Memorial stones are objects of veneration for the Hindu community in Tharparkar. In Mithi taluka, these memorial stones are found in most of the historic villages. One such village is Malhanhor Vena, which is located about 4 east of Mithi town on the Islamkot-Mithi road. It is a well-known village in Mithi taluka. Four castes; Nara Sodha Rajputs, Suthars, Meghwars and Guriras live in the village. Guriras are the priests of the Meghwar tribe. Malhanhor Vena was an important village during the reign of the Sodhas in Tharparkar. There are two hero-stones in the village. Both hero-stones are located northeast of the village on a dune overlooking the Islamkot-Mithi-road. Both hero-stones are oriented eastwards and depict riders. One memorial stone is larger than the other. The larger memorial stone depicts a rider who is shown holding a bridle in one hand and a sword in the other. On the smaller memorial stone, the rider is also shown holding a sword in one hand and the bridle of a horse in the other. Both are inscribed hero-stones with Devanagari script. The script is not readable as the sandstone is badly weathered. Not much is known about them. Local people believe that they are the hero-stones of Nara Sodha Rajputs who died in a certain combat against enemies. Both hero-stones are venerated by the local Hindu community of Malhanhor Vena village. Close to these hero-stones are brick-built devris of Nenro Ram Dedani and Utam Chand.
About 3 km south of Malhanor Vena is located a dune which is locally called Wanth-Ji-Thari. There are several funerary monuments of Suthars, Bhils and Nara Rajputs on this dune. The funerary monument of Rano Bhil is frequented by his tribesmen. An annual fair is also held at his grave. Rano Bhil was an ascetic. Childless Bhil women visit his grave to get the boon of a son. Apart from the grave of Rano, another site of veneration on the dune is that of Nara Sodho. This is a hero-stone and Nara Sodho was an inhabitant of Malhanhor Vena. Local people believe that he died in a fight against wild animals and was honoured with a hero-stone. The lower section of the hero-stone bears an inscription and the upper depicts a horse rider. The rider is shown riding a caparisoned horse, holding a sword in one hand and a shield in the other. The corners of the stone are decorated. Nara Sodhas of Malhanhor Vena also venerate the hero-stone.
Apart from hero stones in Malhanhor Vena, one also finds some memorial stones at Vessar, which is located 30 about km south of Mithi town and is believed to have been founded by Veso Sodho. The village is host to some memorial stones located at Varanhar tank and west of the hamlet of the Meghwar tribe. The memorial stone at the village tank is half-broken. The upper part which depicted a horseman was stolen, whereas the lower part bearing an inscription is still extant. The memorial stone commemorates Nabo Sodho who died in a fight against cattle-thieves. He was a resident of Joruo village, on his way to Vesasar village to visit his relatives, when thieves stopped him and tried to rob him of cattle. This resulted in a fight in which Nabo Sodho was killed. To the west of the hero-stone of Nabo are two stone alignments that are believed to have been erected in memory of the fallen heroes and heroines of two wedding parties. Local people believe that two wedding parties fought at this place, where their stones have been erected. Two rows are oriented east-west. In the first row are six stones, of which only one is standing while all others have fallen. The second row has seven stones of which only two are standing. The standing stones are referred to as those of shaheeds (martyrs). The villagers venerate these stones. Whenever there is drought in the village, people come to pray at these stones and offer water-pots invoking these martyrs for rain.
People refer to these stones as ‘chucho’. This refers to the materiality of the stone. These are metamorphic stone memorials with small fissures, reminiscent of a small-eyed person. Based on this analogy, the stone is called chucho.
Ranasar is one of the largest tanks in the Tharparkar district. There are many tanks in Tharparkar, for instance Gadre-Jo-Talao, Katho Talao, Khensar, Bhodesar-Jo Talao, Mithi- Jo-Talao, Sangah and Lorlai, etc. However, Ranasar is the largest. Rainwater remains for six months in the tank. It is located about 2 km north of Chelhar, a small town on the Mithi-Islamkot route, which is believed to have been founded by Chelo Charan. It is very close to Sutharan-Jo-Tar and Anbji village. It is believed that when Umer abducted Marvi from Bhalva, he halted at Ranasar while returning to Umerkot.
Located in the north of the pond is memorial stone of Jhujhar Singh, who was a generous person. His generosity is known far and wide in Tharparkar. Several Charans and Bhats composed poetry and sang songs in his praise. Chaman Charan was a celebrated poet of the British period who composed poetry about the generosity of Jhujhar Singh. Now Jhujhar Singh belonged to the Sadoor lineage of Sodha Rajputs. The memorial stone of Jhujhar Singh is divided into two parts. The lower part has an inscription, and the upper part bears a rider. He is venerated by many Hindu castes of Anbji, Sutharan-Jo-Talao and Chelhar. Whenever there is a drought in the area of Chelhar, people come to pray for rain at his memorial stone. His son Chen Singh erected his loharti (a memorial). The grandson of Jhujhar Singh, Anbji, founded a village near the pond – which came to be called after his name.
Apart from the memorial stone of Jhujhar Singh, there are six devris (funerary memorials) of the Suthar tribe. Located towards the south of the memorial stone of Jhujhar Singh is a Sati-thaan (platform) where once there was the memorial stone of a Sati – and this was stolen five years ago. The Sati in question was also from the Sadoor family of Sodha Rajputs.
Pabuhar is another village where there are some memorial stones. It is a multi-caste village. Both Muslim and Hindu castes live in the village. The main castes of the village are Nara Sodhas, Charans, Meghwars, and Muslim Odhejas. There are three memorial stones in the village which belong to Nara Sodha Rajputs. A hero stone of Man Singh Sodho is located 2 km northeast of the village. He reportedly died fighting robbers. According to Hemdan Charan of Pabuhar, the wedding procession of Man Singh was going to a certain village when a party from among the Khosas wanted to rob the wedding procession. Man Singh stopped them and fought them like a hero, saving his wedding caravan but losing his own life. He became a Jhujhar (headless hero). Later, his descendants erected a memorial stone on the dune where he was killed by the robbers. There is no inscription on the hero-stone, but it depicts a rider on horseback holding a sword in one hand and the bridle of the horse in the other. He is venerated by the Nara Sodhas of Pabuhar.
There are also two other memorial stones of Sodha Rajputs which lie southeast of the village. Both memorials depict similar motifs of riders which are usually found on the hero-stones. Both are shown holding swords in their hands and holding the bridles of caparisoned horses. Near memorial stones are devris (funerary memorials) of Sodha Rajputs. All the devris are noted for their conical hemispherical domes. The devris resemble stone canopies of Palejas at Pir Lakho graveyard in Thatta.
The author is an anthropologist. He tweets at: @Kalhorozulfiqar. All photos by the author