By Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro
The Friday Times : 26 Jan 2018
Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro takes us through the mystical landscape of Tando Allahyar and the associated architectural treasures
Tomb of Pir Ali Shirazi at Makli
Sufi shrines dot almost every important town and village in the province of Sindh. Like other Sufi orders of this province, the Naqshbandi silsila also made its appearance in the fifteenth century (although very late) on the Sufi horizon of Sindh.
The early eminent Naqshbandi Sufis were Shah Murad Shah (d. 1487 AD) and his brother Mian Syed Ali Shirazi Kalan, who established their khanqahs at Makli Hill in Thatta. However, the Naqshbandi silsila began to flourish in the seventeenth century with the main centres being at Thatta and Rohri.
By the eighteenth century, the Naqshbandi Sufis spread to almost every part of Sindh. The more famous Naqshbandi Sufis of the eighteenth century were Makhdum Muhammad Zaman of Luari (d. 1774 AD), Makhdum Abdul Rahim Girhori (d. 1778 AD) and Makhdum Miyon Sabir Walhari.
Chatri of Makhdum Miyon Sabir Walhari
Makhdum Miyon Sabir Walhari lived during the reigns of Mian Yar Muhammad (1700 – 1718) and Mian Noor Muhammad Kalhoro (1719 – 1753). He was an eminent Naqshbandi Sufi of the Walhar region: now comprising the areas of Chambar, Sanjar Chang, Paksinghar, Dalo and Balga of the present-day Tando Allahyar District. Hence, he was called Walhari. He belonged to the Barand lineage of the Samma tribe of Sindh.
His father, Abdul Karim, was also a very learned person who migrated from Thatta to the present-day region of Walhar in Tando Allahyar. Makhdum Miyon Sabir Walhari acquired his early education from Miyon Amin of Dasuri, another eminent Naqshbandi Sufi of the eighteenth century.
Tombs and mosque of Miyon Maruf
After completing his studies, he established his own Naqshabandi school and khanqah at Kandyari near the present-day village of Shadiyon Walhari where his descendants are living today. Many people heard the name and fame of Makhdum Miyon Sabir Walhari and hence came to become his disciples.
Also, many people were enrolled in his newly-established school. During the early eighteenth century, the combined school and khanqah of Kandyari in Walhar comprised one of the most important Naqshbandi centres in Sindh.
Abdul Rahim Girhori, an eminent Naqshbandi Sufi, also visited Miyon Sabir Walhari’s Naqshbandi school and khanqah.
He also taught his son, Makhdum Miyon Maruf, who was later to become an eminent Naqshbandi Sufi of the region. Today, only a few monuments survive at Kandyari where Makhdum Miyon Sabir Walhari established his religious school and khanqah. Both the school and the khanqah could not withstand with the vagaries of time and weather. The remains of both can still be seen south of Makhdum Miyon Walhari’s tomb. Once prosperous and flourishing, this Naqshbandi centre is now nothing but a heap of rubble. Only a few monuments survive today. Locally, they are called Makhdum Miyon Maruf Ja Quba (the tombs of Miyon Maruf). These tombs are located about 25 km southeast of Tando Allahyar. There are two tombs and a mosque at Kandyari. The tomb of Makhdum Miyon Maruf, after whom these tombs are named, is a square-shaped building and has two arched entrances, opening to the east and to the west. There are two graves in the tomb. The east-facing grave belongs to Makhdum Miyon Maruf, the son of Makhdum Miyon Sabir Walhari who, according to the inscription, died in 1762. He was also an eminent Naqshbandi Sufi. The west-facing grave belongs to Makhdum Miyon Maqbul, who was the son of Makhdum Miyon Maruf and he died in 1800. Like his father, he was also a celebrated Naqshbandi Sufi. According to Mir Ali Sher Qani, the author of Tuhfatul Kiram, a Persian manuscript of the Kalhora Period, there were three eminent Naqshbandi Sufis in the region of Walhar: Makhdum Miyon Sabir Walhari, Makhdum Miyon Maruf Walhari and Makhdum Miyon Maqbul Walhari.
Mystical thought rapidly permeated SIndhi society after the 14th century
The tomb of Makhdum Miyon Maruf is believed to have been erected during the reign of Mian Ghulam Shah Kalhoro (1757 – 1772). The tomb is built in square plan with the interior of the tomb also being square in shape. The squinches convert the square room into an octagonal shape and house a circular dome. This dome rests on the octagonal drum and is surmounted with a finial. The west-facing, arched entrance of the tomb of Makhdum Miyon Maruf opens to the canopy of Makhdum Miyon Sabir Walhari. This is a stone canopy with a hemispherical dome that is supported by four pillars. Likewise, the corner of the canopy is decorated with four finials which were later added during the renovation of the tomb’s complex – that was done in 2011 by Makhdum Miyon Ali Muhammad Walhari, a descendent of Makhdum Miyon Maruf. According to the inscription on the grave, Makhdum Miyon Sabir Walhari died in 1722. The canopy also appears to have been erected during the Kalhora Period. Close to the eastern pillar of the canopy is a stone-carved grave of a child which depicts the names of four Righteously Guided Caliphs of Islam. One of the distinctive features of this chatri is the use of a stone railing with perforated screens similar to the one seen at the tomb of Mian Ghulam Shah Kalhoro in Hyderabad. The stone-carved grave of Makhdum Miyon Sabir Walhari was also renovated. The stone slabs were removed from the grave and replaced with marble slabs. Now, there are two stone-carved graves at Kandyari, one belonging to a child and one to Haji Shahmir Talpur. The latter’s grave is located south of the wall enclosure of Makhdum Miyon Maruf’s tomb. This stone-carved grave belonging to Haji Shahmir is erected on a raised platform. According to the inscription, Haji Shahmir, who was a devotee of Makhdum Miyon Maruf Walhari, died in 1800 A.H. (1785 AD).
North of the canopy of Makhdum Miyon Sabir Walhari is a three-domed mosque which is also believed to have been erected during the Kalhora Period. It is contemporary to the tomb of Makhdum Miyon Muhammad Maruf, the central dome of which is larger than those on its sides. At present, the shrines of Makhdum Sabir Walhari and Makhdum Miyon Maruf Walhari are greatly venerated by the people of the Sheedi, Kumbhar, Harkro, Khoso, Laghari, Otho, Mangrio, Panhwar, Thebo, Sandh, Machhi and Marri tribes who inhabit the region of Walhar in Tando Allahyar District. Today, there is no khanqah at Kandyari but the current Gaddi Nashin derives his political and religious powers from the shrines of Makhdum Miyon Sabir Walhari and Makhdum Miyon Maruf Walhari – whose religious power extends beyond the Walhar region to the Thatta, Badin, Tando Muhammad and Tharparkar districts of Sindh.
The author is an anthropologist and the head of the department of Development Studies s at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), Islamabad