Painted Tombs of the Jalabani Lagharis

Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro finds vivid depictions of the hunt and imaginings of folk romances

Painted Tombs of the Jalabani Lagharis
Johi, in Dadu district, is home to a large number of tombs which are believed to have been built during the reigns of the Kalhoras (1700-1783), Talpurs (1783-1843) and the British Raj (1843-1947). These tombs are located in a number of different villages of Johi taluka.

Jalab Dero, a small village, is noted for the tombs of the Jalabanai Lagharis. The Jalabani Lagharis claim their ancestry from Jalab Faqir, an eminent surando player of the Mianwal Tariqa of mystics. The Jalabanis served both the Kalhoras and Talpurs. This family of Jalabani Lagharis produced many musicians, administrators, ministers and soldiers in the 18th and 19th   centuries.

One of the prominent Surando players from amongst the Jalabani Lagharis was Hyder Shah Jalabani Laghari, who lived during the rule of Mian Yar Muhammad Kalhoro (1700-1718). There had been two persons by the name of Hyder Shah. The first belonged to the Maganani lineage of the Lagharis and the second to the Jalabani lineage. The shrine of Hyder Shah Jalabani is located in Jalab Dero, which was founded by Jalab Faqir, a disciple of Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro. The tomb of Hyder Shah Mangani is located in Chakar Kot.

A lion chases deer in the tomb of Dato Faqir Jalabani Laghari

Hyder Shah Jalabani Laghari used to perform zikr (mystical remembrance of God) on the surando, hence he was called a Surandai Faqir. His tomb is located in Jalab Dero village. The tomb of Hyder Shah is built in a rectangular plan and is locally called “raunk.” The main doorway of the tomb opens to the east. A mud-wall enclosure surrounds the tomb of Hyder Shah. It resembles the wall enclosure of Hyder Shah Maganani, whose tomb is located in Chakar Kot. Formerly, it was decorated with paintings. At present, some traces of paintings are visible.

Apart from Hyder Shah, two notables of the Jalabani Lagharis were Mirzo Faqir and Dato Faqir. Mirzo Faqir largely served the Talpurs. His tomb is located east of Jalab Dero village. It is a bricked canopy. The canopy is erected on a double podium, giving extra height to the structure. It is built in a square plan. The canopy is twelve-pillared. Similar canopies are found in many graveyards in Johi. However, the most impressive canopies exist in the cemeteries of Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro, Shahan Faqir, Rajo Dero, Drigh Bala and Murid Dero – as such these edifices have a grace all their own. It is not lost even on the visitor today.

Depiction of the romance of Sasui and Punhun in Dato Faqir Jalabani's tomb

The dome of the canopy rests on an octagonal drum. The dome was surmounted with a finial which is now broken. The interior of the canopy is adorned with floral and figural patterns. The spandrels of the arches are decorated with a painting of lovers. Interestingly, on the right spandrel is depicted a female and on the left a male – they are shown anxiously waiting to meet with each other. This depiction is repeated on all the spandrels of the four cardinal sides. The folk romance of Sasui and Punhun is also depicted on one of the panels on the western wall. Punhun is shown seated on camelback, escorted by his brother. Sasui is shown dejected and appears to have set out for Kech-Makran where Punhun was taken. This painting is exceedingly damaged by the weathering conditions.
Hyder Shah Jalabani Laghari used to perform zikr on the surando, hence he was called a Surandai Faqir

The cemetery of the Jalabani Lagharis also contains the tomb of Dato Faqir who served both the Kalhoras and Talpurs. The tomb of Dato Faqir is erected on a podium which was built during the reign of Ghulam Shah Kalhoro. Dato Faqir built it during his lifetime. The façade of the tomb is decorated with three cusped arches. The central arch is pierced by a doorway. The familiar three-arched pattern is repeated on all three sides. This was the most popular ornamental motif found in many tombs erected during the Kalhora and Talpur periods. A such, this motif was popularized by the artists in the present districts of Dadu, Larkana and Kamber-Shahdadkot.

Horse riders in the tomb of Dato Faqir Jalabani Laghari

The tomb is built in a square plan. In fact, the interior of the tomb is also a square. Corner squinches transform the square room into an octagon to place an elevated drum. The hemispherical dome rests on an octagonal drum. The perimeter of the drum is decorated with merlons. Corner kiosks surround the dome. However, only one kiosk crowning the eastern corner still exists. All the others have collapsed. The finial that once crowned the dome is also partially broken. It enshrines two graves. One grave belongs to Dato Faqir and another to his wife.

Tomb of Dato Faqir Jalabani Laghari

One of the distinctive features of the tomb is the painting. Both floral and figural patterns decorate the inner space of the tomb. Arched recesses are found in the four walls of the tombs. The spandrels of these arches are adorned with bird depictions. In particular, the peacock had remained the most favourite bird for the artists, which is depicted not only on the spandrels of the arches but also on the panels in the zone of the transition of the tomb. The panels in the zone of transition depict folk romances, equestrian scenes and warriors too. On the southern wall are three panels depicting the romances of Sasui and Punhun and Laila and Majnun. Two panels depict episodes from the romance of Sasui and Punhun. On the first panel, Punhun’s brothers are shown going to Banbhore to bring him back to Kech-Makran. On the way to Banbhore, he meets a shepherd. As evident from this depiction, the brother of Punhun appears to have inquired from the shepherd about the route that led to Banbhore. The shepherd is shown grazing his goats. On the second panel, the brother of Punhun is shown taking him on camelback to Kech-Makran. Behind the camel is depicted Sasui, who appears to be beseeching her brothers-in-law to leave Punhun.

Noblemen depicted in Dato Faqir Jalabani Laghari's tomb

The third panel on the southern wall depicts Laila and Majnun. Here, Majnun is shown seated under a tree. Laila, with her companion, is shown riding on the camel to meet her beloved Majnun. A similar depiction is also found in a panel on the northern wall of the tomb. Close to this panel is a depiction of a lion that is shown attacking some deer. The deer are shown running for their lives. In fact, the artist has painted what he observed in the vicinity. Deer are still found in the Khirthar Range. These tombs are located in the periphery of the Khirthar range. It seems that the artist was a keen observer who painted whatever he saw in his surroundings.

The tomb also depicts equestrian riders and soldiers. The domed ceiling of the tomb is adorned with floral patterns. A lotus flower occupies the soffit of a domed ceiling.

The author is an anthropologist. He may be contacted at 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. All photos are by the author

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