SOOMRA DYNASTY (1011- 1351 AD)

Compiled by: Mohd. Umer Soomro

The Soomras originally were a local Hindu tribe. Some influential members of it had accepted Islam soon after the Arab conquest of Sindh. Even after conversion they retained their old Hindu names and customs. They had intermarried with local Arab landowners and thus had acquired great influence and power.

They were not Qarmatis. Muqtana of Syria had been inviting Shaikh Ibn Soomar Raja Bal of Multan to accept Druzism. It is, therefore, apparent that they belonged to the Ismaili sect organised by the Fatmid Khalifas of Egypt, Imam Zahir and Mustansir. The Qarmati descendent movement or the early Ismaili sect had never gained ground in Sindh, but somehow most of the early Sunni writers considered Ismailis as Qarmatis. The Soomras practised a lot of Hindu customs even until 1471 AD when Mahmud Begra tried to suppress them and convert them to his sect of Islam i.e., Sunnism. Raja Bal or Rajpal could have been son of Soomar Soomro who ruled Sindh at that time.

The early Soomra rulers were ‘Fatmid’ Ismailis, owed allegiance to Fatmid Khalifas of Cairo, sent them presents and read their names in the Friday Khutba. On the death of Imam Mustansir at Cairo in 487 AH (1094 AD), the Fatmid Dawa had been divided in two sections. The first one Mustalian Dawa with headquarters at Yemen in the beginning and later on in Gujarat; the other one called Nizari Ismaili Dawa with headquarters at Almut in Persia under Hasan bin Sabbah and supported the cause of Imam Nizar bin Mustansir and his descendants. The Soomras drifted away from these two rival Dawas. Ismailis got great setback between 1171-1187 AD starting with the fall of their Khilafat in Cairo at the hands of Sultan Salahuddin Ayubi, then in Iraq at the hands of Seljuki Turks and in Multan by Muhammad Ghori’s campaigns.

Yemeni or Gujarati Dawa exercised heavy Arab influence, which is apparent in the names of people as well as Arabic literature. The Soomras in general had local Sindhi names and therefore they could not have originally belonged to this sect of Ismailis. The Ismailis of Gujarat, who attached themselves to Yemeni or Gujarati Dawa, are known as Bohris.

The Nizari school, was active in the northern subcontinent. Pir Shams Sabzwari, looking like a Jogi, came to Multan where he drew considerable followings. He may have been active in Sindh, but as he came during the time of Imam Qasim Shah (1310-1369 AD) in the last days of the Soomra rule, it becomes doubtful if they could be Nizari Ismailis too. Pir Sadruddin, who died near Uch in 876 AH (1471 AD), was also a Nizari missionary and there is evidence that he exercised influence in Sindh. Nizaris got a setback in Iraq when Halaku’s forces in the mid-thirteenth century destroyed their stronghold in Alburz Mountains.

Mir Masum basing on hearsay considers the Soomras of Hindu origin. Tarikh-i-Tahiri clearly mentions that the Soomras were of Hindu origin, but all the same they ate buffalo meat. Muntakhab-ut-Tawarikh of Muhammad Yousuf agrees with Masumi and gives some additional names of their rulers of whom some appear to be Muslim names. Tarikh-i-Tabaqat-i-Bahadur-Shahi, written around 1532-1536 AD, states that they were descendants of Tamim Ansari. This is also a mis-statement. Recently it is argued that they were Sumerians, who came from Iraq and were of Arab stock. This was the twentieth-century theory unknown to the past historians. Presence of Soomras in Kutch, Gujarat and Rajasthan in small numbers does not make them Rajputs either, as Soomra and Samma clans had formed ninety per cent of population of Sindh from eleventh to sixteenth centuries.

Tuhfa-tul-Kiram and Beglar Namah have called Soomras as Arabs and perhaps connected them with Sumerians of Iraq without realising that Sumerians were not Semites. After the conquest of India by Mughals, the definition of a Mughal was: a foreigner from the central Asia or Iran, fair in colour, not knowing local language and not having a local wife. All local Muslims were discriminated against and exploited like non-Muslims. Many Sindhi tribes started showing their origin from outside. Soomras became Sumerians, Sammas descendants of Jamshed of Persia and Kalhoras as offsprings of Abbasid Khalifas, in a similar way as earlier Rais of Rai dynasty the local Sudras or untouchables, had become Rajputs. In the fifth century, Huns destroyed most of the kingdoms in South Asia. Warlike tribes collected mercenaries in the Indian desert area and called themselves Rajputs or sons of Rajas. They included many tribes of Sindh, Kutch, Kathiawar, Gujarat, Punjab and Utter Pradesh, who actually settled in areas bordering the desert. They called themselves Rajputs or sons of Rajas and Khatri by occupation having a dint to fight wars and rule. There has been no migration of these tribes to the surrounding areas of Rajasthan as is generally thought. Rajasthan with limited resources is thinly populated. The tribes were present in the above areas in large numbers and only a few in the desert. They lived on animal husbandry as their ancestors did and also small-scale agriculture in the desert. All warriors and feudals called themselves Rajputs all over South Asia. Sammas and Soomras were local tribes and assigned themselves as Rajputs by class because of presence of a few of their tribesmen in the adjoining desert of Rajasthan. Later on the Rajputs of Rajasthan built their own genealogies, descent, folklore and history, which was collected by Todd between 1815-1829 AD. This is not history but only narration of mostly fictitious perceptions. No serious historian accepts it. All British period historians given in the table at end of this chapter have called Soomras as Rajputs under influence of Todd’s writings. Actually they were local converted to Ismailism.

The Soomra dynasty started with a definite and rigid law of succession unlike the contemporary Ghazni and Delhi Sultanates, which always faced trouble and where sword and murder was the natural method of deciding the right of succession. The Soomra rule therefore continued uninterrupted for about three-and-a-half centuries and their territories were never annexed, though they acted as the vassals of Delhi for some time.

The method of governance like contemporary Delhi Sultanate was not hereditary feudal nobility copied from Sassanians, but Bhayat or brotherhood under which villages were allotted land for maintenance and Panchats for setting law and order problems and maintenance of land, water and grazing grounds. Panchats provided taxes to the government. Such a system, operated in Kutch from 1148 to 1948 AD under Hindu Jareja Sammas of Sindh, which had survived up to the mid-twentieth century and was a good example of governance. State was neither run through Jagirdari system nor were high officials granted fiefs to exploit land for a limited period.

After nearly two hundred years of rule, Soomras, under the influence of Sufis gave Jagirs to holy foundations to maintain Dargahs and undertake moral teachings, but these Khanqahs and Dargahs of Sufis had been encouraged to subdue common man through them. The Soomra government did not follow a military theocratic despotism as was done by the Delhi Sultanate.

The participation of Hindus with Muslim Sammas in wars and political struggles show that religion did not play any part in state affairs, which then was secular and unorthodox. There is no record that Soomras ever invited Persian poets, historians and scholars to their courts or main towns. There was no important caste of Sayeds in Sindh during Soomra rule besides some Sufis. Most of Sayed families of Sindh claim their origin from the central Asia in the fifteenth century when dry climate in these areas had forced them to migrate. Sammas, the new converts, welcomed them as pillars of Islam and bestowed favours on them, but except a few Sufis, there is no record of Sayeds’ presence in Sindh in Soomra or early Samma era.

The Soomra monarchy was based on highly esteemed public opinion. Even the first Soomro king, Khafif ascended the throne with the full mandate of the people. When he died his son was a child. The Soomra capital city Mansura was burnt by Mahmud of Ghazni. Soomra elders collected at Tharri, the new capital of the Soomras and unanimously elected Soomar Soomro as their king, but the right of the minor son of Khafif remained reserved. Soomar died in 1054-55 AD and Khafif’s son Bhoongar succeeded him. Soomar’s son Raja Bal (Rajpal) established himself in Multan. He proved to be a very strong king. Even Muqtana of Syria addressed him in his letter in 1033 AD as ‘Power of the state’, son of Soomar and not by his actual name. It is not sure whether Raja Bal accepted suzerainty of Sindh or ruled independently. These incidents show that right of succession was never usurped in Soomra rule.

Dodo-Chanesar ballads; HISTORY or myth

There were four Dodo rulers of Sindh; Dodo-I (1068-1092 AD), Dodo-II (1180-1194 AD), Dodo-III (1259-1273 AD) and Dodo-IV 1332-? AD.

The first Dodo had no conflict with any Ghaznavid ruler. Dodo-II could have conflict with Muhammad Shahabuddin Ghori, but it is doubtful if the latter had attacked Sindh, though he attacked Multan and Uch. Dodo-III could not have any conflict with Sultans of Delhi, as he had attacked Multan and Uch but not Sindh of Soomras. Dodo-IV had a conflict with Muhammad bin Tughlaq when Jam Unar Samma attacked Sehwan, to suppress a rebellion, but as Battutta met Muhammad Tughlaq in Sindh in early forties of fourteenth century, an event which is fully documented, it appears that the conflict with Dodo-IV continued. This incident is not recorded by Delhi historians. There were two Chanesars (1222-1228 and 1283-1300 AD). The first one 27 years after the death of Dodo-II, had a conflict with Khawarizm Shah and Altatmash and surrendered to Delhi most probably under the influence of Bahauddin Zakariya. The second one surrendered to Allauddin’s general, Zafar Khan. Both faced ignoramus end, but there was no Dodo in picture then. Thus it appears easy to make Chanesars the feeble rulers, unworthy of leadership and kingship. Ballads and stories similar to those of Dodo-Chanesar were composed in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in Rajasthan and Gujarat and a few well-known are:

i) The sixteenth-century old Gujarati ballads of Padmanabha “Kanhad-dev Parbandh”, which describe valiant fight, put up by Kanhad-dev of Jalor against Allauddin.

ii) The fifteenth century Sanskrit ballads or Kavyas or Kafees of “Hamir Mahakavya”, tell a similar story of Hamir’s fight against Allauddin.

iii) “Mandalik Kavya” is the similar story of the sixteenth century of resistance offered by Raja Mandalik of Junagadh against Sultan Mahmud Begra of Gujarat, who ruled in the fifteenth century.

iv) Kavi Jodha’s “Hamir Raso”, tells the similar story of Hamir and was composed in the nineteenth century, about Ranthomabhore’s resistance to Allauddin.

v) Ranmal Chahand’s Kavya of the sixteenth century in Gujarati gives similar tradition of Zafar Khan’s attacks on Idar.

Thus ballads of Dodo-Chanesar are a simple copy of similar ballads popular in the adjoining countries. There are also Kutchi ballads in which Kutchis came to protect ‘Ladies of royal Soomra family’. These are interesting tales to tell, but not part of serious history.

Soomras’ capitals

The following four are recorded as capitals of Soomras:

(i) Mansura or Brahmanabad from 1011 to 1026 AD, when it was burnt and not re-occupied.

(ii) Tharri, 14km eastwards of Matli on the Puran from 1026 to between 1241 and 1256 AD, which was abandoned due to changes in the course of Puran.

(iii) Mahatam Tur or Muhammad Tur or Shah Kapoor, sixteen kilometres south of Mirpur Bathoro and eight kilometres north of Jati on the Gungro branch between 1241 and 1246, and during 1317-1320 AD.

(iv) Thatta from about 1317 to 1320 AD until the end of their rule in 1351 AD.

The following could be custom or border military posts or both;

* Vigih Kot or Vijeh Kot or Vigho Kot or Wagojo Kot or Wighia Kot in India near Rahimki Bazaar on confluence of Bhadar with the Puran, may be a custom or border military post or both to avert any invasion from Gujarat via Kathiawar and Kutch. The ruins belong to the Indus culture times and are contemporary of Mohenjo Daro.

* Deval Kot or Debal Kot near Pir Patho, another military post established when Thatta became capital or earlier on Kalri branch.

* Rupah Mari, 43 kilometres south of Badin on Ren river, said to be palace of Queen Rupah and may have been another border military post.

All above cities had destroyed or decayed due to changes in the courses of the River Indus or its branches called as eastern Puran, western Puran, Ren river or other names. Settlements below Badin and Jati could be affected by earthquakes but not to their north.

* History has not recorded Amarkot as capital of Soomras except in folklore. One version is that Rana Amar Singh of Sodha tribe, a branch of Parmars, built the Amarkot fort in 336 AD. Other version is that all Soomra rulers had non-Arabic and local Sindhi names. Umar Soomro’s actual name may have been Amar, Amero, etc and he may have built it as sub-capital. Still another version is that the present fort may have been built by Kalhoras, though it existed from eleventh or twelfth centuries. No archaeological explorations have been done to investigate its originality.

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