Home Anthropology Mansions of Shikarpur’s Khaman Village

Mansions of Shikarpur’s Khaman Village

Mansions of Shikarpur’s Khaman Village
A Maarri in Khaman Village

The Maaris of Hindu merchants and notables are witness to their wealth and aesthetic from times gone by.  

Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro

There are several villages in the Shikarpur district which are famous for magnificent Maarris (mansions) that were mainly built during the British Raj. One such village is Khaman, which was noted for the Maarris of Wadhwani Hindu merchants. Khaman village is located about 5 km west of Shikarpur city. It was one of the important settlements of Wadhwani Hindus in the pre-Partition era before 1947. Today all the Maarris of Hindu merchants and nobles have lost their original beauty and magnificence. During my research on Shikarpur’s history, heritage and mysticism, I visited several villages in the district, but I was particularly exhilarated to see imposing Maarris of Hindu merchants in Khaman village. There are also a few Maarris in other villages in the Shirkapur district, but the Khaman Maarris have their own splendour.

A Maarri in Khaman village

I interviewed a few notables of Shikarpur to find out more about the history of Khaman village. There were about seven to eight magnificent Maaris of Hindus in Khaman village, of which only four are extant now. All the Maarris are noted for their intricate woodwork that represents animals on wooden brackets, birds on doors, and façades of the mansions which are not found in other Maarri in any other village in the Shikarpur district. However, in Shikarpur city, all the prominent havelis or Maarris of Hindu merchants and nobles were decorated by animal, bird, human, floral, plant and geometric motifs, and also various religious themes. All these motifs reveal myriad mythologies to scholars of religious studies and anthropology.

A wooden bracket with a depiction of Makara in a Maari in Khaman village
A wooden bracket with a depiction of Makara in a Maarri in Khaman village

The imposing wooden doors, windows, balconies, and brackets all reflect the skill of the Shikarpuri craftsmen. Every Maarri in the village has an ornately wooden carved door that reflects the aesthetics and affluence of the merchants and nobles of the area. According to Dada Reva Chand, a notable of Shikarpur city, there were also platforms at either side of the main porticoes of the Maarris. On these platforms used to sit the elder male members of the family to observe the activities in the street. There also used to be the temple of Jhulelal in Khaman village. Hindus of Khaman village were mainly Daryapanthis, the followers of Jhulelal. The Jhulelal temple in Khaman village was connected to the main Jhulelal temple of Jugal Piyaari Than in Nandi Bazaar (now called Bhittai Bazaar) in Shikarpur city.

Fretwork on the facade of a Maari in Khaman village
Fretwork on the facade of a Maarri in Khaman village

All of the Maarris in Khaman village have been modified now. These Maarris belonged to the Hindu merchants and Zamindars (landlords) of the village. The merchants had their business in Shikarpur city. Apart from Shikarpur city, Hindus of Khaman village also had their businesses in other towns and cities in Sindh. The prominent Hindu merchants and zamindars were Kanya Lal, Bal Chand, Seth Lachman Das, Seth Phero Mal and others. Their Maarris dominated the landscape of Khaman village. It is said that both Seth Lachman Das and Seth Phero Mal were brothers. Seth Lachman Das was the most influential and powerful person in the village. He was a famous merchant of Shikarpur in general and Khaman village in particular. His main business was in Shikarpur city. Apart from Shikarpur, he set up his business in Sukkur and Karachi. Khaman village was connected through roads with both Shikarpur and Sukkur. A road used to go from Khaman to Maarri village, which was noted for the mansion (Maari) of Tidan Mal, to Sher Kot via Lakhi to Sukkur. The Maarri village was named after the imposing Maarri of Tidan Mal which does not exist now.

Interior view of a Maari in Khaman village
Interior view of a Maarri in Khaman village

Apart from his business, Seth Lachman Das also owned large agricultural land in   Lachmanabad near Habib Kot in the Shikarpur district.

Seth Phero Mal was also a trader who was the brother of Seth Lachman Das. He also owned agricultural land in the village and Malhuabad and Somapur near Garhi Khairo in Jacobabad district. Like his brother, he had also established his business in Shikarpur and other towns of Sindh.  Seth Phero Mal had two sons Seth Santu Mal and Tahal Ram. The majority of Hindu families migrated to India in wake of the 1947 Partition. His son Tahal Ram also migrated to India. Only Santu Mal stayed back in the Khaman village. Santu Mal managed the business of his father. Later, Santu Mal migrated from Khaman to Shikarpur where the imposing mansion of Phero Mal was also located. Santu Mal died in 1980.

After the migration of Hindus to India, all the Maarris were allotted to Muslim emigrants from India who live in these Maarris now.

Maaris in Khaman village

The most magnificent Maarri in the village belonged to Seth Lachman Das. This Maarri is noted for its wooden façade. Fretwork on the façade reflects the mastery of local craftsmen. Bird, floral and geometric motifs decorated the wooden façade of the Maarri. There also used to be an elegant gateway which was later removed during the renovation. From the main entrance, one enters the spacious courtyard of the Maarri. Three arched entrances lead to the verandah of Maarri. The stucco decoration representing rosettes and floral scrolls is found on the spandrels of the arches. One enters from the verandah to the main hall of the Maarri which is noted for the wooden doors, windows, and ceiling. Much has been modified now thus wreaking havoc with the originality of the mansion.

Wooden ceiling of a Maari in Khaman village
Wooden ceiling of a Maarri in Khaman village

To the east of this Maarri is another building that now lies in a deplorable condition. The distinctive feature of this Maarri is wooden brackets representing Makara (a legendary sea creature in Hindu mythology). Representations of Makara on wooden brackets are remarkably engraved. Markara is a mount (vahana) of Hindu deities Ganga, Narmada and Varuna. This is the only building in Khaman village that depicts Makara on wooden brackets. In Shikarpur city, Makara is a recurrent theme in Hindu mansions.

To the south of this mansion is another Maarri. It was also owned by a Hindu merchant.  This Maarri is also noted for woodwork. Wooden pillars, windows, and fretted balustrades are a distinctive feature of the Maarri. Two pillars support the wooden ceiling of the verandah. From the verandah, one enters the main hall of the Maarri. There were rooms around the halls of the Maarri.  The wooden ceiling of the main hall of the Maarri rests on a single wooden pillar.

Wooden facade of Maari in Khaman village
Wooden façade of Maarri in Khaman village

The fourth Maarri in Khaman village has also been modified. There were three other small buildings on the premises of this Maarri which were probably used either as guest houses or by married couples of the household. All three buildings are noted for wooden doors and windows. But unfortunately, these are crumbling now.

There were also other Maarris in Khaman village but those have lost their originality. The walls of some of the Maarris owned by the rich Wadhwani Hindus of Khaman village are still extant – reminding visitors of the past glory of the village.


Dr Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro - Sindh CourierDr. Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro, an anthropologist, has authored 13 books: ‘Symbols in Stone: The Rock Art of Sindh’, ‘Perspectives on the art and architecture of Sindh’, ‘Memorial Stones: Tharparkar’ and ‘Archaeology, Religion and Art in Sindh’. He may be contacted at: zulfi04@hotmail.com

Courtesy: The Friday Times Naya Daur Lahore (Published on Dec 3, 2022)


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