Makli
Symphonies in Stone

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8th May 2018 - continuining

Thatta remained an important trading centre in the lower Indus valley until its decline in 1739 CE, when it was ceded to Nadir Shah of Iran by Emperor Mohammad Shah of Delhi. The Emperor entrusted its administration to Mian Noor Muhammad, chief of the Kalhora clan, who moved his capital from Thatta to Khudabad. The Talpurs (1783 - 1843 CE), were to take over from the Kalhoras.


Makli, one of six World Heritage Sites in Pakistan, is located in Thatta. Formerly a small settlement on the river Indus, it became the seat of government from the 14th to the 18th centuries for successive dynasties including the Samma Sultans (1340-1527 CE), the Arghuns (1527-1554 CE), the Tarkhans (1554-1592 CE) and later, numerous Mughal governors appointed by the Emperors of Delhi (1592-1739 CE).  During this period it evolved into an important centre for Islamic learning and the arts.


According to Mir Ali Sher Qani (1760 CE), Makli is one of the largest necropolises in the world along with Wadi us Salaam in Najaf, Iraq. In terms of area it covers six square miles. Its architecture bears testimony to decorative styles and ornamentation in both brick and stone that are largely indigenous but have drawn inspiration from the wider region especially Iran, Central Asia and Gujarat.


The precise number of funerary sites in Makli has not been tabulated, but it is generally agreed that they spread around the shrine of the 14th century Sufi, Hammad Jamali. The hill is said to have taken its name from a woman named Makli, who was one of the earliest occupants of the tomb, but equally, its name could have been derived from Makkah or Makkah li, a name given to a mosque built by the Samma prince, Jam Tamachi.

Makli monuments are built of either brick or stone. Tombstones and graves are generally elaborately carved with geometric patterns and interlacing Arabic inscriptions. The headstones are divided into compartments with linking patterns. Many sculptural representations are also visible, horsemen with swords and spears, bows, arrows and daggers, foot soldiers, representation of turbans, materials of war and weapons are also distinct symbols indicating the graves of men. Ornaments or jewellery in high relief depict the graves of women.

 

The grave stones are made of rectangular slabs that are dressed and exquisitely carved with floral and geometric ornamentation. Pillars, walls, projections, panels and surfaces are carved with traditional and decorative motifs. Domes made of corbels are primarily carved with linear patterns whilst lintels support friezes of Qur’anic inscriptions. Surfaces are further divided into panels, bands of chain motifs with rosettes, half and full lotuses, arches set with sunflowers, honey comb patterns and arabesques.

 

Makli reflects a heritage of superb craftsman ship made with the best clay. They ring like metal and break as clean as glass. The enamelled bricks are elegantly set in patterns and are conspicuous for their columnar enamel tiles that are lavishly used in dados and spandrels.