“Navroz Na Din Sohamna”
Who wrote this Ginan? Where? When? Why?
By Abdul Sultan, Manchester Jamat, UK.
There is very little information about Pir Fateh Ali Shah in Noorun Mobin, Prof. Ivanov’s Ismaili history books, and in Prof; Farhad Daftry’s Ismaili history books released through the Institute of Ismaili Studies. Even on line resources share limited information about the Pir. There is, however, mention of the Pir’s other brothers: Mohammad Shah (Bombay), Mian Shah (Karachi), Tajdin Shah (ShahTurel, Badin, Sind), and others, – all referred to as grandsons of Pir Hassan Qabhir Din.
I am the sixth generation of a person who was a rice trader in Jhirk, whom Pir Fateh Ali Shah had converted from Bhai Band, Hindu, to Ismaili. His name was Gahgan son of Varial / Varoo. Therefore, all my life, I had interest in the history of this place, and the connection it bears to the roots of my family and the Ismaili Community.
1. Jhirk, a port on Indus River
Before the establishment of British rule in Sind, in 1843, Jhirk used to be an important Indus River navigation port. It was used for export of Red Rice to upper and lower Sind, to West, to the ports of Makran coast and Masqat, and to East, to the ports of Ketti Bander, and Mandvi, (Cutch), for onward distribution in Gujrat and Bombay. It was also used for import of wood logs from Kashmir, mostly for construction of river boats. Logs travel solo down the river.
It used to be customary for the people of lower Sindh to eat their night meal, Khichri, made with red rice with milk (some times mixed with yogurt also) before sleep. Cooked red rice is digested within 30 minutes whilst white rice takes 175 to 200 minutes!
2. The Twin Towns – Jhirk and Sondah
Jhirk was the largest rice trading market of Sindh with about 50 wholesale trading houses. By the year 1770 AD., there were about 12 Ismaili rice trading families in twin towns of Sondah and Jhirk. Sondah is only about 3 miles South of Jhirk but it has better climate and living conditions. In my youth, once I went up on the roof of the Sondah Jamat Khana. It was a wonderful scene. To the North, I saw tomb of Fatti Shah and Jhirk and Jam Tammachi’s Hill and coalmine. To the East I saw Indus River, flowing down to South . To the West I saw so many fishing boats in the coastal town Miann (where a fisherman’s daughter, Nuri once lived and was selected as wife by King Jam Tammachi). To the North-West, I saw round golden lake, Sonheri, where Amir Pir is located at the far end; and at the distance of about six miles, the white mosque built by Aga Ali Shah at Amir Pir, was visible to the naked eye! Sondha had a market called Shahi Bazar and this town is accessible to the capital of district Thatta.
The 12 Ismaili families (about 50 people) were residents of Makran coast towns: Jiwani, Gwadar, Pasni, Ormara, Sonmiani; and some rice traders of Gujrat. The remaining over 35 trading houses belonged to Sindhi Bhai Bandi Hindus. Around 200 people of this community resided in these two towns.
3. The Pir settles down in Sondah
In the year about 1786AD, Pir Fateh Ali Shah visited his Ismaili murids in Jhirk and Sondah, and decided to settle down in Sondah, to share religious knowledge with the 50 Ismaili people. They called him (Pir) “Fatti Shah”. The Pir visited Sondha Jamat Khana, taught the people the principles of Ismailism, the meaning of Ginans; he helped the members of Bytul Khayal in their practice to make spiritual progress. He also managed revenues and properties of Imam-e- Zaman.
4. The Power of the Pir
The Bhai Bandies (who practiced Khalsa side of Guru Nank’s religion) were attracted by the spiritual power of the Ismaili Pir and frequently sought his blessings. In response, the Pir gave them Sufi lessons for their spiritual progress. After a few years, all of the 200 Bhai Bandis requested the Pir to accept them in to Ismailism. Resultantly, the Ismaili population of this area rose from 50 to 250.
Now, the Mukhi was newly convert, the richest person in the town! And the Mukhi’s son, Seth Maher Ali, was very popular social worker in the community. He built Amir Pir!
5. The Pir visits Imam-e- Zaman in Iran
In the year about 1799, the Pir visited the Imam of the time, Shah Khalilullah in Mahlat, Iran, presented Dasond and other revenues, and his progress report of the conversion of 200 new Ismailies. The Imam was very happy with him; he favoured him with special spiritual status! The Pir was very much excited. On his return, the extremity of the Imam’s favour inspired him to compose the Ginan: “Navroz Na Din Sohamna …” .
Pir Fateh Ali Shah died in Sondah in (approximately) 1806AD. I visited his small mausoleum around 60 years ago. The room is about 12 feet square with a white tomb, and with the grave in the centre of the room. It is not high, not properly whitewashed, and remains locked. The key remains with its Munjawar, an Ismaili, who can be found in the market of Sondah.
I went there with a group of Ismailis, we all entered the room, surrounded the grave and offered Fateha. The Munjawar did not allow un-married girls inside! I asked him “Why?” He gave me strange reply! He said: “Because, the Pir was not married.”