There are many historic villages and towns in the Shikarpur district which are noted for historical monuments, a majority of which are now in deplorable condition. Like Shikarpur city’s heritage, the condition of built heritage in its various villages and towns is not different. While travelling through the Shikarpur district, I came across many mosques, Maaris (mansions) and mandirs (temples) that are not properly documented. Nothing has been written on them. Only local oral historians know about it.
Like various other examples of built heritage of Shikarpur, Maaris (mansions) are found in many historic villages and towns in the district. Maaris were built by both Hindu merchants and Muslim elites. I have been visiting villages and towns of the Shikarpur district since 1998 to document the fast-disappearing built heritage. During my various trips, I interviewed the oral historians and village intellectuals to discuss the lost heritage of the villages and towns. Moreover, the oral history of the mystics and sants of those villages was also collected.
During my two visits to Khahi in 2019 and 2022, I met a few oral historians and interviewed them about the history and heritage of the village. Khahi is a historical village in Lakhi taluka in the Shikarpur district. It is located about 22 km east of Lakhi town. This village is noted for Maaris (mansions) and mandirs (temples). Neighboring Abdoo, Bodo and Bhirkan villages were also noted for mansions of Hindu merchants and landlords. The majority of Hindus in those villages migrated to India in wake of the 1947 Partition.
In Khahi village, both Muslim and Hindu families live together even today. Hakra, Otha, Bhaya and Mahar are prominent Muslim castes in Khahi village. Some Hindu families also live in Khahi village. According to Vasdev Manghir Mal Mandhwani, a notable of Khahi village, there were around 85 to 90 houses of Hindu families in the village before the 1947 Partition.
There were a few Maaris of rich Hindu merchants and landlords. Mandhwani, Haseja and Achhara Hindus lived in Khahi village. Some of the notables of Khahi village were Anand Mal, Asudo Mal, Harchu Mal, Diyalo Mal, Gokal Das, Bhai or Hakeem Sobhraj Mal, Manghir Mal, Diyal Das, Shatrughan, Chandan Lal and others. There are a few Maaris on one of the streets which lead to the Guru Nanak Darbar in Khahi village.
The most prominent Maari in Khahi village belongs to Gokal Das which is also known as Jadam Maari named after his son Jadam Mal. It is a two-storey building that is noted for its intricate woodwork. Now, this Maari has lost its original magnificence. The plaster of the walls has come off, reflecting that the owners of this Maari today cannot even afford to repair it properly. Yet in his own time, Gokal Das was the most influential and rich person in Khahi village. He was both a businessman and landlord. He also owned a rice huller machine in Khahi village. His son Jadam Mal also assisted his father in managing the business. After the death of Jadam Mal, his son Ramesh Lal migrated to Sukkur, where his family lives now.
There were other mansions in Khahi village. The mansion of Anand Mal, who was a Mukhi of the Hindu community in Khahi village, was to be found in the village. The Maari of Diyalo Mal son of Asudo Mal is also noted for its woodwork. Like other mansions in the village, it has also lost its grandeur. There is also the mansion of Harchu Mal which was noted for its wooden balcony, which has now crumbled into pieces. Many Hindu families migrated to India after the 1947 partition. Some stayed back in Khahi village and later migrated to other towns and cities in Sindh, where they established their businesses.
Apart from Maaris of Hindu merchants and landlords, there were six shops in the village Bazaar. The shops of Bhagwano (Bhagwan Das), Shatrughan, Kako Phundu Mal, Mansha Ram, Wadhu Mal and Dhanoo Mal were located in the village bazaar. According to Zulfiqar Ali Otho, a resident of Khahi village and a teacher at the Government Higher Secondary School Chak town, Kako Phundu Mal, and Shugo Mal were brothers who had a shop of Mao or Khoya (curd) in the village. Bhai or Hakeem Sobhraj Mal had three sons: Mansha Ram, Basant Ram and Gopi. Krishan Mal, Manik Mal and Engineer Teekam Das who were brothers had a house located near the Guru Nanak Darbar. Engineer Teekam Das was a literary person who established a library in Khahi village. Wadhu Mal, the brother of Hakeem/ Bhai Sobhraj Mal had also a shop in the village bazaar. Apart from shops in the bazaar, there was also a famous shop of Shevak Mal – which was located near the Shiva temple – and he used to sell Desi ghee.
Apart from Maaris and old shops, Hindu temples and darbars also dominate the village landscape. The earliest temple in the village is said to be the Shiva temple (Shivalo), which was built in the first quarter of the twentieth century. It is a small square temple which is located inside a walled enclosure. There are four niches on four sides of the Shikhara which contain the image of a Hindu deity. Inside the garbhagriha (innermost sanctuary) are found the images of Nandi, Cobra, Shiva and Ganpati. The walls of grabhagriha are covered with posters of Hindu deities, sants, saints and Sikh gurus. This temple has been recently renovated. According to Vasdev of Khahi, it was taken care of by Bhagat Holla Ram. This Bhagat Holla Ram had a disciple named Gulabrai from Shikarpur. Gulabrai became a popular Sindhi singer. Apart from the Shiva temple, there was also located the temple of Mata in Khahi village, which was managed by the Mahraj.
Guru Nanak Darbar is another worship place in Khahi village. It was managed by Bhai or Hakeem Sobhraj Mal in the past. Now it has also been renovated and expanded. In the main hall of the darbar is found the Guru Granth Sahib. The walls of the main hall of Guru Nanak darbar are covered with posters of Sikh gurus. A poster of Jhulelal is also found on a wall of the darbar.
Apart from the temples of Shiva, Mata, and Guru Nanak Darbar, the Hindus of Khahi also established the Radhasoami Satsang centre in the village. It is said that Mukhi Anand Mal and others built Radhasoami Satsang hall in the village. According to the article The Social Significance of Radhasoami by Mark Juergensmeyer, which is published in the edited book Bhakti Religion in North India: Community Identity and Political Action by David N. Lorenzen (1995), the Radhasoami tradition is traced back to the spiritual master Swami Shiv Dayal Singh in Agra in 1861. Mark Juergensmeyer (1995) believes that Shiv Dayal Singh was succeeded by other spiritual masters, and presently there are at least twenty lineages in the Radhasoami family tree.
Khahi village is also famous for Qavi Swami Pehlajram, who was an eminent poet of Sindhi and Hindi. According to Sindh Ja Sant (Sants of Sindh) by Dr. Diyal Asha, Qavi Swami Pehlajram was born in 1900 in Khahi village. He studied religious literature under the supervision of Shamanad Bharti, a swami who was connected to the ashram of Shankar Bharti, whose ashram is located in Shikarpur. Later he founded an ashram in Hyderabad in 1930, which came to be called after his name “Pehlaj Puri Ashram.”
After the 1947 Partition, he migrated from Khahi village to India where he died in 1967. His bhajans were popular in Sindh and were sung by Bhagats and sants. His bhajans are still sung at the temples of Chak and other towns in the Shikarpur district. He was also connected to Prem Parkashpanth, a panth that was founded by Swami Teoonram Ji Maharaj (b. 1887 – d. 1942), whose Samadhi is located in Tando Adam town in the Sanghar district.