The Monuments at Makli Hill, one of the largest necropolises in the world, beckons the golden age of Thatta, when mighty kings commanded vast empires in the Sub-continent. The story of the historic site spread over 12 kms transpires over four hundred years, colored with dynastic stories of wealthy royal families, court intrigues, myths and legends of heroes, healers and saints. The land dotted with cacti reminisces of its past glory, where some rose to fame and fortune, while some fell from grace.
The site still remains - a living monument - where rituals and rites performed are as antiquated as the stories. Flocks of pilgrims arrive at the site daily, making an offering, burying a loved one, seeking insight and advice from the long gone ancestors that call Makli their final resting place.
The account begins some 700 years ago, when Thatta was a port of embarkation for pilgrims going to Mecca by sea, but many could not get a ship for the journey. One tradition notes a travelling saint Shaykh Hammad Jamali who exclaimed “Haza Makali” “For me this is Mecca”, thus coining the name of the spiritual sanctuary known as Makli.
Another tradition speaks of legend of the famous Mai Makli (Mother Makli), a pious woman who lived along the outskirts of Thatta town and prayed for the well-being of its citizens. When the great Tughlaq Sultan of Delhi, Feroze Shah, invaded Thatta in AH Safar 769/ AD October 1367, he could not make any headway. The revered saint Makhdum Jalal al-Din Jahaniyan Jahangusht of Uchch declared before the Tughluk Imperial Army that he had been praying daily for its victory, but that there was a pious woman in Thatta whose prayers had prevented its conquest. However, since she had been dead for three days, the submission of Thatta was imminent.
But it was the Saint Shaykh Hammad Jamali and his trusted devotee, Jam Tamachi that brought Makli to its spiritual prominence. Jam Juna, the wicked uncle, secretly arranged to send Jam Tamachi as a captive to Delhi in 1372 AD. The desperate queen mother would arrive every morning to the Khanqah of the Shaykh Hammad Jamali and sweep the floors. After several days the Shaykh asked the grieving woman about her sorrow, upon which she related the story of her son’s captivity and pleaded to the saint for his release. The saint was so moved by the story that he vowed to assist the inconsolable mother.
That night a man similar to the saint appeared in front of Jam Tamachi and helped him escape with his son, providing horses swift as angels.
It is said that when Jam Tamachi arrived at the river bank along Thatta, he unfurled a flag given to him by the saint and an army of angels assembled, scaring the evil Jam Juna and his companions, forcing them to leave Thatta. Jam Tamachi was restored to the throne.
For his services, Jam Tamachi offered the Shaykh a large purse, but the saint shunned the money and asked the rightful ruler to build a mosque near his hermitage. The large mosque with its lancet arches and soaring massive walls still exists in ruin at Makli.
In a chattri pavilion near the tomb of the Shaikh and his disciples lie the remains of the romantic Jam Tamachi and his famous queen Nuri. The great poet-saint of Sindh, Shah Abdul Latif, in a long poem Sur Kamod, told the story of Tamachi’s love for a simple fisher-woman of Keenjhar Lake named Gandri (belonging to dirt), whom he made his queen and named Nuri (Light).
Many of the following Samma rulers were buried at the site and with time, the necropolis rose to its prominence.
Over 75 structures and 450 platforms and thousands of graves have been documented by the Heritage Foundation between 2010 and 2012.
Photographs — Suhail Z. Lari
Photographs — Naseem Ahmad
Photographs — Mariyam Nizam
Text — Mariyam Nizam
Stories and folk lore acknowledgement — Suhail Z. Lari
Post Production (Video) — Naseem Ahmad
Cinematography — Raja Sabri