Tombs that Depict Folk Romances

Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro on the funerary monuments of Kamber-Shahdadkot in Sindh

Tombs that Depict Folk Romances
There are a large number of historic monuments in Sindh which can be used as potential tourist destinations which will boost the local economy if appropriately promoted and developed. In Miro Khan Taluka in Kamber-Shahdadkot district, there are located some impressive funerary monuments of the Kalhora (1700-1783) and Talpur (1783-1843) periods which are noted for mural paintings. In the last two decades these funerary monuments have been fast decaying and it is feared that if a timely restoration is not taken, these historic tombs will become history.

Of these the most neglected and crumbling tombs belong to the Husnani Chandia caste at Rais Bambho Khan and Aitbar Khan villages.

The Husnanis are a sub-lineage of the Chandia tribe. That tribe played a very significant role in the history of Sindh. They were famous for their gallantry, courage and swordsmanship and popularly known as a warrior tribe in medieval Sindh. They always protected western Sindh from invaders and held very important positions in various dynasties.

There are many prominent cemeteries in Kambar-Shahdadkot which belong to the nobles of the Chandia tribe. These include the Rankun, Husnani graveyards near Gebi Dero, Rais Aitbhar Khan and Rais Bambho Khan necropolises.

Amongst all these, the tombs at Rais Bambho Khan village lie in a deplorable condition. These tombs are located about 6 km south of Miro Khan in the village of Rais Bambho Khan. There are five tombs built in the 18th and 19th centuries. Buried in these tombs are Ghazi Khan Husnani Chandio, Misree Khan Husnani Chnadio, Mir Muhammad Husnani Chandio, Lashkari Khan Husnani Chandio, Lahno Khan Husnani Chandio and Tharo Khan Husnani Chandio of whom, sprang Manani, Misrani Lashkrani and Tharani sub-clans respectively.

The tomb of Ghazi Khan is in shambles. Much of its plaster has peeled off. It faces an eastern direction and is crowned with a hemispherical dome. The tomb has been badly damaged due to the vagaries of weather and a lack of proper maintenance by the descendants. Furthermore, it is a victim of encroachment wrought by the local people that they have started to till the land near the structure.

Depiction of the tomb and tale of Suhni-Mehar- in the tomb of Tharo Khan Husnani Chandio

To the south of the tomb of Ghazi Khan is a tomb of Misree Khan who was an ancestor of the Misrani lineage of the Husnani Chandias. This tomb is also in a bad state of preservation. Close by the tomb of the Misree Khan is the tomb of Mir Muhammad alias Mano. Mir Muhammad Khan was an ancestor of the Manani clan who are living in both Rais Bambho Khan village in Miro Khan taluka and Aitbar Khan Chandio village in Shadadkot taluka. The tomb of Mir Muhammad is comparatively in a good state of preservation than that of Ghazi Khan and Misree Khan. The tomb contains four graves including that of Mir Muhammad. The other three graves are not identified since none bears an epigraph. The tomb is entirely decorated with paintings and separate panels that were created to depict folk romances and rural glimpses of everyday life.

In one of the panels, some women are depicted fetching water with jars over their heads. On another panel, some women appear to be engaged in household chores.  Among these, two women are sitting on a cot and having discussions. And nearby, two other women seem busy in cooking and brooming respectively.

In another panel two persons are shown. One person is shown hunting and the other is depicted playing a flute before buffaloes. This is a representation of Mehar, a leading character of folk romance of Suhni-Mehar. The tomb of Mir Muhammad Khan Husnani is adorned with folk romance themed paintings. The most prominent paintings include the folk romances of Sasui-Punhun, Laila-Majnun and Suhni-Mehar. In one of the panles, three different scenes are painted.

In some panels the depictions of artisan nomads particular snake charmers are found.  Some myths which were once prevalent among community were also painted in the tomb. One of the prominent myths among the community was that of the Gorpat (a wild beast) that digs the fresh graves of buried dignitaries.

Adjacent to the tomb of the Mir Muhammad Khan Husnani lies the tomb of Lashkari Khan Husnani which contains two graves. These two graves are almost leveled to ground. Next to it is the tomb of Tharo Khan the ancestor of the Tharani, a sub-lineage of the Husnani clan. The tomb also contains the grave of Lahno Khan, a chief of the Husnani clan.

Apart from the tombs at Rais Bambho Khan village, there lies other graveyard of Husnanis 3 km east of Shahdadkot town near the village of Darya Khan Mastoi. There exist two tombs belonging each to Rais Aitbar Khan Husnani and Muhammad Khan Husnani which are believed to have been built in the 19th century. The tomb of Aitbar Khan has four graves. It is a massive building on a square plan and is adorned with paintings. Next to him is the tomb of Muhammad Khan Husnani. It is a small but imposing building containing three graves. This tomb also features some fine paintings on the inside.

At a walking distance from the Husnani tombs, there lies a well-preserved and huge mausoleum of Darya Khan Mastoi who was a chief of the Mastoi tribe. The descendants of Darya Khan still live in the nearby village of the same name, and carry out repairs to this massive structure from time to time, while the tombs of the Husnanis are victims of neglect.

Like many others districts, Kamber-Shahdadkot is also host to a number of historic structures which can be promoted as tourist sites if the authorities concerned are serious in promoting cultural tourism in Sindh in general. In a time of economic crisis, it would be good to have tourism revenues flowing in.

The author is an anthropologist. He may be contacted at: 

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