1461 - 1508

Jam Nizam al-Din II

Heritage Foundation, Pakistan

“This place, the ornament of the world, belongs to the forgiven Sultan.”
Heritage Foundation of Pakistan, 2015

The tomb of Jam Nizam al-Din (also known as Nizam-ud-din) was built to house the last remains of the most revered ruler of the Samma period. It  is located at Makli, in the largest Muslim necropolis in the world, which has been accorded the status of a World Heritage site by UNESCO.

The Samma dynasty ruled an area now known as Sindh, in present-day Pakistan.

Sultan Nizam al-Din Shah was the son of Sultan Sadr al-Din Shah Jam Sanjar known as Jam Nindo, who ruled from 866 AH ( Islamic era)/1461 (AD) to 941/1508. His reign was not only long lasting  - spanning about half a century – but is considered to be the most glorious in the history of Sindh.

Tomb of Jam Nizam al-Din (right), Tomb of Nuri and Jam Tamachi (left), 2015

He was a wise and just ruler under whom madrasahs (schools) and mosques flourished, and people enjoyed a long period of peace and prosperity. 

It is said that he visited his stables regularly and used to talk to his horses and say, “O lucky ones, I do not wish to ride you out to a war. Muslims are ruling on all our four borders. May God never give us any cause other than in accordance with religious law, to go out to fight or for others to march on us, lest the innocent blood of Muslims, be shed, and, I am ashamed in the august presence of God” (Masum, 1592; 103).

Western Facade of the Tomb. c. 1980s

Jam Nizam's tomb is a cuboid, a square plan footprint, an enclosure with 1’6” thick walls. It is one of the most copiously decorated structures at Makli.

The carving in stone is in the form of bands on its facades, along with highly decorated balcony projection (Darshan Jharoka) and the inner Triple Mihrab (arches) are all expressive of the most amazing embellishment, referred to as devotional carving.

Tomb of Jam Nizam al-Din and his family compund, 2015
Darshan jharoka, C. 1930s
Entrance gateway (west) details of calligraphy, 2015

Jam Nizam al-Din was fond of literary pursuits and often spent time in his library. As an example of his accomplishments as a poet and devotee of religion, the following Persian verses are quoted:

O you who are called the Order of Religion (Nizam-i-Din), are you proud that you are called thus?

If you were to commit an error in enforcing religion, there is no doubt that you would be called an accursed infidel.

View of western wall with triple mihrab arrangment, 2010
Interior view, 2015

Soon after the accession, he took steps to stop the persistent inroads into Sindh of Baloch tribes from the neighbouring region, who were, as usual, marauding in northern Sindh and displacing the Sindhi peasants from their land. 

He stayed over a year in Bhakkar, and took punitive action against the Baloch tribes. He strengthened the defences of the fort of Bhakkar, filled it with provisions, and left his slave, Dilshad, in charge of the fort to guard his northern borders. 

He tried gifts and diplomacy to mend his relationships with the influential Langah of the town of Multan, who had given shelter to the Samma nobles whom he had expelled from Sindh.

View of sky from inside the tomb, C. 1980s
Mihrab details, 2015
Jharoka details, 2015

A prominent, profusely decorated darshan jharoka balcony on the west is placed on a massive carved base on the ground floor, It rises to a height of 24 feet.

Darshan Jharoka balcony, c. 1930s
Squinch detail, 2015

The complexity in the structure is heightened in view of the addition of features e.g. the Darshan Jharoka (viewing portal) and the Triple Mihrab (arch) placed on the external and internal face of the west façade respectively. 

The Samma builder was not familiar with arcuate construction i.e. the use of true arch for use in openings and squinches etc. Accordingly, the construction of the Samma structures, including that of Jam Nizam ud din, is treated in nature, i.e. the arch form is achieved by over sailing stones, placed one above the other, and carved to simulate the form of an arch.

Fretwork details along Eastern facade, 2015
Details of stone carving, 2015

The unique architectural form and treatment of its elements endows this transitional structure with some of the most remarkable attributes – presenting the advent of Islam and its associated architectural elements by local artisans skilled in executing Hindu motifs and imagery.

View from the roof
View of staircase and carved steps
Details of carving above eastern window
Details of stone carving along the darshan jharoka, 2015

The most significant element that also contributes to the complexity of the structure is the decorative features that endow the structure with its special character. 

Some of the stone pieces are carved so profusely that not an inch of space has been left unworked. The ornamentation ranges from medallions and pierced carving to wonderfully executed calligraphy and bird figures.

Beaded rosette detail, 2015
Each rosette that adorns the tomb is unique in design
Lotus Motif

It is said that once when Jam Nizam al-Din went on a hunt with his minister, Diwan Lakhdir (Lakshir, Lakhimal), the minister had with him a young slave named Qabula to whom was entrusted the care of drinking water. Jam Nizam al-Din felt thirsty during the chase, and called for water.

It is said that once when Jam Nizam al-Din went on a hunt with his minister, Diwan Lakhdir (Lakshir, Lakhimal), the minister had with him a young slave named Qabula to whom was entrusted the care of drinking water. Jam Nizam al-Din felt thirsty during the chase, and called for water.

The lad, young in years but old in wisdom, filled a cup with water and threw in it a few blades of grass before, presenting it to the king.

Upon being asked why he did that, the young slave replied: “I saw that Your Majesty was very thirsty, and I feared that you may drink too large a quantity too quickly and suffer from it. I therefore put these small blades of grass in the water, so that you may drink in moderation.” 

Jam Nizam al-Din was pleased with his answer and immediately bought him from Diwan Lakhdir, gave him the name ‘Darya Khan’, and made him his personal attendant.

His affection for the youth increased day by day, and finding him possessed of sufficient abilities to administer the affairs of the kingdom, he soon conferred upon him the title of Mubarak Khan and employed him in all difficult matters. In time he began to love him more than his children and relatives (Tahir, 1621; 55), and adopted him as his son.

Staircase inside the tomb
Tomb of Mian Mubarak Khan (Darya Khan; Qabula)
Grave of Mian Mubarak
Entrance gateway to the tomb
Internal Jharoka
Artisan signature markings
View of Samma Monuments from the roof

Jam Nizam al-Din died in 914 AH /1508. On his deathbed he entrusted to Darya Khan the care of his kingdom, of his treasures, his family and his son Jam Firuz.

Credits: Story

Curated  — Mariyam Nizam
Photographs — Jamshayd Masud 
Photographs — Suhail Z. Lari
Photographs — Mariyam Nizam
Text — http://www.heritagefoundationpak.org/Page/2010/Jam-Nizam-al-Din
Text — An Illustrated History of Sindh by Suhail Z. Lari
Post Production (Video) — Naseem Ahmad
Cinematography (Video) — 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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