History & Culture

The ancient Makli shines again

It is our fortune that six Pakistani sites are registered on the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organisation’s World Heritage List.

The Mohenjo-Daro, Makli necropolis in Thatta, Remnants of Taxila, Lahore Fort and Shalimar Gardens, Rohtas Fort in Jhelum and Buddhist ruins of Takht-e-Bahi in Mardan.

A World Heritage site Makli had countless prominence in antiquity because of larger-than-life elaborations, intricate designs, stunning structural sites and centuries old monuments, which are a treat for heritage lovers.

Makli Monument was transferred from the federal government to the Province of Sindh in 2010 but no funds approved to the province for the protection, conservation and preservation of Makli by federal government. In 2005 World Heritage Centre showed serious concerns about its condition.

Federal government failed to do any work for the preservation and conservation of Makli site since long time. This is despite the fact that stringent warnings had been issued to the then custodians Federal Archaeology Department for its protection and conservation but of no avail.

Spread over nine square kilometres area, the necropolis houses half a million tombs of the rulers and their families, as well as military commanders and other protuberant personalities of the era. The tombs and graves showcase the architecture of various dynasties of the 14th to 18th century.

Sindh Culture Minister Syed Sardar Ali Shah has played a very dynamic role to recuperate the status of Makli as the reactive monitoring mission of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had warned to keep the necropolis on the list of the world’s endangered heritage sites. In July 2016, a 10-day UNESCO convention was held in Istanbul, Turkey. After hearing Pakistani delegates’ arguments over the protection, preservation and maintenance of the necropolis and had given a year time for preservation and maintenance and later extended it for another year.

In 41st meeting of World Heritage Committee of UNESCO, held in the Polish city of Krakow in 2017, Sindh Culture Minister Syed Sardar Ali Shah brilliantly defended the case and got success to fully restore the status of the Makli necropolis as a world heritage site.

In January 2019, a two-member reactive mission of the UNESCO, has also expressed its satisfaction over the working of digital cracks monitors and weather stations installed at the necropolis.

Director General of Antiquities & Archaeology Department Sindh, Manzoor Ahmed Kanasro, told Daily Times that the conservation, preservation and restoration work of 35 Tombs and unknown individual graves has been completed by the Department of Antiquities Sindh with the cooperation of Heritage Foundation and a civil society organization.

According to Kanasro, Jam Nindo Tomb, Mirza baqi baig, Issa khan, Dewane Shurfa Khan, Meran Bai banai, Lali Tomb, Bara Dari, Canopy of Jam Tamachi’s tomb, Ghairat Khan, Firdous, Juman Jatti, Qaus Sultani, Dolah Driya Khan, Ali Muhammad, Madarsa and more than one dozen unknown monument are also being restored and preserved.

After studying these monuments, a comprehensive list has been compiled, after a valued investigation of historical, social and religious findings of the site and included the defining character and decorative elements, i.e. decorative elements, glazed tile, and architectural constructions such as domes in it.

Construction of boundary wall has nearly completed. “New burials within the vicinity of the necropolis have been banned and a place for the local burials has been allocated,” he further said. This extensive site has been taken up by a new team, managed by a full-time site manager and part-time staff under the supervision of the Department of Antiquities of Sindh. The site manager and his family resides on-site and while an electric generator has also been installed on site for the guest house complex which permits 24-hour access to internet. Preservation and Conservationists work is being done by Heritage Foundation Pakistan and Auqaf Department Sindh at Tomb of Muneer Maghfouri and Shrine of Abdullah Shah Ashabi respectively.

During their frequent visits to the site over the past two years, experts used to exchange views and offer comments while speaking to the local media men. They highly acknowledged the provincial government, predominantly the Antiquities & Archaeology Department, which played a proactive role in promoting the heritage sites locally, nationally and internationally over the period.

Achar Khaskhali, a writer and heritage lover, believed that ethical guidelines need to be strictly followed by those taking up conservation projects for any cultural heritage site. “Conservation work should be based on evidence not conjecture. Intervention should be minimal. Methods employed should be reversible and include painstaking documentation and recording before, during and after conservation,” he explained.

According to Khaskhali, heritage lovers of the area have been in constant touch with the Antiquities & Archaeology Department and the relevant authorities have done utmost to bring back Makli necropolis in the list of world heritage site. They took robust action to satisfy UNESCO and properly preserving, restoring and taking care of the site.

Source – Daily Times