The Shahi Bazaar is built on the upper most portion of a hill, and is as old as the Pakka Qilla, constructed in 1768 by Kalhora ruler of Sindh Mian Ghulam Shah Kalhoro.
By Nasir Aijaz
It’s about five decades back when I last visited the Shahi Bazaar of Hyderabad Sindh. Visiting the Shahi Bazaar was a routine for me, as there were no other shopping malls in the city at that time and anyone belonging to any class of society had to make purchasing from this Bazaar that stretches in at least two kilometers starting from the Pakka Qilla, historic fort, to another monument – the Naval Rai Market, known as Market Tower.
“Although a large number of most modern shopping plazas have emerged all over the city but the same or increased hustle and bustle could be seen in Shahi Bazaar making it highly congested,” told my cousin Zeeshan, who lives in Hyderabad, when I rang him a few days back to know latest scene of the bazaar.
I had been to Hyderabad dozens of times during last 47 years but never dared to go for any shopping to Shahi Bazarr, being overcrowded. It’s not that I have any kind of phobia for crowded places, but the fact is that I feel suffocation in busy marketplaces, which may be due to growing age.
uring my six-year stay in Hyderabad from 1970 to 1975, the youthful days of my student life, I used to visit this Bazaar, every time changing the routes – Sometime from Homestead Hall incline or another incline starting from Koh-e-Noor Cinema and Tanga Stand (which both do not exist now). The other entry point often used was Chhotki Ghiti (Street) which started near a police station located at the intersection of Lajpat Road and Chhotki Ghiti. There were and still are some other narrow alleys that lead to the Shahi Bazaar, one of them starting near historic ladies’ hospital. I have forgot the names of other streets because of long time no visit to the Bazaar, but still remember the Sire Ghat and Khahi road. The Sire Ghat road starts from Tilak Incline and intersecting the Shahi Bazaar joins Khahi road that ends at Fakir Jo Pirr. Some of my relatives (Ursani family of a great educationist Muhammad Ismail Ursani) used to live in a palatial building in Fakir Jo Pirr area, left by Sindhis who migrated to India in 1947, and I often visited them. The Ursani family had to sell the building at throw away price during the ethnic riots which started in 1988.
The street names of Hyderabad in general, and Shahi Bazaar in particular, have many stories behind them, as there are the legends behind these names, which reflect more than 250 years old glory of its culture, history and heritage. Each of these street names reveal an interesting account not known to many. These streets talk about their ancestors and their contribution to the betterment of the city and the society. And these places remind us of our great departed souls, memorable events and incidents.
While reading this note you might wonder why such a number of acclivities do exist there. It is because of the geographic location of the Bazaar which is established on a hilltop where the Pakka Qilla is built.
Shahi Bazaar is considered as one of the world’s oldest and longest bazaars, having more than 4000 shops besides thousands of venders selling various items on pushcarts and at makeshift stalls. The word Shahi is derived from the word ‘Shah’ which means ‘King’. This bazaar is as old as the Pakka Qilla, which was built in 1768 by Kalhora ruler of Sindh Mian Ghulam Shah Kalhoro. This bazaar is known as Shahi Bazaar because it was established by Kalhora ruler who, when changed the capital of Sindh from Khudabad to Hyderabad, persuaded many traders to come and start trading at this bazaar.
Dr. Murlidhar Kishinchand Jetley, a renowned Sindhi writer, who was born in Hyderabad in 1930, in an interview to Dr. Ram Jawhrani back in 2013, recalling the Shahi Bazaar, had drawn the map in these words, “The length of the bazaar must have been approximately 1½ to 2 Kilometers, but the breadth was hardly around 15 feet with shops on either side. There were many by-lanes on either side of the bazaar which were known by the different family names like Advani lane, Chandiramani lane, Malkani lane, Mansukhani lane and so on.”
“In fact, Shahi Bazaar was built on a bare hill with sloping sides viz. Tilak Chaadhi and Thorhe Chaadhi etc. with Phuleli canal on the east.”
Elaborating further, Dr. Jetley had said, “The Shahi Bazaar was built on the upper most portion of a bare hill. Since the 8th century, there used to be an old settlement called ‘Nerunkot’, in this area. In 1768, Ghulam Shah Kalhora erected a strong fort in Hyderabad and made the city the capital of his kingdom. Therefore in the initial period of the 18th century many Hindus who used to reside at Khudabad in Dadu district, and later at New Khudabad, in Hala Taluka migrated to Hyderabad. Ghulam Shah’s Haveli and Durbar were situated inside the fort, but the commoners, Hindus as well as Muslims resided on the outskirts of the fort. The Hindu Amils and Bhaibands, who migrated from Khudabad to Hyderabad were granted plots on either sides of the Shahi Bazaar outside the fort, where various Hindu families built their houses. In this manner those lanes took the name after the families residing in those lanes. Gradually, other areas outside the fort also began developing.”
Dr. Jetley’s ancestors also lived in one of such streets. “In the center of the bazaar on the eastern side was the Mukhiki lane, where we had our 3 houses. One consisted of my grandfather’s clinic, the other was occupied by my grandfather’s younger brother and his family, while my father and his younger brothers stayed in the third house, where I was born,” he told Dr. Ram.
The history of Shahi Bazaar would remain incomplete if no mention is made of extensions. These extensions of bazaar were made in some of the old street streets mentioned by Dr. Jetley. The Resham Ghati, a lateral extension of Shahi Bazaar is one of them. Large variety of cloth, glass bangles, Sindhi ‘Kundan’ gold jewelry as well as imitation jewelry can be bought from Resham Ghiti. In some streets you can find shops selling arts, crafts, embroidery and jewelry of Sindhi heritage.
A similar extension of Shahi Bazaar, albeit with different kind of shops is the Chhotki Ghiti, located at some distance from the Resham Ghiti. Electronics, electric items and crockery shops can be found in the Chhotki Ghiti.
My cousin Zeeshan told that a stationary market has also emerged in Chhotki Ghiti.
With addition of such new bazaars the Shahi Bazaar has become one of the longest and biggest marketplaces of the world like that of Grand Bazaar of Istanbul in Turkey.
I would like to end my blog sharing the link of a documentary on Shahi Bazaar.
Watch the Video: Shahi Bazaar Hyderabad Sindh
The writer is a senior journalist and editor of Sindh Courier, based in Karachi Sindh