Uch Sharif: where the shrine culture began

Published June 27, 2011
A man frequenting the shrine sits in front of the entrance leading to the darbar of Jalaluddin Bukhari.
A man frequenting the shrine sits in front of the entrance leading to the darbar of Jalaluddin Bukhari.
Caretakers of the shrine sit at the door of the darbar of Jalaluddin Bhukhari.
Caretakers of the shrine sit at the door of the darbar of Jalaluddin Bhukhari.
The entrance of the darbar of Jalaludin Bukhari as seen from the inside. Intricate wood work and pillars constitute the shrine's architecture.
The entrance of the darbar of Jalaludin Bukhari as seen from the inside. Intricate wood work and pillars constitute the shrine's architecture.
The grave of Jalaluddin Bukhari rests at the extreme back while those of his extended family dot the darbar.
The grave of Jalaluddin Bukhari rests at the extreme back while those of his extended family dot the darbar.
Famous saints and mystics have used these small compartments for prayer and meditation. The room on the extreme lower right was reportedly Baba Bulleh Shah's room.
Famous saints and mystics have used these small compartments for prayer and meditation. The room on the extreme lower right was reportedly Baba Bulleh Shah's room.
There is a lot of restoration work taking place at the shrines in Uch Sharif.
There is a lot of restoration work taking place at the shrines in Uch Sharif.
A bricklayer works on constructing a new wall around the main Uch Sharif enclosure.
A bricklayer works on constructing a new wall around the main Uch Sharif enclosure.
There are little prayers tied up in those threads.
There are little prayers tied up in those threads.
Two of the three interconnected tombs of Bibi Jiwandi.
Two of the three interconnected tombs of Bibi Jiwandi.
The tomb of Bibi Jiwandi set against a mass of small, cemented graves. The area in itself is the patch of desert preserved in the area and is surrounded by lush green vegetation.
The tomb of Bibi Jiwandi set against a mass of small, cemented graves. The area in itself is the patch of desert preserved in the area and is surrounded by lush green vegetation.
A man walks towards the tomb of Bibi Jiwandi.
A man walks towards the tomb of Bibi Jiwandi.
The other side of Bibi Jiwandi's tomb. Only half of the original tomb stands today.
The other side of Bibi Jiwandi's tomb. Only half of the original tomb stands today.

They say this is where the culture of shrine worship took root. Approximately 75km from the city of Bahawalpur, Uch was founded by Alexander the Great and later came under the control of the Delhi Sultanate. Built near a place called Panjnad – where all of the Indus rivers meet – Uch used to be a centre of political and cultural activities and is home to myriad of mosques and shrines.

Some of the most popular shrines in Uch are those of Bibi Jawindi, Baha’al-Halim and Jalaluddin Bukhari – all of which are concentrated in a compound known as Uch Sharif and are listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site. The compound itself is largely covered with cemented graves and has been preserved as it was in the desert it was once a part of. As a result of some massive a network – artificial canals and man-made tributaries of rivers – the surrounded area is green with cultivation making visiting the shrines an almost surreal experience.

Most of the old shrines in Uch Sharif are in massive need of restoration and that work is currently being carried out there. One advise when visiting Uch Sharif is to remember to wear socks – you will be asked to take off your sandals once inside the compound and the floor is scorching hot. Text and photos by Madeeha Syed

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