Interior Sindh is better known for its fertile Indus basin and sand dunes on the eastern border with India. But there is a range of hills which in a way segregate both regions. These limestone formations can be found in Rohri and Khairpur districts, though these are inhabited scarcely , there are frequent tourists visiting a few famous landmarks, which include shrines, temples and the famous Kot Diji fort located in Khairpur.
These hills were not as barren always, you'll find traces of old river channels most notably few kilometers east of Rohri, where the city of Aror once stood with its pomp and glory. It was the seat of power when Muhammad Bin Qasim conquered Sindh.
However it was destroyed by a powerful earthquake in 962 AD and it is believed that the same earthquake changed the course of Indus, shifting the fortunes of the area once and for all.
The surviving structures were lost one by one and only few arches of a mosque, believed to be built on the orders of Muhammad bin Qasim, stand as testimony of the bygone era.
Having said that, there are places which one should not miss in the abandoned city of Aror. The first and foremost being the temple of Kalkaan Devi in a natural cave.
Kalkaan Devi Mandir, is one of the holiest shrines for Hindus in Pakistan. According to the legend Kalkaan Devi appeared here during her Hinglaj yatra.
This can be accessed via Rohri bypass. From “Muhammad bin Qasim Public School” in Aror, you need to turn left and drive for two or three kms before you find the road ending at the temple. Even on a working day you will find families visiting the temple.
Many rooms have been built around the original temple in the cave, some for praying and others for accommodating visitors who flock in thousands at the time of Hindu festivals.
From one of the room is the entrance to the cave which is hardly five to six feet high. The floor is tiled but you need to watch your head. There are two tunnels which according to the caretaker connect the cave with the temple in Hinglaj. We looked inside into the hole which could barely fit a person.
The smell and the smoke of agarbatis (incense), created a mystic aura around the area. The priest was sitting on a stone platform and there it was; the idol of the fierce Kalkaan Devi with a dagger in one hand and a chopped head in the other.
Past the priest you can see a second tunnel. Move ahead and you will enter the Samdhi. We sat there with the priest for a cup of tea which was way too sweet for town bred people.
At a few minute’s drive from the temple, there are the remnants of the mosque built on a mound. It was constructed on the orders of Muhammad Bin Qasim as sign of his authority after defeating Raja Dahir’s son.
Sadly only few arches have survived but to our surprise, there were few praying mats and a speaker installed at the top, indicating that the mosque is very much active.
Drive a little further from the mosque and you will reach the link road connecting a lot of small villages to Rohri and Khairpur in either direction. Take a left from here driving towards Khairpur.
The road also serves as a boundary between the fertile vegetated land and the barren rocky landscape on the other side.
Drive on this road and a little later you will see a stand alone rock on your left. It is not short of a natural wonder. It looks like a showpiece and appears too good to be the result of seismic wave.
Chattan Shah ji Takri in Aror ignites imagination. People need legends to support its existence. A ten foot long grave lies at its base which is believed to belong to a companion of Hazrat Ali, incidentally named Ali as well.
According to the legend he won a furious battle against Kalkaan Devi here and rock was cut into parts by the strokes of his sword.
Climbing the rock is not an easy task. A small staircase takes you to the first level but then you have to crouch to climb further. After a while you can stand on your feet but the climb becomes steeper and you have to jump over the parts where rock is cut into the parts mysteriously.
There is a small structure built on the top which probably serves as a mosque. The view from the top is breathtaking, looking into the emptiness of Aror on one hand and verdant green fields fueled by the panacean water of Indus on the other side. The place could be a great camping site but the fear remains on unstable security situation in the area and people prefer to go back before the sunset. This area has seen a lot of conflict in past and it continues into the present.
We sat there in silence, hearing the stories whispered by the faint wind into the vastness of Aror landscape. It was quiet and all we could hear was the tinkling bells of herd going back to their farms in distance. We could see the dim flickering light of the lamps which were lit as soon as the sun set in the west. I remembered a friend telling me that one only finds loneliness in cities and not the solitude. No wonder a lot of saints picked up various spots in this landscape as their eternal abodes.