The folk tale of Mokhi and Mataras is deeply embedded in Sindhi culture and society. Many rural folk still narrate the story. Likewise, Sufi poets composed poetry discussing the characters of this folk tale. Their monuments are still venerated by rural people, located in Narathar in Gadap tehsil of Karachi.
The folktale of Mokhi and Mataras is an interesting story which mentions a public liquor house and a woman who sells wine to eke out her livelihood. Sindhi scholars who have written on the story of Mokhi and Mataras believe that it occurred during the reign of the last Soomra dynasty ruler Hamir Soomro (1328-1349 A.D). Hamir Soomro was ruling the Tharparkar area. As legend has it Natar, the mother of Mohki, served as barmaid in the Kak Mahal (palace of Moomal), who later moved to present-day Karachi where she established a bar and distillery. She had six daughters and a son. The names of her daughters were Safuran, Mithan, Allah Phai, Soongal, Sukhan and Mokhi. Now, two districts of Karachi, Karachi East and Malir have dehs (administrative units) carrying the names of the daughters of Natar.
Natar was distiller in the Kak Mahal of Moomal. She also taught Mohki to make liquor. Natir moved from Kak Mahal to Karachi where she established a distillery and an inn on the main Choraho or Chowk from which three roads led to the seaports of Gadap, Mol, and Hub respectively. Traders traveling on these routes used to stay in the inn of Mokhi and enjoyed the liquor served there.
Legend has it that the fame of the tavern and the name of Mokhi traveled far and wide and many drinkers and revelers began to frequent her bar. The madh (wine) of Mokhi attracted many a traveler and connoisseur alike.
Once, some eight Mataras visited her tavern and they enjoyed the wine very much. They became regular customers of Mokhi, visiting her tavern after every six months for revelry. Controversies are galore regarding the exact number of the Mataras. Some scholars believe that they were seven and according to others they were twelve – three from each of the Samma, Soomra, Marram and the Roonjha clans. They were believed to have been the inhabitants of either Sari in Sindh-Kohistan or Siro. Siro is a geographic term which refers to upper Sindh.
The exact number of Mataras are evident in the following verse by the local versifier.
Eight Mataras used to frequent the bar of Mokhi,
Two from each of the Samma, Soomra, Channa and Chauhan clans
They were traders who brought their goods to the seaport and used to stay in the inn of Mokhi on way back to their villages.
One day on way back to their villages, they visited the tavern of Mokhi and demanded the wine as usual. Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai addresses Mokhi and asks her:
Hide not your wine, from those who drink
Offer its draught to travelers who seek it,
One single drop will fetch lacs, offered to such ones
But at that time, Mokhi had not much to offer them. Since, they were regular customers, Mokhi did not want them to return without drinking. Mokhi searched the pots of wine and eventually found some wine in one of the pots. However, there was the dead body of a snake lying in that pot of liquor. Mokhi took the liquor from the pot and poured it into cups for the Mataras.
The Mataras enjoyed the wine very much. They demanded more wine but Mokhi told them that the pots were empty now. Afterwards, she also told them that the liquor that they drank was venomous because of the dead snake. When they heard this, the Mataras (drunkards) died on the spot.
But in another version of the story, they died after one year. In this version, when the Mataras revisited the bar after six months, they asked Mokhi to serve them with the same old liquor which they drank the last year. She told them that the liquor that they drank was venomous. When they heard this they died on the spot.
In any case, Mokhi lamented on the death of the Mataras and cursed herself. The people also cursed her, saying that she killed the Mataras. People stopped visiting the bar and soon it became deserted. The Mataras were buried near the bar of Mokhi. Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai also confirms it in his following poem:
Mohki did not mean to harm,
Poison did not kill them,
They had come for special drink,
And died hearing the truth,
Their graves are where the bar was!
The tomb of Mokhi is located close to Kozi Water Park and near the shrine of Shah Mureed in Gadap, Karachi. One finds on the northern floor of the shrine a large cup made of cement, indicating the identity of the Mokhi as cup-bearer.
The shrine of Mokhi is frequented by many people. In particular, women visit it frequently in the hope of getting their wishes fulfilled.
The tavern of Mokhi was located on the bank of the Konkar tributary of the Thado perennial river. The remains of the bar, locally called “Kafiran Ja Ghar” (dwellings of the unbelievers) are situated 1 km southeast of Matara tombs near the village of Sohrab Faqir. Spring water, which originated from Narathar, used to pass the bar of Mokhi. The spring, now dry, is named after Mokhi as “Mokhi Jo Tarr”. The bar was located in the picturesque setting of the Narathar hill.
There are remains of five rooms which may have been both the bar and inn of Mohki where people traveling through the Chodagi (crossroads) used to stay and enjoy the liquor. According to Gul Hasan Kalmati, a Sindhi historian, the bar of of Mokhi was located near Bhambore at Khilan Khatlari. But it is more evident from the verse of Bhitai as already mentioned above that the graves of the Mataras are located where the bar of Mokhi was. It is apparent that the tombs of the Mataras are situated at Narathar and the tomb of Mohki is also not far away them. Moreover, it is also evident from historical accounts that Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai also visited the tombs and shrine of Mokhi. A place, locally called “Shah Jo takyo”, is situated 12 km northwest on the Khar road in Gadap. This strongly suggests that Bhitai visited the shrine and tombs of Mokhi and Mataras.
This story of Mokhi and the Mataras appears to have originated in pre-Islamic times, when the socio-political influence of Iran extended to Sindh during the Sassanid period (4th to 7th century A.D). Moreover, Mokhi is a Sindhized form of “moghi”, derived from “moghan” — the Zoroastrian priests who used to serve the ceremonial wine of feasts and festivals.
The author is an anthropologist at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE). He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.