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N.M. Billimoria: An unsung Historian of Sindh

Billimoria, was active member of Sindh Historical Society and had authored more than 35 essays on history of Sindh.

Besides writing research papers, Billimoria also edited the Journal of the Society along with A.B. Advani. This arrangement lasted up until 23rd issue, which was published in February, 1943.

Muhammad Habib Sanai

According to the veteran historian Dr. Mubarak Ali, “the modern historiography of Sindh was introduced during the British rule when the Historical Society of Sindh was founded with the purpose of reconstructing the history of Sindh. The Society published a historical journal, which contained well-researched papers, thus contributing immensely to recording the history of Sindh. Sadly, the Society and the journal discontinued after Partition.”

The Sindh Historical Society was established most probably by the end of 1933 by educated elite of Karachi. Its founder President was Dr. Hotchand Moolchand Gurbuxani, who is more renowned for his compilation of Shah Jo Risalo by using modern research methods. The Society used to hold monthly meetings, wherein members of the Society presented their research papers for debate, which later on were published in its Journal. Almost 30 issues of the Journal of Sind Historical Society were published from the year 1934 to Jan 1948, wherein, around 200 essays or other writings on various topics of history of Sindh were published. Out of these, 32 papers have been republished in two anthologies of the selected essays from the Journal. First anthology Sindh Observed was edited by Dr. Mubarak Ali and second one Discovering Sindh’s Past was edited by Michael Bovin, Mathew A. Cook and Julien Levsque. Mr. Mathew A Cook has done us a favour by uploading 25 issues of said Journal on his website.

The Society’s most active office bearer and also prolific contributor in the Journal was Mr. N. M. Billimoria. From the list of contents of all issues of the Journal, I gather that he had contributed more than 35 essays on history of Sindh, whose topics range from early period to modern period. Journal also published extracts pertaining to Sindh from Annual Bibliography of Indian Archaeology, without any byline, which, I understand, were his contributions. His five essays have been republished in the above mentioned two anthologies.

Besides writing research papers, he also edited the Journal along with A.B. Advani. This arrangement lasted up until 23rd issue, which was published in February, 1943. In 24th issue, his co-editor A.D. Advani was replaced by Prof. M.R. Mankad. However, from 25th issue to the last one, the Editorial Committee replaced Editors, but Billimoria remained in the Editorial Committee.

He was also active office bearer of the Society till its dissolution in January 1948. During the year 1934, he was elected as member of the Managing Committee, but in the second year (1935), he was elected as Honorary Secretary and Treasurer. Since then he was re-elected as Honorary Secretary and Treasurer for various years. According to renowned Sindhi writer and research Mr. Mukhtiar Ahmed Malah, during the last years, he also worked as the President. However, as the Secretary and Treasurer of the Society, he prepared annual reports and accounts statements, some were also published in the issues of the Journal.

Untitled-1He attended annual sessions of Indian Historical Congress held in various cities of India and also presented there his research papers. He was awarded silver medal by Bhartia Vidya Bhawan on his paper during the year 1943.

From the online search, it is gathered that his two books 1) Bibliography of publications relating to Sind & Baluchistan (Last edition 1980) and 2) The script of Mohenjo Daro and Easter Island (1940) are published.

Famous Sindhi historian and researcher Dr. Dur Mohammad Pathan tells me that Mr. Billimoria was also office bearer of Sindh Natural History Society, which was established on May 31,1927. This Society started its quarterly Journal of Sindh Natural History from 1929, which was edited by N.M. Billimoria. That journal carried articles about nature, flora and fauna of Sindh. He also contributed essays for this Journal, however, extent of his scholarly endeavors in this Journal is not known. According to Dr. Pathan, all issues are available in his Gul Hayat Institute, located in Khair Mohammad Areja Village of District Larkana.

Unfortunately details about personal life and education of such a high caliber historian and archeologist are still in dark. According to Mr. Malah, Billimoria was perhaps a teacher in a Parsi School, and used to live on Marston Road in Karachi.

This write up is written with a hope that someone may come with more details of his life and achievements. List of his contributions in the Journal of Sindh Historical Society is appended for further research etc.

  1. Alexander Hamilton’s description of Sind (1699-1700)
  2. Three Ancient Travelers
  3. Major General E.C. Marston
  4. Rai Chach and his family
  5. The Arabs in Sind
  6. Legends of Old Sind
  7. Inscription on the tomb of Abu Turab in Sindh, with two illustrations
  8. Was Akbar Literate?
  9. Religious Opinions of Emperor Akbar
  10. Some ancient tribes of Sapta Sindhu
  11. Chinese Buddhist Pilgrims in India
  12. Death of Sir Aurel Stein
  13. The Brahuis
  14. Diul Sind. The Old Port of Tatta
  15. Ancient Sind
  16. Identification of some old places in Ancient Sind (with maps)
  17. Excavations of Pre-Historic Places in Sind
  18. Tombs of Two Europeans at Tatta
  19. The Iranian in Ancient India, especially in Sindh and the Punjab
  20. Ibn Haukal’s Account of Sind
  21. The Panis of Rig Veda and Script of Mohenjo Daro and Easter Island
  22. Worship of the Mother Goddess and Bull at Mohenjo Daro and Baluchistan
  23. Sapta-Sindhu in Rig Veda
  24. Life of Ch. Mason and Mason’s Notes on Karychee (1830)
  25. New light on Sind History
  26. The Sassanians in Sind
  27. The Jats, A tribe in Sind
  28. The Iranians in Sind
  29. The Sumra and Summa Dynasties in Sind
  30. Devastation caused by the Indus in the 19th Century. Severe earthquake felt on the frontier of Upper Sind on 24-1-1852
  31. Census Reports of Sind for the years 1931 and 1941
  32. Hinglaj, an ancient site of pilgrimage in the Las Bela State
  33. The Great Indian Desert with Special reference to the former existence of the sea in the Indus Valley (With two maps)
  34. First Arab Expeditions to India
  35. General Orders of Sir Charles Napier, 1843-47
  36. Indian Historic Congress, Fifth Session 1941 Hyderabad Deccan, the Osmania University, Ellora and Ajanta Caves
  37. Emperor Akbar and Zoroastrians
  38. Criminal Tribes in Sind
  39. Sind the Satrapy of Iran

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Habib2Muhammad Habib Sanai is a writer, researcher, translator and trainer. He lives in Hala Sindh. He can be reached: habibsanai@gmail.com

Courtesy: Hum Sub (Published on July 8, 2021), Web Content Geek (Published on February 5, 2020)

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