In Sindh, many monuments are decorated with wall paintings but the tomb of Kalhora ruler Mian Noor Muhammad Shah Kalhoro stands out for its gorgeous artwork and historical significance.
In 1718AD, Mian Noor Muhammad’s father, Mian Yar Muhammad Kalhoro, established Kalhora rule over Sindh under the shadow of the Mughal Empire. The following year Mian Noor succeeded his father. The reign of Kalhoras lasted until either 1781 or 1782AD; they were succeeded by the Talpur Amirs who ruled until 1843AD. Both ruling clans were interested in architecture and painting the walls of memorial buildings.
Under Mian Noor’s reign the capital was shifted from Khudabad, in Dadu, to the newly-established village of Mahmoodabad in the Shaheed Benazirabad district. While his tomb still exists, the artwork which makes it unique has been deteriorating; painted by followers of the Sindhian school of art, it captures the hallmark style of that period.
Monuments that highlight the uniqueness of Sindhian art are in poor condition and desperately need to be restored
Influenced by both the Islamic and Indian schools of art (namely Mughal, Rajasthani or Rajput art, the Kamangari art of Kutch, and the Pahari school), Sindhian art has its roots in Mohenjodaro. It flourished in Sindh during the rule of both, the Kalhoros and the Talpurs.
Sindhian artists, it seems, were interested in geometrical and floral designs, and sketches of men, birds and animals. When illustrating fauna and flora, they followed a particular pattern of dividing walls for paintings.
While most of the walls of Mian Noor’s tomb are deteriorating, the artwork which remains highlights how Islamic and Mughal art have shaped the Sindhian school and why it’s worth preserving. The monument’s walls are covered in calligraphy, floral adornment and geometric designs. What make the work so beautiful are the intricate details: arabesques of flowers, foliage and fruit adorn the monument.
On these walls the breadth and depth of nature has been captured: leaves of acanthus, cypress trees, sunflowers, chrysanthemums, lilies, lotuses and roses catch the eye. Accompanying these floral designs are depictions of fruits such as watermelons, bananas, mangos and apples festooned in dishes. Patterns of stalactite, leaf, amulet and star motifs, tile work and inlay work are garlanded in abundance on the walls.
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine May 1st, 2016