Khairpur: then and now

The Talpurs defeated the Kalhora forces in the Battle of Halani in 1783 and conquered Sindh. Resultantly, Khairpur became the residential area for the Talpurs. Khairpur is famous for its historic monuments and artistic buildings

Khairpur was founded in 1783 by Mir Sohrab Khan of the Talpur dynasty and served as capital of the former princely state of Khairpur until 1955; it later merged into one unit. The Talpurs defeated the Kalhora forces in the Battle of Halani in 1783 and conquered Sindh. Resultantly, Khairpur became the residential area for the Talpurs. We all are well known with the history of Khairpur. It is home of the revered Sufi mystic Sachal Sarmast, whose shrine is located in nearby Ranipur. Khairpur is famous for its historic monuments and artistic buildings.

The famous Battle of Miani eventually led to the capture of parts of Sindh region, which was the first territorial possession by British East India Company in what is now Pakistan

As history goes, Khairpur remained in control of the Mirs until 1843 and the famous Battle of Miani (or ‘Battle of Meeanee’) that took place on 17th February, 1843. This battle took place between the British East India company forces under Charles Napier and the Talpur Mirs of Sindh led by Mir Nasir Khan Talpur. This conflict eventually led to the capture of parts of the Sindh region, which was the first territorial possession by British East India Company in what is now the modern-day country of Pakistan.

After their defeat, the Talpur Mirs tried everything to come back in power but all in vain. In 1843, Mir Sher Muhammad Khan Talpur tried to liberate Sindh from the occupation of the British East India Company forces and thought to fight with Napier, but he was subsequently defeated in the Battle of Dubba. Following the event, he went to Punjab to seek help from Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, the Sikh ruler of Punjab. The Maharaja extended his hospitality to Sher Muhammad Talpur but declined to become involved. The former then went to the Khan of Kalat to seek assistance, but the Khanate of Kalat had already suffered defeat at the hands of the British in 1838 and was in no position to help. Eventually, after ten whole years, Mir Sher Muhammad returned to Sindh and surrendered to the British. As a result, the East India Company gave him amnesty. This was the turning point in the history of Khairpur.

Over the years, the Talpurs have privately owned access to a game reserve or “Shikargah”, called Mehrano, near Kot Diji, and turned it into a wildlife refuge. Mir Sohrab Khan Talpur built the Mehrano in 1790, and there are a very few people in Pakistan who know about this place and have experienced it

Coming back to the present, Khairpur all the way from Sheesh Mahal, Faiz Mahal and Fort Diji to Mehrano, is mesmerising and naturally beautiful. It is one of the largest districts in Sindh and is immensely diverse in topography and nature. Kot Diji is constructed on a limestone hill with kiln-baked bricks, which gives it a fabulous look. Apparently, the bricks were used as they were locally accessible and because limestone rocks were believed to be very brittle, making it easy to be shattered upon impact with a cannon ball. The hill is about 110 feet high, above which the walls of the fort rise another 30 feet. Hereby, I would like to request the government to preserve this ancient historic culture and archaeological background of centuries of Sindh. The Fort needs immediate restoration and repair of some damaged parts as it serves as an exceptional tourist’s point of interest in Sindh.

Over the years, the Talpurs have privately owned access to a game reserve or “Shikargah”, called Mehrano, near Kot Diji, and turned it into a wildlife refuge. Mir Sohrab Khan Talpur built the Mehrano in 1790, and there are a very few people in Pakistan who know about this place and have experienced it. Recently, I had a chance to visit the place that covers 640 acres, is preserved by the Mirs of Khairpur as a wildlife reserve and is home to nearly 3,000 to 4,000 animals, such as the blackbuck, wild boar, hog deer and resident and migratory birds from Siberia.

Visiting this specific place needs proper permission and a guide. The Mahrano Wildlife Sanctuary is a jungle with no boundaries, only sandy deserts. There is a small room reserved for tourists who want to see the ferocious wild boar; the caretaker calls out to the boars with specific names, and they reach the spot within no time. These wild boars are not bothered with the presence of a human being amongst them and happily much on the wheat, which is provided by the guides. There are almost 3,000 wild boars living in the area.

After 10 years, Mir Sher Muhammad returned to Sindh and surrendered to the British. As a result, the East India Company gave him amnesty. This was the turning point in the history of Khairpur

To approach Mehrano, one is to pass through the agricultural lands owned by the Mirs. Several jeep routes take you into the heart of the wildlife forest, where there is a small, multi-storied hunting lodge. A narrow staircase takes one up to the roof, from where you can get a bird’s-eye view of the thick acacia forest canopy and the desert beyond. If any of my readers ever plan to visit Khairpur, make sure to visit these places and enjoy your time. And for those who are residents of Sindh, you must explore Kot Diji and Mehrano, at least once.

While concluding, I want to quote the message of Sir Charles Napier that he sent to his superiors after his conquest of Sindh; he wrote one single word in Latin – ‘Peccavi’ (which means “I have sinned the Sindh”).

The writer is a social and political activist. He can be reached at salmanali088@gmail.com, and tweets at Salmani_salu

Published in Daily Times, February  6th 2018.