Note: All photos are by the author
Garhi Yasin, a taluka in the Shikarpur district, was once home to many Hindu and Sikh mystics, mandirs, tikanas, and darbars. During interviews with Hindu notables of Garhi Yasin, I came to know that there were about 32 temples, darbars and tikanas (Nanakpanthi shrines) which were located in different localities of the town. Prominent temples, darbars, and tikanas of Garhi Yashin were: Rai sahib Gokal Singh Darbar, Amlok Singh Darbar, Bhai Heera Singh Darbar, Shev Ram Darbar, Goband Ram Jo Ashram, Bhai Sobha Ram Darbar, Baba Wasti Ram Sahib Darbar, Bhai Wadhu Singh Jo Tikano, Bhai Kewal Ram Jo Tikano, Sheva Das Darbar, Shiv Marhi (Marhi Mandir), Motu Ram Jo Tikano, Shrimati Methal Bai Jo Tikano, Shrimati Papi Bai Satsang Waro Tikano Bhai Satram Das Darbar, Bhai Jumna Das Darbar, Wazir Sahib Darbar, and several others. Except for two, all other temples, darbars and tikanas are not functional anymore. After the 1947 Partition, many Hindus migrated to India where they built branches of some of the darbars and tikanas which were located in Garhi Yasin.
According to Garhi Yasin Darshan, a book that was written in 1972 by Dr. Lakhmichand Prem and published by Pooj Garhi Yasin Panchyat in Kanpur-Ulhasnagar in India, Rai Sahib Gokal Singh was a follower of the Sikh religion who built an impressive darbar which was located in Gokalpur Kot in Garhi Yashin. The darbar was noted for marble work. Rai sahib Gokal Singh was known for his piety in Garhi Yasin. Apart from Gokal Singh Darbar, Dr. Lekhmichand Prem believes that there was another famous darbar in the town which was called Jumna das Darbar, which Bhai Ganga Ram built for his follower Jumna Das. The Jumna Das Darbar of Garhi Yashin was noted for it woodwork. After the death of Bhai Jumna Das, his chela (student/ follower) Bhai Tulsi Das took care of the darbar. Bava Hari Das became the shivadar of the Jumna Das Darbar after the death of his Guru (spiritual master) Bhai Tulsi Das.
Baba Wasti Ram Darbar was also a prominent mystic figure in Garhi Yasin town, which was founded by Baba Wasti Ram, who was a famous Udasi saint. After the death of Baba Wasti Ram, Baba Khushi Ram Sahib became the Gadi Nashin of the darbar. He was also a known mystic of Garhi Yashin. He was succeeded by Baba Agya Ram. This figure travelled in different villages and towns of Shikarpur to spread Udasi teachings. He set up a darbar in Aurangabad village in Shikarpur. Baba Agya Ram appointed Baba Piyara Ram as Gadi Nashin of the darbar during his lifetime. Baba Piyara Ram set up a darbar in Maari village in the Shikarpur district. Today, no darbar exists in Maari village.
After the death of Baba Piyara Ram, Baba Ganga Ram became the Gadi Nahin of Baba Wasti Ram darbar, who enjoyed good relations with Muslim mystics of the area. He died in 1908 and was succeeded by Baba Kirpa Ram. He continued to spread the teachings of his gurus and died in 1916. He was succeeded by Baba Jagat Ram, who died in 1918 and was succeeded by Baba Tahal Das. According to Dr. Lekhmichand Prem (1972), the author of Garhi Yasin Darshan, after the death of Baba Tahal Das, conflict erupted between his two disciples Baba Heera Das and Bava Amlok Das over succession. The conflict of succession was resolved and finally, Baba Heera Das became the Gadi nashin of the Baba Wasti Ram Darbar.
Apart from the darbars of Gokal Singh and Baba Wasti Ram, there was another famous darbar of Sobha Ram which was taken care of by Basha Ram and Dela Ram who were also good singers. There was also a darbar of Bhai Wazir Sahib in Garhi Yasin town. Bhai Wazir Sahib came from Multan and founded the darbar in Garhi Yashin. One of his disciples Bhai Ladha Ram founded a darbar in Larkana. After the death of Bhai Wazir Sahib his disciple Chela Ram became Gadi Nashin. Gobind Ram Jo Ashram was another Hindu sacred place in Garhi Yashin.
During interviews with Hindu notables of Garhi Yasin, I learned that there was also the Tikano of Bhai Kewal Ram in Garhi Yasin which was also called Sain Vilayat Rai Jo Vathan. Bhai Kewal Ram was the grandson of Sain Vali Vilayat Rai (d. 1899), whose Darbar is located in Kamber town. Bhai Kewal Ram was known for the acts of piety and welfare works. He used to run a free dispensary in Garhi Yasin. Bhai Kewal Ram died in 1931. Moreover, I also came to know through interviews with local people of Garhi Yashin that Sardar Heera Singh, who was from the Ochani family, was an influential person in Garhi Yashin and surrounding areas. He also built an impressive darbar which was located inside his fortified residence that was locally called Kot.
Today, there are only two functional temples which are located in the Shahi Bazaar of the town. One of the earliest temples which is called Wadi Marhi or Marhi Mandir was built about two centuries ago. It is said that Shiv Gir from Bhag Nari in Balochistan came and settled in Garhi Yashin. Shiv Gir died and was buried in Garhi Yashin, later that place was called after him Shiv Gir Marhi. It was later called Wadi Marhi or Marhi Mandir. There are several Samadhis of chelas (followers/students) of Shiv Gir in Marhi Mandir. This temple complex comprises not only samadhis but small mandirs of Shiva, Hanuman, Durga Mata and Jhule Lal. According to Mukhi Pardeep Kumar, Bava Atma Gir was the last ascetic from Gir ascetic order who managed the Marhi Mandir. The samadhi of Atma Gir is located in Marhi Mandir.
Apart from Marhi Mandir, there is also located a darbar in Shahi Bazar which is named Sheva Das. Sheva Das was an Udasi saint. This darbar is noted for beautiful woodwork. The doorway that opens to the hall of the darbar depicts Guru Nanak (d.1539) with his companions Bhai Bala (d.1544) and Bhai Mardana (d.1534). Such refined wood carvings are not seen in any other door in Garhi Yasin now. This door has been recently removed during a renovation of the darbar. There used to be such wood carvings of Guru Nanak with Bhai Bala and Bhai Mardana in other darbars and houses of the Hindu and Sikh communities which were removed when the houses and darbars were either rebuilt or demolished. However, one can see a such trio of Guru Naka with Bhai Bala and Bhai Mardana in temples darbars, and havelis in Shikarpur City. I also saw a few such refined wood carvings of a trio on the main entrances of Maaris (mansions) of Hindu merchants and elites in Jacobabad city.
Both Marhi Mandir and Sheva Das Darbar have been renovated recently. The wooden door depicting Guru Nanak has also been removed during the renovation of the darbar.
Apart from temples and darbars, there also used to be satsangs which were managed by Hindu women notably Shrimati Methal Bai and Shrimati Papi Bai Jodha Ram in Garhi Yashin. According to Dr. Lekhmichand Prem (1972) one such woman who started Satsang was Shrimati Papi Bai who was the wife of Seth Jodha Ram. Shrimati Papi Bai took a building on rent from Sardar Heera Singh and established a darbar in the Ochani mohalla where Satsang was held in Garhi Yasin. Shrimati Papi Bai along with other Hindu women namely Shrimati Padi Bai, Shrimati Lakhmi Bai, and Shrimati Hiji Bai started satsang in a darbar in the Ochani mohalla in Garhi Yasin. Later, Sardar Heera Singh stopped taking rent from them and allowed them to use it free of any cost. With financial help from a few notables, an impressive Tikano was built for Shrimati Papi Bai and her friends to continue Satsang.
Except for Marhi Mandir and Sheva Das darbar, all other religious places of Hindus and Sikhs have ceased to exist. They are now preserved only in the memories of the local community!