First International Conference on Makli, Summery of Presentations

Introduction 

This document is a compilation of summaries of the scholarly presentations made at the First International Conference at Makli in January 2018. The summaries here have been divided into three categories: Archaeologists- Conservators, Historians and Historians of Art and Architecture.

Archaeologists- Conservators

Dr. Ruth Young

Dr. Thomas Lorain

Architect Yasmeen Lari

Architect Tania Ali Soomro

Rand Eppich

Dr. Mohammad Mehdi Tavassoli

Historians of Art and Architecture

Rabela Junejo

Fatima Qureshi

Dr. Margaret S. Graves

Munazzah Akhtar

Historians

Dr. Kaleemullah Lashari

Dr. Humera Naz

Shayan Rajani

Dr. Waleed Ziad

Dr. Ali Gibran Siddiqui

Dr. GM Lakho

Mr. Muhammad Shah Bokhari

ARCHAEOLOGISTS- CONSERVATORS

 

Dr. Ruth Young

PhD Archaeological Sciences, University of Bradford

The Role of Heritage in Communities w.r.t. Makli

Dr. Young affirmed that Makli is one of the most spectacular later historic cultural sites in the region, if not the world, and raised a number of discussion points relevant to wider debates around heritage and the promotion of cultural sites. She listed the pros and cons involved for any site holding World Heritage status. Dr. Young encouraged the audience consider the impacts of increasing tourism. She gave several examples from other heritage sites: for example, the Great Wall of China is suffering structurally due to the impact of tourists. Littering and overcrowding are a by-product of increased visitors. Unregulated tourism could risk the very things Makli is famous for.

While Makli has avoided being placed on the WH endangered list, there are clearly many issues that need to be urgently addressed. Dr. Young cited the case of Machu Pichu where guidelines have been set to control crowds: entry is regulated with specified numbers of people at specified times, and tourists are allowed in only with a tour guide.

Dr. Young urged heritage professionals and government departments to study and learn from the mistakes of other countries and sites, and carefully select the approaches that might work best at Makli, rather than attempting to work through these problems alone.

 

Dr. Thomas Lorain

PhD from Ecole Pratiqe des Hautes Etudes

The Funerary Complex of Khwaja Sabz Push (possibly a madrassah) in Bamiyan, Afghanistan: Arch Study and Archaeological Excavation of a Medieval Necropolis by the Afghan-French Archaeological Mission in Bamiyan. Capital of Ghurids.

Dr. Lorain spoke about his experience with a large survey of Islamic monumental sites in Bamiyan. He stressed the value of proper sequencing when working on a heritage site. Dr. Lorain made the point that archaeologists must be the very first party to survey a site, prior to giving it over to conservation/ restoration groups. He underlined the importance of sweeping the site for paper scraps, shards and various other material clues. He pointed out that archaeologists are trained to find key information onsite before anyone else touches it, in order to determine what the building was and control misinformation. He recommended that the Govt. of Sindh follow such procedures in correct sequence so to preserve all possible information, as they go forward in developing the heritage site at Makli.

Architect Yasmeen Lari

SI HI Fukuoka Prize Laureate

Conservation of 16th century Monuments at Makli W.H.

Yasmeen Lari’s presentation traced the work carried out by the Heritage Foundation of Pakistan (HF) over a span of 30 years on various aspects of the Makli necropolis. The work, shown with help of slides, included the the first maps of tangible and intangible heritage assets of Makli with documentation and cataloging of 75 monuments and over 3,000 graves. She showed examples of emergency assistance provided to the 15th c. tomb of Samma Noble I (with assistance from Prince Claus Fund, the Netherlands), 16th c. mosque of Auliya Peer and 17thc. stepped well (with support from Spiritual Chords of South Africa).

Dr. Lari showcased the use of innovative techniques of placing bamboo domes over the voids created due to collapse of the original domes. The new domes thus provide protection to the cenotaphs which were made vulnerable as a result of being exposed to the weather.

With support from UNESCO/Republic-of-Korean Funds-in Trust, the HF set up a Kashi Atelier for training of master and other skilled artisans to produce improved quality of tiles to compensate the loss of tiles in the tombs. The training imparted by HF has empowered the local community with an avenue for livelihood. This is especially significant because Makli is home to a large mendicant community, who beg for a living.

Architect Tania Ali Soomro

Conservation Architect/ Researcher,

Lecturer – Department of Architecture & Planning DUET

UNESCO World Heritage Site Management Apprehension”
A Discourse Concerning the Tourism Aspect of Necropolis of Makli

Tania Ali Soomro underscored that the vulnerability of the Makli site is due to deterioration as a result of natural decay, as well as hazards from the inappropriate behavior of users, mainly the tourists. She expressed confidence that this situation can be altered if tourism at Makli is managed according to the resources available on site. She drew parallels from a case study of another World Heritage Site: Petra, Jordan.  Ms. Soomro suggested the following interventions:

  • distance accessibility through comprehensive website,
  • visitor centers and museums,
  • clear communication of dos and don’ts,
  • eco friendly commuting within sties, since vibrations of motors is harmful. In Petra, for example, tour operators take tourists around the site on donkeys.
  • Food is an intangible part of experience. However, outlets should blend into environment, and not spoil the landscape.

At the same time, Ms. Soomro pointed out that it was important to cater to the type of tourists who is most likely to visit Makli. She observed that Makli draws more leisure tourists who will bring their family for the day to visit shrines and have a picnic, and fewer culture tourists who will require museums, cafes and souvenir shops. Being aware of this distinction makes the value of the mazar and the engagement of local sajjada nashin of great significance.

Rand Eppich

Cultural Heritage / Conservation Architecture

 An international perspective on recent tangible and intangible conservation efforts

Mr. Eppich visited Makli again after a gap of one year and shared with the audience the tangible improvement that he observed: brush clearing, installation of trash cans, control of traffic simply by placement of rocks. He underlined the importance of pursuing extensive documentation such as inventory of fallen tiles, photo documentation and CAD files. Other simple steps he suggested were cleaning of plinths and preventing buses from accessing the sites.

Mr. Eppich also brought to light the intangible aspects of the site. He reminded the audience that Makli is not just a heritage site but a living city traversed by thousands of people daily, and home to at least twelve active shrines. Community engagement and people enjoying the site are intangible aspects that must be kept in mind and preserved. Peoples’ natural connection to the site can be constructive. For example, local caretakers of shrines have been found making repairs on their own. Mr. Eppich argued that connecting them to the Department of Archaeology to guide their efforts would be advantageous for all. He also recommended creating a Visitor Management Plan, and short and long term training programs for the staff.

Dr. Mohammad Mehdi Tavassoli

Associate Prof., Dept. of Archaeology, Sistan & Baluchestan University, Zahedan-Iran.

The Anthropological Study of the Relationship between Iran and Sindh Based on the most Frequent Themes of Makli Graveyard

 Dr. Tavassoli’s research focused on the political, commercial and cultural ties that existed between Persia and historical Sindh (which included present-day Sindh, part of Punjab, Makran region and the western part of India). He stressed that understanding of cultural elements among the peoples of these two ancient lands, and finding their commonalities is essential. He focused on common cultural aspects through visual themes of the Makli necropolis. He gave examples of shared visual elements found in the ancient cities of Persepolis, Shahr-e-Sokhteh and Makli, and posited that certain shared visual elements such as the lotus flower represented considered auspicious in both Persia and Sindh.

HISTORIANS OF ART AND ARCHITECTURE

 

Rabela Junejo

Assistant Prof. Department of Architecture and Planning NEDEUT, Karachi

PhD Scholar – History of Architecture Program – Middle East Technical University, Ankara.

Tomb of Isa Khan Tarkhan II: Place of Converging Architectural Idiom 

Rabela Junejo challenged the existing sterile taxonomies which focus on the glories of Mughal architecture, while omitting early Indo-Islamic monuments.  At Makli, the Mughal dynasty was not part of the equation. She pointed out that the site saw building activity for a period of almost 400 years from 14th to 18th century under changing patrons. The span of building activity, and changing hands with patrons brought a variety of aesthetic ideals from both indigenous and migrant cultures. Therefore, a hybrid architectural language that was at once local and foreign was created. Rabela Junejo’s paper focused on the tomb of Isa Khan Tarkhan II and deliberated upon this question of hybridity in architecture of Makli. Her presentation pointed out specific architectural elements in the tomb of Isa Khan Tarkhan II and connected them to either indigenous or Central Asian roots. 

Fatima Qureshi

PhD candidate, Institute of Fine Arts, NYU

Encounters in Sindh: Mediating between East & West in the Sixteenth Century

Fatima Qureshi’s paper explored the artistic transmission between Central Asia and Sindh. In 1522, Shah Beg, who claimed descent from Arghun Khan (the fourth Ilkhanid emperor) invaded Sindh, where the Samma dynasty (1352–1522/23) had been ruling independently since their victory of the Delhi Sultan. Shah Beg’s victory, coinciding with the Mughal emperor Babur’s successful invasion of northern India, brought in a new aesthetic of architecture in southern Sindh. This aesthetic was seen in glazed ceramics and new ornamental motifs, where previously monumental architecture in southern Sindh had primarily been built in sandstone with carved Indic ornamentation, closely connected to the architecture of neighboring Gujarat and Rajasthan. Fatima Qureshi highlighted the brick and tile architecture around Thatta in order to analyze the effect of the arrival and entrenchment of Turkic polities in Sindh upon architectural practice and aesthetic vocabulary.

Dr. Margaret S. Graves

Assistant Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture at Indian University

Tomb Rubbings from Sindh in the Indiana University Collections

Dr. Margaret Graves’ presentation was based on a collection of about 100 rubbings or impressions of surface decorations from Sindh. These were made by Madge Minton, an American expatriate in Pakistan in the 1950s and 1960s. Minton later donated these to the University of Indiana, Bloomington, where Dr. Graves was able to bring them out of storage and research them.

Dr. Graves outlined a fascinating sketch of Madge Minton:  an art collector, pilot and herpetologist who came to Pakistan with funding from the IU Museum (today the Mathers Museum of World Cultures) and a mission to collect objects used in everyday life to explore the common needs all people share. However, monuments at Makli could not be collected, so Minton recorded their decorative scheme by creating impressions of the surface designs. This was achieved by laying silk cloth over carved stone and rubbing colored wax or pencil over it to transfer the design. This large collection of impressions on silk have remained carefully stored, and largely untouched at the Mathers Museum until Dr. Graves began her project.

Dr. Graves compared Minton’s work to that of another American scholar Ethel Jane-Bunting, who conducted a similar study of culture in Pakistan which resulted in the publication “Sindhi tombs and textiles: the persistence of pattern.”

 

HISTORIANS

Munazzah Akhtar

PhD candidate Department of Art History and Visual Studies (AHVS), University of Victoria

Trade, Alliances and Architecture: Re-assessing the Culture of Samma Dynasty of Sindh (c. 1351-1521)

Munazzah Akhtar considered the effect of maritime and inter-regional trade on the visual heritage of Thatta, with a focus on the Samma period. The Sammas were indigenous people who came to power in the 14 C, subservient to the Delhi Sultan, and made Thatta the capital of Sindh. She pointed out that since historical accounts of the Samma period are sparse, architecture and epigraphy are a significant source. A variety of influences can be discerned in the monuments due to Thatta’s trade links with Gujarat, and also Shiraz, Herat, Kabul, Samarkand in the west. Munazzah Akhtar underscored that this stylistic diversity in monuments at Makli made it challenging to categorize them as Muslim, Indic or Sindhi.

Dr. Kaleemullah Lashari

Makli: An Epigraphic Odyssey

Dr. Lashari emphasized that the importance of Makli Necropolis can only be realized once its epigraphic content is understood and appreciated.

His extensive study has shown the range and variety of content the epigraphs. In the category of sacred text there are quotations from Quran, a variety of prayers from different schools of thought, Asna Ashri prayers and sayings of Holy Prophet. Funeral statements include traditional elegies in Persian, lamentations, prayers for the welfare of the dead, and even references to books. Literary references in epigraphy help scholars trace the literary trends in the town of Thatta, and facilitate a comparison with other towns of the Mughal Empire, such as Lahore, Delhi and Kabul.

Dr. Humera Naz

Assistant Professor of History, Karachi University

Historical Monuments of Makli Hills: Some Glimpses from the Makli Nama (A source of the Kalhora Period in Sindh)

Dr. Naz, shared her research about the Makli Nama and stressed its significance as the foremost historical record of the necropolis. The author was Ali Sher Qani Thattawi who completed this work in 1760 CE. The Maklinama is written in prose embellished with poetry, and pays homage to the great souls interned in the Makli graveyard. Qani, a poet and historian gave a brief introduction of many famous Sufi saints resting at Makli, and described the architectural and historical significance of the monuments which are associated with them. Qani included not only shrines, but also monasteries, caves and temples at Makli. Dr. Naz’s work highlights the significance of using primary sources to learn more about Makli.

Shayan Rajani

PhD candidate, Tufts University

Moving in Makli: The Poetics of Walking in Eighteenth-Century Sindh


Shayan Rajani’s paper presented a careful reading of the subtleties of the Maklinama, an eighteenth-century Persian praise poem on Makli written by Mir Ali Shir Qani. Mr. Rajani considered argue that walking in the Maklinama is a mode of engagement with space. It presents a sensuous engagement of Persian-speaking male literary elite with a non-elite space of beauty and sacrality. Mr. Rajani compared the Maklinama to an older style of seventeenth-century Mughal poems written in praise of Kashmir. Qani added innovations to this style, and his mode is revealing of the transformations in the social and literary milieu of post-Mughal Thatta. He quoted from the superlative praise for Thatta in the poem, where Qani described “the sweet water of Makli that renders the ab e zam zam brackish” and “a tour of Makli is equivalent to 100 tours of Kashmir.” He observed that the Maklinama is unconcerned with politics and filled with the sights, sounds and smells that represents the joyous experience of walking through Makli.

Dr. Waleed Ziad

PhD in History, Yale University

Talk on Sindh-Transoxiana connections in the late 18th and early 19th century

Dr. Waleed Ziad presented an illuminating paper on the religious and scholarly environment of 18th and 19th century Sindh. He challenged the enduring assumption that Sindh became isolated from the religio-intellectual trends of the broader Persianate world after the Tarkhan and Mughal periods. He explored religio-scholastic linkages between Sindh and Central Asia during this period.  Dr. Ziad illustrated these linkages through two inter-connected biographies, of Makhdum Ibrahim Thattavi (d. 1810), one of Sindh’s foremost luminaries, and Bibi Sahiba Kalan (d. 1803), a celebrated female scholar-saint, who inherited the principal Naqshbandi network spanning Qandahar, Kabul, Peshawar, and Lower Sindh. For those interested in further research, Dr. Ziad brought to light that hagiographies, travel accounts, waqfnama documents are essential for insight into how Makli existed.

 

Dr. Ali Gibran Siddiqui

Assistant Professor of History, the IBA

Power Prestige and Piety, Naqshbandi Sufi Networks in Mughal India

Dr. Ali Gibran Siddiqui, presented a thought-provoking paper on the life of a 17th century Naqshbandi shaykh. Makli is home to several prominent shrines which play a central role in the religious and social lives of the inhabitants of Thatta and Lower Sindh.  One such shrine housing the seventeenth-century Shaykh Makhdum Adam Thattavi and his followers still serves its community through its library, inn, soup kitchen and even its little bird sanctuary. By tracing Makhdum Adam’s life in Thatta, Dr. Siddiqui revealed the status of Sufism in 17th century Thatta within the broader framework of social and economic history. Figures like Makhdum Adam nurtured local communities as they protected them from political and economic shocks while connecting them to larger intellectual and mercantile networks spanning Central and South Asia. Naqshbandi Sufis in Sindh connected spirituality and commerce. The tariqah would allowed into its fold the most trustworthy of merchants, and utilized their network of khaneqahs or Sufi lodges to help safe passage of goods. This protection given to merchants by the tariqah facilitated goods being carried to markets as far away as Russia.

 

Dr. GM Lakho

Retired Professor and Chairman of the Dept. of General History, University of Sindh, Jamshoro

Jami Masjid of Thatta or Shah Jehan Mosque: basic facts, certain explanations

Dr. Lakho challenged the prevalent assumption that the Shah Jehan Mosque in Thatta was commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan. He drew upon the research of Pir Husamuddin Rashdi and noted that no records from Shah Jehan’s court have mentioned the construction of this mosque, and further, no funds were recorded to have been released for this project. Furthermore, the date of construction of the mosque was during the period when a battle of succession was ongoing between Shah Jehan’s sons, therefore it was unlikely that the Emperor had any interest in a mosque in Sindh during this time.  Dr. Lahko therefore credited a local patron from Sindh for commissioning this mosque, and suggested that due to lack of credible evidence linking the mosque to Shah Jehan, it would be best to call it Jami Masjid Thatta. He also pointed to a gap in scholarship regarding the patronage of this mosque, and appealed to scholars to consider this lacuna.

Mr. Muhammad Shah Bokhari

Head of Arabic and Persian Manuscripts, Islamic Art Collection

Dept. of Archaeology & Museums

Govt. of Sindh

Makli inscriptions through stampages

Mr. Bukhari’s presentation was concerned with the field of epigraphy at Makli. He highlighted that the graves at Makli represent epigraphy in Sindh over a period of six centuries, making it the largest period covered in the historic cities in Pakistan. In terms of content he summed up that Quranic text, names of God, various sayings of the Prophet, durud sharif, kalimas, as well as Shia texts and couplets of poetry in Persian were commonly found, as well as chronograms regarding genealogy of the deceased and commemorating historic events. He told the audience that he majority of inscriptions are in Arabic, and some in Persian. He outlined the preferred technique of making impressions of inscriptions.

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