The ruins of Brahminabad are a reminder of a time gone by
In December last year, a team of archaeologists from Khairpur University started excavating the historical site of Brahminabad, also known as Dalu Rai ja Darra or the Mound of Dalu Rai located east of Shahdadpur in Sanghar district. Before the arrival of Arabs, this was a big city spread over 14 square kilometers. Over time, its area has shrunk to one and a half kilometers as people from neighbouring communities have settled and occupied the land.
Brahminabad was first excavated in 1854 by Bellasis and Richardson, followed by a second excavation from 1895 to 1901 by Henry Cousens, well known for his work among the monuments and antiquities of western India. The third excavation was done from 1962 to 1965 by the Archaeology Department of Pakistan, but no report was disclosed.
In the recent excavation, pottery, beads and coins have been found. Before the partition, many artefacts from Brahminabad were moved to the British Museum and Mumbai by British authorities.
Before the arrival of Islam in Sindh, the Rai dynasty ruled over Sindh (489–632) during the classical period of the Indian subcontinent. The dynasty, which originated in Sindh, were patrons of Buddhism. They ruled most of the northwestern regions of the Indian subcontinent. Brahminabad was dominated by Brahmins and Buddhists and was ruled by Raja Agham’s family on behalf of Rai Saheeras, son of Rai Sahisi, of the Rai dynasty.
According to a local account, following the cruel ruler Dalu Rai’s atrocities against his people, the city was destroyed by an earthquake. In Brahminabad, one can see crumbling bricks scattered between collapsed walls where there may have been some structure previously. There is a watchtower in the city in a relatively good condition.
During the rule of Raja Dahir, who was a Brahmin, there was a conflict between Hindu and Buddhist communities in Brahminabad. The Buddhists were a marginalised community. They were neglected in administrative matters of the darbar (court) and not allowed to work in the court.
According to Abul Hassan Ali bin Muhammad Al-Jili’s translation of Mujamul Tawarikh, “During the lifetime of Gustasf, (Vishtaspa), King of Persia, Bahman (Iranian general of the Sassanids) led an army to Hindustan and, built a city to which he gave the name Kandabil (Gandava) and another city which was called Bahmanabad”. Elsewhere, Al-Jili states that Kafand (contemporary Hindu King of Alexander) sent a Brahmin to his brother Samid, directing him to go to Mansura (referred to as Brahminabad in later centuries) and erect idol temples in place of fire temples. “
This information is also found in Sindhi Boli Babut Maqala ain Mazmoon by Mukhtiar Mallah.
According to Chach Nama - Story of the conquest of Sindh, written in Persian, one of the primary sources of the history of Sindh in the 7th and 8th Centuries, Brahminabad was built by Persian King Bahman Ardashir. While the word abad is Persian, Brahminabad evolved from Bahmanwa.
Researcher Mashkoor Phulkaro says. “We are not sure about the year when Brahminabad came into being, but the ancient rivers Hakra and Puran might be the source of its civilisation. At the time of the Brahmin family, when Raja Chach was the king of Brahminabad, who ruled from 652-691 AD, Brahminabad was a business hub as the Indus River provided a trade route and access to the sea was easy.”
People from various countries used to come to Brahminabad for trade and business. In the mid-7th Century, when Raja Chach became the ruler of Sindh, the Buddhists rebelled and declared war on Chach, whose army crushed them.
When Raja Chach took over the throne from Rai Sahasi and married Soonh Rani, he made her the queen of Agham Kot. So Brahminabad was ruled by different rulers. When Raja Dahir took over Brahaminbad in 699 AD, it was being attacked by the Arabs.
The Buddhists were not happy with Raja Dahir because Hindus were appointed to all superior and administrative positions during his rule. Historian and archaeologist Dr Muhammad Ali Manjhi believes that when Raja Chach became the king of Bahmanwa, he named it Brahminabad.
“Before the Arabs attacked Sindh in 711, Sindh had good trade relations with Arabs. Sindh was a rich, cultivated land, with Aror being the capital in the east (near Rohri) where Raja Dahir lived. The second capital was Brahminabad.
When the Indus River changed its course in 1757, Brahminabad gradually lost its commercial value. Today, where there are ruins of a mosque, there was an aatishkada (fire temple) built by Bahman. But Raja Chach built a temple for Hindus during his rule. After the conquest of Sindh by Arabs in 711, Brahminabad was named Mansura.”
In his book Sindh the Archaeological Museum of the World, MH Panhwar writes, “Brahminabad was a large and fortified city built entirely with baked bricks. Its present appearance is one vast mass of ruins, forming irregular mounds, varying in dimensions according to the size of the original houses, of which these ruins are humbler representatives. Its circumference is within a few yards of four miles, measured by a perambulator.
Besides Brahminabad, at a distance of about a mile and a half, is the distinct ruined city of Dalari, the residence of its last king, Dalu Rai. Five miles away in another direction is the ruined city of Depur, the residence of his vizier. Between these cities are the ruins of suburbs extending for into the open country. It seems as though Brahminabad was the commercial hub where merchants and traders lived. In Dalari, the king and his courtiers lived in luxury and in Depur, the minister transacted with officers of the state. A rampart surrounds Brahminabad with turrets and bastions.”
Brahminabad-Mansura was destroyed in 1025 AD. The Hakra river had dried up, and Indus had changed course in the following century.
“We have found precious and semi-precious stones such as sapphire, coral, agate and copper which do not belong to Sindh and must have been imported.” Says Dr Ghulam Mohiuddin Veesar, who led the latest excavation team. “The architecture and lifestyle of the people of Brahminabad show that the artisans of that time were skilled as it was a well-structured city with buildings that had rooms and corridors. The pottery found does not belong to the Muslim period. Dharmachakra (Dharma wheel) of Buddha was also found along with engraved ivory pieces. We are still working on a detailed report.”
The Culture and Antiquities Departments of Sindh are working on the restoration of Brahminabad, which will only add to Sindh’s rich heritage.
The writer is a fiction writer, blogger and journalist