King Dodo remains a vaguely remembered figure in Sindh’s history
A parliamentary system was first introduced in Sindh by the Soomra dynasty that ruled between the years 1026 and 1356. During their 330 years in power, the Soomra rulers shifted their capital variously to Thar, Thatta and Roopamari as well as some other places. Soomra King Bhoongar had two wives. He had a son, called Chanesar, with his first wife, Roopa Bai, who came from the Gujar caste, and Dodo and daughter Bhagal Bai with his second wife, a Rajput by birth.
King Bhoongar died in 1278, and the parliament consisting of 100 members decided to make his younger son, Dodo, the new king. The parliament had 20 members from indigenous Sindhi castes Ghaha, Thaheem, Pahore, Kachhela, Rajar, Abra, Charan, Jadeja and Mendhra etc. The remaining 80 members were selected from the ruling caste. The parliament decided all matters of the state. Its decisions could be not be challenged.
Dodo was a patient, brave and intelligent individual possessing the qualities of a suitable candidate for leadership. Chanesar, the firstborn son of King Bhoongar, was not included in the decision-making process. However, Dodo refused to take the seat because he believed that his elder brother was the rightful heir to the throne. He realised that Chanesar would be displeased with the parliament’s decision and react aggressively. He was afraid that this could lead to domestic unrest and instability in the region.
Dodo’s argument persuaded the parliament to reconsider its decision and Chanesar was chosen to be king. However, on the day set for coronation, Chanesar decided to ask for his mother’s opinion. This irked some members of parliament who viewed it as a sign of indecision and decided to crown Dodo, King, in the absence of Chanesar.
When Chanesar returned to the shahi darbar and saw Dodo perched on the throne, he saw it as betrayal by his brother. In retaliation, he invited Delhi’s ruler, Sultan Alauddin Khilji to attack Sindh.
Dodo’s sister Bhagal Bai discovered Chanesar’s plan and rushed to warn her brother who was in a meeting with his cabinet ministers and advisers. Doda and the tribal elders rushed to Chanesar and pleaded with him to withdraw his invitation to Khilji.
Chanesar was fuming. All he wanted was revenge. Dodo offered to give up the throne, but he paid no heed to it. In a fit of rage, Chanesar left for Delhi. Upon reaching Delhi, he told Khilji of two potential benefits of invading Sindh; the considerable wealth of Soomra dynasty and his step-sister’s hand in marriage. With an army of some 35,000 soldiers, Khilji left to conquer Sindh in 1298.
When Chanesar and Khilji’s army approached Sindh, Dodo sent his son, Bhoongar, and nephew (Chanesar’s son) Nagar, to persuade his brother to retreat. However, the boys were unable to convince him. They had no option but to fight their own. It is recorded that upon seeing his son, Chenasar wanted to shake his hand, but Nagar refused, saying, “I am a soldier of King Dodo’s military. I cannot shake hands with a traitor.” The young sons of the Soomra dynasty were martyred in the ensuing battle. Nagar was killed at the hand of his father in a fierce fight.
Dodo had an army of 5,000 soldiers to defend his kingdom. Sadly, the majority were untrained and had never taken part in a battle. As Khilji’s army closed in on Wagh Kot Dodo’s advisors asked him to offer Khilji marriage with a slave girl Bhanhi, instead of his sister Bhagal Bai. To this Dodo responded, “today, Bhanhi, too, is my sister. How can I possibly agree to offer the hand of my sister to a foreign invader?“
Finally, the forces came face-to-face in the vast Run of Kutch near Wagh Kot. The battle lasted seven days. Dodo led his army with great resilience, but Chanesar tricked them by digging a trench. Dodo’s horse fell in the trench and landed on a spear that penetrated Dodo’s body.
Some records suggest that Chanesar who was standing close by asked his dying brother, “How do you feel now?” To this, Dodo replied, “Brother, I will stand tall for years to come and you, in the ditches.” Dodo was martyred on March 27, 1300 - coinciding with the lunar Muharram 10.
All of Dodo’s soldiers were killed in the battle. Khilji, who had only a small force left, decided to attack the fort and capture Bhagal Bai. However, the resourceful young woman made women dress as men and deployed them at the posts in an effort to deceive the Khilji army. Upon seeing ‘soldiers’ on-post, Khilji retreated to Delhi with a worn-out army.
People of Sindh still name their sons Dodo – the bravest among the brave. Pir Hasaamuddin Shah Rashdi has praised Dodo in his writings. Unfortunately, many of us have forgotten Dodo’s tale of bravery. His tomb is under grave threat of crumbling from flooding of deadly LBOD (Left Bank Outfall Drain) that flows near Roopamari and has already ruined half of the Sindh’s Larr belt.
The writer is a freelance journalist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org