« PreviousContinue »
Sindh Durbars.- Description of Hyderabad. -Fort and Town. Visit to Amirs.-Rude Welcome.-Etiquette observedHospitality. General Effect of Sindh Durbar. - Description of Amirs.-Nasir Khan. Mir Mahomed, or Sobhdar.Shahdad Khan. -Hussein Allí Khan.- Dissensions and apparent Anomaly of Form of Government.-Real Stability.— Source of family Discords. Shír Mahomed of Mirpúr.Khyrpúr Durbar.-Town and Fort.—Mir Rústum — Age and Infirmities of. Family Discords. - Allí Múrad. Character of his Court.- Interior Economy of Household of Sindhian Amirs. Females. Education of Princes. Love of Arms. - Horses. -Passion for Sport.-Scenes at Shikargahs. Costume of Amirs. - Economy of Time. -Religious Observances.-Vanity of Talpúrs.-List of Amirs of Hyderabad and Khyrpúr.-General Review of Characters.Fair Conclusions to be drawn. - Wealth of Chiefs.
In order to introduce the late Talpúr chiefs or Amirs of Sindh more intimately than in the preceding chapter, it will be better to describe their durbars or courts in both portions of the country, commencing with that of Hyderabad in Lower Sindh; which, as before observed, was considered the capital of the whole province, and was founded by Ghúllam Shah Kalora. The Talpúrs, particularly Futteh Allí and his brother Ghúllam Allí, patronised Khúdabád a short distance further north, as a royal residence, and here their tombs may be
seen, occupying the same relative position as did the brothers during life. After their time, however, Hyderabad became the favourite position of the princes, from having the advantages of a large fort and citadel (adjoining the town), which was solely occupied by the Amirs, their families, and personal guards or servants: an approach to this stronghold of the feudal chiefs of Sindh was strikingly illustrative of the rude and semi-barbarous state which they entertained. The fort itself crowns the summit of a scarped termination to a range of hills; and though on a near approach its defences are seen to be in a dilapidated state, has from its great elevation and a large and lofty interior citadel a very picturesque appearance: gardens with thick clusters of trees, and the branch of the river flowing near the walls diversify the scene. Hyderabad had also the additional recommendation to the Amirs of being centrally situated, and from it their hunting preserves by means of the river were very accessible: they spoke in raptures of its climate; for though very sultry during certain seasons of the year, it is a drier atmosphere than the Delta and less exposed in its neighbouring country to inundation than most portions lower down, whilst it enjoyed in common with all Lower Sindh the monsoon winds and a shorter duration of excessive heat than beyond Sehwun. The town is a poor place for the capital of a country, carrying on but little trade, and that only for its
own consumption. The presence of the chiefs always induced an air of bustle and importance from the great throng of retainers who frequented its bazaar: some fine tombs erected over the Kalora and Talpúr chiefs, Ghúllam Shah and Kurm Allí, occupy the opposite extremity of the hill to that of the fort; the reigning family kept this latter in repair, but the former were much neglected, though the most gorgeous of the whole.
On the arrival of a visitor he was met at some distance from the fort by a Pesh Khidmut or advanced guard of forty or fifty horse and footmen fully armed and accoutred, the leading individuals of whom were personal friends or servants of the various Amirs, deputed to give the welcome in their masters' name and for him, etiquette precluding the Amirs themselves coming out unless to meet an equal. The rank of the person deputed depended on that of the visitor, and was regulated accordingly. On first descrying the stranger in his escort, a tumultuous rush as if for some violent purpose was made by the Sindhians towards him: horses were put to the spur, and footmen ran to keep pace; the senior representative followed by those of the other Mirs crowding round the visitor, and seizing his hand, nearly tore him from his saddle, with rude but hearty inquiries for his health, after the usual circuitous method of Sindhian salutation, following it up with an express message of inquiry and salutation from their Highnesses individually. This
preliminary ceremony being completed (and it occupied some considerable time, for a single interchange of salutation is not speedily completed in Sindh, and on these occasions there were half a dozen to receive and answer), the escort was formed to return, and the visitor placed in the middle, his steed being nearly borne down by the press around him, and woe betide him if he were not mounted on a quiet beast, for kicks would then shower round his legs thick as hail: no remonstrance or request to be allowed a little more room," "to take care of his horse, &c.," were for a moment heeded, but would only have induced additional persecution in the shape of additional pressure, and more inquiries after health and comfort! thus jostling, shouting, and holloing, the fort and narrow entrance over the drawbridge was gained, where the escort was again swelled by additional followers. The senior Amir demanded the first interview, and opposite his diwan or hall of audience the visitor was stopped: fifty obsequious retainers held the stirrup and assisted to alight, whilst as many "Bismillahs" were breathed out on the foot touching the ground; here it was necessary to pause for a moment, to arrange the order of entrance to the royal presence. A certain number of men of rank being at the door, one took hold of the stranger's hand, who, divesting his feet of shoes or boots (the feet cannot be covered beyond the threshold of any dwelling in the East), was ushered into a large square room totally bare