Jhara or Zara is a famous battlefield situated on the borders of Rann of Kutch and at least six major wars were fought there, the most famous of which in 1762-1763 immediately after Jam Godji became the ruler.

As the story goes, when Jam Lakhpatji of Sindh passed away, Punja Seth, one of the main pillars of Lakhpatji’s reign and the new king Godji’s guardian expected to become the Diwan. But, perchance, when the Jam passed away, he was on a state visit to Junagarh and by the time he came back, Jeevan Seth was made the Diwan by Godji.

A stung Punja Seth swore revenge and went to the ruler of Sindh, Ghulam Shah Kalhoro with the offer that he will help take Kutch. Along with that, he promised the hand of the beautiful sister of Godji. The Kalhoro marched at the head of 70000 troop and Jiwan Seth marched from Bhuj. But, he was no man of military and Thakur Lakhani of Vinjan was made the commander. They waited at Jhara Hills and attacked the enemy when they attacked. In fact, the expected encounter was that severe that a conscription was imposed on all of Kutch and help was sought from Radhanpur and Nawanagar to protect Bhuj.

In a stiff contest which went for seven days, Thakur Lakhaji died at the head of the troop and including Jiwan Seth and most of the front ranking leaders of the Bhayat, many notables fell. The head of the Brahmin contingent Jivram Joshi, the Sadhus under Sadhu Jivandas, Charans, Baloch Muslims and many died fighting for Kutch that day. The fighting that was tenacious, at one point, the Kalhoro decided to quit and retreat only to be goaded by Punja to stop and fight. On top of his losses, a night raid party of his attacked his own army killing thousands!! One still finds bone fragments and remnants of weapons on the battlefield. The battle is aptly called Kutchha jo Kurukshetra Jharo and an annual ceremony is organized to honour the dead. Tradition says that 30-80000 soldiers of Kutch died in the battle.

A traditional Kutchi ballad from Linguistic Survery Of India – Specimens Of Sindhi And Lahnda on the battle goes thus. The English translation seems to be weak and may need some rework.

Bhimaji Thakar Jharo maolayo
Muryo mag na de
Je-ji ummar hui tarar
Jareje Jharo malayo
By Bhimaji Thakur Jhara was made renowned
Ready to die, way not he gives
Immortal was his his sword
By the Jadeja Jhara was made renowned
Gaji Gulam-sah charyo
Vijhan nu Thakar charya
Je-me Lakhoji Raja
Ghazi Ghulam Shah marched
And all Sindh with him
The Thakurs marched from Vijhan
Leading them, Lakhoji Raja
Bhar Bhimani charya
Bodhaliye-ja asawar
Malak markai charya
Anjar-ja jamadhar
The gallant Bhimanis marched
And Bodhalias on their horses
The Malaks marched proudly
And Anjar of the Jamadars
Hakal pii Hothiye me
Thakara maryo bal bachcha
Uni pindh-ja gabharu
Hathe-se rosya
A cry rent among the Hothis
Thakurs, kill your children
Their own children
they killed by their own hands
Kuari kandh namaya
Gote gha kea
Chota jhalya chosara
Wadhyu kandh vicha
Virgins bowed their necks
Bridegrooms made the blows
The siezed the hair knots four braided
Necks were cut without remose
Katarie-nu charya pou
Kuwar Kayani
Achi ubha chok me
Chodo se ne chari
Kataria then marched
And the Princes of Kayani
They came and stood in the field
Fourteen Hundred and Forty
Achi ruta pir me
Pawar ja pada
Hano tararu takaryu
Karyo bhale ja gha
In the battle ground they planted themselves
Like a he-buffalo, unmoving
Strike your swords swiftly
Throw your spears and blows
Tarare ji tar pii
Bhale kea bhunga
Galoleja hot thya
Dharu dhos kea
The swords fell with a clang
Huts were made of spears
Pellets became clouds
Gunpowder made a dust storm
Matho chhanyo pat te
Khodh te viryo
Jade istri galayo
Tade chhani pat peo
The heads fell on the ground
Trunks still fought
When a woman addressed them
They fell on the ground dead
Jorie juwan na upare
Tade gade ghas kea
Sawa-ser-jo payano
Ruryo rat minjha
In sheets, they couldn’t carry the dead
By the carts, tracks were made
One and quarter seer of stone
Floated in the blood there
Sath hajar Sarai-ja
Chhani pat pea
Chari hajar Raja
Rawata ran me rea
Sixty thousand Sarais
Dropped dead on the ground
Forty Thousand Rajas
and Rawats remained on the battle field

The Kutchi army was broken and the way to Bhuj was open. Even though he was not capable of proceeding further, that was a chance the Kalhoro can’t ignore.

But then, Jam Godji’s mother sent a messenger to Punja along with a strand of her grey hair imploring him not to disgrace Kutch any more and asked him to negotiate for terms. Ashamed at his conduct, rather than taking the Sindhi troop by the main way, he took them on a detour – at Sandhan, his advance party was slaughtered. Using that as an opportunity, Punja dissuaded the Kalhoro from proceeding further by saying there are 360 such forts one should cross before reaching Bhuj. The Kalhoro was also waiting for an opportunity to go back.

The deal was struck – Godji’s sister will be given in marriage to the Kalhoro and an agreed tribute. Leaving his son as hostage, Punja Seth returned back to Bhuj. He became the Diwan as promised by the Queen Mother and strengthened Bhuj considerably. But, the Jam was not to listen to his words on the promises made. Neither was a tribute paid nor was his daughter sent. One day, the Jam got Punja Seth arrested and forced to drink him a bowl of poison. The Kalhoro, on hearing the news, marched again. This time, Bhuj was taken and the Jam had to buy peace by marrying the daughter of his kinsman Wesuji to the Kalhoro. At this point, it is important to note that the second time, the Kalhoro was not even able to muster 50,000 clearly telling how disastrous Jhara was to him as well. The Kalhoro went back and built the city of Hyderabad in commemoration of the twin victories.

One would note that the disaster of Jhara and the non-stop wars with Jamnagar after Meraman Khawas siezed power along with the fact that while going back, the Kalhoro ruined the rich Lakhpat tract by diverting Indus, a severely weakened Bhuj didn’t have enough time to come back to it’s pre-eminence when the British invaded Bhuj in 1815.

However, unlike Bhuchar Mori, Jhara is not remembered as a disaster but is proudly cherished even today. Nothing can be more closer to the mood of the people when referring to Jhara, the late Maharao Pragmalji said in 2013, We have to live up to the expectation of these great souls who sacrificed their lives for the motherland.

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