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The Indus People - Saraiki Saga And The Sufi- Sant Renaissance

Ranjani Saigal

The Indus People: Saraiki Saga and Sufi Sant Renaissance
by Girja Kumar
Published by: Vitasta Publishing Pvt. Ltd.
Marketed and Distributed by: Times Group Books

From ancient times the banks of the Sindhu river has been a critical place from where great thoughts have emerged . It is also the land where great wars have been fought.  It was the theater for the Mahabharata war and for other wars between India and Pakistan.  People of different ethnicity have made this land their home thus making it a melting pot of cultural traditions.    In this cultural melting pot evolved many a religion and diverse cults, jogis and sufis, Sikhs and Shias. Girija Kumar's seminal work, The Indus People : Saraiki Saga and Sufi-Sant Renaissance deals with a mosaic of myths and migrations, thoughts and beliefs, cultural practices and castes, and brings to his readers a memorable work that leaves scope for further investigations into the roots of northern India's peoples and their poetry.  

The author Girja Kumar along with his family left his home in present day Pakistan during India’s partition. “The present book is a journey of self-identity and the discovery of India beyond political frontiers” says Kumar.  The Saraiki language became a defining identity of the people of this region.  

“The place boasts of a colorful history through its association with historical personalities like Muhammad-bin-Qasim, Babur, Akbar and, above all Robert Sandeman, the founder of contemporary Balochistan. In essence it represents the Baloch spirit. Given its rich history, the place also known as the ‘land of saints’ and the ‘land of traders’, ‘the place for saints, brigands and armies’ etc.  Its very survival is dependent upon the mighty Indus, which is not a benign river. It has also been called the ‘Terrorizing Vadhera’ (the bullying elder) for its infinite destructive potential year after year.” 

The changing course of the Indus River has wiped out cities and civilizations and allowed for new ones to rise.  The Rigvedic hymns refer to the Sindu in many hymns.  Gandhar, a land in this area plays a key role in the Mahabharata.  Since then, many a great men and women including Babur, Akbar, Alexander the Great have left their impression on this land. The rulers have changed over time.  From Hindu to Muslim to Sikh to the British – the area has seen a variety of leaders in power, each bringing their culture and heritage to the area.

Prior to the British rule, Nawab Ghazi  Khan was a powerful ruler and many towns are named after him. During the British times, the Queen of England deputed Robert Sandeman to the area. He, with the help of his two efficient aides Hittu Ram and Ganpat Rai, brought peace to the area by negotiating effective treaties.  Perhaps that is the last time that this area was peaceful. 

The people of the area speak Saraiki. The language  has served as the base for fine poetry and perhaps can be considered as the language that gives identify to the people of the area.. Baba Farid can be credited with laying the base for Saraiki literature. 

Bhakti is arguably the one thread that binds all Indians – independent of their caste, religion or culture.  Be it the Sufi saints or the Sants of the Sikh or Vaishnava traditions, the use of music to bind with a personal God is a powerful form of expression of devotion to a higher spiritual power. The banks of the Indus with its very colorful history and serving as melting pot of religions made it a prime spot for the Bhakti movement to flourish.  

Girja Kumar has done a tremendous job in documenting all aspects associated with this land. His librarian talent has allowed him to search and find rare documents that give tremendous insight into the place and its people. His personal love for this ancestral land shines through the writings. This is a love that he shares with many who moved out of the area during the partition times 

For South Asians  this book serves as a great resource to understand the history of a very important world region - a place where the Indian civilization originated.  It is a book of relevance to scholars of Indology, history and sociology, and is of equal interest to the student of military history and mythology; it is a book for the subcontinent- watcher who want to know where India and Pakistan are coming from, and how their present reflect their past.

For more information on buying the book please send an email to anil@lokvani.com.


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