MANSURAH, Sindh: Once the capital of Arab monarchs, the ancient city of Mansurah, also known as Brahmanabad, is now a forgotten part of history, with people complaining that the town that once created kingdoms can no longer provide them with basic necessities.
Mansurah, which was the historic capital of the caliphal province of Sindh and a major economic city during the eighth century under the Umayyad Caliphate and later the Abbasid Caliphate from 750 A.D. to 1006 A.D., now has a population of little over 100 families. Previously, around the middle of the seventh century, the city was dominated by the Buddhist Lohana tribe.
Under the new Umayyad rulers, the city became an important destination for goods and passenger ships arriving from the Arabian Sea, located on the bank of the Indus River some 200 kilometers north of present-day Karachi. However, the river that previously connected Mansurah to the region’s key business cities via sea routes altered course over the years and now flows some 50 kilometers from the town.
“The Arabs conquered Brahmanabad and named it Al-Mansurah,” said Prof. Altaf Aseem, a well-known archaeologist.
Even before the arrival of Muslim forces, the city had a great fort with more than 1,400 bastions around it, according to Aseem, who added that the Arab rulers used “decent town planning” to rebuild the city into a flourishing and wealthy one whose riches surpassed those of Multan, at the time one of the most prosperous trade centers in the region.
According to Piaro Khan, who oversees archaeological sites in the area, the ruins of the old city were discovered in the 1850s by John Bellasis. Between 1966 and 1998, following Pakistan’s independence from British India in 1947, the government commissioned various excavation projects. The most recent one was conducted roughly three years ago by the Sindh province administration, and various items, including pots and coins, were recovered.
Archaeologists think the archaeological evidence confirmed the multi-religious and diverse nature of the country under Arab rule.
“We discovered four door knockers… from the area now known as Dar-Ul-Umara, the city’s secretariat,” said Mohammed Shah Bukhari, project coordinator of the Department of Antiquities and Archaeology.
“The inscription is in kufic script (carved) in a very fine and exquisite style.” It meets the standard of inscriptions seen in Baghdad, Syria, and North Africa at the time.”
The Arabic inscription on the door knockers was accompanied by an image of a Hindu god, demonstrating the religious concord in the area under Arab authority, according to Bukhari, who added that archaeologists had also discovered indications of Buddhist culture among the ruins, as well as many non-Islamic artefacts.
“This means (that the people) were allowed to continue their ritual practices (under the Arabs),” Aseem the archaeologist explained, adding that the first translation of the Holy Qur’an into Sindhi was also finished in Mansurah.
Sindh’s Sumrah dynasty reigned over the city after the Arabs, until Mahmud of Ghazni destroyed it in 1025 to punish its population for refusing to collaborate with him during his legendary military expedition against Somnath.
Aseem cited Bellasis as saying that there were dead bodies “in every street of Mansurah” after the attack. Archaeologists assume Mahmud set fire to the city because charred layers were discovered during the excavation.
Mansurah, which was nearly destroyed, became a victim of nature after the Indus River meandered away from the town. The river was not only a source of sustenance for locals, assisting with agriculture and providing drinking water, but it was also a key communication channel.
“It was the main connecting source for trade and commerce,” stated Aseem.
Mansurah residents today complain that the city lacks basic infrastructure.
“There were two schools here that are no longer operational due to a lack of teachers,” Jamal Din Sehto, a retired teacher at the hamlet, explained. “There is no running water or electricity here.” There isn’t anything.”
Bukhari stated that Mansurah was once a world-leading center of trade and cultural activity, and that Arab countries should encourage its excavation as well as research and preservation.
“The Arabs should pay attention,” he continued, “and think of it as their own culture.”