Thatta, an Ancient Place of Sindh


Thatta is a historical place, but not developed as expected

     Thatta was the medieval capital of Sindh, and served as the seat of power for three successive dynasties. Thatta's historic significance has yielded several monuments in and around the city. Thatta's Makli graveyard is of one of the world's largest graveyard and has numerous monumental tombs built between the 14th and 18th centuries designed in a syncretic funerary style of lower Sindh. The city's 17th century Shah Jahan Mosque is richly embellished with decorative tiles, and is considered to have the most elaborate display of tile work in the South Asia.
        Thatta may be the site of ancient Patala, the main port on the Indus in the time of Alexander the Great. Muhammad Bin Qasim captured the region in 711 CE after the defeating the local Raja in a battle north of Thatta. Thatta is reported by some historians to have been the ancient seaport of Debal that was mentioned by the Arab conquerors, though others place the seaport at the site of modern Karachi. At the time of the Umayyad conquests, small semi-nomadic tribes were living in the Sindh region. The Umayyad conquest introduced the religion of Islam into the hitherto mostly Hindu and Buddhist region.
Following Mahmud of Ghazna's invasion of Sindh in the early 11th century, the Ghaznavids put in Abdul Razzaq as Governor of Thatta in 1026. Under the rule of the Ghaznavids the local chieftain Ibn Soomar, then ruler of Multan, seized power in Sindh and founded the Soomra dynasty, which ruled from Thatta from 1051 for the next 300 years. Under Soomra rule, Thatta's Ismaili Shia population was granted special protection. The Soomra dynasty began to decline in power by the 13th century, though Thatta and the Indus Delta remained their last stronghold of power until the mid 14th century.
In 1351, the Samma Dynasty, of Rajput descent from Sehwan, seized the city and made it their capital as well. It was during this time that the Makli Necropolis rose to prominence as a funerary site. Muhammad bin Tughluq died in 1351 during a campaign to capture Thatta. Firuz Shah Tughlaq unsuccessfully attempted to subjugate Thatta twice; once in 1361 and again in 1365.
In 1520, the Samma ruler Jam Feroz was defeated by Shah Beg of the Arghun-Tarkhun dynasty, which in turn had been displaced from Afghanistan by the expanding Timurid Empire in Central Asia. The Tarkhuns fell into disarray in the mid 1500s, prompting Muhammad Isa Tarkhun (Mirza Isa Khan I) to seek aid from the Portuguese in 1555. 700 Portuguese soldiers arrived in 28 ships to determine, at the time of their arrival, that Isa Tarkhun had already emerged victorious from the conflict. After the Tarkhuns refused to pay the Portuguese soldiers, the Portuguese plundered the town, robbing its enormous gold treasury, and killing many inhabitants.
The city was destroyed by Mirza Jani Beg in the 16th century. Beginning in 1592 during the reign of Emperor Jehangir, Thatta was governed by the Mughal Empire based in Delhi, which lead to a decline in the city's prosperity as some trade was shifted towards other Mughal ports. Shah Jahan, while still a prince, sought refuge in the city from his father Emperor Jahangir. In 1626, Shah Jahan's 13th son, Lutfallah, was born in Thatta. The city was almost destroyed by a devastating storm in 1637. As a token of gratitude for the hospitality he had received in the city while still a prince, Shah Jahan bestowed the Shah Jahan Mosque to the city in 1647as part of the city's rebuilding efforts, although it was not completed until 1659 under the reign of his son Aurangzeb. Emperor Aurangzeb himself had also lived in Thatta for some time as governor of the lower Sindh.
Thatta regained some of its prosperity with the arrival of European merchants. Between 1652 and 1660, the Dutch East India Company had a small trading post (comptoir or factory) in Thatta. This competed with the English one, which was established in 1635 and closed in 1662. Thatta in the 1650s was noted to have 2,000 looms that produced cloth that was exported abroad to Asia and Portugal. Thatta was also home to a thriving silk weaving industry, as well as leather products that were exported throughout South Asia. The city was considered by visiting Augustinian friars in the 1650s to be a wealthy city, though the presence of transgender hijras were taken as a sign of the city's supposed moral depravity.

Thatta'a revival was short lived as the Indus River silted in the second half of the 1600s, shifting its course further east and leading to the abandonment of the city as a seaport. Despite the abandonment of the city's port functions, its Hindu merchants continued to play an important role in trade, and began using their own ships rather than relying on European ships for trade. Traders were particularly active in the region around Masqat, in modern Oman, and members of Thatta's Bhatia caste established Masqat's first Hindu temple during this period. Sindh remained an important economic centre during this period as well, and Thatta remained Sindh's largest economic centre, and its largest centre for textile production.
The Mir Bejar dynasty began to gain influence as a dynasty of feudal lords in lower Sindh, they were of Sisodia clan of Mewar, where they ruled since the middle 17th century. They were merchant rulers who flourished Sindh during Mughal period eventually brought Thatta under their control in 1638, after which they became hereditary rulers of Thatta; before eventually moving to nearby Cutch State in 1750.
Kalhora dynasty began to gain influence as a dynasty of feudal lords in upper Sindh, where they ruled since the middle 16th century. They eventually brought Thatta under their control in 1736, after which they moved their capital to Thatta before eventually moving it to Hyderabad in 1789. Thatta continued to decline in the mid 18th century in importance as a trading centre throughout the 18th century, as much of the city's trading classes shifted to Shikarpur in northern Sindh, or to Gujarat.
In 1739 however, following the Battle of Karnal, the Mughal province of Sindh was fully ceded to Nadir Shah of the Persian Empire, after which Thatta fell into neglect, as the Indus river also began to silt. The city then came under the rule of the Talpur dynasty, who seized Thatta from the Kalhoras. A second British comptoir was established during the Kalhora period in 1758, which operated until 1775. In the early 19th century Thatta had declined to a population of about 20,000, from a high of 200,000 a century before. Talpur rule ended in 1843 on the battlefield of Miani when General Charles James Napier captured Sindh for British Empire, and moved capital of the Sindh from Hyderabad to Karachi. In 1847, Thatta was administered as part of the Bombay Presidency. In 1920, the estimated population of the city was 10,800.
After the independence of Pakistan most of the city's Hindu population, though like much of Sindh, migrated to India, Thatta did not experience the widespread rioting that occurred in Punjab and Bengal. In the 1970s under the rule of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Thatta's monuments were restored and some industry was relocated to Thatta.
In 2013, some of the talukas were separated from the District Thatta to make a new district i.e District Sujawal. Presently, Thatta district consists of 4x talukas i.e Thatta, Mirpur Sakro, Keti Bander & Ghorabari.
District Thatta is most deprived district amongst Sindh. Thatta is prone to cyclones and holds a history of having been hit by severe cyclones. Last time it was hit in 1999. The heavy rains and super flood in River Indus have been affecting Thatta in the past. However the local population now favours flooding as they consider it to be beneficial for their lands, aquifers and to push back the intruding sea.
With the decreased flow of freshwater in River Indus, due to construction of barrages and dams upstream, and non compliance of Inter Provincial Water accord, the sea is encroaching Indus’s delta and the courses Indus has left. Tens of thousands of Thatta’s lands have been encroached upon by the sea. The sea intrusion is also severely affecting the aquifers and at many a places in the district, the underground water and lands have become saline. The reduce inflow of fresh water in river Indus and sea intrusion have resulted in the degradation of Indus delta and it is estimated that the delta has shrunk to 10% of size it used to have.
Being a dry region, Thatta always faces the risk of droughts. The Kohistan and desert zone of the district are especially vulnerable to this hazard as they face extreme shortage of potable water. At many places in Thatta, the underground water is not fit for drinking.
The towns in Thatta suffer from poor sanitary conditions and thus run the risk of disease outbreak. The waste water from the Industries of Nooriabad Industrial estate is polluting the Keenjhar lake of Thatta. Further the smoke emitted and waste generated by the sugar mills also pose health risks for the residents.
In terms of literacy, Thatta has third least literate population in Sindh following Jacobabad and Tharparkar. It is to be noted that 35% population has ever attended school, meaning the proportion of people having ever attended any school is equal to the proportion of population declared literate. The level of literacy is apparent from the fact that 25% population has actually completed primary or higher level of education. This figure for women stands at 10% and 36% for male population.
The state of formal primary health care facilities for women is also not encouraging. 33% rural and 70% urban pregnant women consult a formal health facility for pre natal care. 60% urban and 20% rural women receive Tetanus Toxoid injections, while 32% urban and 14% rural women receive formal post natal care. 50% deliveries in urban and 75% in rural areas take place at home.
District Thatta has embraced a rural  outlook as majority of the district’s population resides in rural settlements and depends upon agriculture and allied fields. The census 1998 highlights some of the major livelihood trends prevailing in the district. Some of the major trends include:-
è 25% population of the district was economically active,
è 37% population aged 10+ was economically active.
è 32.33% population of the district was comprised of children aged below 10.
è 32.17% of the economically inactive population was comprised of unpaid domestic workers.
è A high unemployment rate of 18% was recorded (18% among males and 7.4% in females).
è 64.24% employed population of the district was noted to be engaged in agriculture and fisheries.
è 63 % of the employed population was noted to be self employed.
è 5.78% employed population was recorded to be absorbed by the government sector jobs (17.22% females and 5.57% males).
Half of district’s lands are not available for cultivation and this proportion is increasing steadily over the years. The situation of availability of canal irrigation water has been aggravating. From 2000-01 to 2003-04, there was a 6% decrease in the irrigated area. Compared to this there was a 19 time increase in the un irrigated area. During the same period there was a 9% decrease in the canal irrigated area and a 90% increase in the tube well irrigated area. The declining availability of water in Indus has serious repercussions for the Indus Delta and agriculture in the district. A large section of population that was previous engaged in agriculture has turned to fishing. From 2000-01 to 2003-04, 14% increase in the number of fishermen was recorded whereas during the same period an 11% increase in the fish production was witnessed.
No district in Sindh and even in Pakistan matches Thatta when it comes to the diversity of environmental features and resources. Thatta is termed mini Sindh as it carries all the environmental features of the province. It has desert, hills/gravel rocks, rangelands, water bodies, delta, tidal flats, creeks, lakes, mangrove and riverain forests, irrigated agricultural lands. Thatta is also rich in bio diversity and an abode of some of the most important environmental resources of Pakistan. Out of the six, RAMSAR wetland sites in Sindh, 3 lies in Thatta, out of 34 protected areas of the, province, 16 are in Thatta, and of 13, game reserves of Sindh, 3 are in this, district. 17% area of the district is under forest cover. Indus Delta lying in Thatta is the fifth largest delta in the world and largest coastal mangrove forest in the world.

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