Debal.—Karáchí.—Thatta.—Láhorí Bandar.

It is strange that the site of a port once so noted as Debal should now be left to vague conjecture; but amongst the fluctuating channels of the Sindian Delta we must rest content with mere surmises.

Some of the various opinions entertained upon the question of its locality may be here noticed. Native authorities seem decidedly in favour of considering Thatta to represent Debal, following generally the text of Firishta.* Mír Ma'súm ignorantly observes that Debal is Thatta and Láhorí Bandar.* Abú-l Fazl is equally inexact, or rather more so.* Idrísí (supra, p. 77) and the Arabian geographers having determined that Debal was six stations from the mouth of the Indus, Thatta was necessarily the only site which could be selected.

Modern authors have also for the most part inclined to Thatta, including De la Rochette and Rennell. Capt. McMurdo, while he says that Thatta is still known to the Arabs by the name of Debal alone, shows that the latter must have been a seaport.* Sir A. Burnes says, also, that Thatta is called by the Arabs Dewal Sindy,* and himself assigns Kalánkot as its position.* Lieut. Burton says, we are certain that the modern Thatta occupies the ground of the ancient Dewal, as the Arabs and Persians know it by no other name,—Shál-i Debalí still being used to mean a shawl of Thatta manufacture.*

D'Anville more correctly establishes it on one of the mouths of the Indus;* and some others, resigning Thatta, have assigned other localities to Debal. M. Reinaud inclines to the neighbourhood of Karáchí;* and so does Elphinstone.* Dr. Burnes says it occupied a site between Karáchí and Thatta, in which he follows Mr. Nathaniel Crow,* one of the first of our modern enquirers in Sind, who combined much discrimination with ample opportunities of local knowledge.

But there can be no question that Debal was on, or close to, the sea-coast; with which the distant inland position of Thatta is by no means correspondent. For my own part, I entertain little doubt that Karáchí itself represents the site of Debal. The very name of Debal, or rather Dewal, “the temple,” was doubtless acquired from the conspicuous position which that object must have occupied from the sea; where it was calculated to attract the gaze and reverence of the passing mariner, like its fellow shrines of Dwáraka and Somnát; and as there is no other so eligible and commanding a spot along the whole coast of Sind, from Cape Monze to Kotesar, it is highly probable that the promontory on which fort Manora now stands is the identical site occupied by the celebrated temple which gave name to the port of Debal,* and which, as being the Palladium of its security, was the chief object of attack to the catapults which had been brought round by the sea to effect its destruction.*

The following may be mentioned amongst the reasons why Debal cannot possibly have been Thatta, and which incline us to view Karáchí with favour:—

The Sarandíp vessels were, in their distress, driven to “the shore of Debal” (p. 118).* It could not, therefore, have been an inland town like Thatta, fifty miles from the nearest point of the sea, and one hundred miles by any of the tortuous channels of the Delta.

The pirates who attacked them were “dwellers at Debal, of the tribe which they call Tangámara.” Now, these Tangámaras we know to have occupied the sea-coast from Karáchí to Láhorí Bandar, and to be the popular heroes of several local tales—especially their Ráná 'Ubaid, who lived even as late as the year 1000 A.H. (1591 A.D.).*

Biládurí also speaks of “the Bay of Debal” (p. 116), and of the ships which had been despatched from the Persian Gulf, arriving at Debal with soldiers and mangonels (p. 120). Elphinstone considers this latter fact as decisive against Thatta;* but too much may be built on this argument, for, subsequently, we find these same mangonels carried by water even to Nairún.

Ibn Haukal says, Debal is a “large port on the shore of the sea, the emporium of this and the neighbouring regions. It lies to the west of the Mihrán,* and has no large trees or date-palms” (p. 37). It is indeed a place of great sterility, and only occupied on account of its trade. Nothing can be more decisive against the fertile Thatta, and in favour of the barren Karáchí.

Again, from Debal to Mansúra is six stages, which, on the sup­position that the latter, as elsewhere shown, is Haidarábád, would not suit Thatta in any respect, but exactly suits Karáchí.

The Marásidu-l Ittilá says Debal [or Daibul, as it writes the name in Arabic fashion] is a celebrated city “on the shore of the sea of Hind, an emporium where the rivers of Lahore and Multán dis­charge themselves into the salt sea.*

Further quotations need not be added to show that Debal was on the sea-coast, and could not have been so far inland as Thatta, or even Láhorí Bandar, which, however, is the next most probable site after Karáchí.

Láhorí Bandar, or Lárí Bandar, succeeded Debal as the sea-port of the Indus, and is first named by Bírúní; but Debal had evidently maintained its position down to the time of Jalálu-d dín's incursion into Sind, in 1221 A.D. It will appear, afterwards, from the extracts taken from the Jahán-kusháí, that the Sultán conducted himself with the greatest severity towards the people of that port, for he plundered the country, and as he erected a mosque opposite to a Hindú temple, during his short stay there, it is evident that the place was considered then to be of sufficient consequence to be insulted in the wantonness of his fanaticism.

In Ibn Batúta's time, about a century latter (1333 A.D.), we have no mention of Debal, which seems then to have been superseded entirely by Láhorí Bandar.

Láhorí has itself been taken to be Debal. The Tuhfatu-l kirám, indeed, distinctly asserts that “what is now Bandar Láhorí was in former times called Bandar Debal:”—but its authority is not to be rated high in such matters,* and while, confessedly, there are some points slightly in favour of its being Debal, there are others which are decisive against it. It is itself fifteen miles from the shore of the sea: it has no bay: and a passage in Bírúní is very conclusive:— where, after saying that the gulf of Túrán (the present bay of Sún­míání) lies between Tíz and Debal, he adds, that beyond the gulf of Túrán are the small and great mouths (of the Indus), the one near the town of Loharáni, the other to the east, on the borders of Kachh. The country (between them) bears the name of Sind Ságara, or the sea of Sind (pp. 49. 65).* Loharání (Láhorí) is here mentioned as quite distinct from Debal, and was then evidently only just rising into importance,

Ibn Batúta calls the place “Láhiríya” or “Láhari”* —but it generally goes now by the name of Láhorí, probably from its pre­sumed connection with Lahore. Its ruin and abandonment have now given a greater prominence to the port of Dhárája, which lies a little to the east of Láhorí.

The original name was most likely Lárí, being so called after Lár, the local name of the southern portion of the province of Sind.

The name of Lár had once a very great extension on these southern coasts,—for Ptolemy and the Periplus both mention Guzerát under the name of Larice;* and Bírúní and Abú-l Fidá place Somnát, and even Tána, in or on the borders of the province of Lár (supra, p. 61).* The merchant Sulaimán, also, calls the gulf of Cambay and the waters which wash the Malabar coast “the seas of Lár:”* and Mas'údí says, that “at Saimúr, Subára, Tána and other towns a language called Láriya is spoken,” so that, it seems not unreason­able to suppose that Lárí Bandar was the original form under which this port was first known.*