Harchandrai Vishandas

Harchandrai Vishandas C.I.E. (1 May 1862 – 16 February 1928), was a British Indian attorney, politician, and mayor of Karachi in modern-day Pakistan.[1] He is considered a great Sindhi and “the father of modern Karachi.”[2] His social, educational, and political services rendered to the people of Sindh are so great that he is now recognised as one of the makers of modern Karachi.

Harchandrai Vishandas
Born(1862-05-01)1 May 1862
Died16 February 1928(1928-02-16) (aged 65)
British India
(Present day:
Republic of India)
NationalityBritish Indian
  • Lawyer
  • Politician
  • Independence fighter
  • Mayor of Karachi[1]
Known forFather of Modern Karachi

He was one of the first six young Sindhi men who graduated from Elphinstone College in Bombay prior to 1887. After completing law in 1885, Harchandrai accepted a junior position in the Shikarpur court, but soon resigned to begin a law practice in Karachi. He was the elected Honorary Secretary of Karachi Bar Association just after its establishment in 1890, and served for a full 38 years.

Harchandrai was the elected as a member of Karachi Municipality in 1888, and then served a term of ten years as its president between 1911–1921. As mayor of Karachi, he oversaw a major beautification project, which involved development of new roads, parks, residential and recreational areas.[1]He was subsequently appointed to the Viceroy's Executive Council and was an Ex officio member of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom until his death in 1928.

Early lifeEdit

Seth Harchandrai Vishandas was born in 1862 in the village of Manjhu in tehsil Kotri, Sindh.[3] He was born into a Bharvani family[4]known for its public-spirited members.

His received his primary education at a school in Manjhu founded by his father, Seth Vishandas Nihalchand.[5] After completing his primary, Harchandrai was sent to Kotri for middle education at a missionary school, and boarded there in a spacious bungalow. He was subsequently admitted to NJV High School in Karachi. He matriculated in 1878 and went to live with his maternal grandfather.

Thereafter, Harchandrai went to Bombay for higher education and read law at Elphinstone College, which he later patronised as his Alma mater. He received his law degree in 1882.

Professional backgroundEdit

Legal fieldEdit

Harchandrai was a lawyer and a Queen's Counsel under Queen Victoria, and later King’s Counsel under King Edward VII and King George V.[6]

Harchandrai initially took on a subordinate role in Shikarpur court. Persuaded by his father, he soon resigned and began his own law practice in Karachi in 1886. He was elected honorary secretary of the Karachi Bar Association.

Mayorship of KarachiEdit

Harchandrai was elected mayor of the Karachi Municipal Committee in 1911 until 1921.[1] Under his mayorship, civic improvements led to the installation of gas lamps along the city's streets and the introduction of footpaths.[7] He was also responsible for development works which led to shifting the course of the Lyari River, which opened up land for development.[7]

Social services and politicsEdit

Seth Harchandrai played a role as a freedom fighter of India.

Seth Harchandrai in left with Mahatma Gandhi

Harchandrai was the first Sindhi to join the Indian National Congress[8] and served the cause of national independence with dedication. He was influential in Congress; the 28th session of Congress in 1913 was held in Karachi largely due to the efforts of Harchandrai, his father Seth Vishandas and Ghulam Mohamed Bhurgari. He and his father served as chairman and Secretary of reception committee for that session.[9] and he later presided over many Congress conferences in Sindh.[10][11] Harchandrai was a believer of Hindu-Muslim unity and was a Sufistic. The Theosophical Society made him a member. [12]


Harchandrai Vishandas died on 16 February 1928 in Delhi.[13] When the British Simon Commission was sent to India to dispute and review the working of 1919 reforms, the Congress party pressed for its boycott.

Harchandrai's vote was required for that purpose. Thus, he chose to leave Karachi against the advice of his doctor and friends, so determined he was to record his vote against the Simon Commission. However, on his way from the railway station to the Assembly Hall, Harchandrai suddenly died.

On 16 February 1934, on his sixth death anniversary, a statue of Harchandrai was unveiled in front of Karachi Municipal Corporation Building. It was removed shortly after the partition of India in 1947.[14]


  1. ^ a b c d Nadeem F. Paracha. "Visual Karachi: From Paris of Asia, to City of Lights, to Hell on Earth". dawn.com. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  2. ^ "Calling Karachi". The Times of India. 26 July 2001. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  3. ^ Khadim Hussain Soomro. Seth Harchandrai Vishandas. Sain Publishers, 2001 Original from the University of Michigan. pp. 19–99–126.
  4. ^ Institute of Historical Studies (Calcutta, India). The Quarterly review of historical studies, Volumes 19–20. Institute of Historical Studies 1980. p. 91.
  5. ^ Durga Das Pvt. Ltd. Eminent Indians who was who, 1900–1980, also annual diary of events. Durga Das Pvt. Ltd., 1985 original from University of Virginia. p. 43.
  6. ^ Sir Stanley Reed. The Times of India directory and year book including who's who, Volume 14. Bennett, Coleman., 1927. pp. 81&362.
  7. ^ a b Balouch, Akhtar (16 September 2015). "Harchand Rai Vishan Das: Karachi's beheaded benefactor". Dawn. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
  8. ^ A. Moin Zaidi, Shaheda Gufran Zaidi, Indian Institute of Applied Political Research. The Encyclopaedia of Indian National Congress: 1906–1910, The Surat imbroglio. S.Chand, 1978 Original from the University of California. pp. 171–555.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ They Too Fought for India's Freedom: The Role of Minorities edited by Asgharali Engineer. 2006. p. 218.
  10. ^ N. R Phatak, Bha. Ga Kuṇṭe, Bombay (India : State). Committee for a History of the Freedom Movement in India, Maharashtra (India). Gazetteers Dept. Source material for a history of the freedom movement in India, Volume 3, Issue 1. Government of Maharashtra 1965 Original from the University of California. pp. 42–43–48.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ Khadim Hussain Soomro. The path not taken: G.M. Sayed. Sain Publishers, 2004 original from the University of Michigan. p. 30.
  12. ^ Asgharali Engineer, Institute of Islamic Studies (Bombay, India). The Role of minorities in freedom struggle. Ajanta Publications, 1986 original from the University of Michigan. p. 179. ISBN 978-81-202-0164-4.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  13. ^ Khadim Hussain Soomro. Seth Harchandrai Vishandas. Sain Publishers, 2001 original from the University of Michigan. pp. 90–112.
  14. ^ Khadim Hussain Soomro. Seth Harchandrai Vishandas. Sain Publishers, 2001. p. 97.