Makli Necropolis is one of the largest funerary sites in the world, spread over an area of 10 kilometres near the city of Thatta, in the Pakistani province of Sindh. The site houses approximately 500,000 to 1 million tombs built over the course of a 400-year period. Makli Necropolis features several large funerary monuments belonging to royalty, various Sufi saints, and esteemed scholars. The site was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981 as an “outstanding testament” to Sindhi civilization between the 14th and 18th centuries.
The Makli site consequently contains numerous tombs of historical and cultural significance in contrasting architectural styles.
The Sufi saint, poet and scholar Shaikh Jamali established a khanqah, or Sufi gathering site, at Makli and was eventually buried there. The 14th century Samma ruler, Jam Tamachi, venerated the saint and wished to be interred near the saint, beginning the tradition of using Makli as a funerary site.
The site rose to prominence as a major funerary site during under the rule of the Samma dynasty, who had made their capital near Thatta.
The most architecturally significant tombs at the site date from around the time of the Mughal era, between 1570 and 1640 CE.
View of Nizam al-Din Tomb with polygon pavilion
Jam Nizamuddin II‘s tomb features a jharoka that displays Gujarati influences
THERE are fears that the recently conducted ‘renovation’ work carried out at the Makli necropolis may rob the historical site of its World Heritage status. A report in this paper has cited the concerns of archaeologists and conservationists that the shoddy so-called renovation carried out on a number of old graves, especially the magnificent mausoleum of Isa Khan Turkhan-II, governor of Thatta from 1627 to 1644, may lead Unesco to remove Makli — which, with its half a million graves, is considered to be one of the world’s oldest burial grounds — from its list of World Heritage Sites.
Experts believe that the work — which should have been more an exercise in expert preservation — has disfigured the fine craftsmanship of the tombs. Unfortunately, for a number of years, the necropolis has been left at the mercy of the elements and thieves who sold tomb carvings to make a quick profit.
Unesco experts have been carrying out annual inspections of the site, and for at least the past two years they have been asking the authorities to carry out conservation work as per international guidelines on some badly damaged tombs. The UN body has also repeatedly warned Pakistan that if adequate conservation work is not carried out in Makli, the graveyard might lose its heritage status.