Where Jats and Changs once fought

Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro on the mortal remains of warriors from a conflict immortalized by Sindh’s bards

Where Jats and Changs once fought
Lower Sindh is dotted with many historic cemeteries which contain the tombs of fallen heroes. The stone-carved graves and canopies were erected to commemorate the heroism and chivalry of these warriors. However, the graveyards of Jats located about 20 km south of Tando Muhammad Khan, near the famous Buddhist stupa of Sudheran and Ram Baraho in Badin, are quite prominent. Both the graveyards contain the graves of fallen heroes of battles which were fought between the Chang and Jat tribes in the last quarter of the 18th century.

A few of the Jats killed in the battle known to locals as “Jatan ain Changan Jo Maro” (Battle of Jats and Changs) were buried in the Jat necropolis near Sudheran Jo Thul. Many others were buried in Mula Hasan graveyard in Badin. The Jat necropolis is perched atop the hill overlooking the railway line that connects Tando Muhammad Khan with Hyderabad.

Collapsed tomb of Ram Baraho, Badin

The “Jatan ain Changan Jo Maro” (Battle of Jats and Changs) is believed to have occurred in the last quarter of the 18th century during the rule of Mir Fateh Ali Khan Talpur (1783-1801), the founder of the Talpur dynasty in Sindh. There are many versions of the story of “Jatan ain Changan Jo Maro”. However, it seems clear that tribal conflict started over a trifle and spread to a tribal scale.

The war began with a few people from one tribe killing those of the other. A cycle of retaliatory killings soon developed, turning into a series of clashes and encounters between the tribes. The frequent clashes eventually led to full-blown tribal war. All the Jats of lower Sindh and Kutch came to support Sardar Sher Khan Jat, then chief of the Jats of Sindh and Kutch. Incidentally, the name of the chief of the Chang tribe was also Sher Khan.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Jats were a very powerful tribe in lower Sindh. Even Mir Fateh Ali Khan Talpur was afraid of their rising power. In order to rein in the rising power of the Jats, Mir Fateh Ali Khan openly supported the Chang tribe. He even forced some other tribes, namely the Jamalis and Khosas, to fight by the side of the Changs.

Dislodged slab with jewellery depiction

Ballads of the battle are still confined to the many bards living in lower Sindh who sing and amuse people with rhythmic narrations

Eventually, the Changs with support of Mir Fateh Ali Khan Talpur collected a large conscripted force to face the Jats in final battle. The Jats also collected their tribesmen from lower Sindh and Kutch and prepared for final combat.

Subsequently, both Changs and Jats met in the battle ground in the purlieus of the Jati town and fought valiantly. However, the Jats displayed more skill and heroism in the battle. And so, the Jats won the battle, while the Changs and their supporters retreated from the battle ground, turning swords into ploughshares.

Ballads of the battle are still confined to the many bards living in lower Sindh who sing and amuse people with rhythmic narrations. They meticulously and appraisingly eulogize the gallantry and heroism of individuals. They also have a scrupulous record of every lineage of the Jats and Changs who engaged in the battle. The notable lineages of Jats who took part in the battle were the Othar (camel men or camel breeders), Thathiar (buffalo raisers) Mithani, Radho, Hamrani and Halani etc. Folk story tellers also narrate the names of individuals from both tribes who fought bravely.

Stone carved grave of Lashkar Khan Chang at Ram Baraho necropolis

The Thathiar lineage of the Jat tribe is also famous for arts and crafts . Their houses are literally pieces of art. The villages of the Othar Jats near Koski are noted for their intricate woodwork.

Jats who fell in battle were buried in different graveyards of Badin, Thatta and Tando Muhammad Khan. The people of the Chang tribe were buried in graveyards of Ram Baraho in Badin and at the battle ground which is known as Jatan and Chagan Ja Derin Jati (a necropolis that contains communal graves of both the Changs and the Jats).

The Ram Baraho necropolis, where the Changs were buried, is located about 17 km south of Badin town. It contains stone carved graves of Sher Khan Chang, his father Lashkar Khan Chang and many others. At present the necropolis is in a deplorable condition. A majority of the stone carved graves have crumbled into pieces. Salinity has damaged the necropolis more than anything else. Ram Baraho’s tomb is also in ruins. The grave of Laskar Khan bears an inscription in Persian. It reads: “Lashkar Khan son of Sher Khan [the elder Sher Khan, who lived during the Kalhora period and grandfather of the younger Sher Khan, who lived during the Talpur period], son of Shahek Khan belongs to the Chang tribe.” Interestingly, the years of birth and death of Lashkar are also written on the grave as 1102 AH (1691 AD) and 1187 AH (1774 AD).

Inscription on the grave of Lashkar Khan Chang at Ram Baraho

There was a canopy over the grave of Sher Khan Chang, which has now caved in. Only the pillars of the canopy are lying on the ground.

A few Jats who were killed in battle were buried in the necropolis of the Jats near Sudheran-Jo-Thul in Tando Muhammad Khan. The tombstones of Jats are famous in the region for their awe-inspiring engravings. Apart from the geometric and floral designs, figural representations also decorate the structures, indicating the aesthetic of the builders who seem to have profoundly banked on local themes for their artistic expression.

The graveyard of the Jats contains more than 20 stone carved graves, of which some are ornately carved and carry excellent representations of mounted warriors, weapons and jewellery. Some of the tombs also carry epigraphs. The decorated slabs of tombstones are strewn everywhere in the necropolis and some even beyond the limits of the graveyard. On one of the destroyed gravestones, a camel depiction is elaborately carved – thus indicating the identity of the buried dignitary, i.e. he belonged to the Jat community.

Although tribe members in lower Sindh raise buffalos, most Jats are known as camel breeders. Local custom has it that anybody holding the bridle of a camel is a Jat. In fact, some people consider Jats to be their own caste. Others believe that they owe their name to their profession.

On another slab one can find a depiction of a mounted warrior which is very skillfully carved. There are some gravestones which bear depictions of weapons. There is a dismantled slab bearing the representation of a sword with a shield. On another gravestone, one finds the representations of a dagger, sword, shield, axe and fist.

There are more than six stone carved graves which depict jewellery. Those graves which bear jewellery engravings belong to women. There is a variety of jewellery on dislodged slabs scattered in the necropolis. On one gravestone, there are two bracelets enclosed in a floral-shaped pattern. Two finger-rings are symmetrically arranged in the upper and lower edges of the gravestone. On the dislodged panel lying between two tombstones, there are two bracelets with strikingly designed pommels.

One can also find amid of scattered slabs of the stone carved graves a slab that bears inscription which reads the name of Jat son of Bakha Jat. Another inscription reads the name of Bakha Jat son of Darya.

The writer is an anthropologist. He may be contacted at zulfi04@hotmail.com.  

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