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Rising Dawn at Makli

Heritage Foundation, Pakistan

Mai Makli, Shyakh Hammad Jamali and Jam Tamachi
Heritage Foundation/2014

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.

Samma Monuments at Makli Hill
Khanqah of Hammad Jamali

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.

Entrance gateway to the Khanqah
Grave of Mai Makli
Grave of Mai 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.

Archival Image circa 1980s - Khanqah of Hammad Jamali
View from inside the Khanqah of Hammad Jamali

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.

View from inside the Khanqah 
Flags are often hoisted at the Khanqah in rememberance

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.

Jamia Masjid, Makli

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.

The largest mosque at the site
The mosque has lost its vaulted ceiling 
The internal mihrab
The three remaining arches at the mosque

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).

The grave of Jam Tamachi circa. 1980
Tomb of Hammad Jamali, lost to nature save a small section of the western wall, circa 1980s
Archival image circa1980s - Tomb of Nuri Jam Tamachi
The pavilion is supported with RSJ girders planted by the Government to save the tomb from collapse
The chattri (pavilion) lies in the foreground of the magnificent tomb of Jam Nizam al-Din
Tomb of Samma Noble I, Pavilion Tomb of Dulha Darya Khan, Pavilion with Farsi Inscription & Tomb of Samma Noble II
Tomb of Malik Rajbal and Sister of Fateh Khan (R to L). Jamia Masjid in Background

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.

View at the entrance of the cluster
The Samma Monuments at Makli, Hill
Credits: Story

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

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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