About 26 km west of Khairpur Nathan Shah town, Dadu, in the barren plains of Kachho, lies the necropolis of Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro. It dates back to the 18th century. Sprawling over a vast area, the necropolis is the second largest after Makli in terms of built structures. The necropolis contains about sixty dilapidated tombs and four derelict mosques.
Buried in the cemetery are the Mianwal Faqirs who died while chanting the popular slogan of “Allah Tohar”, meaning “absolute dependence on God” or “In God we trust”, under the leadership of Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro, an icon of the Mianwal Tariqa of mystics (also called the Mianwal Tehreek or movement).
The Mianwal movement was an offshoot of the Mahdavi movement of Syed Muhammad Jaunpuri (1443-1505). The Mahdavi movement was a revivalist one, aimed at the restoration of the purity of Islam. It was, in fact, a product of the social and political upheaval prevalent at that point in medieval India.
To Syed Mohammad Jaunpuri, God, His Prophet (PBUH) and the Holy Quran were the only guides. The faith of Islam was revealed in the Holy Book, to be followed. He tried to harmonize and reconcile the various Muslim sects. Syed Muhammad Jaunpuri traveled in various parts of North India and Sindh. In fact, he went as far as Kabul for preaching his thoughts and ideology. During his eighteen months’ stay in Nasarpur and Thatta in Sindh, many ulema enrolled themselves as his followers including Qazi Qazan, Shaikh Sadr-u-ddin, Mian Abu Bakar Jatoi, Shaikh Danyal, Pir Asat, Shaikh Jahinda, Qazi Shaikh Muhammad of Uchch Shaikh Langraj and many other scholars. Through Shaikh Langraj, Mian Adam Shah Kalhoro became the follower of Syed Muhammad Jaunpuri.
Mian Adam Shah Kalhoro was the founder of the Mianwal movement in Sindh. The movement under his leadership consolidated its position in the greater part of upper Sindh but it reached its historical pinnacle during his great grandson Mian Nasir Muhammad’s time (1657-1692).
Those who earned something through some profession had to contribute one tenth of their income (ushr) towards the common fund of the Daira (commune) which was distributed equally, along with the day’s futuh (unsolicited gifts)
Mian Noor Muhammad Kalhoro writes in book Manshur al-Wasi’yat wa Dastur al-Hakumat: “Our ancestors were the followers of Syed Muhammad Jaunpuri (1443-1505) and belonged to Suhrawardi order of Sufism.”
After his uncle Mian Shahal Muhammad fell in battle while resisting the advance of Mughal imperial troops on the Banks of the Ghar channel, in what is present-day Larkana, Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro left Fatehpur (Larkana) and settled at Garhi in the present-day tehsil of Khairpur Nathan Shah in Dadu. From there he started to disseminate the teachings of his spiritual leader Syed Muhammad Jaunpuri.
Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro made a black shawl – locally known as “Khathi” – obligatory for his Faqirs to wear. This was done to visually distinguish them from the the Sufi faqirs of other orders in Sindh. Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro also instructed his faqirs not to stay at one place. In fact, Hijrat (migration) was considered to be an essential tenet of the Mianwal movement. According to local accounts, for his own part, Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro never stayed at one place and kept traveling. Nevertheless, Garhi served as his permanent capital.
Mian Nasir Muhammad kept visiting his immense following of Faqirs. Some of these were Chhutal Faqir Khoso at Shahdadkot (near Sanjar Bhatti village), Gaji Khuhawar, Bisharat Khuhawar, Yusaf Shah Chhajro, Shah Panjo Sultan Dahot, Gaji Shah Khoso, Shah Godrio Abro, Golo Khoso, Bahleel Shah Kaloi, Jango Jamali, Mureed Jamali, Feroz Verar, Bilawal Faqir Zardari, Hyder Shah Leghari, Allah Dad Lund, Ladho Faqir Lund, Haot Faqir Rind and Meeran Faqir Solangi. Today, all of them are buried in various parts of Dadu, Larkana and Shaheed Benazirabad (formerly Nawabshah).
Mian Nasir Muhammad taught his faqirs that those who earned something through some profession had to contribute one tenth of their income (ushr) towards the common fund of the Daira (commune) which was distributed equally, along with the day’s futuh (unsolicited gifts) to the members. In fact, the Daira of Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro was generally filled with throngs of people who responded to his teaching with great zeal.
His 35 years of local rule, with his headquarters at Garhi in Kachho, saw him having to fight many battles against an expanding Mughal Empire. This warfare against an immensely powerful imperial force meant that Mian Nasir Muhammad himself suffered a great deal. But every time his faqirs resisted and fought to the best of their capacities. Their unflinching resistance and sacrifices eventually paved the way for the consolidation of Kalhora rule over Sindh.
Those who fell in various battles were buried in the necropolis of Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro. Later, Mian Yar Muhammad Kalhoro (1700-1718) erected here the tombs of his father, brothers and their disciples and generals in 1708.
Today, barring the Kalhora tombs, all others are in a crumbling state.
Nevertheless, the tombs are noted for their beautiful mural paintings. Figural representations and floral designs cover the interior of almost all the tombs. In some of the tombs, one finds the representations of the timeless folk tales of Sohni-Mehar (known to the Punjabis as Sohni-Mahinwal), Sassui-Punhun, Moomal-Rano, etc.
The tomb of Tajo Leikhi, which is bigger than other nearby tombs, is full of battle scenes. To west of the tomb of Tajo Leikhi is the tomb of Gul Beg Jatoi. This is smaller and contains some figural panels. To east of his structure lie the tombs of Yaro Faqir Sial and Bagho Faqir Chandio. The tomb of Yaro Faqir Sial also contains the grave of Fojo Faqir Soomro. Both Yaro Faqir Sial and Fojo Faqir Soomro were intrepid and gallant generals of Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro. Nearby is the tomb of Bagho Faqir Chandio, which also includes the grave of Mir Sobdar Talpur – who was also a courageous general of Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro. It is passed down to us that Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro had instructed Mir Sobdar to stay in the valley of Makhi in Khirthar. Mir Sobdar Khan was stationed there with a force of 2,000 to avert any marauding Brohi troops who frequently attacked the areas which fell under the dominion of Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro. The tomb of Mir Sobdar Talpur is in a bad state of preservation and needs urgent renovation before it all tumbles down to the ground.
Some of the tombs were, indeed, renovated. Unfortunately modern techniques of renovation were simply not adopted while the restoration work was taking place. This actually damaged the beauty of these priceless historic tombs in the name of “preservation”.
Every time his faqirs resisted the Mughal advance and fought to the best of their capacities. Their unflinching resistance and sacrifices eventually paved the way for the consolidation of Kalhora rule over Sindh
Apart from these tombs there are a number of other structures in the necropolis which are fast falling to pieces.
The authorities don’t seem bothered enough to pay attention towards the decay of these glorious monuments of the past. If the concerned authorities are sincere enough in their often expressed desire to promote tourism, this site has much potential.
The author is an anthropologist and has authored four books: ‘Symbols in Stone: The Rock Art of Sindh’, ‘Perspectives on the art and architecture of Sindh’, ‘Memorial Stones: Tharparkar’ and ‘Archaeology, Religion and Art in Sindh’. He may be contacted at: email@example.com