Thatta: the ancient city of kings

Published October 2, 2012
Another view of the main hall of the mosque, from a window in the dome on the roof. - Photo by Sara Faruqi/Dawn.com
Another view of the main hall of the mosque, from a window in the dome on the roof. - Photo by Sara Faruqi/Dawn.com
An afternoon nap in the cool shade of the mosque hall. The Shah Jehan Mosque is architecturally very different from those built in Lahore and Delhi in the same period. - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
An afternoon nap in the cool shade of the mosque hall. The Shah Jehan Mosque is architecturally very different from those built in Lahore and Delhi in the same period. - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
The mosque is a combination of Turkish and local artwork, which is profusely used on tile work in the ceiling decoration of semi-domed and domed chambers; as well as in the fillings of interlaced arches. - Photo by Nadir Siddiqui/Dawn.com
The mosque is a combination of Turkish and local artwork, which is profusely used on tile work in the ceiling decoration of semi-domed and domed chambers; as well as in the fillings of interlaced arches. - Photo by Nadir Siddiqui/Dawn.com
A view of the Jame Masijid entrance, commonly known as Shah Jahani Mosque, which was built by Emperor of Hindustan Shah Jahan and completed in 1647. - Photo by Sara Faruqi/Dawn.com
A view of the Jame Masijid entrance, commonly known as Shah Jahani Mosque, which was built by Emperor of Hindustan Shah Jahan and completed in 1647. - Photo by Sara Faruqi/Dawn.com
A view from the opposite side. This mosque has 93 domes and 33 arches with varying sizes. A piece of local folklore suggests that the domes are charmed in such a way that whoever tries to count them always gets confused and comes up with different results. - Photo by Sara Faruqi/Dawn.com
A view from the opposite side. This mosque has 93 domes and 33 arches with varying sizes. A piece of local folklore suggests that the domes are charmed in such a way that whoever tries to count them always gets confused and comes up with different results. - Photo by Sara Faruqi/Dawn.com
A view of the mosque courtyard and prayer area. This mosque was built by Mir Abdullah on the orders of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and is a masterpiece of Mughal architecture. - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
A view of the mosque courtyard and prayer area. This mosque was built by Mir Abdullah on the orders of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and is a masterpiece of Mughal architecture. - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
The main Mihrab of the mosque in its front hall from where the prayers are led. It is said that Shah Jahan built this mosque as a gesture of gratitude to the people of Thatta for sheltering him during his youth after his father, Emperor Jahangir banished him from Delhi. [Image is a stitch of 5 photographs] - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
The main Mihrab of the mosque in its front hall from where the prayers are led. It is said that Shah Jahan built this mosque as a gesture of gratitude to the people of Thatta for sheltering him during his youth after his father, Emperor Jahangir banished him from Delhi. [Image is a stitch of 5 photographs] - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
A view of the shrine of Hazrat Abdullah Shah Ashabi at Makli. According to locals and historical references, 125,000 saints have found their last resting place in Makli. Those buried here aren?t all Sufi's or saints, but also include scholars, rulers, and ordinary people. - Photo by Sara Faruqi/Dawn.com
A view of the shrine of Hazrat Abdullah Shah Ashabi at Makli. According to locals and historical references, 125,000 saints have found their last resting place in Makli. Those buried here aren?t all Sufi's or saints, but also include scholars, rulers, and ordinary people. - Photo by Sara Faruqi/Dawn.com
The tomb was built on a base of stone blocks. The building was constructed using red baked bricks, but now - like most tombs in Makli - it lies in serious disrepair. - Photo by Sara Faruqi/Dawn.com
The tomb was built on a base of stone blocks. The building was constructed using red baked bricks, but now - like most tombs in Makli - it lies in serious disrepair. - Photo by Sara Faruqi/Dawn.com
A view of two kinds of tomb built during the Tarkhan era. One [left] is made of the familiar stone but the other is the brick tomb of Sultan Ibrahim, the son of Isa Khan I (and brother of Isa Khan II whose tomb is pictured earlier). Ibrahim died in 1550.  - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
A view of two kinds of tomb built during the Tarkhan era. One [left] is made of the familiar stone but the other is the brick tomb of Sultan Ibrahim, the son of Isa Khan I (and brother of Isa Khan II whose tomb is pictured earlier). Ibrahim died in 1550. - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
A closer view of the Sultan's tomb, through an archway in a broken outer wall. The stonework also includes Jali (grills) and was originally, decorated with blue glazed tiles. The work is believed to have been carried out by Persian craftsmen and also those from Central Asia who were influenced by the traditions passed on from ancient civilizations of Nainnavah and Babylon. - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
A closer view of the Sultan's tomb, through an archway in a broken outer wall. The stonework also includes Jali (grills) and was originally, decorated with blue glazed tiles. The work is believed to have been carried out by Persian craftsmen and also those from Central Asia who were influenced by the traditions passed on from ancient civilizations of Nainnavah and Babylon. - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
Inside the tomb, the grave is decorated with complex Quranic calligraphy. In Makli, Arabic scripts like Naskh and Nastaleeq were inscribed on stone graves in an expression of faith. - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
Inside the tomb, the grave is decorated with complex Quranic calligraphy. In Makli, Arabic scripts like Naskh and Nastaleeq were inscribed on stone graves in an expression of faith. - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
An external view of the Jam Unner tomb. The dynasty that he founded was located in Lar or Lower Sindh, and was first mentioned in 1355 by Ibn-e-Battuta, the famous traveler from North Africa. The facade of the tomb is crumbling and vandalised with scratched political graffiti.  - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
An external view of the Jam Unner tomb. The dynasty that he founded was located in Lar or Lower Sindh, and was first mentioned in 1355 by Ibn-e-Battuta, the famous traveler from North Africa. The facade of the tomb is crumbling and vandalised with scratched political graffiti. - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
A brick tomb of the Samma royal family members. Samma were the first dynasty who made Thatta their capital, and this is the tomb of Jam Unner, who was their first and founding ruler. [Image is a stitch of 4 photographs] - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
A brick tomb of the Samma royal family members. Samma were the first dynasty who made Thatta their capital, and this is the tomb of Jam Unner, who was their first and founding ruler. [Image is a stitch of 4 photographs] - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
Two different kinds of tombs of the same dynasty belonging to different rulers. The Jam Tamachi grave [left] has an umbrella type dome with yellow stone carved pillars. Tamachi was the son of Jam Unner and the second ruler of the Samma dynasty. Jam Nindo, whose tomb is on the right - was the second last. - Photo by Sara Faruqi/Dawn.com
Two different kinds of tombs of the same dynasty belonging to different rulers. The Jam Tamachi grave [left] has an umbrella type dome with yellow stone carved pillars. Tamachi was the son of Jam Unner and the second ruler of the Samma dynasty. Jam Nindo, whose tomb is on the right - was the second last. - Photo by Sara Faruqi/Dawn.com
A view of a classical triple-mehrab on the tomb's western wall. The tomb architecture has  borrowed decorative motifs from the Hindu art of temple building, especially from Jainism, but also combines these with Islamic ones like the Meharab and the carving of Quranic verses using different motifs. - Photo by Sara Faruqi/Dawn.com
A view of a classical triple-mehrab on the tomb's western wall. The tomb architecture has borrowed decorative motifs from the Hindu art of temple building, especially from Jainism, but also combines these with Islamic ones like the Meharab and the carving of Quranic verses using different motifs. - Photo by Sara Faruqi/Dawn.com
A partial view of the front ornamented wall of the tomb. Here too we see the basic design derived from Jain temple art but it is modified with the Islamic mehrab. - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
A partial view of the front ornamented wall of the tomb. Here too we see the basic design derived from Jain temple art but it is modified with the Islamic mehrab. - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
Main entrance of the Jam Nindo (or Jam Nizamuddin) tomb built in 1509. The tomb was built using yellow Jodhpuri stone imported from Indian Gujrat. - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
Main entrance of the Jam Nindo (or Jam Nizamuddin) tomb built in 1509. The tomb was built using yellow Jodhpuri stone imported from Indian Gujrat. - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
An inner view of the western and southern wall of the Jam Nindo tomb. This tomb is also unique in its conceptions and detail of decoration. Brick masonry is common in Samma tombs, but this is the first attempt by the Sammas to build buildings with square stone bricks. - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
An inner view of the western and southern wall of the Jam Nindo tomb. This tomb is also unique in its conceptions and detail of decoration. Brick masonry is common in Samma tombs, but this is the first attempt by the Sammas to build buildings with square stone bricks. - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
A detail of the decorations on the outer side of the Jam Nindo tomb. - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
A detail of the decorations on the outer side of the Jam Nindo tomb. - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
An internal view of the dome-less tomb of Jam Nindo. Archealogist Dr. Ahmed Hassan Dani says that it is the only example of Sindhi-Islamic art in the whole subcontinent. [Image is a stitch of 4 photographs] - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
An internal view of the dome-less tomb of Jam Nindo. Archealogist Dr. Ahmed Hassan Dani says that it is the only example of Sindhi-Islamic art in the whole subcontinent. [Image is a stitch of 4 photographs] - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
The tomb of Isa Khan Tarkhan II, built on a stone carved platform. Isa Khan defeated the Arghuns in 1555 who only ruled briefly before being overthrown by the Tarkhans.  - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
The tomb of Isa Khan Tarkhan II, built on a stone carved platform. Isa Khan defeated the Arghuns in 1555 who only ruled briefly before being overthrown by the Tarkhans. - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
Isa Khan II's tomb is a double story building with a carved pillared gallery. He died in 1565 after surpassing an age of 100. - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
Isa Khan II's tomb is a double story building with a carved pillared gallery. He died in 1565 after surpassing an age of 100. - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
A view of the entrance from the inner side. This is a wall of the Isa Khan Tarkhan II tomb Pavilion. The tomb was built with yellow Jodhpuri stone, and has since suffered damages. Where the old, carved stones have fallen out, they have been replaced with plain new ones. - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
A view of the entrance from the inner side. This is a wall of the Isa Khan Tarkhan II tomb Pavilion. The tomb was built with yellow Jodhpuri stone, and has since suffered damages. Where the old, carved stones have fallen out, they have been replaced with plain new ones. - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
A general view of the Jamia Masjid ruin. This is the earliest mosque built in the Makli necropolis and was built in the Samma period during the 14th century. - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
A general view of the Jamia Masjid ruin. This is the earliest mosque built in the Makli necropolis and was built in the Samma period during the 14th century. - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
A couple of bats hang upside down in a crack on the mehrab wall, where "Allah" is written using plaster. This crack has only emerged it the last few years. The mosque was built by Samma ruler Jam Tamachi after he was released from captivity by Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq, the ruler of Delhi in 1388. - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
A couple of bats hang upside down in a crack on the mehrab wall, where "Allah" is written using plaster. This crack has only emerged it the last few years. The mosque was built by Samma ruler Jam Tamachi after he was released from captivity by Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq, the ruler of Delhi in 1388. - Photo by Nadir Siddiqi/Dawn.com
A simple grave on a platform, with a sign that says ?Mai Makli jo Qabar? - or the grave of Mai Makli. The grave is situated adjacent to the southern wall of the Jamia Mosque [Next Photo]. Makli means Little Mecca or Mecca-like; some relate it with a devout and pious woman "Mai Makli". It is believed that her prayers averted Sultan Firuz Shah Tughlaq's conquest of Thatta. He could only seize it three days after her death. - Photo by Sara Faruqi/Dawn.com
A simple grave on a platform, with a sign that says ?Mai Makli jo Qabar? - or the grave of Mai Makli. The grave is situated adjacent to the southern wall of the Jamia Mosque [Next Photo]. Makli means Little Mecca or Mecca-like; some relate it with a devout and pious woman "Mai Makli". It is believed that her prayers averted Sultan Firuz Shah Tughlaq's conquest of Thatta. He could only seize it three days after her death. - Photo by Sara Faruqi/Dawn.com
An example of Arghun stone architecture on a grave that was built during the time of their rule in the first half of the sixteenth century. The Arghuns defeated the Sammas in 1520 to take over Lower Sindh for a few decades. - Photo by Mukhtar Azad/Dawn.com
An example of Arghun stone architecture on a grave that was built during the time of their rule in the first half of the sixteenth century. The Arghuns defeated the Sammas in 1520 to take over Lower Sindh for a few decades. - Photo by Mukhtar Azad/Dawn.com

Thatta is an ancient city of the Indus delta. The city is situated about 100 kilometers from Karachi, Pakistan via the national highway. It had great importance in history and today is famous for its archeological sites and centuries old monuments, which are great tourist attractions. [Click on photos to enlarge]

According to historians Thatta may have been the main port on the Indus in the time of Alexander the Great's invasion. The river Indus has changed its course many times since the days of Alexander, and this ancient site of Patala has been subject to much conjecture (the river changes course slowly due to a process called "siltation" which is essentially water pollution by fine silt particles).

Thatta was the capital of three successive dynasties, the traces of which are evident in the Makli necropolis, which spreads over a twelve square kilometer area. These dynasties are: Samma (1335-1520), Arghun  (1520-1555) and Tarkhan (1555-1665).

There are archeological sites in the city and on its outskirts. The most famous of these sites is the Makli Hill, which is the biggest necropolis in the world and about three kilometers from Thatta.

Because of its cultural and archeological importance, in the 1980s UNESCO listed the Makli necropolis as a World Heritage Site. The most preserved area of the necropolis is Makli Hill, which comprises about 35 monuments and contains four different schools of architecture and art made from stone to brick and glaze.

The monuments here also tell the story of external cultural influences in Lower Sindh, including Hindu, Central Asian and Persian cultures.

Later on, the city of Thatta was ruled by the Mughal emperors of Delhi through its governors, leaving an indelible mark on the shape of the monuments there. The most famous example of Mughal architecture is the Shah Jahan Mosque, constructed in the latter half of the seventeenth century.

Thatta played an important role in the history of Sindh and the city was constantly renovated from the 14 to 18 century. But in 1739, when the province of Sindh was taken over by Nadir Shah of Persia, Thatta entered into a period of decline. However the four centuries that comprise the golden age of Thatta have left their traces on the form of monuments in the region. - Text by Mukhtar Azad

Opinion

Editorial

16 Jan, 2022

Omicron threat

AS Pakistan grapples with the fifth coronavirus wave fuelled by the Omicron variant, the state must take timely...
Updated 16 Jan, 2022

Grim picture

There is much the govt can do to create an environment free of repression and coercion so that democracy is strengthened.
16 Jan, 2022

Larkana jail unrest

THAT Larkana Central Prison authorities had to resort to the excuse of “cleaning the jail” to shift 13 dangerous...
‘Mini-budget’ comes into force
Updated 15 Jan, 2022

‘Mini-budget’ comes into force

MANY in the PTI government must have swallowed their pride to get the two controversial bills — one withdrawing ...
15 Jan, 2022

CNG relief

THE Peshawar High Court has granted partial relief to CNG stations against a ban on their operations by the district...
15 Jan, 2022

Street crime in Karachi

WEDNESDAY once again brought home the dangers that lurk on the streets of Karachi. Armed men waylaid a car in which ...