Mansions Of Shikarpur’s Khaman Village

Mansions Of Shikarpur’s Khaman Village
There are several villages in the Shikarpur district which are famous for magnificent Maaris (mansions) that were mainly built during the British Raj. One such village is Khaman, which was noted for the Maaris 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 Maaris 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 Maaris of Hindu merchants in Khaman village. There are also a few Maaris in other villages in the Shirkapur district, but the Khaman Maaris have their own splendour.

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 Maaris 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 Maari in any other village in the Shikarpur district. However, in Shikarpur city, all the prominent havelis or Maaris 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.

Wooden bracket with a depiction of Makara in a Maari in Khaman village

The imposing wooden doors, windows, balconies, and brackets all reflect the skill of the Shikarpuri craftsmen. Every Maari 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 Maaris. 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

All of the Maaris in Khaman village have been modified now. These Maaris 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 Maaris 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 Maari village, which was noted for the mansion (Maari) of Tidan Mal, to Sher Kot via Lakhi to Sukkur. The Maari village was named after the imposing Maari of Tidan Mal which does not exist now.

Interior view of a Maari 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 Maaris were allotted to Muslim emigrants from India who live in these Maaris now.

The most magnificent Maari in the village belonged to Seth Lachman Das. This Maari 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 Maari. 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 Maari. Three arched entrances lead to the verandah of Maari. 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 Maari 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

To the east of this Maari is another building that now lies in a deplorable condition. The distinctive feature of this Maari 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.

Wooden facade of Maari in Khaman village

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

The fourth Maari in Khaman village has also been modified. There were three other small buildings on the premises of this Maari 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 Maaris in Khaman village but those have lost their originality. The walls of some of the Maaris owned by the rich Wadhwani Hindus of Khaman village are still extant – reminding visitors of the past glory of the village.

The author is an anthropologist. He tweets at: @Kalhorozulfiqar