Las Bela Bela - Encyclopedia

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BELA, LAS Bela, Or LUS Beyla, situated in 26° 27' 30" N. lat. and 66° 45' o" E. long., 350 ft. above sea level, capital of the small independent state of Las Bela to the south of Kalat (Baluchistan), ruled by the Jam (or Cham), who occupies the position of a protected chief under the British Raj. To the east lies Sind, and to the west Makran, and from time immemorial the great trading route between Sind and Persia has passed through Las Bela. The area of Las Bela is 6357 sq. m., and its population in 1901 was 56,109, of which 54,040 were Mussulmans. The low-lying, alluvial, hot and malarial plains of Las Bela, occupying about 6000 sq. m. on the north-east corner of the Arabian Sea, are highly irrigated and fertile - two rivers from the north, the Purali and the Kud, uniting to provide a plentiful water supply. The bay of Sonmiani once extended over most of these plains, where the Purali delta is now growing with measurable strides. The hill ranges to the east, parting the plains from Sind (generally known locally as the Mor and the Kirthar), between which lies the long narrow line of the Hab valley, strike nearly north and south, diminishing in height as they approach the sea and allowing of a route skirting the coast between Karachi and Bela. To the west they are broken into an infinity of minor ridges massing themselves in parallel formation with a strike which curves from south to west till they form the coast barrier of Makran. The Persian route from India, curving somewhat to the north, traverses this waste of barren ridges almost at right angles, but on dropping into the Kolwah valley its difficulty ceases. It then becomes an open road to Kej and Persia, with an easy gradient. This was undoubtedly one of the greatest trade routes of the medieval days of Arab ascendancy in Sind., and it is to this route that Bela owes a place in history which its modern appearance and dimensions hardly seem to justify. Bela is itself rather prettily situated on a rocky site above the banks of the Purali. About four miles to the south are the well-kept gardens which surround the tomb of Sir Robert Sandeman; which is probably destined to become a " ziarat," or place of pilgrimage, of even greater sanctity than that of General Jacob at Jacobabad. The population of the town numbers about 5000. The Jam's retinue consists of about 300 infantry, 50 cavalry, and 4 guns. Liability to assist on active service is the only acknowledgment of the suzerainty which is paid by the Jam to the Khan of Kalat. The Jam, Mir Kamal Khan, succeeded his father, Sir Mir Khan, in 1895, and was formally invested with powers in 1902.

From very early times this remote corner of Baluchistan has held a distinct place in history. There are traces of ancient Arab (possibly Himyaritic) occupation to be found in certain stone ruins at Gondakeha on the Kud river, 10 m. to the north-west of Bela, whilst the Greek name " Arabis " for the Purali is itself indicative of an early prehistoric connexion with races of Asiatic Ethiopians referred to by Herodotus. On the coast, near the village of Sonmiani (a station of the Indo-Persian telegraph line) may be traced the indentation which once formed the bay of Morontobara, noted in the voyage of Nearchus; and it was on the borders of Makran that the Turanian town of Rhambakia was situated, which was once the centre of the trade in " bdellium." In the 7th century A.D. Las Bela was governed by a Buddhist priest, at which time all the province of Gandava was Buddhist, and Sind was ruled by the Brahman, Chach. Buddhist caves are to be found excavated in the conglomerate cliffs near Gondakeha, at a place called Gondrani, or Shahr-i-Rogan. With the influx of Arabs into Makran, Bela, under the name of Armel (or Armabel), rose to importance as a link in the great chain of trading towns between Persia and Sind; and then there existed in the delta such places as Yusli (near the modern Uthal) and Kambali (which may possibly be recognized in the ruins at Khairokot), and many smaller towns, each of which possessed its citadel, its caravanserai and bazaar, which are not only recorded but actually mapped by one of the medieval Arab geographers, Ibn Haukal. It is probable that Kara Pir, 12 m. to the east of the modern city, represents the site of the Armabel which was destroyed by Mahommed Kasim in his victorious march to Sind in 710. There is another old site 5 m. to the west of the modern town. The ruins at Karia Pir, like those of Tijarra Pir and Khairokot, contain Arab pottery, seals, and other medieval relics. The Lumris, or Lasis, who originate the name Las as a prefix to that of Bela, are the dominant tribe in the province. They are comparatively recent arrivals who displaced the earlier Tajik and Brahui occupants. It is probable that this influx of Rajput population was coincident with the displacement of the Arab dynasties in Sind by the Mahommedan Rajputs in the iith century A.D. Some authorities connect the Lumris with the Sumras.

There are no published accounts of Bela, excepting those of the Indian government reports and gazetteers. This article is compiled from unpublished notes by the author and by Mr Wainwright, of the Indian Survey department. (T. H. H.*)

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