The Chachnámah is the oldest history of Sind. It was at one time thought a romance, but ever since Elphinstone rehabilitated its real character, there has been no doubt as to its being a history. There have been, however, conflicting opinions as to the weight to be attached to it, and, it was, therefore, thought desirable to translate the whole of the book, as literally as possible, in order to enable historical students to settle this question for themselves.
The so-called translation by Lieutenant Postans in the Journal of the Astatic Society of Bengal (No. LXXIV, 1838 and No. CXI, 1841) is really no translation at all, as Sir H. Elliot has pointed out, (vide the History of India as told by its own Historians, Vol. I, p. 137); and Elliot's own extracts, though copious, are a very small part of the book. The present translation, therefore, is really the first, and in order to make it completely independent, the translator has not even looked at Postans' work or Elliot's.
The Chachnámah is a valuable record for various reasons. It shows us, in the first place, that Buddhism was the dominant religion in Sind, in the 7th century. The word Samání (originally Shráman) occurs several times, and we are told of Buddha temples, Buddha monasteries, and even of Buddha extremists, who considered it against their religion to take up arms in their own defence against the Mussalmans. We, moreover, read of Buddhia “a district conterminous with that of Siwistan on the North” (vide Haig's work on the Indus Delta Country, p. 57), and a village in the Sukkur Taluka is still called Buddhia. We see also that the Buddhists and the Brahmans lived in amity, and the importance of this fact cannot be overestimated.
The Buddhistic records now available to us show that Asóká did not make Buddhism a State Religion. “There never was such a thing as a State Religion in India. Asóká certainly extended his patronage, formerly confined to Brahmans only, to the new brotherhood founded by Buddha, but there was nothing in India corresponding to a Defender of the Faith.” (Vide “The Six Systems of Indian Philosophy” by Max Muller p. 34). The testimony of Megasthenes, who visited India in the third century B. C.—that is the century in which Asóká lived—points to the same conclusion. (Vide “Ancient India” by J. W. Mc Crindle 1877, p. 97, et seq.)
The Chinese pilgrim Fa-hian was in India from 399 to 414 A. D., and the celebrated Hiouen-thsang was there from 629 to 645 A. D. The fourth century of the Christian era has been called by Max Muller the century of the Renaissance of Sanskrit Literature, under Buddhist kings. The 7th was the century which saw the decay of Buddhism. But even in that century, Shiládtya Harshavardhana, (called also Harsha) of Kanyakubja, was a patron—according to Hiouen-thsang—alike of those who adhered to the Vedas and of those who worshipped Buddha; and his religious assemblies were attended not only by Shrámans but also by Brahmans.
Hiouen-thsang is corroborated by the Harsha-charita of Baná who was not a Buddhist, and by the original author of the Chachnámah, who was an Arab. We have thus Brahman, Buddhist, Greek, and Arab testimony as to the amicable relations subsisting between the followers of the two religions, upto the 7th century; and the testimony of the Arab, now given to the English-knowing world, for the first time, is, to my mind, of the greatest value.
The Chachnámah further bears out all that has been said by Muir, in his History of the Khalifate, as to the principles followed by Mussalman rulers in the government of conquered nations. One of the most remarkable edicts mentioned in this book is that in which Hajjáj informed Muhammad Kásim that, the subject population were not to be interfered with, in the exercise of their own religion, even if they worshipped stocks and stones. The Muhammadan rulers welcomed converts, but if any person chose to follow his own religion, he had merely to pay the usual poll-tax (Jizia), and, on such payment, was free to follow it. Of course it not seldom happened that this law was not loyally carried out, but Muhammad Kásim at least appears to have been true to it.
The Mahabharata and the ancient Smritis show that, in Hindu times, whatever wars took place, the tillers of the soil, were never injured; and it is pleasing to find that Muhammad Kásim also, in his memorable campaign, made an exception in favour of the peasantry and of artisans. He, moreover, re-employed the Brahman revenue-collecting establishment of his Hindu predecessor, and allowed them a liberal percentage of their collections as their remuneration. The Brahman Prime Minister of Dáhar was installed as the Prime Minister of Muhammad Kásim, and several Hindu chieftains, whose principalities had been guaranteed to them, became Muhammad Kásim's allies and counsellors.
It is extremely doubtful if Sind could have been conquered at all, had these chiefs remained true to their king, and, curious as it may seem, it was ostensibly astrology that made traitors of them. For they said: “Our wise men have predicted that Sind will come under the sway of Islam. Why then should we battle against Fate.” They thus indulged in that “excellent foppery of the world,” by which “we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon and the stars, as if we were villains on necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion, knaves, thieves and treachers by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers, by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on.” The result of course was disastrous.
But though these chiefs were very much to blame, the king hims If was undoubtedly a greater sinner. It was he who, by the advice of a credulous minister, solemnised his marriage with his own sister, to prevent the working of a prediction. The marriage was not intended to be consummated, and, as a matter of fact, it was not consummated; but the impious ceremony nevertheless alienated from Dáhar not only his brother but all the best and bravest men in the land. The act was one of crass stupidity, and we have now in Sindhi, thanks to Dáhar, a word, Dáhiri, which signifies an unmitigated fool. The “juggling fiends” did not even “keep the word of promise” to his ear, and it was a just retribution that the very astrology which made him violate the sacred law, was pleaded by his faithless feudatories as a justification for deserting his cause.
It was, however, not merely the king and his nobles
who failed to keep to the strait path of duty: the masses
appear also to have degenerated. We have only a few
passages in the Chachnámah which give us a glimpse of
the people, but these few record nothing creditable to
them. At Debál, a Brahman came forward to betray
his countrymen; the Samání of Nirankot, to save his
precious head, entered into a private treaty with Hajjáj, and
helped the Mussalmans, without the least compunction;
and other Samánís persuaded the people to submit, because,
forsooth, the religion of Buddha was a religion of peace.
We also read of a very large class, I mean the Lohana Jats,
labouring under extraordinary disabilities. General Cun-
As to the condition of women, we learn from the Chachnámah that Chach married the widow of a Lohana Prince whom he had subjugated, that Suhandi, though she was the wife of a Rajput, kept some sort of pardah, and that Dahár's sister and other women of his family burnt themselves to death, in the good old fashion introduced by Rajput heroines. We are also told of a sorceress, who could “put a girdle round about the earth” in somewhat more than forty minutes, could b ing fresh nutmegs from Ceylon in the twinkling of an eye, and, by means of her weird second sight, discover whether a person was alive on the face of the earth. The story of the tragic fate of Dáhar's daughters, after they wreaked their vengeance on Muhammad Kásim, is well known. It has been considered apocryphal, but I do not propose to go into such debateable questions, in this introduction.