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A visual record of Makli

May 09, 2018


A VISITOR appreciates one of the stunning vistas on display.—Fahim Siddiqi/White Star
A VISITOR appreciates one of the stunning vistas on display.—Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

KARACHI: Even if you have viewed the grandeur of Makli in person, Mohatta Palace Museum’s latest visual exhibition, ‘Makli: Symphonies in Stone’, needs to be visited. The different tombs and mausolea in Makli, one of the six World Heritage Sites in Pakistan located in Thatta, are beautifully displayed.

The exhibition, which was previewed on Tuesday, has been put together jointly with the Endowment Fund Trust for Preservation of the Heritage of Sindh. Technology has been used extensively to capture aerial views of the necropolis. Photographs by Abdul Hamid Akhund and Aziz Soomro capture the intricate delicate carvings and decoration Makli is known for across the world.

Director of the Mohatta Palace Museum Nasreen Askari, who curated the visual exhibition, said: “Makli is in a perilous state and an intrinsic part of Thatta. It is one of the largest necropolises in the world with Wadi us Salaam in Najaf, Iraq. In terms of area it covers about six square miles. Although the funerary sites have not been tabulated, there are countless numbers of them beautifully constructed and decorated.”

Makli’s architecture bears testimony to decorative styles and ornamentation in both brick and stone that are largely indigenous but have drawn inspiration from the wider region, especially Iran, Central Asia and Gujarat, she explained.

Ms Askari also spoke about how the exhibition was very difficult to mount “because it is a funerary site and we could not have transported the gravestones. We have transported one with the help of the department of culture, which is a huge privilege.”

Courtesy the directorate general of antiquities, department of culture, government of Sindh, the cenotaph at the tomb of Sultan Sulaiman, son of Isa Khan Tarkhan I, was also proudly displayed at the exhibition. The headstone with a niche (chiraghdan), probably a lamp holder, had a fluted crown at the head.

Photos of tombstones and graves with geometric patterns and interlacing Arabic inscriptions, sculptural representations of horsemen with swords and spears, bows, arrows and daggers, soldiers, weaponry, ornaments and jewellery, all found in carvings at the funerary site, were part of the exhibit.

In particular the tomb of Jam Nizamuddin, the Samma ruler, garnered much attention. Photos detailing the motifs and ornamentation from the site were present at the exhibit.

The aim of the exhibition is to “create awareness and allow people to appreciate the extraordinary construction and decoration of the funerary monuments and how stone masons hundreds of years ago without technology constructed these monuments which have stood the test of time.”

Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2018