Shikarpur, the city once known as the Paris of Sindh is a district present in the Upper Sindh. Shikarpur district, in Larkana Division consists of Shikarpur, Khanpur, Lakhi and Garhi Yasin. Shikarpur shares the name with a town/village in Uttar Pradesh in India as well.

Location
Shikarpur is located Upper Sindh. It borders with district Jacobabad, Larkana, Sukkur, Ghotki and Khairpur. It is situated about 18 miles from the right bank of the River Indus. The city was known as Paris of Sindh because of its commanding location and strategic importance for trade. Shikarpur was the commanding trade route through Bolan Pass and merchants from it had trade dealings with most of Central Asia.

About Shikarpur
Shikarpur is spread over 3000 Square kilometers and hosts a population of 1,000,000 people . It has a literacy rate of 33% only. Languages spoken in Shikarpur include Sindhi, Balochi, Brahvi, Saraiki and Urdu. Being a tropical area, extreme winters and summers are experienced here as the weather is hot and humid with rainfall about 100 millimeters only. The economy of Shikarpur consists of industries, trade, commerce, fishing and agriculture. Shikarpur consists of seven gates (dars in Sindhi) including Lakhi gate, Hathi gate, Karan gate, Hazari Gate, Wagoono gate, Siwi gate and Khan Puri Gate and, a window known as Siddiq Marri.

Shikarpur is known for its famous Achar (pickles) throughout the world. Besides that people also look forward to Shikarpur’s mithai (sweets) and Lakhi gate’s famous Kulfi Faluda. In the olden times, it was famous for grandeur in the form of floral wood carvings on doors, windows and balconies of the houses attracting several visitors. Now remains and glimpses of this grandeur can be spotted in different buildings in the district. As Sarfaraz Memon puts it in his article, ‘centuries ago, it was better known for its schools and as a hub for trade in gold, spices, cotton – all part of merchant traffic to Central Asian states.’

As per the book, Exploring Sindh, Shikarpur has 1273 primary schools, 65 middle schools, 51 high schools, 5 colleges, and 7 Government colleges of technology, 1 university which is a campus of Shah Abdul Latif University, Khairpur, 5 vocational institutions and 2 commercial institutions. Whereas, as per the Sindh Government’s Population Welfare Department’s website and according to the 1998 census, Shikarpur has 609 Primary schools, 62 Middle Schools, 49 High Schools, 47 Higher Secondary Schools and no universities. The figure seemingly exaggerated and merely on record, Professor Dr. Anwar Figar Hakro, renowned Sindhi scholar reveals that Shikarpur has 3 boys’ schools namely Government Boys High School 1, Government Boys High School 2, Shah Latif High School, City High School, Osto Fatih Mohammad High School and Qazi Habibullah High School. There are 3 girls’ high school namely Iswari Bai High School, Osto Fateh Mohammad High School and Sukha Pul Government School. There are 2 colleges for boys and 1 college for girls. The college is offers degrees of Bachelors in Science (B. Sc), Bachelors of Arts (B.A) and Masters of Arts (M.A).

Famous hospitals of Shikarpur include Hiranand Ganga Bai Hospital and Rai Bahadur Udhaw Das Tarachand Hospital. There is only one library in Shikarpur which is Qadir Buksh Library.
Shikarpur has a railway station as well.

Interesting Facts about Shikarpur
 The first dramatic society known as the Dharamupkars Amateurs Society was established by Thakurdas Nagrani, Session Judge, Aga Safi, Maharaj Tejbhandas and others at Shikarpur, Sindh in 1897.
 Professor Shawairan of Bombay University was a professor of Sociology and belonged to Shikarpur. He is credited with writing the first book of sociology in Sindhi.
 Shikarpur, used to have its own currency (coin) long ago which Shikarpur written on it.
 K.V. Joshi was the first engineer in pre-partition time period to have done remarkable work in Shikarpur, which is evidently seen today as well. His work remains a bench mark to date which no engineer has yet been able to match.
 In pre-partition days, Shikarpur used to have mobiles libraries. Books were driven on carts around the town, borrowed by people and turned. This signifies the intellectual capabilities and education of Shikarpuri at that time.
 Shikarpur city was famous for its underground drainage system. The streets of Shikarpur were washed by hydrants twice daily in the pre-partition time.
 In pre-partition times, Shikarpur had music schools where Hindu girls learnt dancing as well. Widwa mandals (Houses for widows), were run by Hindus where widows were taught skills to be able to support their livelihood.
 The Kohinoor diamond, with Shah Shuja, grandson of Ahmed Shah Abdali was brought to the Shahi Bagh (Royal Garden) of Shikarpur.
 Shikarpur was the first city to have an intermediate college.
 Hindu traders of Shikarpur invested a lot in the city. The city was built beautiful as they invested their earnings in the city.
 Two traders namely Sital Das and Chella Sing donated Rs.100,000 and Rs.50,000, respectively for C&S College which was built from 1927 to 1932. It was inaugurated by the governor of Bombay as Sindh was a part of Bombay province at that time.
 As per Professor Israr Ahmed Alvi, Shikarpur was the first in Pakistan to get an independent power plant more than a century ago. It belonged to a Hindu trader and used to provide the city an uninterrupted supply.
 Shikarpur was originally a planned city, where all its seven doors and window closed after 8 p.m.
 Professor Anwar Figar Hakro has prepared a map of the Shikarpur city from 80 years ago. He estimates its population was not more than 50,000 at that time.
 The first ever eye hospital in the subcontinent was built in Shikarpur in 1893 known as Sir Henry Holland Eye Hospital.
 Shikarpur was the first town to have an old-age house.
 Sikarpuris are the pioneers of the financial instrument called ‘Hundi’, which was acceptable in different parts of the world and was considered as good as gold.

History
As the name says, the literal meaning of Shikar is hunting and Shikarpur is derived from Shikargah or hunting ground which was originally used by past rulers as a game reserve. The place where Shikarpur is located is said to be a large forest or large tract of pastoral land which was used for grazing and hunting by the affluent class till early 17th Century.

There are different accounts of how Shikarpur came into existence, but historical accounts agree to the fact that this hunting ground was used by Daudpotas. Daudpotas, sons of Daud as the name says were sons of Daud Khan and a tribe of weavers and warriors. They are credited with finding Shikarpur in 1617 A.D when the large forest/pastoral area came in their possession. In about 1748 A.D, these Daudpotas were expelled from the area due to continued rebellion and went and settled in former Bahawalpur state.
Daudpotas returned to gain control of the area and during the days of Mughal ruler, Jehangir (1605-1628). The Mahars, led by Sher Khan Mahar, resisted their migration back from Bahawalpur which ensued a battle. The Mahars had a bigger army but as the Daudpotas had come prepared, Amir Bahadur Khan Daudpota in a great battle defeated Mahars and Jatois near present Shikarpur and regained control of the area. He then found a new town of Lakhi, 14 kilometers south-east of Shikarpur which exists to date with the same name.

When Amir Bahadur Khan Daudpota died, Bakhtiar Khan Kalhoro, jagir of Bakhtiarpur (now part of Jacobabad) took over Shikarpur in 1695 defeating his inexperience son Amir Mubarrak Khan Daudpota and looked after government affairs till 1701. In 1701, Mian Yar Mohammad Kalhoro was accepted genuine ruler and Shikarpur was handed over to Amir Mubarrak, who ruled for 48 years (1678-1726). Enemity developed between the Daupotas and Kalhoros and after Amir Mubarrak’s death, Mian Noor Muhammad Kalhoro, son of Mian Yar Mohammad attacked Shikarpur and fought with Amir Sadiq, son of Amir Mubarrak, took over it and annexed it.

In 1739, Nadir Shah attacked Sindh and Shikarpur was given back to Amir Sadiq in 1740. After Amir Sadiq was killed in a battle in 1745, the Kalhoros took over Shikarpur again. In 1748, Shikarpur was annexed to Qandhar state and Sindh was annexed to Kabul by Nadir Shah in 1754. Talpurs took over Sindh then but till 1828, Shikarpur continued to be a part of Kabul.

In 1835, Shah Shuja fled Qandhar and took refuge in Shikarpur but vacated it soon under the efforts of Pir Nizamuddin Sarhandi. In 1842, the English took over Shikarpur. These were the last days of the Talpur rulers and Shikarpur being in a remote area had fell victim to mismanagement and was an easy target to take over.

They had planned this much ahead through extensive travels and research to the city and kept in mind Shikarpur strategic location which gave them access to Afghanistan and Central Asia. It served as an entrance to Punjab and Balochistan and, had better chances of progress due to which it became an important trading centre. Businessmen of Shikarpur became known around the world because Shikarpur was located on the waterways and land routes. Shikarpur’s Hundi system, a forerunner to the current banking system had flawless credibility.

Shikarpur was built with substantial planning and was a walled city. It had schools, colleges and central shopping centres. Trade was thriving in this area and the city had plenty of fertile land, greenery, fruit gardens, etc. People of Shikarpur were known to be honest, loveable and men of character. Historical records show that between 1770 and 1842, at least 24 libraries existed which had a huge collection of books and manuscripts.

The English built the civil hospital in 1843 and Municipal party in 1855. It has 7 talukas in 1901 and administratively was one of the largest districts of Sindh. Its prosperity attracted Muslims, Hindus, Balochs and others to come settle here and it grew to become one of the most prosperous cities. From 1855, people began taking part in building it up when more amenities were added to the city and it is known to be the only city that was built by the civil society. Shikarpur rose to the political arena when landlords and wealthy businessmen from the city joined the political mainstream. One significant name is of Shaheed Allah Buksh Soomro, who was Chief Minister of Sindh from 1920s to 1941. In 1940s, Shikarpur was a peaceful and settled place. Cinema and stage dramas were popular in those days and Shikarpur gave Sindh some of the best stage plays. This art form later became an establish institution. Shikarpur also made rich contribution to classical music in Sindh and annual music festivals known as Handas were a permanent feature of life in Shikarpur. The architecture of Shikarpur was significant and the beauty of the city consisting of beautiful wood carvings and masonry that had took years to complete. Newspaper and articles also used to focus on international issues.

Famous Places in Shikarpur

Famous Places in Shikarpur include:

Dhak Bazaar (Covered Market)
Located in the center of the old city, Dhak Bazaar or covered market is a long, narrow street with shops on both sides. It is covered with woodwork of pure teak. This served as a cool shade during the hot summers. Shikarpur along with other contemporary cities like Bukhara, Samarkand, and Istanbul at that time had a covered street market.

Shahi Bagh (Royal Gardens)
Shahi Bagh, literally translated to be royal gardens was built in 1871. These were the biggest and most beautiful gardens with thousands of varieties of flowers found in them. There was also a zoo present here which has a large population of lions, cheetahs, bears and wild boars. These animals were later shifted to Karachi Zoo. The garden also had a wooden pavilion that was designed by Perston Phel and constructed by Sir W. Merewether.

The 7 gates of Shikarpur
The 7 gates of Shikarpur signify and are a remembrance of the mud fort that was built here by the Daudpotas.

Shikarpur these days
These days Shikarpur is a disowned, crumbling city, gripped with poverty, illiteracy, corruption, mismanagement, ignorance and lawlessness. After partition, several Hindus settled here left for India who were assets and real builders of the city, after which the city has been less owned. Education is in a deplorable state, historical buildings destroyed, infrastructure destroyed, streets getting narrower due to encroachment, temples devastated, wood work sold or taken away, heritage not maintained and immense pollution.

Renowned People of Shikarpur

Shikarpur has produced several renowned people. These include politicians like Shaheed Allah Bux Soomro, the Chief Minister of Sindh before partition, Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah, the1st Governer of Province Sindh, Barrister Ahmed Mian Soomro, Mohammad Mian Soomro, Former Governor Sindh and Chairman Senate of Pakistan, Ghuos Bux Khan Mahar, Imtiaz Shaikh, Dr.Ibrahim Jatoi, Iftikhar Soomro, Aftab Shahban Mirani, Former Defense Minister, Raheem Bux Soomro, Agha Siraj Khan Durani and others.

Among well-known poets are Sami and Shaik Ayaz. Well-known writers include Agha Saleem, Badam Natawan, Moonis Ayaz and others.

Other renowned personalities include Professor Dr. Anwar Figar Hakro, the first Ph.D from SALU, Khairpur who is a renowned scholar with several books to his credit, Professor Israr Ahmed Alvi and Shahab Osto. In the field of medicine, Dr. Younis Soomro (Orthopedic Surgeon) and Dr. Rufina Soomro (Breast Cancer Specialist) are prominent names due to their expertise and accomplishments. In the field of music, Bedil Masroor and Shaman Mirali have made a mark in singing.

Issues in Shikarpur
Shikarpur is gripped with several issues. These include educational issues, social issues, women issues, men issues, law and order situation, time issues, lack of recreational spots, lack of infrastructure, lack of job opportunities, organizational issues and political issues.

Educational issues include lack of quality education and institutions. There is an acute shortage of institutions. For example, Shikarpur needs at least 5 colleges for girls but has only one. Four others are needed at Station, Kafla Qillam Bazaar and Alif Shah Mazaar at Karan gate. In Khanpur, there is no girls high school. Due to lack of institutions, there is also shortage of teachers and most importantly quality teachers. Most parents are not willing to send their daughters far off and few institutions are unable to accommodate and entertain the large influx of students. Schools are in deplorable conditions and people are unable to afford education for their children due to poverty. Further education is highly expensive in Pakistan and due to lack of sufficient scholarships, most deserving students fail to achieve higher education. There is a lack of research rooms, libraries, reading rooms, forums and other facilities for building intellectual capabilities and pursuing interests. Degrees offered are a very limited choice for people unable to go for pursuing education elsewhere due to money and family constraints. There is only one or two halls/auditorium available including Jumani Hall, near Fire Brigade which was built pre-partition. There is a lack of affordable and proper transport within the city as well. Students having the will to go for further studies find themselves short of choices and lack awareness over career options available to them as no proper career planning or exposure to different fields is given to them. There is no virtual, medical or engineering university. When the world has advanced so much, students of Shikarpur like most others in Sindh still know of engineering, medical and teaching as the available career options. Due to poverty, local teachers are usually less qualified, gripped in domestic issues and generally depressed and short-tempered which causes more corporal punishment. This further leads to lack of interest in studies and a greater dropout rate. Copy culture is another curse on education due to which students face issues for job attainment at a higher level. Corruption has involves passing exams by bribing authorities, other students to appear for you and bribing school teachers. Principals of different schools have also been using government funds for the schools for their personal purposes like building/repairing their own houses.
Women issues are that there is lack of places and institutions for dealing women related problems. There are no skill development, vocational, skill building institutions that specifically support women. This puts widows, single parents and other poor women at a disadvantage for support their families and livelihoods. There is also no place specifically for women to gather and hang out at, small, congested homes and continuous domestic problems is a leading issue for depression and hopelessness.

Men issues are that there is lack of places for peace of mind or any free space for building intellectual capacities. The usual places to gather are hotels and Otaqs where peace of mind is mostly unattainable. There is lack of economic opportunities as good jobs and employment opportunities are not available in the city. Due to this, most people are poor and struggling to survive. Pressure of the household responsibilities is on the men due to which they have these issues.

Law and order situation is really bad in Shikarpur. Due to poverty, crime rate has increased as people are forced to resort to wrong ways to cope up with living in the Pakistani society facing high inflation. Kidnappings happen more often and as the people as too poor to pay ransom, promising budding youngsters are heartlessly murdered. Theft and pick pockets are another curse to the society.
Time issues include people doing private jobs to support their families and unable to pursue further studies or focus on other aspects of self or city development.

Organizations have not been able to maintain a noteworthy presence in the city amidst such a poor economy, political strife and lack of security. This has put the city at a huge disadvantage as NGOs working are usually lacking funds and if supported with funds, lack the expertise to utilize them effectively for the betterment of the society. Also, there is corruption in these organizations because of need issues and weak leadership.

Recreational spots are for fun, entertainment, outing and relaxation. Unfortunately, Shikarpur lack recreational spots which can cater to peoples budding need to go out, enjoy and relax. The famous Shahi Bagh was the only park they could go to which has now been deprived of its zoo and has not been maintained at all. It has been captured by dacoits who have found it as a safe haven and steal from people coming to Shahi Bagh. Due to this, out of fear people have stopped visiting it. There are no other such spots unlike in bigger cities.

Infrastructure of the city is the most pathetic condition. There has been a large influx of people from smaller villages and katcha areas. During the first floods, most people that came to Shikarpur did not return to their respected areas. These people have caused encroachment and are responsible for narrowing down the already narrow streets. Huge contracts taken for developing the city end up in corruption and little or no work is done for improving the infrastructure. Work done is also of poor quality material due to which it has not been sustainable. This has resulted in roads in a very bad shape, no organized sight of roads and electricity and a very sad sight of the city. With increased traffic, there has been no maintenance and planning to balance things in the city.

Pollution is another major concern in Shikarpur. The streets of Shikarpur are flooded with garbage and this is the root cause for spread of different diseases due to which children usually end up falling ill. There is a lack of awareness for hygiene and cleanliness due to poverty and lack of education.

The grand architecture of the city is in shambles now. With homes abandoned, land grabbing and educated people moving out of the city in search of better livelihoods, a vacuum has been created and the city continues to suffer because of it. The beautiful wooden cravings have been taken off by people and fitted in their houses in other cities. Most have been stolen out of houses in which people are no longer living or seldom visit. The government has not been maintaining any heritage and due to poverty, people of Shikarpur are unable to renovate, maintain or build their houses.

The Dire Need for a Better Education
Shikarpur is engulfed with multiple issues haunting the lives of its inhabitants. A lot of issues are because of poverty and illiteracy. This makes education the biggest issue as lack of education gives birth to illiteracy which leads to evils in society such as unemployment, poverty and corruption. Shikarpur previously had remarkable education and literacy but today, people of Shikarpur are met with disappointment when it comes to standard of education available to them. There is a need for more schools, colleges, universities, better qualified teachers, libraries, scholarships, career counseling and job facilitation to overcome feelings of hopelessness among the society.

A collective effort will be needed to gradually bring this change and make it a reality. Educated and skilled citizens will prove to be more responsible, aware citizens which will prove to be an asset to their family, their city and ultimately to the country.

Education will improve health and medical conditions in the city. Skilled people will think more logically, be empowered, earning and able to differentiate between right and wrong. They would give education to their families as well and having grown in Shikarpur, will be more sensitive towards caring for it. They will use their votes more effectively and be able to choose better leaders to whom they can demand their rights and hold accountable rather than blindly believe and follow.

Once their needs are satisfied, they would be able to look into and handle all social problems with a wider vision and solve them. Earnings from better jobs would improve living standards of people and heritage will be taken care of. With more purchasing power, there will be a provision of better quality of goods and services becoming available in the city. As standard of living will improve, pollution would decrease, crime rate would decrease, city will be better maintained and development work will be pursued. Recreational spots will develop with time along with trade opportunities to attract people and create more employment.
Therefore, I think the key focus should be education which can help improve the quickly worsening off city immensely and in much needed ways.

The beautiful city of Shikarpur that was once known as the Paris of Sindh and rulers fought for control of it has lost all its past glory. Every Shikarpuri remembers its past and pities its current sorry state. The city has been abandoned by the people who built it or those from it that moved out of it in search for greener pastures.

The city is indeed a tragic one as on decline it has lost a lot. However, a lot can and really needs to be done to protect, conserve and improve the city. It has a rich history and importance significance in the past. It should not be lost away due to sheer ignorance. The city deserves to be owned and least we can do, is try to make it the Paris it was and has potential of being.

Advertisements