Hyderabad Kalhora tombs – Spiritual poise, architectural grace

Let?s begin this piece by using the metaphor of ?learning?. Chinese philosopher Confucius once remarked, ?Study the past if you want to define the future.? Two words are important here: study and define. Both signify act of learning. Welcome to Hyderabad , the city which has a history learning about which can help us define our future.

Students are stepping out of schools and colleges in droves, causing severe traffic jams. An overhead shot of the view can make this part of the historic city of Hyderabad look like a can of worms. But this is not the case with Kalhora Colony, which is close by. There is a reason for it. In the heart of the colony, surrounded by a fortification of sorts, lies the tomb of the revered leader of Sindh, Mir Ghulam Shah Kalhora. Strangely, despite in a not so desirable condition, the tomb exudes therapeutic calm. The board outside the entrance to the gravesite does not clearly indicate the time period the man belonged to. It reads, ?Tomb of Mir Ghulam Shah Kalhora [1757 ? 1772].? This spans only 15 years. Perhaps those who have put the board mean to specify the time the Mir ruled this region.

Immediately after walking through the entrance, a second (wooden) gate, with a big arched opening, greets the visitor. Stay here for a moment. The artwork done on the walls covering the niches is an indication as to what lies ahead. The graffiti made by local youngsters have marred, in some cases erased, the original beautiful flower-patterned artwork on the inner walls, it still gives a fair idea regarding how artistically inclined the people in this part of the world at the time were. They to date are.

The entrance leads to a rahdari after which the tomb of the Mir is located on a raised platform. Before that, to the left of the rahdari, which has sparse patches of grass not properly scythed, there are a few graves following which four graves of the women (Syedon ki aurtein) of the family are located in a closed space. No man can walk into it, understandably so. Both sets of graves need attention. There is one which is well embellished and has Persian inscriptions on it. It is in an okay state. Next to it is a grave that looks crumbly and is in dire need of preservation. The women?s gravesites are nicely covered, but the enclosure in which they are kept has cracked walls and the decorative work on the windows is damaged.

Climb a comfortable flight of stairs to reach the main tomb. To the right of it, there are two relatively new graves. Rehan, the son of the man who looks after this historic place, says Comrade Haider Bux Jatoi and his wife are buried here.

Now let?s have a view of Mir Ghulam Shah Kalhora?s spacious burial place. While its size is impressive, to an extent awe-inspiring, anyone can easily tell that most of the delicate artwork, including the beautiful tiles mainly done in blue colour, has disappeared. The mehrab patterns on the outer walls are bare, with scattered pieces of the tiles, here and there, creating an unsightly effect. The dome looks dusty as if it has not been cleaned or scrubbed for years.The door to the tomb has an outer covering of another door with a net on it in order to keep the pigeons at bay. Time to enter the tomb. My word, it is one stunning picture. But sad, sad, sad? pigeon droppings on the floor and layers of dust on the walls scream for help. The grave itself, white marble with lovely floral patterns is noticeable in its making, is covered with a green chador. There is a small jhoola (cradle) placed on the right on top of the grave. ?Devotees put the Holy Quran in the jhoola and push it to make a wish,? says Rehan. Yes, a decent number of devotees visit the site, especially on Thursdays and Fridays. They bring along rotis if their wishes come true.

Meet one devotee Ayaz Husain Manganhar. The twenty-something man is a musician and a regular visitor to the tomb with his older brother. ?We are Saen?s devotees. We come here to seek his blessings. We also perform Shah Latif?s kalam,? says Ayaz Husain.

So the Mir was not only a political leader he was a spiritual figure too. This seems to be the consensus because if you move out of the tomb and go behind it, you will see near the fortification a few sets of stones (usually three pieces of almost equal size) propped up to make a niche. After dusk, people put dias in it and make a wish.This is confusing because if the late Mir has such a huge following, how come his gravesite is so poorly maintained? ?The pigeons come through the openings at the top. We can?t stop them,? laments Rehan.

The intact tiles in the inner part of the tomb are multicolored with dominant blue and shades of brown. The floral design is eye-catching. But, again, it is heart-wrenching to see that even inside a great many tiles are either damaged or do not exist anymore. There is no use grieving over it. Even in its present state, the site is a delight to behold. Only a slight touchup can restore its architectural glory. The rest it will manage itself.


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