makli graveyard sindh

1 of the Largest Burial Sites of the World – Makli Graveyard Sindh in Thatta Pakistan

The Makli graveyard sindh is one of the largest burial sites in the world, covering an area of 10 kilometers near the city of Thatta in Pakistan’s Sindh province. The site contains approximately 500,000 to 1 million tombs built over a period of 400 years. makli graveyard sindh

Makli Necropolis contains several large funerary monuments belonging to the royal family, various Sufi saints and distinguished scholars. The site was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1981 as an “exceptional testimony” to the Sindhi civilization between the 14th and 18th centuries.

Makli Graveyard Thatta Sindh Location

The Makli Necropolis is located in the town of Makli, located on a plateau approximately 6 kilometers from the city of Thatta, the capital of lower Sindh until the 17th century. It lies approximately 98 km east of Karachi, near the head of the Indus River Delta in southeastern Sindh. The southernmost point of the site is approximately 5 miles north of the ruins of the medieval Kallankot fort. makli graveyard sindh


The site and the nearby hills are said to derive their name from a legend in which a Hajj pilgrim stopped at the site and burst into a spiritual ecstasy, declaring the site Mecca. Sufi saint Sheikh Hamad Jamali is then told to name the place “Makli”, or “little Mecca”, after hearing the pilgrim’s story.

History of Makli Graveyard Sindh

The Sufi saint, poet and scholar Shaikh Jamali established a khanqah, or Sufi gathering place, in Makli and was eventually buried there. The Sammy ruler in the 14th century, Jam Tamachi, worshiped the saint and wished to be buried near the saint, thus beginning the tradition of using Makli as a burial site.

The site rose to prominence as a major burial site during the reign of the Samma dynasty, which made its capital near Thatta.

The most architecturally significant tombs at the site date from around the Mughal era, between 1570 and 1640 AD. makli graveyard sindh

Layout & Plan of Makli Graveyard Thatta

The Makli Graveyard Sindh covers 10 square kilometers and contains at least 500,000 tombs. It stretches from Pir Patho at the southern end of the Makli Hills, northwards in a roughly diamond shape. Its eastern edge forms the Makli Hills ridge. The largest monuments are generally located on the southern edge of the site, although the tombs of Samma are located in the north.

Architectural development of Makli Graveyard

The funerary architecture of the largest monuments synthesizes Muslim, Hindu, Persian, Mughal, and Gujarati influences in a Lower Sindh style that became known as the Chaukhandi style, named after the Chaukhandi tombs near Karachi. The Chaukhandi style incorporated sandstone slabs that were carefully carved by stonemasons into intricate and elaborate designs.

The oldest tombs depicted three to six stone slabs stacked on top of each other in the shape of a small pyramid. The evolving funerary architecture then incorporated small plinths. makli graveyard sindh

From the 15th century, ornate rosettes and circular patterns began to be incorporated into tombs. More complex designs and Arabic calligraphy with biographical information about the buried body then appeared. Larger monuments dating from later periods included corridors and some designs inspired by cosmology. makli graveyard sindh

The 16th-century pyramid structures use minarets topped with floral motifs in a style unique to tombs dating from the Turkish Trakhan dynasty. The 17th-century structures in the Leilo Sheikh cemetery section contain large tombs that resemble Jain temples from a distance, with significant influence from the nearby Gujarat region.

Several of the larger tombs contain carvings of animals, warriors, and weapons—a practice unusual for Muslim funerary monuments. Later tombs at the site are sometimes entirely of brick, with only a sandstone slab.

The largest structures in the most archetypal Chaukhandi style have domed yellow sandstone canopies that have been plastered in white with wooden doors, in a style that reflects Central Asian and Persian influences. The size of the dome indicated the prominence of the buried individual, with the undersides decorated with carved floral patterns. On the underside of some canopies are lotus flowers, a symbol commonly associated with Hinduism.

Some tombs featured extensive blue tiles typical of Sindh. The use of funerary pavilions eventually spread beyond lower Sindh and influenced funerary architecture in neighboring Gujarat. makli graveyard sindh

Royal Mausoleum in Makli Graveyard Sindh

The imposing royal mausoleums are divided into two main clusters: those of the Samma period form their own cluster, while those of the Tarkhan, Arghun and Mughals are grouped together. makli graveyard sindh

Samma cluster in Makli Graveyard

The tombs dating from the Samma dynasty are grouped in a 5-acre section at the northern end of the necropolis. The Samma were Rajput princes who seized control of Thatta in 1335. The Sammy tombs are heavily influenced by Gujarati styles and contain Muslim and Hindu decorative elements.

Completed in 1510, the tomb of King Jam Nizamuddin II is an imposing square structure measuring 11.4 meters on each side. It was built of sandstone and decorated with floral and geometric medallions. The cuboid shape of the tomb may have been inspired by the Ka’aba in Mecca. 

Its dome was never built, leaving the interior exposed to the elements. The memorial features a large and intricately carved Gujarati-style jharoka, or balcony, and a small pinnacle atop it, giving the tomb a temple-like appearance. The exterior features 14 bands of decorative motifs that include both Quranic verses and Hindu symbols, although in keeping with Islamic tradition, all decoration takes the form of geometric patterns, with the sole exception of a frieze depicting local ducks. makli graveyard sindh

The tomb of Jam Nizamuddin’s adopted son, Darya Khan, commemorates the fort of Rajasthan and was built after his death in 1521. Darya Khan was born a slave but rose to prominence as a general after defeating the Arghun army in battle. He was given the title “Hero of Sindh” and eventually became Madrul Muham, or Prime Minister.

Arghun, Trakhan and Mughal groupings

The tomb of Isa Khan Tarkhan I, who ruled from 1554 to 1565, represents a departure from Sammas funerary architecture. The tomb has a distinctly new style of cenotaphs and is rectangular in shape with the inner walls completely covered with Quranic verses. The tomb also has space reserved for the graves of 5 of his royal ladies.

The Mausoleum of Isa Khan Hussain II Tarkhan († 1651) is a two-story stone building with domes and balconies. The tomb is said to have been built during Isa’s lifetime. Upon completion, legend has it that Isa ordered the craftsmen to cut off their hands so that they would not be able to build another monument equal to his own. makli graveyard sindh

The tomb of Jan Beg Tarkhan († 1600) is an octagonal brick structure, the dome of which is covered with blue and turquoise glazed tiles. Pavilion or canopy tombs (chattri maqbara or umbrella tomb) are another typical Indo-Islamic architectural feature, as are enclosed tombs.

The Mughal period is represented by the many tombs on the southern side of the necropolis, including the Mausoleum of Mirza Jani and Mirza Ghazi Baig, the Mausoleum of Nawab Shurfa Khan, the enclosure of Mirza Baqi Baig Uzbek and Mirza Jan Baba, as well as the impressive restored tomb of Nawab Isa Khan Tarkhan the Younger.

Protection & Conservation of Makli Graveyard

The Makli graveyard Sindh was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. The structural integrity of the site has been affected by silting, encroachment, poor site management, vandalism and solid waste. The 2010 floods in Pakistan made the situation worse.

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