We came to know that there’s a significant population of Jains in Hala and there’s a Mandir and an Upashray as well
[Editor’s Note: This is Part 12 (Dhoronaro and Mirpurkhas) of a series of articles based on a pre-partition book named “મારી સિંધ યાત્રા” (“منهنجي سنڌ جو سفر”) in Gujarati authored by Jain sadhu Shri Vidyavijayji, narrating his experiences of travel and stay in Karachi for about 2 and half a years between 1937 and 1939. It would be advisable to click on Introductory Article and read it for a better understanding of the series. – Nasir Aijaz, Editor Sindh Courier]
Vimal Shah, Mumbai
The Unexpected Invitation
Once we left Marwad and entered Sindh, until the Dhoronaro station we never imagined we will have to leave the railway line before we reach Karachi. But a deputation consisting of Sheth Kastoorchandji Parekh, Sheth Maherchandji, and Sheth Bankidasji came to Dhoronaro from Hala. Of course, the Secretary of the Karachi Sangh had given us an indication that ‘There’s some population of Jain community in Hala and they might perhaps come over to invite you.’ Only when this deputation came over to Dhoronaro and pleaded with us to visit Hala, we came to know that there’s a significant population of Jains in Hala and there’s a Mandir and an Upashray as well. We were surprised to observe the attire and in particular the turbans of the people who had come from Hala. Where is this turban from? We were not prepared to accept the request by the deputation because – the way from Mirpurkhas to Hala was a raw road and the temperatures had started to soar. We knew that the nuisance of sunstroke, dust-storm, and snakes is high in the summer.
The way from Mirpurkhas to Hala was a raw road and the temperatures had started to soar. We knew that the nuisance of sunstroke, dust-storm, and snakes is high in the summer
Since we were just in time, halting even a day extra was like inviting trouble. We remained undecided in Dhoronaro. Finally, the same deputation from Hala came once again to Mirpurkhas. Who knows what’s destined for the future? Our visit to Hala was decided, though we never thought of it even in our dreams. Would it not be for the last breaths of Shri Himanshuvijayji to be destined in Hala? We departed from Mirpurkhas for Hala on the 7th of April 1937. The gentlemen from Hala were escorting us. On the way they tried and arranged whatever appropriate facilities they could.
The Difficult Road
The journey from Mirpurkhas to Hala and Hala to Hyderabad was very difficult. Very strange – at times you find a proper road and at times you don’t. There were so many Babul trees due to canals that you can’t be sure when will you pierce your legs with thorns. Sometimes the road would be full of deep pits causing arms-length legs to get stuck in the pits. The roads are covered with sand so you can’t guess whether the pits are one or two arms-length deep. When we saw the motor cars passing by it seemed like an earthquake. The scenes of people in the cars bouncing and falling on each other generated obvious laughter and we felt pity for their journey by car.
The road from Hala to Hyderabad was equally difficult and terrible
At some places, the road would be muddy with flooded water from the canals and full of mosquitoes and clag. Every now and then you come across drains carved out of the canals. If the walls of the drains are broken by stray donkeys or camels running around or by a passing bullock cart, then the scene would be like floods caused by Sabarmati (the name of a prominent river in Ahmedabad).
The road from Hala to Hyderabad was equally difficult and terrible. We used to continuously encounter the nuisance of canals and jungles of Babul on our way.
There’s a dangerous and terrible jungle between Khebr and Matiari on the way from Hala to Hyderabad
The Nuisance of Dogs
Sometimes we encounter such experiences on the way that they become memorable for a lifetime. One of many such encounters was that of the nuisance of wild dogs. There’s a dangerous and terrible jungle between Khebr and Matiari on the way from Hala to Hyderabad. It is considered very dangerous to pass alone through this jungle. Somehow our group split up in this jungle. Our group consisted of sadhus, and a few gentlemen from Karachi as well as Hala. I was walking straight at my pace with my head down. There was no one around. Suddenly five wild dogs appeared, and they surrounded me. The dogs were so wild and dangerous that just one bite would be enough to knock down anyone. They started bouncing on me and attacking me. I had to defend myself on my own, they went on attacking me from all sides for about fifteen to twenty minutes and I kept on defending myself. With the grace of Gurudev, they could not succeed in their attacks. I could see the death at an arms-length from me. If one dog had grabbed my leg and knocked me down, then they would have finished my body within no time. I was defending myself with my डंडा ( لٺ / Ḍaṇḍā / a wooden stick carried by Jain sadhus ) without harming the dogs.
[Vimal Shah: The prime pillar of Jainism is Ahinsā ( عدم تشدد / Non-violence ). It would be worth appreciating that the five wild dogs were attacking a lone Jain sadhu in a jungle, but he was defending himself without harming the dogs. When a Jain sadhu is initiated, he takes five wows to be strictly observed to the letter and spirit for his lifetime. The first wow is observing Ahinsā towards all the living beings of the universe.]
Why do Jain sadhus carry a wooden stick in their hands? Anyone can get the obvious answer by watching this scene. Today I very well understood how one can achieve ‘self-defence’ with the wooden stick without harming anyone and still maintain so much courage. After some time, a local man rushed there and from the other side, Bhai Chaturbhuj who was from Karachi and escorting us reached there riding a camel. Then the dogs moved on and we too on our way.”
Hindus of this region introduce themselves as ‘Baniya’. What type of Baniya? They call themselves Lohana. Almost every village has a population of Lohana, Soni, etc. but all of them feast on meat and fish. Not only that but some Baniyas are also involved in the business of meat and fish.
They clean with a lump of sand and then get back to their routine after returning home. This is the only region we have seen like this
The Absence of Toilet Hygiene
One thing was very astonishing. We were halting at the Musafirkhana of the ‘Local Board’ on the outskirts of the Bhindshah village. There was a jungle just opposite our place of stay. There were bushes in a few places. People covered with clothes from head to toe used to go behind the bushes empty-handed. They would come out after a while and go towards the village. We saw people going and coming from there frequently. A few youngsters of Hala were sitting with me at that time. I asked them ‘Since morning why do these people go behind the bushes and come back after a while?’ I got the reply ‘They go there for defecation.’ I said, ‘If they are going for defecation, then why don’t they have a pot or a can of water with them?’ They said ‘In this region, there’s no practice of carrying water while going for defecation. They carry a stone, or a lump of sand found on the way and rub it over there after defecation. They don’t feel the need to wash with water.’
I got reminded of that poetic composition:
सिंध गिंध, पूजा जिंद पीर की,
गधे की सवारी करे, चाल चले अमीर की
Sindha Giṅgha, Pūjā Jinda Pīra kī,
Gadhē kī Savārī Karē, Cāla Calē Amīra kī
What more evidence do you need of the filthiness of these people? Baniya, Brahmin, and Soni also go for defecation wearing full clothes without a drop of water. They clean with a lump of sand and then get back to their routine after returning home. This is the only region we have seen like this.
Camel and Donkey Rides
Anywhere and everywhere, you find people riding on camels or donkeys. Some people consider the braying of a donkey while leaving home as inauspicious. People with such beliefs will find it very difficult to live in this region. It would be very rare that you won’t listen to the donkeys’ songs from somewhere or the other while travelling. There’s no doubt that the donkeys of Sindh can anytime beat the donkeys of any other region. We have heard stories of donkeys valuing about three hundred rupees, and them competing with swift horses and camels. Their value has diminished in the present age of motor cars. Though their usage has reduced, you still find even rich people riding on donkeys or using carts with a pair of donkeys, or using Ēkkā (آس ) with a single donkey. The camels are so magnificent that they can give evidence of the old stories we hear of the dromedary (female camels). Even gentlemen own and keep camels. The camels particularly meant for riding are not used for carrying goods. The extent and the way the camels are decorated is an indicator of the wealth of its owner.
The children of this region develop bad habits at the tender age of ten to twelve, and in most cases, it is the fault of the parents
The Bad Habits
There was a Sindhi Lohana boy amongst the youngsters who were sitting with us in Bhindshah. He narrated one fact about this region and that is – ‘The children of this region develop bad habits at the tender age of ten to twelve, and in most cases, it is the fault of the parents. Many people of this region lead more Nāpāka life as compared to even animals.’ The Sindhi boy elaborated giving more clarity. I started getting headaches listening to the further details. We all became speechless for a while. I recalled the words of an officer of the station on the Jodhpur Line. ‘Maharaj! Why are you going to this sinful region?’ My mind stopped functioning for a while. I thought –Have I come to change the people of this region? Have I come to preach in this region? Is the population of this region worthy of preaching? Would the situation in the entire region be the same as narrated by this boy? What is the matter of surprise if the people who – can’t do without meat and fish for a day, can’t remain without a bottle of liquor for a while, nurture their bodies with such Tāmasika intakes, indulge in a life full of worldly lust – are leading such barbaric life.
[Vimal Shah: Tāmasika – These foods are considered highly harmful to the body, mind, and soul]
About the contributor of the series of Articles based on the book
Vimal Shah is a follower of Jainism by birth and is based in Mumbai, India. He is a Computer Engineer and holds a Diploma in Jainology from Mumbai University. He has immense interest in reading, writing, studying, and teaching Jain Philosophical subjects. He conducts classroom as well as on-line sessions on Jain Philosophical courses. He has created several power point presentations with animation which he uses while teaching and has participated in several Jain Community events to present and explain the relevant subjects to the visiting audience. He has significantly contributed to the translation, reviewing, and editing of the set of books ‘Compendium of Jainism’ of JAINA, USA from English to Gujarati – an initiative of the JAINA India Foundation. He is also associated with a Project for the translation of Jain Aagams (Scriptures) from Gujarati to English and continues to study various subjects and remains a student of Jain Philosophy. He has a special interest in the history and preservation of the Jain Heritage in Pakistan, and is associated with the Jain Heritage Foundation, New Delhi.