There are many Sufi shrines in the district of Umarkot. Located about 6 km north of Umarkot town is one such shrine, that of Nimano Shah at Kharoro Faqir Ahmed Ali. There are three villages with the name of Kharoro which include Kharoro Syed, Kharoro Charan and Kharoro Faqir or Kharero Ahmed Ali. Kharoro Syed which is located 1 km west of Kharoro Faqir is well known for the shrine complex of Bibi Mithan. Kharoro Charan which is located 1 km north of Kharoro Faqir is noted for a number of Hindu sacred places notable amongst which are the Marhi of Ratan Gar, Thaan of Deval Mata (the Kuldevi of Detha Charans), Satiyan-Jo-Thaan (platform of Satis) and the temple of Mauji alias Rani Bhatiyani and Sawai Singh. Apart from Kharoro Charan, the Charan folk deities and Mauji are also worshipped in other villages of Tharparkar. The cult of Mauji is the most popular in Tharparkar. I have discussed all these sacred spaces of Kharoro Charan in my forthcoming book Deities of the Desert: Reflections on Religion in Thar. All these villages are located on a bank of the lost river Hakro and close to the Walhar Lake. This reflects the annuity and significance of these villages that also captured the attention of Sufi poets, Sants and Charans alike.
In Kharoro Faqir the shrine of Nimano Shah is the most popular. Like many other Sufi shrines in the Umarkot district, not much has been written about the shrine of Nimano Shah. It is not very well-known as to who he was and why he came from Delhi to Umarkot. What is preserved in the oral traditions has been written down by the local scholars.
Some scholars believe that he came from Delhi to Umarkot, where he was killed. According to Mamur Yousafani, the author of Shah waliullah Ja Sindhi Hamasar, Nimano Shah was a chief deputy of Shaheed Shah Inayat (d.1718) who sent him to preach his thought and ideology in Umarkot. But he lived before Shah Inayat and was not his disciple. It is said that his real name was Mashooque Ali who belonged to the Syed family. He was killed by the soldiers of the Jodhpur army who were known to the local community as Kokri since they wore an insignia which depicted roosters. The rooster, locally called Kukar in Sindhi, is also the vehicle/mount (Vahana) of Bahuchara Mata who was a daughter of Bapaldan Detha Charan. He was killed at Umarkot fort along with his three other friends Sadique Shah, Kamal Shah and Ismail Shah.
Nimano Shah was killed by soldiers from Jodhpur upon orders from the Mughal emperor. It is said that he was against the policies of Delhi which was then ruled by the Mughals. We are told that his house was attacked and his family was killed in Delhi but he survived the attack and fled to Umarkot in Sindh. A Mughal ruler later might have asked his cohorts in Jodhpur to kill Nimano Shah in Umarkot.
The tomb was decorated with Kashi tiles of Nasarpur
I interviewed many people about Nimano Shah. One of the interviewees Professor Dr. Mehboob Ali Rind who teaches in the Department of Chemistry at the Sindh University Jamshoro has a good piece of information on Nimano Shah. Professor Dr. Mehboob Ali Rind is himself a devotee of Nimano Shah and tells me that the mysterious figure first came to Umarkot and later stayed at a village which later became known as Faqir Ahmed Ali where he got a well dug which is now famous as ‘Karamati Khoh’ (miraculous well). According to him, it was excavated in 1010 AH/ 1601-2 AD. There was an inscription on the wall of the well which was later repaired by Faqir Muhammad Ali Rind. Professor Dr. Mehboob Ali Rind believes that Nimano Shah died in 1010 AH/1601-2 AD. He rules out his association with Shaheed Shah Inayat. He was not a disciple of Shaheed Shah Inayat. Nimano Shah was also known by his other name Masoom Shah. According to Professor Dr. Mehboob Ali Rind, whose family now takes care of the shrine of Nimano Shah, he used to speak in what is today called Urdu.
Faqir Jan Muhammad Rind was the first who started to look after the dargah of Nimano Shah. He also repaired the well of Nimano Shah. Both he and his wife Mai Sammi used to serve the pilgrims who visited the dargah of Nimano Shah. A Hindu woman named Mai Sanhji Maheshwari became the disciple of Faqir Jan Muhammad Rind. She used to visit the dargah regularly. Due to her devotion to the dargah of Nimano Shah, Faqir Jan Muhammad prayed that “Sanjhiran Ji Sanhji na thendi” – that nothing malevolent befall them and that they might be successful and prosperous. The Sanjhiras are still a prosperous community in Umarkot. Nimano Shah is the patron saint of the Sanjhira Hindus of Umarkot. Today’s Sanjhiras are the descendants of Mai Sanjhi.
After the death of Faqir Jan Muhammad, his brother-in-law Faqir Nasir Khan Rind became the caretaker of the dargah of Nimano Shah. Later, from the family of Faqir Nasir Khan, Faqir Muhammad Ali Rind built the present-day tomb – most probably in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. It was later renovated in 1970 by Lal Khatoon Rind alias Mai Jeji. The tomb was decorated with Kashi tiles of Nasarpur.
Faqir Muhammad Ali Rind also built a small tomb for himself but later he did not wish to be buried there. This tomb is located southeast of the tomb of Nimano Shah. The graves of Faqir Jan Muhammad, Mai Sammi and other Rind disciples of Nimano Shah are located in the shrine complex.
In 2002, the tomb was renovated again and the interior was repainted. Mural ceramics were also used on the southern wall of the tomb. As per the inscription in Sindhi, the interior of the tomb was painted by two painters: Salim Jani Channa and Mumtaz Gul Jakhro, who were from Nasarpur town. Two masons Rajib Unar and Allahdad Unar of Nasarpur town renovated the tomb.
On weekdays, the devotees of Nimano Shah swarm his shrine. The shrine of Nimano Shah is also frequented by patients of itching, skin disease, cough and dog bites who come to drink water from the miraculous well (karamati khoh) of Nimano Shah – which, as they believe, cures these things. Apart from the Muslims, Hindus also venerate Nimano Shah.
To the west of the tomb of Nimano Shah is the shrine of Raban Shah alias Rabu Shah: also a popular shrine in the area. Rabu Shah is the patron saint of Hindu Malhis of Umarkot. The shrine of Rabu Shah is taken care of by the Malhi Hindus of Umarkot. The small structure over the grave of Rabu Shah was first built by Muro Mal Meghwar. Later, a huge tomb was built by Jagu Mal who is the present caretaker of the shrine of Rabu Shah. It is believed that Rabu Shah died fighting in a certain battle on call of Mai Ghajni locally called ‘Ghajni Ji Danh’. She was originally from Ghazni in Afghanistan but lived somewhere near the present Nao Kot in Mithi tehsil. Ghazni was called Ghajni in Sindhi. Legend has it that the son of Mai Ghajni was killed by a certain ruler probably Thanwar Bhatti. Since she was from Ghazni, so she went to appeal to the famous Mahmud of Ghazni (d. 1030) against the murder of her son. It is said that Mahmud heard her appeal and he marched to Sindh to kill that ruler. In another version of the story, many noblemen from the court of Mahmud of Ghazni were already in the region as his administrators. These persons were the first to arrive on the call of Mai Ghajni (Ghajni ji Danh) to kill the person who killed her son. Some of them were killed in the encounter and were buried in various villages of Thar. They later came to be called the Ghajni Pirs. Whether it is a myth or reality, the narratives of ‘Ghajni ji Danh’ or the call/yell of Mai Ghajni are still preserved in the oral traditions of Tharparkar and other districts of Sindh.
To the southeast of the shrine of Nimano Shah is the shrine of Ghafoor Shah who is also said to be killed in a battle on the call of Mai Ghajni.
All these saints’ tombs are now sites of pilgrimage for both Muslims and Hindus.
The author is an anthropologist. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.