Archaeology and monuments: Pakistan

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Some neglected structures

Lots of information and headwords

By Flotsam


Some neglected structures

The cultural heritage, so far as buildings are concerned, does not merely comprise historical monuments and royal forts and grand mausoleums but also private construction that has acquired value with the passage of time or has architectural features that distinguish it from ordinary structures. For instance, the tombs at Thatta and Chawkandi are of cultural value because of the art that has gone into them. So are the tombs of the Talpurs and the Soomros and others who ruled over Sindh before the British.

Even a seemingly ordinary graveyard acquires distinction if great men are buried there. Many of the graves in Lahore’s Miani Sahib are redolent of the history of Punjab during the last century. Actually most of Lahore’s old graveyards are like that because everyone who died in Punjab’s capital was not interred in Miani Sahib. One of them, Qabristan Ghore Shah is probably the oldest in the city for it is the last resting place of numerous famous men of Lahore who lived more than a hundred years ago. It also happens to be the most neglected.

My main topic today is encroachments, and it also has a personal element to it. Graveyards are most encroached upon places because the dead can’t protest and their living relations are too busy with the problems of life to bother. At Ghore Shah we buried our mother in 1933 in the midst of several members of her well-known Chishti family of Masjid Chinianwali. My English sister-in-law, who died of smallpox in 1936, about a year after my brother came back with her from England, was also interred there. When in 1974, I suddenly thought of visiting their graves I couldn’t locate them.

This was not because of overcrowding but because they were at the edge of the huge graveyard and the area had been appropriated by an influential resident of the locality. After looking around for half an hour, I asked the caretaker to help me. He knew the Chishti family well, and, pointing to a fancy looking building, said, “They are under that paehlwan’s house,” Later I brought a couple of senior members of the Chishti clan to see the vandalism. They could only deplore the fact, while jointly we were unable to see any solution to the impasse, for it was an impasse. We knew the graves couldn’t be restored, but we did feel contrite and embarrassed when the caretaker blamed us for not visiting our dead for nearly four decades. “This had to happen,” he said.

Apart from this personal involvement, named after a saintly faqir whose tomb occupies the place of pride there, Ghore Shah graveyard also has a unique cultural facet. Time has obliterated from my mind the legend about horses associated with the faqir, but the fact remains that everyone who comes to pray there leaves a few tiny clay horses at the tomb. There are thousands upon thousands of them any time you go there, and my daughters never tired of collecting a small horde whenever we went there together. It became a popular sight to show to other children of the family.

Even the land around protected monuments is now encroached upon. My attention has been drawn to what has been going on around the tomb of Sharfunnisa Begum in Begumpura in Lahore where scores of illegal dwellings have come up on Auqaf land over the years, hiding the monument from the eyes of the world.

Houses have been constructed on eight kanals of land that was leased out for 99 years by the Auqaf Department in 1989 to four people — Maulana Abdul Qadir Azad, former Khateeb of Badshahi Masjid, Mahfoozur Rahman, former Director of the Ulema Academy, Tariq Khan, an employee of the department, and one Gowaria (what an outlandish name) at the “princely” rate of one rupee per marla annually! They sold a large part of the land to people who built houses on it in utter disregard of the law prohibiting construction within 200 feet of a protected monument.

Graveyards are most encroached upon places because the dead can’t protest and their living relations are too busy with the problems of life to bother

The real scandal lies in the fact that while the lease was cancelled in ‘1992, the so-called lessees continue to occupy the land and even put up notices offering plots for sale. When the lease was terminated the Archaeology Department directed the Lahore Development Authority to restore the monument to its original condition and lay a garden around it. Whether steps in this direction were taken or not, is not known because the lessees were said to have gone up to the high court in appeal.

The mausoleum has always been known as Sarw wala maqbara or Cypress Tomb as it bears images of cypress trees in blue tile work. It is the last resting place of Sharfunnisa, wife of Khwaja Abdus Samad, a governor of Lahore during the reign of Mughal Emperor Farrukh Siyar (1713-1719). She was a lady of spirit and always kept a copy of the Quran and a sword by her side. Allama Iqbal is said to have mentioned her in Jawaid Namah. The tomb is in dire need of attention, having been last repaired by the British in 1881-82.

From encroachments I move on to neglect of a fine building, although I’m not sure who is responsible for the neglect, for the building is neither historical nor protected. Everyone who has ever been to Chiniot must have seen that magnificent private residence, Gulzar Mahal or Umar Hayat Palace which, for size and embellishment and intricate woodwork is simply out of this world.

Its story is tragic. Sheikh Umar Hayat went to enormous expense to build it for his son Gulzar’s marriage in 1938, but the son was found dead in the morning after the wedding and, by special permission, was buried in the house. It is no way the responsibility of the state to look after this grand structure, though M. Athar Tahir, famous as a culture loving bureaucrat, did have some urgent repairs carried out when he was the local deputy commissioner. Frankly I am not aware of the present ownership.

Quite apart from questions of ownership and responsibility, the fact remains that Gulzar Manzil is a wonderful example of Chinioti craftsmanship, and by all standards, a splendid and most imposing haveli which must be unmatched by anything similar in this part of the world. It is to purchase, take over and maintain such marvellous residences and other structures that the National Council was founded by the state in Britain and has acquired innumerable such great homes that could no longer be managed by their owners. The point of the National Trust is that such buildings constitute a part of the heritage and cannot be allowed to fall into ruins just because their owners cannot afford the repairs and upkeep.

There are countless such buildings in various parts of Pakistan. The only solution to their preservation is an organization on the lines of the British National Trust. Will the federal government ever take the initiative of setting up such a body in Pakistan? It could only be goaded to do so by elected representatives of the people, but they are too busy looking after their personal interests to be moved by the needs of culture.


16 monuments being restored

By Zulqernain Tahir


LAHORE, Jan 23: Sixteen monuments in Punjab are being restored for the first time since their construction at a cost of Rs15 million.

Three each are in Lahore and Uch Sharif — tombs of Imam Gammu, Mullah Badakhshi and Shah Ismail Gilani, and shrines of Hazrat Jamal Khundan Darwaish, Hazrat Raziuddin Gunj-i-Alam and Hazrat Safiuddin Haqani, respectively — two each in Jhelum and Wazirabad — tomb of Khairun Nisa and Enclosure Tomb, and Sher Shah Baoli and Sher Shah mosque, respectively.

Besides, there is tomb of Hazrat Yahya Nawab in Multan, tomb of Gulab Bibi in Bahawalpur, Sultenate period tomb in Thatta Gurmani, Kot Addu, shrine of Syed Qamber in Arifwala, ancient mosque in Chanji, Rahim Yar Khan and Jamia Masjid in Chakwal.

The Punjab archaeology department officials told Dawn on Monday that the restoration of the monuments in Lahore, Jhelum and Multan, Rahim Yar Khan, Bahawalpur and one (Hazrat Jamal Khundan Darwaish) in Uch Sharif had been started and would be completed this year while the remaining in next year.

The monuments have been in a state of disrepair for several years with some of them encroached upon.

Tomb of Imam Gammu: It is located at the south of the Wazir Khan mosque in Lahore. A noted learner, Gammu had composed a poem, Ganj-i-Mukhfi (hidden treasure) in Persian. He died in 1828 AD.

The interior of the tomb is embellished with glazed lime plaster with fresco lining. Its minarets and floor have completely been damaged.

Mullah Shah Badakhshi: His tomb is in Mian Mir Colony in Lahore, near the tomb of Kh Bihari. He was a disciple of saint Hazrat Mian Mir and prince Dara Shiekho. A native Afghan, Shah was a highly learned man and a poet as well. He died in

1661 AD.

The interior and exterior of the tomb which was originally kankar lime was restored with cement plaster. The archaeology department will now restore it to original form.

Hazrat Shah Ismail Gilani: He was a saint and his mausoleum was built opposite Jane Mandar in Lahore in 1683. It’s interior is decorated with fresco paintings and the exterior with glazed tiles.

UCH SHARIF: Hazrat Raziuddin Ganj-i-Alam Darya, Hazrat Jamal Khundan Darwaish and Hazrat Safiuddin Haqani saints and their tombs are located near Uch Mughlan. The buildings are nearing collapse as no repair has ever been carried since their construction in 770 AH and 13th century and 421 AH, respectively.

Hazrat Syed Yahya Nawab: The monument of the saint is located near Hazrat Musa Pak Shaheedi, inside Pak Gate, Multan. Built in 1618, the tomb’s minarets have fallen due to negligence of the authorities concerned.

Ghulab Bibi: She was the maid of Bahawal Khan Salis bil Khair, the ruler of Bahawalpur State. He built the tomb in Bahawalpur in her memory.

It is located in Malook Shah graveyard near Nur Mahal. The brick masonry of the mausoleum is badly affected by dampness. Cracks have developed in the structure and lime plaster of the dome is fast decaying.

Ancient mosque: This mosque at Mauza Chanji is considered unique in Rahim Yar Khan. It was built by Iftikhar Khan, an official of Bahawal Khan.

It has three domes with an octagonal drum. The southern and northern side domes collapsed during the last rainy season. The remaining structure is also in a shambles.

Khairun Nisa: It is located near Rohtas Fort in Jhelum. She was the daughter of Qadir Bakhsh who was food minister during the reign of Shah Suri. Cracks appeared in the structure and the surface turned black due to algae. The floor has also been badly damaged.

Enclosure tomb: It is located near the Khairun Nisa tomb in Jhelum. No epigraphic and historic record is available about its construction and the person buried there. However, it was built during the Suri period.

It has been badly affected by the rain and no conservation has been carried out since long.

Sher Shah Suri Baoli: It is one of baolis constructed by Sher Shah Suri on the G T Road. It is situated at a distance of 2km from Wazirabad. Brick masonry of the entrance chamber has been damaged by dampness and the well is full of debris.

Sher Shah Suri mosque: It was built in 1540-45 AD near the Baoli. The plaster of the dome has decayed and its exterior is covered with algae. Cracks have also appeared in the entire structure.

Sultanate period tomb: Located at Thatta, Muzaffargarh, the monument is locally called Hadhira or Andhira means graveyard.

No epigraphic and historic record is available about the construction of the tomb and occupant of the grave. It is also nearing collapse.

Qamber Shah: He was a saint of Akbar period. It is located in the western side of Chak 122 EB, commonly known as Maqbarawala, in Arifwala tehsil.

Jamia Masjid: It is located in village Kacti, Chakwal. It was constructed in AH 1141 on the orders of Ghazi Asad Khan, an official of Aurangzeb Alamgir. It is also badly affected by dampness and the entire structure is fast decaying.

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