Painted tombs of Admani Lagharis

Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro takes us to the resting place of the ‘sarfarosh’ or special fighters of the Mianwal Faqirs

Painted tombs of Admani Lagharis
I have been documenting wall paintings of Sindh since 2000. For this purpose, I visited hundreds of cemeteries across Sindh. One such cemetery belongs to the Admani Lagharis and is located 2 km south of Murid Dero in Johi taluka of Dadu district.

The Adamani Lagharis claim their descent from Adam Faqir Laghari. He was a disciple of Mian Shahal Muhammad Kalhoro (d. 1657). When Shahal Muhammad Kalhoro was killed by the Mughal Nawab of Bakhar, Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro (1657-1692) became the new Sheikh (spiritual leader) of the Mianwal Tariqa of the Kalhoras. Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro shifted his daira from Larkana to the present region of Kachho in Dadu. Many disciples of Shahal Muhammad Kalhoro including Adam Faqir Laghari came with Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro to the Kachho region in Johi taluka.

Adam Laghari had two sons Shah Ali Faqir and Shadman Faqir. Both served Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro and his son Mian Yar Muhammad Kalhoro. According to family history, both displayed their swordsmanship on the battlefield and were known as Mianwal sarfarosh (always ready to embrace death). Sarfaroshs were shock troops and were considered the best fighters. There were many disciples of Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro who were incorporated in the sarfarosh group of Mianwal Tariqa. He was believed to have fought bravely in the battle of Garhi and Phulji which saw him clash with the Mughal Nawabs of Bakhar and Sehwan. The Mianwal Faqirs defeated them in both these battles.

After the victory in the battle of Garhi, Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro had given Shadaman Faqir Laghari nagaras (a pair of drums), which are still kept by the family of Shadmani Lagharis. Not only the nagaras, but a jagir was also bestowed upon him by Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro. According to family accounts, he died during the reign of Mian Yar Muhammad Kalhoro. He was buried in the necropolis which later carried his name. This necropolis, locally called Shadman necropolis or Admani Lagharen Ja Quba, is located about 2 km south of Murid Dero.

Shadman Laghari’s tomb is a square building that is erected on a low platform. The façade of the tomb is marked with a high pishtaq, which is a special feature of Kalhora tombs. This high pishtaq conceals the view of a dome from the front.

The tomb is decorated with sunken panels on all three sides. There are two rows of sunken panels, large and small. The lower part of the building has comparatively larger panels as compared to the upper, which are smaller. An octagonal drum with prominent sunken panels was surmounted with a dome, which has now collapsed. Hexagonal ‘chatris’ surmounted with cupolas surround the drum. The parapet of the building is decorated with merlons.

A nobleman is depicted seated on a couch with attendants in the tomb of
Shadman Faqir Laghari

The interior of the tomb has four large sunken panels on four sides. The interior of the tomb is adorned with floral and figural patterns. One finds a ‘mihrab’ in the western wall which depicted floral and figural paintings. It has been divided into panels. In central of the arch are three panels depicting a tribal chief, probably Shadman Faqir himself with attendants, and two flanking panels representing a soldier on the right and a horse rider on the left. Shadman Faqir Laghari or a tribal chief is shown seated on a couch with attendants. Interestingly, all three figures are shown wearing bachi, a typical turban of the Mianwal Faqirs. Even on the panel on the right of Shadman Faqir Laghari is depicted a soldier with bachi. Above these three panels are  large panels depicting a battle scene. On the extreme left is depicted a royal figure seated on the elephant with howdah protecting him from sunlight. This howdah or chatri symbolizes a royal figure, possibly pointing out to Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro or his son Mian Yar Muhammad Kalhoro. Since the buried dignitary was a disciple and sarfarosh fighter of Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro he might have painted as participating in the battle. This royal figure, seated on the elephant, is escorted by a group of horse riders and foot soldiers wielding swords and spears. But again, the noteworthy thing in this depiction is the soldiers wearing bachi turbans, which indicate that they were the Mianwal Faqirs marching out for battle.

Fruit dishes and vases in the tomb of Shadman Faqir Laghari

There is also a recessed arch in the southern wall. This arch contains three panels depicting the same representations of a royal figure being escorted by the soldiers. Above the panels is an interesting depiction of a woman who is shown visiting the saint followed by horse rider. There is a large stylized floral vase on the centre of the panel. On the right are the figures of the saint, woman and horse rider and the depictions of buffaloes on the left. Undoubtedly, this is a representation of Suhni and Mehar. Seated under the shadow of a large tree is a saint with a parrot sitting on his right shoulder. Suhni is shown seeking the blessings of the saint for a safe crossing of the river. Behind the image of Suhni is depicted her fiancé Dum who was following her. On the bank of the river is Mehar, who is depicted grazing the buffaloes. This is one of the earlier depictions of Suhni and Mehar in the tomb of Shadman Faqir. Though one finds paintings of the folk romance of Suhni and Mehar in other tombs, they are painted in the later Kalhora period particularly during the reigns of Mian Ghulam Shah Kalhoro, Mian Sarfaraz Kalhoro, Mian Ghulam Nabi Kalhoro and Mian Abdul Nabi Kalhoro. This painting is an earlier representation since the tomb appears to have been built either during the reign of Mian Yar Muhammad Kalhoro or Mian Noor Muhammad Kalhoro.

The tomb of Shah Ali Faqir Laghari

Like his brother Shadman Faqir, Shah Al Faqir was also a disciple and a sarfarosh fighter of Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro. He served Mian Yar Muhammad Kalhoro and died during the reign of Mian Noor Muhammad Kalhoro. He was given a jagir by both Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro and Mian Yar Muhammad Kalhoro.

His tomb is located in the necropolis of Shadman Faqir, which appears to have been built in the time of Mian Noor Muhammad Kalhoro or Mian Ghulam Shah Kalhoro because it resembled the tomb of Daulat Khan Marri at Tilla Shah cemetery in Sanghar district, which was also built in the same period. The tomb of Shah Ali Faqir Laghari lies west of the tomb of Shadman Faqir Laghari. It is built in a square plan and is erected on a low platform. The façade of the tomb has a large recessed arch which is pierced by a doorway. Enclosed within a recessed arch are two panels which were ostensibly made for decoration.

The dome of the tomb rests on an elevated octagonal drum which is decorated with finials on each side of the octagon. Four turrets rise from the parapet which surrounds the drum. As compared to the tomb of Shadman Faqir Lagari, the turrets of Shah Ali Faqir’s building are very simple whereas those in Shadman Faqir’s tomb are impressive. The kiosks surrounding the dome of the tomb of Shadman imitated the mausoleum of Mian Yar Muhammad Kalhoro at Khudabad because it was a real prototype for the later buildings, erected by both Kalhoras and their generals and soldiers.

Depictions of soldiers in the tomb of Shadman Faqir Laghari

The interior of the tomb is square and has four large recessed arches. The corner squinches transform the square building into an octagon to place a circular dome. The interior of the tomb is adorned with floral and bird representations. Panels are made inside the recessed arches to paint flowers. The lily, chrysanthemum and sunflower decorate the inner surface of the tomb. On the soffits and spandrels of the panels are painted floral scrolls similar to those seen in the tomb of Shadman Faqir Laghari. A pair of birds occupy the space on pendentives or inside the recessed arches. The bird representations, particularly in feeding postures, are painted on all four sides. A peacock also appears on some of the panels. Floral vases generally appear on the top of the recessed arch. In the centre of the arch are painted fruit dishes which are flanked by vases and cups.

The soffit of a domed ceiling is also adorned with floral patterns with the lotus occupying the central space. Generally, the soffits of all the domed ceilings of the Kalhora-period tombs are decorated with a lotus flower. Sometimes, a sunflower is also painted in combination with lotus. However, the lotus is made more prominent with its white leaves.

The tomb enshrines two graves which are now covered with green cloth. Local people venerate the tombs of these Laghari sarfarosh fighters.

Apart from the tombs of Shadman Faqir and Shah Ali Faqir, there are six other tombs in the necropolis which belong to the descendants of Shadman Faqir and Shah Ali Faqir and were built during the Kalhora, and Talpur periods respectively.

The writer is an anthropologist. He may be contacted at zulfi04@hotmail. com. Excerpts have been taken from the author’s new book “Wall Paintings of Sindh, From the Eighteenth to Twentieth Century” published by Silk Road Centre

The author is an anthropologist. He tweets at: @Kalhorozulfiqar