As I travelled across Thar, I was not surprised to find myself constantly humming to my favourite Sindhi song; جا لاڙ ماڻھو اسين (we are the people of Sindh). Each feature from Chaunras, century-old temples and fields, to camels and sand ridges, seemed to embed me more in my roots and I reveled in it. Until a cry of Ýa Mata Ji’ (term used to address older women) pulled me out of my reverie. I looked outside my car window to see a small boy running after our car and yelling Ýa Mata Ji’. So mundane was the cry for him but so profound for me. It had suddenly transported me to Rajasthan, and I felt like I was looking at two parts of me, separated by events of history.
Thar means sand ridges or desert land, while parker refers to ‘crossing-over’. Tharparker is a culturally rich district of Sindh with a mix of Gujrati, Rajasthani and Sindhi cultures. Despite the mix, Rajistani culture remains dominant in language, lifestyle, traditions, music, artefacts and cuisine. To a great extent, Thar has remained independent or forgotten by outside sources in terms of help and construction. This has been detrimental as well as helpful for Thar. As many have left the district alone, its history and natural beauty have remained pristine and has led to an increase of tourism to the district.
One of the first stops for many travelling to Thar is Mithi, the capital of the district. It is home to one of the top tourist points, Gadi-Bhit. It is the largest sand mound in the district, with some rock climbing at the beginning. At the top is a guest house, where tourists can rest and enjoy a beautiful bird’s eye view of the town. It is a must-visit for those who wish to try some trekking in Sindh.
‘O God! Nothing can be higher than it when a peacock sings in Karoonjhar and clouds of monsoon respond to his cries.’
“يارب! ڪارونجهر جي ڪور تي جڏهن مور ٽهوڪا ڪندوآهي، تڏهن هن کي سانوڻ جا بادل جواب ڏينداآهن. ڇا ڪائي معرفت جي چوٽي ان کان مٿي ٿي سگهي ٿي؟”
In the above couplet, Shaikh Ayaz best describes Karoonjhar Mountain valley. Located near the India-Pakistan border, it is indeed a place of beauty. Karoonjhar comes from the Sindhi root words, Karo meaning black and Jhar means dots. In a beautiful blend of black and pink, the mountain range is a majestic sight for viewers. Many geologists claim that the mountains are more than a billion years old, hence the centuries-old temples found in the valley of mountains such as Sardharo Temple. If you visit during the monsoon season, you will find the sparkling springs of Anchleshwar and Sardharo, adding to the beauty of the mountain range.
Another heritage site in Thar that will leave you in awe is کوهه جو ماروي (Marvi’s Well). Based on the folktale of Umar Marvi, it is the legend that captivates everyone. Marvi was a beautiful girl from Thar that the powerful ruler of Umarkot wanted to marry. Since she refused to marry him, preferring to live a simple life with her village folk. Angered at her refusal of his overtures, he imprisoned her in the Umarkot Fort. She is regarded as a symbol of resistance, purity and love of her land. Eventually Umar set her free. As soon as you enter the complex, the first thing you will see is a hundreds of years old well in the middle of the courtyard. Thar people have mastered the art of tourism, so you are bound to find tourist guides who will explain the romantic tale of Umar-Marvi.
Shah Latif Bhithai wrote the dialogue of Marvi in Shah Jo Risalo (Journal of Shah): O Soomra! If I die in Umar Kot remembering my/native place, kindly send my corpse to my people. I/believe that the fragrance of the plants of Malir will/resurrect me. This is the same well where Umar, the prince first sighted the beautiful Marvi and abducted her. Marvi, Moomal, Lilan, Sassi, Noori, Sohni, and Sorath are well-known heroines in Sindhi folktales and they are celebrated for their remarkable characteristics of courage and passion. Though Marvi had been abducted by Umar, she never once submitted and one day finally managed to flee from his prison.
Another appealing attribute of Marvi’s well is that the pathway that leads towards the Marvi Culture Complex is surrounded by musicians who beautifully perform kalaams (poetry) of Shah Abdul Bhittai. They leave the onlookers nostalgic for the old days of simplicity. Alongside that, there is also a guest house where you can rest and get the best gur-chai (Jaggery tea). This whole complex is surrounded by a stone boun
dary wall, with a view of beautiful fields on the other side.
At a time when therapists and psychiatrists often talk about being one with your inner child, a joyful experience is climbing sand ridges in Thar. Rolling around in the sand, you will feel like you are enjoying a Safari Ride in Dubai. Also, there is going to be a lot of travelling, so keep a lookout for peacocks and Nilgai (Blue Bull), and you will surely site some. As Shah Latif Bithai best says it in Shah Jo Risalo:
Those crossing Umerkote
have made the fields fertile and fair…
O God, may ever you on Sindh bestow abundance rare