Chaukhandi tombs

Chaukhandi tombs

The Tombs at Chaukundi, near Karachi in Pakistan.

The Chaukhandi (Urdu: چوکنڈی) tombs are situated 29 km (18 mi) east of Karachi on N-5 National Highway near Landhi Town in Pakistan. The Chaukhandi tombs are remarkable for the elaborate and exquisite stone carving.

The style of architecture is typical only to the region of Sindh, and unique in that it is found nowhere else in the Islamic world. Generally, the elements are attributed to Jokhio (also spelt Jokhiya) also known as the family graveyard of Jokhio tribe, some people of Baluch tribe also buried were built between the 15th and 18th centuries.



This type of graveyard, in Sindh and Baluchistan, is unique with their orientation from south to north. These graves are constructed in buff sandstone. Their carved decoration presents exquisite craftsmanship. These graves are constructed either as single graves or as groups of up to eight graves raised on a common platform.

Their primary sarcophagus has six vertical slabs, with two long slabs standing on each side of the grave covering the length of the body and the remaining two vertical slabs covering the head and foot side. These six slabs are covered by a second sarcophagus consisting of six more vertical slabs similar but in size giving the grave a pyramid shape. This upper (second sarcophagus) is further covered with four or five horizontal slabs and the topmost (third) sarcophagus is set vertically with its northern end carved into a knob known as a crown or a turban. These tombs are embellished, besides with geometrical designs and motifs, with figural representations such as mounted horsemen, hunting scenes, arms, jewellery etc..

Rediscovery and archeology

Detail of stone carving at Chaukundi.

19th century

The earliest passing reference about Chaukhandi tombs (a.k.a. Jokundee) in the Western world is available in a letter which J. Macleod had addressed to H. B. E. Frere in 1851[citation needed]. The tombs, however, were given serious attention by H. D. Baskerville, Assistant Collector of Thatta in Karachi district in 1917. The tombs near Landhi were brought with the pale of the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act, 1904 in the year 1922[clarification needed].

Dr. Salome Zajadacz-Hastenrath summarizes earlier research as follows:[1]

Early 20th century

A cemetery of this type was discovered at the turn of the 20th century in Hinidan by Major M. A. Tighe, Political Agent in southern Baluchistan. J. P. Vogel[2] was the first to investigate this and other cemeteries – including Karpasan (a plateau south of Hinidan), Gundar (a village near Dinga, south of Hinidan), and Manghopir(...) – and he drew attention to another cemetery discovered by Captain Showers, Political Agent in Kalat, lying between the Hub River and Sonmiani (...). Vogel recognized that the tombs were Islamic, as indicated by the use of the Arabic script and the alignment of the monuments. According to Islamic custom, the dead are laid to rest in such a way that they are aligned towards Mecca over their right shoulder. Mecca lies approximately to the west of Sindh; the longitudinal axis of the tombs accordingly lies more or less in a north-south direction, with the head always lying in the north. (...)

Jokhio, Jokhia or Jokhiya (Urdu:جوکھيو) are said to be the descendant of the Samma (tribe). Chaukhandi cemetery, consisting of names or Quranic Verse. Some of the Jams who were named were said to belong to the Jokhio tribe still resident in the area.and the 1st raitar Mr, Ali Muhammad Jokhio of Jokhio History.

In (...) 1910, Sir Thomas Holdich described a similar cemetery near Malir and also referred to several other cemeteries (...). He stated that local tradition ascribed these to the 'Kalmati' Baluchis, and he linked this name to the town of Kalmat on the Makran Coast.

In 1917, H. D. Baskerville discovered a similar cemetery in the vicinity of the village of Chaukhandi, near Karachi. (...) Baskerville's published report (...) raised the question of above-ground burial – but he dismissed this possibility, describing a careful investigation of one of the stone chambers in the cemetery, which had not contained any remains. A number of tomb inscriptions were found at the Chaukhandi cemetery, consisting of names and/or sayings from the Quran. Some of the Jams who are named were said to belong to the Jokhiya tribe still resident in the vicinity. Only one of the tombs was dated – by the date of death inscribed on it with the numbers in reverse order – as AH 1169 (AD 1756).

In 1925, Henry Cousens devoted a chapter of his book on the antiquities of Sindh to 'Baluch tombs'.[3] He studied tombs in Jarak (now spelt Jerruck), Sonda and Kharkharo, which were also of the same type. Referring to the studies by G. E. L. Carter, he noted that more than twenty such cemeteries had in the meantime been identified, and he rejected the theory regarding above-ground burial, due to the frequent occurrence of arcade-like perforations in the lower casket. (...) Cousens was the first to draw comparisons with other architectural monuments in Sindh, and he refers to similarities between the decoration of a tomb in Sonda and the tombs of Mian Ghuam Shah Kalhoro (Shah Wardi Khan) (d. 1772) in Hyderabad and The tomb of the Samma king, Jam Nizamuddin II (reigned 1461–1509), is an impressive square structure built of sandstone and decorated with floral and geometric medallions. Similar to this is the mausoleum Isa Khan Tarkhan the Younger (d. 1644) in the necropolis on Makli Hill. With regard to the covering of the tombs with chattris, he points to similar tombs in the same necropolis and to the tomb of Mir Masum in Sukkur. He considers the tombs to be of approximately the same date as the tombs of Ghulam Shah Kalhora - the second half of the 18th century. He states that depictions of riders, as seen on some of the tombs, are found on sati stones in Kathiawar and Kutch as well. (...)

Information about a single tomb of the type described, in the vicinity of the village of Baghwana, south-west of Las Bela (princely state), was published in 1931 by Sir Aurel Stein.[4] According to local tradition, the tomb was that of Mai Masura, a saintly beggar women; according to the legend, the stone slabs had miraculously flown through the air from Kandahar. The tomb was thought to have been in place when the local Rind tribe entered the area fourteen generations previously. Stein considered it to date from the end of the 15th century.

In 1934, in a publication concerning monuments recently recorded in Sindh, Nani Gopala Majumdar described a funerary enclosure on Tharro Hill near Gujjo.[5] He believed that the cemetery enclosure dated from the 14th century, and was, therefore, older than the monuments on Makli Hill; he also found some additional tombs of lesser significance in the vicinity of the nearby mausoleum of Sheikh Turabi.

mid-20th century

Detail view of 'Turban of Chaukhandi'.

After the creation of Pakistan the Chaukhandi tombs, however, did not receive any attention from authorities until Dr. I. H. Qureshi a renowned historian and the then education minister (later Chancellor of Karachi University), drew the attention of the Department of Archeology and Museums to the Chaukhandi tombs, after receiving a letter from Zahid Hussain, Governor of State Bank of Pakistan[citation needed].

Shaikh Khurshid Hasan mentioned that at first his department did not even realize that the tombs were protected under the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act, 1904. After a survey the Director General of the Department of Archeology and Museums called these a dolmen graveyard at Chaukhandi in the national press. The fact, however, was contrary and soon the department realized its mistake and started taking suitable measures for the protection of the Chaukhandi tombs.

In the post-independence era the first serious studies were made by Mumtaz Hassan; he described Chaukhandi tombs as Baluch tombs.[6] After that many articles were published in the national newspapers but the 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 carvings and provided the much needed publicity by exhibitions held abroad. Specially the exhibition in the USA aroused great interest amongst the scholars in the studies of various aspects of the Chaukhandi tombs.[7]

In his first paper based on epigraphical-cum-historical studies, Shaikh Khurshid Hasan observed that the Chaukhandi graveyard near Landhi was predominantly a graveyard of the Jokhio tribe, although some tombs of the Burfat and Sheikh tribes have also been found.[8] In another article on Chaukhandi tombs in 1984 Shaikh Khurshid Hasan mainly dealt with the decorative elements of the stone carving.[9] In the following years he also published on the gravestones[10] and inscriptions.[11] For further reading see also Shaikh Khurshid Hasan's comprehensive study.[12]

Late 20th century

In the meantime (1978) the German scholar Dr. Salome Zajadacz-Hastenrath published a book in German,[13] in which she mainly dealt with the stylistic evolution of Chaukhandi tombs. When comparing Chaukhandi tombs (namely tombs of particular types and forms thereof) among each other, a typological framework was established and consequently a relative chronology. By comparing this framework with dated structures, mainly of Makli Hill, but also of other sites, the study arrived at dates for the various stages of evolution of the Chaukhandi tombs which later developed, but which did, however, not replace preceding ones. Besides, Chaukhandi tombs strictly speaking, the study dealt also with individual topics like, for instance, with 'Form of the tombstones', 'Riders, weapons, and other depictions on men's graves', 'Jewellery depictions on women's graves', articles which all show the richness of Chaukhandi funerary art. Further, the documentary part of the book includes a list of dated stonemasonry patterns on Chaukhandi tombs.

The study is mainly based on photographs taken at a total of 50 cemeteries; the book includes a representative selection of 112 photographs. A catalogue of the cemeteries visited provides details on their locations, and the number, types and conditions of the tombs. The cemeteries listed include tombs and other structures located in areas reaching from the Hub River in the west up to the region of Tando Muhammad Khan and of Shah Kapur in the east.

As a result of her study Salome Zajadacz-Hastenrath summed up that Chaukhandi tombs developed far beyond a kind of folkloristic specialty; they evolved from traditional forms of tombs widely spread in the Lower Sindh (also on Makli Hill, but there with richer forms), Kathiawar and Gujarat to tombs having a monumental quality achieved by height with a strongly sculptural decoration. The apex of this development was reached during the first half of the 17th century of which fine examples were shown in figures 34, 35 and 36 of the study (the author called these 'Tombs with projecting surfaces'). Being unique in the whole Islamic world the author considered the Chaukhandi tombs a most original and independent contribution to Islamic sepulchral architecture and ornamental sculpture.

The notable character of the study was also outlined in the Encyclopedia of Islam.[14] When dealing with the various types of sepulchral structures on the Indian Subcontinent and when referring to the study of Salome Zajadacz-Hastenrath the author wrote that it was only in the case of the Chaukhandi tombs that anything like a systematic study has been made.

first decade of the 21st century

In 2003 (i.e. after the author's decease in 1998), an English translation of the book was published in Pakistan.[1]

Later, the Italian Professor Gian Giuseppe Filippi visited Sindh and examined some prominent sites of Chaukhandi graveyards. He traced the Rajput influences in Chaukhandi graveyards.[15] In this article he mentioned that it is well-known that many Munda warrior groups have family ties with the so-called Rajput tribes of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Even in this case, their warlike behavior and the confusing definition of the Rajput caste keeps open the ‘structure’ of Hinduism. Some among the Rajput tribes, namely the Jokhio, the Numeri, the Burfat and the Lashari emigrated from Kutch (Gujarat) and Rajputana towards the Sindh and Makran regions during the Samma Dynasty. All these tribes mentioned had close relations among each other including matrimonial ties, both within their own group as well as with the Baluch tribe of the Kalmatis. His hypothesis envisions 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 naive decoration of some tombs which rather resemble a house facade like a human face as if drawn by a child. The decoration of the tombs (mostly with geometric motifs) is derived from wood sculpture. With few exceptions human figures are avoided in accordance with Islamic beliefs.

Some articles on the structural development of stone-carved graves were contributed by Dr. Kaleem Lashari.[16][17][18] Later, Lashari highlighted the Bhawani Serai and the Tutai Chaukhandi graveyards[citation needed], and called for an urgent act of conservation[citation needed].

Meanings and translations

Official Information at the Chaukhandi site.

There are various opinions as to the meaning of the word Chaukhandi. Shaikh Khurshid Hasan writes[12]:

(...) Some scholars believed that Chaukhandi is the name of a place. Others take it to be an architectural term. On the type site of 'Chaukhandi', there is the tomb of Jam Murid bin Haji, which contains the word Chaukhandi, along with the name of the deceased. (...) [Shaikh Khurshid Hasan], therefore, considered Chaukhandi to be the name of the place. Moreso, when Banerji visited the Chaukhandi graveyard in 1920, he referred [to] it as "the little village Chaukhandi".[19] According to Mumtaz Hassan, Chaw in Sindhi language means four and Khundi corner or pillar. Chaukhandi thus refers to the four pillars supporting the umbrella shaped dome over the tomb and would apply to all tombs having the same construction.[6] However, this argument does not find support because all the tombs covered with umbrella shaped domes or with a rectangular pavillion at Chaukhandi have more than four pillars or columns. Even [at] Mangophir, [a] canopy over similar graves has more than four pillars. As regards the view that Chaukhandi is the name of a place, Mumtaz Hassan feels that such a view derives strength from the fact that in the popular imagination the name Chaukhandi has come to be associated particularly 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 monument. It is possible 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 and has become localised.[6]

[Ali Ahmad] Brohi's view is that Chaukhandi is used for a domed roof, a kind of chhattri (umbrella) which is supported by four to eight pillars, while the sides are left open.[20] According to [Kaleem] Lashari, the word Chaukhandi as it is inscribed on the grave of Jam Murid bin Haji is a compound word with Sahib. So it is to be read as such [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 Murid is the owner of the Chaukhandi or Chaukhandi is erected over his grave. 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.[16]

(...) Dr. Baluch has explained the meaning of the word Chaukhandi. Literally, it means a four walled enclosure open from above (...). In the cultural tradition of Sindh, only that four walled enclosure is called a Chaukhandi which is constructed out of respect around the grave of a revered person (...). Chaukhandi as such is not a grave or tomb in itself, but the four walled enclosure in which the revered person(s) has been buried. Referring to the burial place, it would be said (...) a Chaukhandi (...)[21]

Salome Zajadacz-Hastenrath is of the opinion that the original age and history of Chaukhandi tombs are still entirely unclear.[1] She writes

The tombs are often referred to as 'Baluch Tombs' – a name based on local traditions linking the tombs to various tribal groups, namely the Burfat, Kalamati, Jakhara and Jokhiya. The fact that the cemeteries lie in an area in which the Baluchis are either the only ethnic group or live alongside other tribes provides support for this description.

However, the area across which the cemeteries are spread is by no means identical with that of the Baluchis, but includes only a tiny fraction of it. For this reason, the term 'Baluch tombs' does not appear very accurate. It suggests the conclusion that this type of tomb is a peculiarity of the Baluchis and might be explained in some way through the common culture and history of the tribe as a 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 Baluchis.

Salome Zajadacz-Hastenrath also comments on Mumtaz Hassan’s theory and says

(...) 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 other 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 are also seen in Sindh and Baluchistan; but, as a characteristic, this 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.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Salome Zajadacz-Hastenrath, Chaukhandi Tombs, Funerary Art in Sind and Baluchistan, Karachi 2003.
  2. ^ Jean Philippe Vogel, 'Tombs at Hinidan in Las Bela', Archaeological Survey of India, Annual Report 1902-1903.
  3. ^ Henry Cousens, The Antiquities of Sind, Archaeological Survey of India 46, Imperial Series (Calcutta, 1929, rptd. Karachi, 1975), 'Baluch tombs and Graveyards'
  4. ^ Marc Aurel Stein, Archeological Tours in Gedrosia, Memoirs of the Archaeological Survey of India 43 (Calcutta, 1931), p. 180, fig. 20.
  5. ^ Nani Gopala Majumdar, Explorations in Sind: Being a Report of the Exploratory Survey carried out during the Years 1927-28, 1929-30, and 1930-31, Memoirs of the Archaeological Survey of India 48 (Dehli, 1934)
  6. ^ a b c Mumtaz Hassan, 'Chawkhandi Tombs', Artistic Pakistan 1: 2 (1968).
  7. ^ Bunting, Ethel-Jane W., Sindhi Tombs and Textiles - Persistence of Pattern, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, U.S.A., 1967.
  8. ^ Shaikh Khurshid Hasan, Origin of Chaukhandi Tombs, Journal of Pakistan Historical Society, Vol. XXIV, Part II, April 1976.
  9. ^ Shaikh Khurshid Hasan, Stone Reliefs from Chaukhandi Tombs in Pakistan, East & West ISMEO, New Services, Vol. 34 Nos., 1-3 (September, 1984) Rome.
  10. ^ Shaikh Khurshid Hasan, Grave-stones from Chaukhandi, Journal of Central Asia, Vol. XV, NO. 1, July, 1992, Centre for the study of the Civilization of General Asia, Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad.
  11. ^ Shaikh Khurshid Hasan, Persian Inscriptions from Manghopir, Sindhological Studies, Summer, 1986, Institute of Sindhology, Jamshoro.
  12. ^ a b Shaikh Khurshid Hasan, Chaukhandi Tombs in Pakistan, Royal Book Co., Karachi/Pakistan 1996.
  13. ^ Salome Zajadacz-Hastenrath, Chaukandigräber, Studien zur Grabkunst in Sind und Baluchistan, Wiesbaden/Germany 1978.
  14. ^ Encyclopedia of Islam, 2nd Edition, vol. VI (1991), p. 127a, s.v. MAQBARA, India (J. Burton-Page).
  15. ^ G. G. Filippi, Rajput influences in the Chaukhandi Graveyards, Asiatica Venetiana, 4/1999.
  16. ^ a b Kaleem Lashari, Evolution of Stone Graves in Kohistan and Coastal Areas of Sindh, Baluchistan, Journal of Pakistan Archaeologists Forum, Vol. I June, 1992, Karachi.
  17. ^ Kaleem Lashari, Study of Decorative Patterns and their evolution on stone carved graves, Journal of Pakistan Archaeologists Forum, Vol. 2, Issue I & II, Karachi 1993.
  18. ^ Kaleem Lashari, Structural Development of Stone Carved Graves in Kohistan, Archaeological Review Vol. 4, Issue I & II, 1995.
  19. ^ Progress Report of the Archaeological Survey of India, Western Circle for the year ending 31st March, 1920.
  20. ^ Ali Ahmad Brohi, History on tombstones - Sindh and Baluchistan, Sindhi Adabi Board, Jamshoro 1986.
  21. ^ N. A. Baluch, Kalmati Tombs in Sindh and Baluchistan, Pakistan Archaeology No. 26, Department of Archaeology, Govt. of Pakistan, Karachi 1991.

External links

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