Mosques And Mystics Of Shikarpur - III

Mosques And Mystics Of Shikarpur - III
The cemetery of Syed Manochar Shah, now popularly known as Syed Manchar Shah Ghazi, is located on the Shikarpur Bypass. It is a historical graveyard and contains a few monuments: prominent amongst these are the mosques and shrines of Rakhial Shah and Manchar Shah respectively.

I first visited the sites in 2002. Later when I revisited the necropolis in 2011 and 2021, both the tomb and mosque of Rakhial Shah were in shambles. The tomb of Rakhial Shah, which was in a good state of preservation on my first visit in 2002, was the site of debris on my second visit in 2011. Not much is known about the history of Rakhial Shah. I interviewed many people, but nobody knew about him. Nothing is written about him in the books and articles on Shikarpur. One does not know when and from where he came to Shikarpur. It is not known to which Sufi order he belonged to. What one knows is that he came to preach in Shikarpur. He used to sit on a cot while preaching. When he died, a khat-shaped (i.e. cot-shaped) wooden frame was made over his grave. The tomb was also built by his followers, and it has now collapsed. It was a square tomb with a main entrance opening to the east. The interior of the tomb was also square and lacked any ornamentation. It was simply built. Such square tombs were built over the graves of Sufi saints in the different villages in the Shikarpur district. There was also a mihrab on the western wall of the tomb of Rakhial Shah.

Tomb of Manchar Shah

To the south of Rakhial Shah’s tomb is located a crumbling mosque which was believed to have been built by him. The mosque lies in a deplorable condition now. The dome of the mosque has collapsed. When I first saw it in 2002, all four walls of the mosque were extant. Now the western wall of the mosque has caved in. Three arched entrances from the east and south lead to the interior of the mosque. An arched entrance was also provided from the northern side. The western wall had a mihrab. From its architecture, it seems that it was a single-dome mosque. It appears to have been built in the second or third quarter of the eighteenth century. This also indicates that Rakhial Shah might have come to Shikarpur probably in the first or second quarter of the eighteenth century. Single-domed mosques are located in several localities of Shikarpur. A few single-domed mosques were adorned with glazed tiles: one prominent example includes the mosque of Khalifo Ghulam Hyder (now called Muhammadi Jamia mosque) also in Sheedki Khohi in Awan Mohalla Shikarpur city.

Wooden miniature mosque motif on the canopy of Manchar Shah

A few other mosques bear such inscriptions, which were mainly found on the facades of mosques. One such mosque bearing the inscription is located in Memon mohalla near the Saty Bazaar. As per the inscription, the mosque was built by Nawab Ghaffar Khan and Nawab Ibrahim Khan. According to Professor Abdul Hayee Moryai (2019), the author of Shikarpur Jun Masjddon Ain Eid, it was built in 1260 AH/1844 AD. The distinctive feature of the mosque is the mihrab which is decorated with blue glazed tiles. One does not find such an elaborate mihrab in any other mosque which was built in the nineteenth century in Shikarpur.

Inscription on the western wall of the tomb of Manchar Shah

Another single-domed mosque that was decorated with glazed tiles was located in Sheedki Khohi in Awan Mohalla. When I first saw this mosque in 2002, its dome had caved in. The façade of the mosque was decorated with ceramic tiles. Later, this mosque was rebuilt and called Muhammadi Jamia mosque. Another mosque that was noted for glazed tiles was located in Nabi Shah Mohalla of Shikarpur. This mosque was called by the same name as the mohalla, and was probably built by a mystic named Nabi Shah whose grave is located nearby the mosque. It has also been rebuilt now. The majority of the historical mosques of Shikarpur have either been rebuilt or renovated, which has damaged their originality.

Painting on the domed ceiling of the tomb of Manchar Shah

The most prominent tomb in the necropolis belongs to Manchar Shah. According to Professor Aminullah Shah Alavi, who writes in his article entitled “Shikarpur Ja Sufia Karam" published in Shikarpur Mazi Ain Haal (Shikarpur: Past and Present), a book complied by Dr. Memon Abdul Majeed Sindhi, that Syed Manchar Shah came from Iran to Shikarpur. It is not known when he came to settle in Shikarpur. Many saints settled in Shikarpur and the history of the majority of them are unknown. People mainly rely on oral traditions which present conflicting facts on a few of the saints of Shikarpur.

The year 1146 AH/1733 AD is written on the western wall of the tomb of Manchar Shah, which may indicate either the date of the death of Syed Manchar Shah or the date of the tomb construction. It is probably the date of his death, as the same date appears on the grave of Manchar Shah. The name of the mason Rehmatullah Kashigar Halai is also written in the inscription on the western wall of the tomb. In a few of the inscriptions on the walls of the mosques, one knows not only the names of the masons but also the builders who commissioned the mosques.

Tomb of Syed Manchar Shah - photo taken in 2021

The distinctive features of the tomb of Syed Manchar Shah are the corner kiosks and two deeper alcoves on either side of the doorway. Corner kiosks are the distinctive features of the majority of tombs and mosques in Shikarpur. The tomb of Manchar was formerly painted from the inside. Frequent renovations have damaged the original beauty of the tomb. However, the painting has survived on the domed ceiling of the tomb. The wooden canopy over the grave of Manchar Shah is intricately carved by the Shikarpuri craftsmen. A distinctive feature of the canopy of the Manchar Shah is ornamentation. The wooden miniature mosque motif decorates the upper part of the canopy. It is interesting to see such wooden miniature mosque motifs in Sufi tombs in Shikarpur. Generally, one finds depictions of the mosque in painted murals. This is another form of ornamentation adopted by Shikarpuri craftsmen to decorate the wooden canopies over the graves of Sufi saints in Shikarpur.

Adjacent to the tomb of Syed Manchar Shah is located a small mosque. Now rebuilt, it was believed to have been originally built by Syed Manchar Shah.

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