaj flowed naturally from the West to the East and ended up in the West Nara without causing any problems. But the water from the Gaj was disturbing the Sukkur Barrage command area. First, they built the FP Bund dyke, but it did not work to ease the disturbance of the Sukkur Barrage Canals. Then the Nai Gaj itself was diverted. The Gaj, which used to flow from the West to the East, now flows from the North to the South. Gaj diversion bund dyke built for this diversion is 31,000 feet long and extends from the Gaj Bungalow to the necropolis of Mir Allayar. The Nai Gaj stream has been diverted to the south. So geographically speaking, the natural flow of the Nai Gaj is now both in the North and in the South of the Necropolis. This continues to damage the necropolis every time the area is flooded by the rain. (Dahri)
The fortress of Drighbala
Besides the necropolis, Mir Allahyar’s fortress is the other site that can be studied to research the Drighbala state of Mankani Talpurs. Drighbala’s fortress was built by Mir Allahyar Khan Talpur and he used it mostly as his residence. Even after Mir Allahyar Khan’s death the fortress was used as his family’s residence and to station military battalions. Not only did he build a fortress at Drighbala, one will find other fortresses built by him on the hills of Kirthar nearby the plains of Kachho. Ishtiaq Ansari has extensively studied these fortresses. (I. Ansari) The walls of the fortress are 13 feet and 3 inches tall. The stronghold has four bastions at its corners. Each bastion is similar in size.
The purpose for which bastions were made at the corners of this fortress is shrouded in mystery. Normally bastions or “Burj” are made in the fort with many holes in the walls for seeing enemies at distance and attacking them if needed. While the soldiers watch from a distance and shoot at enemies, they keep themselves safe. However, no such holes are present in the bastions of this fortress! (I. Ansari)
Next to the fortification is the Talpur Mirs well. It was used in those days as a source of water supply and is still operational.
Nevertheless, the fortress mosque was restored thrice, and the present structure is not the original one.
The throne and the courtroom where Mir Allahyar used to hold his durbar was also located here in this fortress. There are also ruins of 4-5 quarters, a horse stubble, a singers’ house, and a kitchen inside. It looked more like a residential fortification though with sturdy walls and bastions. It is more a rectangular rather than a square kot. The dimensions are of 245 feet by 206 feet, with east-west walls longer than north-south walls. At the foundation level, the walls are four feet thick but at the top they are only two feet thick. However, this measurement differs from one spot to another due to rains and wear and tear, with no repairs being carried out. (I. Ansari)
Craftsmen of Drighbala
Drighbala was important from the point of view of crafts, agriculture, irrigation techniques and the use of Naar (Persian Wheel). These older irrigation methods have now been replaced by tube-wells.
Drighbala was incredibly famous for producing a variety of vegetables. (Khoso) It has been famous for the production of onions, tomatoes and tubers since those days.
Jandi (revolving wheel woodworks) and Drighbala’s baked clay pottery were and still are immensely popular. A documentary video posted on YouTube shows one Muhammad Ismail Kunbhar and informs that he is the only living pottery master who still uses a baked clay wheel for his pottery making instead of a wooden one. (Khoso)
The craftsmen included goldsmith jewelers, metalsmiths, who used to make all sorts of metal tools for local use and to send them to distant places, cloth weavers, trouser belt weavers, kunbhars or pottery craftsmen, and jandi woodwork carpenters.
All present-day craftsmen in the whole of the Johi taluka have originated from Drighbala. If anyone traces the roots, one will find that a few generations ago, their elders used to live and work in Drighbala.
So, we can safely claim that it is Drighbala who has spread all the craftsmen to the entire Johi area. Drighbala’s lathe woodworks (jandi) are also equivalent to those of Kashmore and Hala. Nowadays, though, these traditional craftsmen are in poor economic condition due to lack of patronage.
The clay pottery made in Drighbala is undoubtedly the best pottery in Sindh. Natural clay found in the soils of Drighbala is very suitable for this purpose. The pottery masters produce the finest ‘gharra’ (pitchers) in Sindh. These gharra are as thin as 1-1.5 cm only and weigh as little as one-third of the gharra produced elsewhere. These gharra are so porous that during the ‘chaleeho’ (forty days of hot winds and weather in May and June) the gharra can cool the water as rapidly and as cold as any refrigerator can. Drighbala potters do not use the mold to make “gughee” (a narrow-necked pitcher for keeping water) but use the “chak” or pottery wheel to make the whole vessel. (Dahri)
The gughees made in Drighbal are artistically decorated. Woman craftsmen are very skilled in painting these gughees and other pottery work. Such gughees are so popular that people are sending them as souvenirs all over the world. (Brahmani)
The necropolis and the fortress of Mir Allahyar Khan Talpur in Drighbala need not only further research and exploration but also protection from the ravages of weather and unscrupulous visitors. Next, these need to be restored to its original state. If urgent conservation steps are not taken, these historic sites will be lost forever.
Conservation work has been planned. However, reportedly there are some issues in its execution. (Kalhoro) It is hoped that the protection from rains stream damage will be done first, followed by the restoration of the tomb structures and the fortress. It is hoped that the original frescos art inside the tomb buildings in the necropolis will be maintained in its originality and carefully restored.
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The person of Mir Allahyar Khan referred to on this page is Salar-e-Jang Mir Allahyar Khan Talpur 1st. He is the son of Mir Manak Khan, who migrated from Dera Ghazi Khan area. This Mir Allahyar 1st must not be confused with the Mir Allahyar Khan Talpur 2nd, who was son of Mir Fateh Khan Talpur son of Mir Masu Khan son of Mir Allahyar Khan Talpur 1st. This means that the Mir Allahyar Khan Talpur 2nd was the great grandson of Mir Allahyar Khan Talpur 1st.