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Heritage: Legends on the walls

December 16, 2012


Kachho is derived from the Sindhi word ‘Kachh’ which means armpit. The deserted area close to the edge of the mountains, starting from Lake Manchhar up to Qamber Shahdadkot, Jacobabad and Dhadhar or Sibi in Balochistan is  known as Kachho. In Balochistan it is called Kachhi. The area of Kachho is also divided into two parts: Kandhi (area near mountains) and Patt (deserted area).

The deserted area of Kachho and Lake Manchhar was formed due to the flow of a large stream of the Indus River in ancient times, flowing from Kashmore-Kanddkot towards Laki Mountains. There are many prehistoric and ancient remains of civilisations from the Neolithic and Bronze Age up to the British period in Kachho and near the foothills of the mountains on the right bank of the ancient stream of the Indus River.

In the Kachho area, from ancient times to Samma and early Kalhora dynasties, graves and tombs were traditionally made with carved stones. Later the tradition of fresco, Sesco and other paintings on the outer and inner walls of the tombs and graves was introduced, in which Muhgal and Rajput art was used with great expertise. The pictures of fauna, flora, vegetables and geometrical designs, weapons, dresses and depiction of legends with beautiful colour combinations show the skill of the artists of the mentioned periods.

Among the many legends and mythological stories painted with powerful imagination on the walls of the tombs are the romantic stories of Sassui Punhoon, Suhni Mehaar.

Sassui Punhoon is a famous romantic tale of Sindh’s Soomra Dynasty (1050-1353AD). Punhoon, the son of a lord of Kech Makran meets and falls in love with Sassui from Bhanbhore, and finally marries her. When Punhoon’s father and brothers hear that he has married into scheduled caste, they become very angry. Punhoon’s brother come to Bhanbhore at night, tie Punhoon on a camel and take him away. When Sassui learns about this, she sets off for Kech Makran. On the way she meets a shepherd; tired and thirsty she asks for some water. The shepherd has evil designs on her and tells her that she has been sent to him by God as his bride. Sassui prays to God to save her. God hears her prayer; the earth cracks open and swallows her.

The story is about pure love, the injustice of Punhoon’s brothers and the the shepherd’s lust. These events have been painted on the inner walls of three tombs in different graveyards in the Kaachho area — the tomb of Mir Allahyar Khan Talpur near Drigh Baala, the tomb of Mureed Khan Jamali-II and the tomb of Dato Khan Jamali in Mureedani Jamali near Johi, Dadu. The pictures on the walls of the tomb in Mureedani’s graveyard depict Punhoon and one of his brothers on camel and the camel’s noose (mahaar) in the other brother’s hand who is on foot. Sassui is running after them, while the shepherd is sitting on a stone or hill, his goats grazing near him. The concept and perception in both the images are the same but the colour combination and the artists’ hand are different.

The legend of Suhni Mehaar is also a mythical love story, equally famous in Punjab and Sindh. Suhni was a young and beautiful married lady, whose father and husband were potters. She was in love with Mehaar. Swimming with the help of ‘dilo’ (a baked earthen pitcher) she used to cross the river daily to meet Mehaar at night. One day her mother-in-law changed or replaced Suhni’s pakko dilo with a kacho dilo. Unawares, as she put her dilo in the river, it crumbled into pieces and she sank. When Mehaar saw this he jumped into the river, and their souls met. In Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai’s poetry, Suhni is a symbol of revolt and mutiny of women for their rights and liberty. Shah’s advocacy proved Suhni as innocent and righteous in choosing love over her life partner; Suhni is not a sinner (kaari) but a heroine (soormi) in Sindhi literature.

This legend is portrayed on the inner walls of two tombs in two different graveyards in different manners and canvases — the tomb of Mureedani’s graveyard, and the tomb of Haji Khan Laghari in the graveyard of Qalandarani Laghari — near Johi, Dadu District. In the image, the river is flowing, the fishes are swimming; Suhni has put her dilo into the river and a crocodile is trying to swallow her. On the other bank of the river Mehaar is grazing buffaloes, while Khuwaja Khizir, the saint of water is sitting, on the bank of the river with a rosary (tasbeeh) in his hand. In the picture in Mureedani’s graveyard, Khuwaja Khizir is not present. It seems more ancient than the image at the tomb of Haji Khan Laghari in Qalandarani’s graveyard.

The fresco type of painting is used in these images. These tombs are also the best type of architecture of Kalhora, Talpur Amirs and British periods. The paintings on the walls are a glorious heritage of Sindh. This heritage is in ruins due to natural disasters and needs to be preserved in the original and actual shapes.