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Tarikh-i Tahiri

Tarikh-i Tahiri by Mir Tahir Muhammad Nasyani of Thatta.  Completed in 1621 CE.
In The History of India as Told by its own HistoriansThe Posthumous Papers of the Late Sir H. M. Elliot. John Dowson, ed. 1st ed. 1867. 2nd ed., Calcutta: Susil Gupta, 1956, vol. 8, pp.1-38.

  1. Overview

The Tarikh-i Tahiri is history composed by Mir Tahir Muhammad Nasyani of Thatta.  His father and grandfather lived in Kandahar, serving the Arghun Turk Khans who governed it.  At age twenty-five Tahir Muhammad fled Kandahar in 1606 CE when it was besieged by the Persians, and settled in Thatta where he completed his education.  His history deals exclusively with the rule of the Arghun and Tarkhan Turks in Sindh, and does not discuss the earlier Arab period.  The work is written in a somewhat confused and ambiguous fashion, but it provides interesting details concerning events that occurred during the authors lifetime, i.e., the later sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries.  He completed the work in 1021 H. (1612 CE), and the history ends with the poisoning of Mizra Ghazi Beg at Kandahar that same year.

The first extract deals with a raid on Thatta carried out by the Portuguese in 973 H. (1565 CE)  This event took place during the era of Portuguese naval supremacy in the Arabian Ocean, which frequently led to the raiding and/or seizure of coastal ports.  The Portuguese may have been taking advantage of the instability in Sindh following Humayun’s flight to Afghanistan, the rule of Sher Shah in India, and the depredations of Mizra Shah Husain Arghun in Sindh during this period of political instability.  At this time Thatta was governed by the Mizra ‘Isa Tarkhan, who passed away in 984 H. (1576 CE).

The second passage narrates events that took place during the reign of the Mizra Muhammad Baki, who succeeded his father to the governorship of Thatta in 1576 CE.  His rule was evidently rather tyrannical, as the excerpt reports.

  1. Excerpts

1. Sack and Burning of Thatta by the Portuguese
2. Extermination of the Principle Inhabitants of Thatta by Mirza Muhammad Baki1.

[bottom p. 25]

Sack and burning of Thatta by the Firingis

In the year 973 H. (1565 A.D.,) near the end of his life, ‘Isa Tarkhan, proceeded with his son, Mirza Muhammad Baki, in the direction of Bhakkar.  As they drew near the town of Durbela, a dependency of Bhakkar, Mahmud Khan, having strengthened his stronghold, sent forth his army to meet them, for, thought he, what breach of contract is this?  They bring an army into my territory!  What can be their object?  It was the intention of Muhammad Baki to detach the Parganah of Durbela, from the province of Bhakkar, and to incorporate it in that of Siwan; but he was frustrated in this design by the army of Mahmud Khan, which was powerful, and was everywhere prepared for fight.  Blood had not yet been spilled, when, suddenly, news came from Thatta, that the Firingis had passed Lahori Bandar, and attacked the city.  The gates were closed, said the despatch; if the army returned without delay, the place would be delivered; otherwise, [p. 26] the enemy was strong, and would effect his object. This intelligence caused the Mirza to desist from prosecuting the quarrel any further.  Leaving the country under the rule of the Khan, he speedily embarked in his boats, and departed.  Before he could arrive, the Firingis had sacked the city, and filled it with fire and slaughter.  Many of ‘the inhabitants had found an asylum in the J ama’ Masjid of Mir Farrukh Arghun, which they quitted, on hearing of the Mirza’s approach. The mode of the Firingis comin was as follows: – Between the town of Thatta and Lahon Bandar is a distance of two days journey-both by land and by water; beyond this, it is another day’s march to the sea.

There is a small channel, (called nar in the language of Thatta), communicating with the port; it is in some places about ten tanabs wide, in others, something more. It is unfordable.  Between the port and the ocean there is but one inhabited spot, called Sui Miani.  Here a guard belonging to the Mir Bandar, or port-master, with a loaded piece of ordnance, is always stationed.  Whenever a ship enters the creek, it intimates its approach by firing a gun, which is responded to by the guardhouse, in order, by that signal, to inform the people at the port, of the arrival of a strange vessel.  These again, instantly send word of its arrival to the merchants of Thatta, and then embarking on boats, repair to the place where the guard is posted. Ere they reach it, those on the look-out have already enquired into the nature of the ship. Every vessel and trader must undergo this questioning.  All concerned in the business, now go in their boats, (ghrabs) to the mouth of the creek.  If the ship belong to the port it is allowed to move up and anchor under Lahori Bandar; if it belong to some other port, it can go no further, its cargo is transferred into boats, and forwarded to the city.  To be brief, when these Firingi traders had got so far, and learned that the king of the country was away on a distant expedition, they felt that no serious obstacle could be made to their advance.  The Mir Bandar wished to enforce the regulations, but he was plainly told by the foreigners that they had no intention of staying at the Bandar, but that they intended [p. 27] to proceed on to Thatta, in the small boats (ghrabs) in which they had come.  There they would take some relaxation, sell their goods, buy others, and then return.  The ill-provided governor, unable to resist them by force, for their plans had been well laid, was fain to give in; so, passing beyond the Bandar, the Firingis moved in boats, up the river Sind towards Thatta, plundering as they went all the habitations on the banks.  The ruler of the country being away, no one had sufficient power to arrest the progress of the invaders.  They reached the city unmolested; but here the garrison, left by the Mirza, defended the place with the greatest gallantry.  A spirited contest with artillery took place on the banks of the river.  In the end the defenders were overpowered; the enemy penetrated the city, and had made themselves fully masters of it, when the Mirza arrived in all haste.  As soon as they heard of his being near, with a powerful army, they loaded their boats with as much spell as they could contain, and withdrew.1

The Mirza, who had previously laid the foundation of a citadel for protection against the Arghuns, now deemed it necessary to encircle his palace and the whole city, with fortifications.

His reign ended with his life in the year 984 H. (1576 A.D.)  His wealth and kingdom passed into the hands of his son – Muhammad Baki.

2.Extermination of the principal Inhabitants of Thatta

Mirza Muhammad Baki ruled with a strong hand, and ruin fell upon the houses and property of the people.  No one dared to oppose his improper proceedings.  He did not consider it expedient, that anyone with pretensions to eminence, learning, or genius, should be left in undisturbed tranquility.  Nobles and plebeians, men of rank, and men without rank, SaiyidsShaikhsKazis and judges, were all driven from their time-honoured abodes, and ordered to dwell without the city, as the Mirza was of opinion that they were disaffected.  To the eldest son of Miyan Saiyid ‘ Ali, although married to the daughter of Muhammad’s brother, Mirza Salih, no more leniency [p. 28] was shown; he experienced the same treatment as the rest.  Tyranny became the rule.  Of the travellers from all parts who passed through the country, those whom he deemed worthy of notice were summoned to his presence.  So affably were they received, and such the apparent kindness shown to them, that it served as a balm to the weariness of travel. The beguiled stranger was deluded into the belief, that, in the wide world, there could not exist so benevolent a patron to travellers.  When the visitors were preparing to depart, the Mirza would say to his Mir Bahr, or superintendent of his Boat Department, that, as the breezes of his kingdom were soft and balmy, and river-excursions tended to cheerfulness, he must place a handsome boat at their disposal.  As soon as they had been thus politely enticed into the middle of the stream, a plank was taken out of the bottom of the boat, and the unhappy travellers were drowned.  This was done to prevent the chance of anyone talking of this favoured land elsewhere, so that the country, which had required such labour and pains to subdue, should find another conqueror.

Any poor traveller not considered fit to appear in the presence, was simply put to death.2  Such was the meanness of this prince that only once a week, on Thursdays, was a meal prepared in the Diwankhana; beyond this, he gave away nothing.  If he heard of any person living generously in his own house, it mattered not whether he were a relative or otherwise, a citizen or a soldier, he laid the hand of tyranny on his possessions, nor withdrew it so long as a thing was left to take. Cunning showed itself in every word he spoke.  Seated in the audience-tent, hardly a moment passed, but he said to his nobles: “Bring me gold, bring me grain; let this be your sole occupation, for these form the basis of power.”  The privations which he had formerly endured led him to heap treasure upon treasure, and grain upon grain.  Not a [p. 29] corner of the citadel of Thatta but was filled with rice.  Often the grain got clotted, and the heat arising therefrom occasioned spontaneous combustion, but the Mirza would not have it removed from the fort, nor allow it to be given away.  At harvest-time he held a revenue audit, and collecting all his dependentts, he paid them, according to their dues, by assignments, partly in grain and partly m money.

At length, one day his officers respectfully informed him that the fort was so full of old and new grain, that no room could be found for the produce of the coming harvest.  The grain was getting clotted and burnt, so that it was best to assist the people with it, for, by this means, something would be saved at all events.  The Mirza replied, that they should have his answer on the morrow.  During the night, he ordered some loaves to be made of clay.  When the nobles came in the morning to pay their respects, the Mirza ordered the cloth to be spread, and, contrary to custom, invited them to eat.  They screwed up their courage, and wondered what evil was impending.  For any officer of the state who incurred the ruler’s displeasure was usually cut into pieces, which were placed in dishes, and carefully sent to his officers’ houses, as a warning, to keep up a perpetual dread of his punishment.  As the wondering and terrified nobles removed the dish covers, and beheld the strange-looking loaves laid out for the woeful meal, they cast glances from one to another, as if to say, what can this mean?  Their host asked why they did not partake of the food before them. “You have all I can give you,” said he; “perchance you are wealthy men, and do not like my simple fare.”

Impelled by fear, some of the ministers took the burnt rice-loaves.  The Mirza angrily enquired why they did not also partake of the other loaves.  They replied: “Sire,” your prosperity and wisdom are great: but to eat clay is difficult.  In his fierce anger he became abusive, and exclaimed, “Oh I ye simpletons, how long will your wisdom ensure the welfare of my kingdom?  Useless grain may at times render good service, for is it not better than clay?  It may serve as food for the maintenance of life.  Of what good are you, since the mere sight of clay-bread [p. 30] has half killed you!  And you g’ive me unsuitable advice!  Have you not heard, how, when Humayun came into this country, and Mirza Shah Husain Arghun laid waste the whole land, and gave orders for the sowing of grain, what hunger and misery were endured; how raw hides and old skins were cooked in hot water and eaten ?”


  1. The “firingis” here are the Portuguese.
  2. Several other instances of this wretch’s cruelty are recorded in theTarikh-i Tahiri.   He delighted in eradicating beards, slitting ears, cutting off women’s breasts, and trampling men to death under elephants, until at length both Musulmans and Hindus prayed to be delivered from his tyranny.   According to this author he died by his own hand.