The No-Man’s Land Of Mansura

In the name of ‘Islamic archaeology’, there’s a covert attempt to renounce Mansura’s secular past

12/2/2016 2:11:19 PM
written By : Reema Abbasi Print

Folds upon folds of Time undulate across red-tinged earth covered with coarse, gnarled bushes, until the eye can see no further; the sun seems to dissolve behind it. 

In abject desolation, spread across acres on either side of a narrow, dark and hidden road unfolds an ancient land. In its first life, around the seventh or eighth century, it was Brahminabad, now it is Mansura. Created by the Indus, this was the centre of trade and economic prosperity and remnants of its heyday come alive each time an excavator touches these eerie grounds.

At present, it is dotted with many mounds and depressions, which explorers record as signposts of roads, homes, drainage systems and buildings. In a far corner is a shell of a temple dome, a high eroding tower, a semblance of a plinth ascribed to the Grand Mosque and by the roadside stands a long, covered passage-like ruin with a string of arched openings on either side. All relics are in red brick and records say that the site is situated on an old basin of the Indus. 

Perhaps the earliest excavator came here in the 1800s -- Bellasis was said to be the collector of Hyderabad, who recorded his fascination with the prehistoric venue in Discoveries at Brahminabad. His conclusions match the present-day folklore in Mansura’s neighbouring settlements where village elders say that this ‘Sheher Gharq’ was either engulfed by an earthquake of epic ferocity or that the wrath of God fell upon kafirs as skies opened up with fire in approximately 1020AD. 

“…terrible convulsion of nature, which probably at the same time completely changed the course of the Indus. On no other supposition can a ruin be accounted for that was at once so sudden and so complete. 

Skeletons were found in every house that was opened and in the streets, some crouched together in corners… others crushed flat by a falling weight....you also see several buildings, such as mosques and temples, whose walls were too strong for the human hand to overthrow…” writes Bellasis

He had also come upon precious carved figurines, valuables that pointed to Buddhist rituals and engravings in Arabic, Sanskrit and Devanagri script. 

As is apparent from this debris of history, the architecture of defence comprising forts and heavy boundaries was a constant in Brahminabad’s journey to Mansura. But its identity is at its most compromised today – hardly anyone knows it by its historic names; they call it Dalur, the fiefdom of King Dalura.

Some four decades later, celebrated researcher Henry Cousens followed Bellasis’ trail and stated in ‘Brahmanabad-Mansura in Scinde, Archaeological Survey of India: Annual Report 1903-04’ that “the most interesting of deserted city sites in Western India is usually known as Brahmanabad in Scinde.”

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