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Post  Bolan on Wed Jun 15, 2011 8:34 am

CHAUKHANDI 800px-Chaukundi1
Chaukhandi (Urdu: چوکنڈی) tombs, are attributed to Jokhio and Baloch tribes and were build between 15th and 18th centuries. It is situated 29 km east of Karachi on N-5 National Highway near Landhi Town.The Chaukhandi tombs are remarkable for the elaborate and exquisite carving; the style of architecture is not only typical to the region of Sindh but unique in the sense that it is no where else to be found in the Islamic world.

In early 20th century Scholars were attracted by these peculiar type of Graveyards in Sindh and Baluchistan with their orientation from South to North. These graves are constructed in buff sand stone. Their carved decoration presents exquisite craftsmanship. These graves are constructed single or some time from two to eight raised on a common platform .Their primary sarcophagus having six vertical slabs as two long slabs stands on each sides of the grave and covers the body and rest of two vertical slabs covers the head and foot side. These Six slabs are covered by second sarcophagus and having six more vertical slabs on it but similar in size to make this grave as pyramid in shape .This upper (second sarcophagus) is further covered four or five horizontally slabs and the top most (third) Sarcophagus is set vertically with its northern end carved in to knob knows as crown or turban. These tombs are embellished besides geometrical hoard and motifs with figural representation such as mounted horsemen, hunting scene, arms, jewellery etc.

Modern History

The earliest passing reference about Chaukhandi tombs (aka Jokundee) in the Western world is available in a letter which J. Macleod

had addressed to H.B.E Frere in 1851. The tombs, however, were given serious attention by H.D Baskerville; Assistant Collector of Thatta in Karachi district in 1917.The tombs near Landhi was brought with the pale of the ancient monuments act 1904 in the year 1922.

A cemetery of this type was discovered at the turn of the century in Hindian by Major M.A.Tighe political agent in southern Baluchistan. While J.P.Vogel was the first to investigate this and other cemeteries including Karpasan ( Plateau South of Hindian) Gundar( a village near Dinga South of Hindian), and Mangopir ( an oasis close to Karachi) and he drew attention to the another cemetery discovered by the Captain Showers, Political agent in Kalat lying between Hub river and Somiani .In an annual report of the survey of Archaeological Survey of India in 1902-03 Vogel recognized that the tombs were Islamic as indicated by the use of Arabic script and the alignment of the monuments. According to Islamic custom, the dead are laid to rest in such way that they are aligned towards Mecca over their right shoulder. Mecca lies approximately to the west of Sind; the longitude axis of the tombs accordingly lies more or less in a south north direction, with the head always lying in the north.

In 1910 Sir Thomas Holdich described a similar cemetery near Malir and also referred some other cemeteries about the name he stated that the local tradition ascribed these to Kalmatis Baloch, and he linked this name to the town of Kalmat on the Makran Coast.

In 1917 H.D.Bakerville discovered the similar cemetery in the vicinity of the village of Chaukhandi near Karachi. In his report Baskerville raised the question of above ground burial- but he dismissed the possibility, describing a careful investigation of one of the stone chamber in cemetery he did not find any remains. Further A number of tomb inscriptions was found at the Chaukhandi cemetery, consisting of names or any Quranic Verse. Some of the Jams who were named were said to belong to the Jokhio tribe still resident in the area. One of the tombs was dated – by the date of death inscribed on it with the numbers in reverse orders-As AH 1169 (AD 1756).

In 1925, Henry Cousence devoted a chapter in his book on the antiquities of Sindh to Baluch tombs. He studied tombs on Jarak (now spelt Jerruck), Sonda and Kharkharo which were also of the same type. Referring to the G.E.L Carter he noted more than 20 such cemeteries had in the mean time been identified. He also rejected the theory of above ground burial due to the frequent occurrence of arcade like perforations in the lower Casket. The German Scholar Hastenrath described that the Cousence was the first to draw comparisons with other architectural monuments in Sindh and he referrers to similarities between the decoration of a tomb in Sonda and the tombs of Ghulam Shah Kalhora( d. 1172) in Hyderabad and of Isa Khan Turkhan the younger ( d. 1644) in the necropolis of Makli Hill. With regard to the covering of the tombs with chattries, he points to the similar tombs in the same necropolis and to the tomb of Mir Masum in Sukkur. He considers the tombs to be approximately the same date as the tombs of Ghulam Shah Kalhora- the second half of the eighteenth century. He stated that depiction of the riders, as seen on some of the tombs, are found on Sati stone in Katiawar and Kutcg as well.

Sir Auriel Satein published an information about a single tomb in 1931 with the type described near the village of Baghwana South west of Kalat, according to local tradition the tomb belongs to Mai Masura, a saintly beggar women; according to legend the stone slabs had miraculously flown through the air from Kandhar.The tomb was thought to have been in place when the local Rind tribe entered the area of fourteen generations back. Satein considered it to date from the end of the fifteenth century.

In 1934 , in a publication concerning monuments recorded in Sindh , Nani Gopal Majumdar described a funerary enclosure on Tharro hills near Gajjo, He believe that the cemetery enclosure dated from the fourteenth century and was there fore older then the monuments on Makli Hill. He has also found some addition tombs of lesser significance in the vicinity of the nearby mausoleum of Sheikh Turabi.

After the creation of Pakistan the Chaukhandi tombs however did not receive any attention from authorities unless Dr. I.H. Qureshi a renowned historian and the then Education minister (later Chancellor Karachi University), drew the attention of Department of Archeology after receiving letter from Governor of Pakistan State Bank Mr.Zahid Hussian.

Sheikh Khursheed mentioned that First his department did not even realize that the tombs were protected under the “Ancient Monuments Preservation Act” after a survey Director General of Archeology announced these as dolmen grave yard at Chaukhandi in national press. The fact,however, was contrary and soon department realized its mistake and started taking suitable measures for protection of Chaukhandi tombs.

In post independence era the first serious studies were made by Mumtaz Hassan, in his paper in 1968 in Asiatic Pakistan, He described Chaukhandi tombs, the tombs of Baluchi. After that many articles were published in the national news papers but mystery as to their origin could not be solved.

Ms. Bunting along with Dr.F.A khan , Justice Feroz Nana and S.A Naqvi started preparing rubbings of stone carving and provided some much needed publicity by some exhibition held abroad specially in USA aroused a great interest amongst the scholars in the studies of various aspects of Chaukhandi tombs.

Sheikh Khursheed Hasan in his first paper in Journal of Pakistan Historical Society in 1976 on the basis of epigraphically cum historical studies, it was observed that the Chaukhandi graveyard near Landhi was predominantly of the Jokhio tribe although some tombs of the Burfat and Sheikh tribes have also been found. Sheikh’s second article on Chaukhandi tombs was published in 1984 in East and West Rome which dealt mainly with the decorative elements of the stone carving. Some articles were also published in Sindh in the quarterly Journal of the Sindhological studies and central Asia.

In the mean time (1976) a German Scholar Salome S.Hasretnath Published a book in Germany in German Language the book is mainly dealt with the stylistic evolution of Chaukhandi tombs. Later in 2002 its English translation came into Pakistan after her death.

Italian Professor Gian Giuseppe Filippi has visited the area and examined some prominent sites of Chaukhandi graveyards. He traced the Rajput influences in Chaukhandi graveyards. In his article in Asiatica Venetiana ( 1999) mentioned that It is well know that many Munda Warrior groups have family ties with the so called rajput tribes of Rajhistan and Gujrat.Even in this case , their warlike behavior and the confused definition of Rajput cast keeps open the ‘structure’ of Hinduism. Some among these rajput tribes - the Jokhio , the numeri, the Burfat and the Lashari emigrated from the Gujarat (Kuch) and Rajputana towards the Sindh and Makran region during the Summah Dynasty. All these tribes mentioned closed relations, including matrimonial ties both within their own group as well with the baluch tribe of Kalmatis .Our hypothesis envision a tribal rajput origin in the utilization of not only the monolithic slabs and pedestals in the step and house- shaped Chaukhandi graves, but also in the naïf decoration of some tombs, which represent a house facade as a human face drawn bya child. The decoration of the tombs is mostly derived from wood sculpture, with the geometric motifs and abstract celestial astrism.With few exceptions the human figures is avoided in accordance with Islamic beliefs.

Some articles were contributed by Dr.Kaleem Lashari on the structural development of the stone carved graves . It is off course an interesting study. Later Lasher highlighted the Bewani serai grave yard Chaukhandi Tutai grave yard and called for an urgent act of conservation.

Controversy surrounding the Meaning of the word Chaukhandi

There are varying opinions to the meaning of the word Chaukhandi. Some Scholars believe that Chaukhandi is the name of the place, others explain it as an architectural term.On the site of Chaukhandi there is the tomb of Jam Murad Bin Haji which contains the word Chaukhandi along with the name of deceased.

Sheikh Khurseed Hasan therefore considered Chaukhandi to be a name of place , same when Banerji visited the Chaukhandi graveyards in 1920 he referred it as the little village Chaukhandi. Mumtaz Hasan described it as the Chaw in Sindhi language means four and Khundi means corner or pillar. Chaukhnadi thus refers to the four pillars supporting the umbrella shaped dome over the tomb and would apply to all tombs having the same construction. Sheikh claims that this argument does to find support because all the tombs covered with the umbrella shaped domes or with a rectangular Pavilion at the Chaukhandi have more than four pillars or columns .Even Mangophir canopy over similar graves has more than four pillars .

As regards the view that Chaukhandi is the name of a place. Mumtaz Hasan feels such a view derives strength from the popular imagination that the name Chaukhandi has come to be associated with particular with the tombs near Landhi. There is also a tomb at this site as mentioned above on which the word ‘Chaukhandi is engraved’. That might signify the location rather than the structural style of the monuments. It is possible while that while the word ‘ Chaukhandi ‘ originally referred to the style of construction, it has come to be associated with one particular site more than any other.

Brohi thinks that Chaukhandi is used for a domed roof, a kind of umbrella which is supported by four to eight pillars while the sides are left open. According to Kaleem Lashari the word Chaukhandi as it is inscribed on the grave of Jam Murad Bin Haji is compound with sahib so it is to be read as Sahib-e-Chaukhandi and not alone. It is similar to the Sahib-e-Jaidad (Owner of a land). It makes the meaning clear that Jam Murad is the owner of the Chaukhandi .In support of his contention he has referred to an inscription on a grave at Got Raj Malik, and therefore does not agree that Chaukhandi is the name of a place.

Salome Hastenrath explained that the original age and history of Chaukhandi tombs is still entirely unclear. The tombs are often referred as the Baluch Tombs – a name based on location tradition linking the tombs with various tribe graves, namely the burfat, kalamati, jhakhra and Jokhio. The fact that the cemeteries lie in an area in which the Baloch are either the only ethnic group or live alongside other tribes support for this description.

However the area across which the cemeteries are spread is by no means identical with that of the Baloch, but includes only a friction of it .For these reason the term Baloch does not seem very accurate .It suggests that this type of tomb is a peculiarity of Baloch and might be Explained in some way that through the common culture and history of the tribe as whole –although there is no evidence of this. It would seem to make better sense to assign to the tombs the name of the subgroup of the tribe to which they can genuinely be traced assuming that this could be identified with any precision. Similar difficulties arise when one attempts to attribute the tombs to any tribe other than the Baloch .

She also comments on Mumtaz Hasan’s theory and said it does not seem possible to establish a convincing connection between the word Chaukhandi and the tombs themselves .Admittedly the word is also used to refer to the square structures- for example the Chaukhandi stupa in Sarnath. The Chaukhandi tombs themselves are also square in contrast to the round or oval tombs that also seen in Sindh and Balochistan; but, as a characteristic, it lacks the striking quality that might justify the use of this name for them. In her book she says the term Chaukhandi tombs is used in the sense of tombs resembling those found at the cemetery in Chaukhandi.


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