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Early Muslim Architecture in Pakistan


The earliest records and material remains of building activities of the Muslims in India date from the Arab conquests of Sind. However, commercial intercourse between India and the Arab world had existed long before the advent of Islam. The Indian ports of Dcbal Saymur, Baroch and Thana were often visited by Arab ships, and the Arabs are reported to have established colonies in Ceylon, Malabar and the Karomandal coast of India as early as the mid-7th century. The most important centre of these Arab settlements was Gujrat. Arab travellers who visited the western coast of India in the 4th century mention the existence of mosques in almost every town of the Malabar coast and note that the Muslim communities had complete freedom in the exercise of their religionl. The permanent conquest of Makran in Sind was accomplished during the reign of Mu`awiyah ibn Abi Sufyan by Sinan ibn Salamah al Hidhli, who, not only conquered Makran but also made arrangements for its control and administrationz. Makran henceforth became an Arab province and a colony, as well as an army outpost.

Following an act of piracy in which a ship carrying some Arab women from Ceylon was attacked near Debal, Hajjaj ibn al-Thaqafi, the viceroy of the eastern provinces under Caliph ?Ibn al-Malik, organised a series of expeditions to Sind. The first two of these ended in failure. The third, under the leadership of Mohammad ibn-Qasim, reached the region of Debalg in 711 and proceeded to conquer the whole of Sind. In the process he captured at least fourteen forts or fortified towns. As a rule the Buddhist populations and monks were treated with sympathy, and their places of worship were spared. Mosques are recorded as having being built in at least three of the conquered towns. At Multan, where the temple was robbed of its great treasures, the idol of Job (Ayyub) was not molested. After the annexation of Sind as a province,Mohammad ibn~ Qasim was followed by a succession of Ummayad and Abbasid Governors. By about 872-873 the Abbasids lost political con- trol of Sind, and the Arab chiefs divided the country into several independent principalitics. Two of thc most important of these were the Emirates of al-Mansurah and Multan. The

former, extending from Aror to the sea and comprising the present day province of Sind and the former states of Lasbela and Makran in Baluchistan, was ruled by the Habbari dynasty. The Emirate of Muitan extended from Aror to the confines of Kashmir, and was held by another Qurayshite family? The new cities which grew up in Sind under the Arabs included Nirun, Alor, Mansura and Mahfuza. Bhambore The ancient site of Bhambore lies on the north bank of the Gharo Creek about forty miles east of Karachi. The site has long been known by archaeologists, and many of them hold it to be the site of the ancient fort city of Debal which fell to the Arab general Mohammad ibn-Qasim in 71]. Major excavations started in 1958 revealed remains from three distinct periods ? Scytho-Parthian, Hindu-Buddhist and Isla- mic ? dating from the 1st century to the 13th centurys. Full- scale excavations have revealed a weI1?fortified citadel town measuring 2,000 by 1,000 feet.

Whether or not Bhambore was the port of Debal first con- quered by Mohammad ibn~Qasim remains to be decided. The Muslim occupation of the site has, however, been dated to the earliest periods of Muslim rule in Sind. The excavations suggest that during the Muslim period the city was well planned. The residential sectors were divided into blocks separated by well- oriented streets and lanes; the houses of the town?s elite were built of semi-dressed stone blocks and occasionally of square- shaped baked bricks, with lime?plastered walls and floors. The houses of the poorer people were made of mud??brick on stone foundations, and the walls were coated with fine mud?plaster. Remains of large, thin brick-tiles and wooden beams have also been found?.

THE FORTIFICATION WALL The most impressive building re? mains from the Islamic period at Bhambore is the fortification wall which runs round the citadel mound. It was originally erected during the reign of the Ummayad Caliphs, with large and heavy blocks of semi-dressed and undressed limestone set in mud mortar. The huge wall was strengthened with semi- circular bastions at regular intervals. This defensive wail was repaired during the Abbasid period (9th?10th century) and re- built on a reduced scale during the Sultanate period.

CITY GATES The excavations have so far brought to light three gateways to the citadel. The eastern gateway, connecting the Citadel with the ancient lake, has a broad flight of steps and appears to have been used mainly for the supply of water. The north-eastern gateway with its well-preserved, finely designed steps, opens to the lake and seems to have served the grand semi?circuiar mansion which lies immediately inside the citadel. The most impressive of the three gateways lies on the south of the citadel and opens on the creek. This gate, eight feet wide and flanked by two large, solidly built semi?circular bastions, appears to have been the principal entrance to the city. Behind it lies an entrance hall of extraordinary solid and massive char- acter. The gate is connected with the city by a wide street. In front of this gate and half~submerged, is a broad stone terrace which may have been an anchorage for small cargo boats. To the north of the citadel is what appears to have been an industrial area with evidence of indigo, glass and metallurgical factories. Material from the Muslim occupation levels of the site ? Kufic inscriptions carved on dressed stone slabs, coins and pottery ?? indicate a very cosmopolitan society which appears

to have had particularly strong connections with the neighbour- ing Muslim countries to the west. THE GRAND MDSOUE The most significant discovery at Bhara- bore is the uncovering of the Grand Mosque at the centre of the citadel. Two of the dated inscriptions unearthed make it the earliest known mosque in the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent. One of them is dated 109 A,H. (727), not much later than the fall of Debal to the Arabs in the 7118. The structure, built roughly on a square plan, measures 120 by 122 feet. Its outer wall measuring 3 to 4 feet in width, was built of finely-dressed limestone blocks. An open courtyard with a floor of flat brick measuring 75 by 58 feet was surrounded by covered cloisters and corridors on three sides, while on the fourth lay the prayer chamber. The roof of the prayer chamber was supported on 33 pillars arranged in three rows. A number of stone bases, some of which were carved, have been found intact. The presence of finely~carved wood suggests that the roof of the mosque was supported on wooden columns. No mehrab is traceable in the western wall as this feature was not introduced until a later period. The plan of the mosque strongly resembles those of the Iami? mosques of Kufa and Wasit (670 and 702 respectively)9. Aomnrsraarrva uorromo An impressive building of con- siderable size on the northern side of the Grand Mosque, with

its gateway and entrance hall facing the northern gate of the mosque, is thought to have been the attached mrtkmb or some important administrative building. It has a number of long and broad corridors and rows of rooms on both sides. The structure has deep stone foundations and a thick, mud-brick super? structure. Another mud-brick house on the western side of the mosque was probably the attached semi or innm. OTHER BUiLD1Ntis A semi-circular building of palatial propor- tions was uncovered in the north-eastern sector of the city. Plastered floors, massive stone walls, a fine stepped entrance and a large circular well with attached drain all add to its grandeur, Other special features of this building are the gate- way that connects it with the lake and the soak-pits on the outsidell. A large house in the northern sector, provided with soak-pits in its backyard is a rare example of a burnt?brick structurelz. Carved stone blocks from Hindu buildings, apparently reused in the mosque, have also been recovered from this area. Indeed carved stones of the pre-Islamic period were extensively reused in the Islamic building levelsm. Mansura Al-Mansura, the Arab capital of Sind was situated on the western bank of the river Indus, some eight miles from the modern town of Shahdadpur. Al-Mansura_ is spoken of as at great commercial city with extensive trade, The city was well built and populous amd had many fields, gardens and recreation

centres. The buildings were made of clay, wood and bricks but the chief congregational mosque was built of stone, bricks and marblem. Excavations on the site have revealed a fortified city defended by a burnt-brick wall which was provided with bastions at regular intervalsm. The residential buildings appear to have been large and spacious, built of burnt bricks, using arched openings, lime-plaster finishes on the floors and walls, and sophisticated sanitation arrangements with ventilated soak-pits and drainsm. Multan Arab travellers and geographers who visited these areas in the 9th and 10th centuriesm report that Multan was well populated and the people lcd a prosperous life under Arab administration. The vast territory of the Emiratc and its capital consisted of more than a hundred and twenty thousand villages, as well as larger towns such as Barat, Durwin, Barud and Qannauj. Its boundaries met with the kingdom of Mansura in the south, with whom it was comparable in size, commerce and civic amenities. The marketplace of Multan was spacious and populous. The temple was located in the centre of the marketplace, around which were the arcades of shops dealing in artifacts made of ivory and bronze. The ]ami? mosque was situated in the neigh? bourhood of the temple.

So great was the impact of Arab culture in Sind and Multan that the local population, consisting mainly of Hindus and Buddh- ists, spoke Arabic along with their mother tongue. The people of Sind wore the same dress as that worn in Iraq and the adjoining Muslim countries. The Arab rulers and their associ- ates, on the other hand, imitated some of the local traits. They not only spoke the local languages, but also adopted local dresses and other facets of social life'8. SULTANATE PERIOD By the l{}th century the Khariji and Ismaili movements began to gain influence in both Mansura and Multan. By the close ofthe century the lsmaili rfn?wr.?r succeeded in capturing political pow- er in Multanw, Towards the end of the l0th century, the north- western part ofthe subcontinent was under the Hindu Shahis whose capital was at Waihund (modern Hund in Mardan dis- trict) and whose rule extended to Kabul in the west and river Bias in the east. A number ol aggressive actsm by the rulers of Multan and Waihind against the rising power of the Ghaznavid Sultans provoked the first series of punitive campaigns by Mahmud Ghazni in India (l0O4?ll`}{}8). On two occasions the Hindu Shahis had mobilised a eonfederaey of the major Rajput princes of northern and central India against the Ghaznavids. The encounters with this formidable and persistent challenge pro-

voked a second series of military campaigns (1009-1027) de- signed to break the power of the Rajput confederacym, In the process of these campaigns, Mahrnud annexed the Pun- jab to his dorninions, built a fort, Mahmudpur, near Lahore wherc he housed his governors, and built a mint. ln l{}3? he installed his slave, Malik Ayaz as ruler of Lahore, Ayaz is credited with rebuilding the fort at Lahore and rehabiliting the city, a task which he completed by 104022. The Ghaznavids have been described as the political and cultu- ral heirs ofthe Samanid dynasty which ruled over Central Iran and Afghanistan in the second hall of the 10th century. lt was at the court of Ghazni that Firdausi completed the Shah?Nan1a, the same court that saw the flourishing of a cluster of celebrated personalities such as the great scientists al-Biruni. Ghaznavid art, as yet not well known, may be considered the sister ofthe great Persian art that was to take hold in the Seljuq periodm. Mosque The exceptionally large mosque associated with Mah- rnud?s palace at Lashkari Bazaar is one of the oldest known mosques in Afghanistanm. Its dome, in front of the mehrcrb in a mosque with a broad hall, is an innovation in the Iranian context, The burnt-brick dome over the throne room in the palace of Masud III, one of the successors of Mahmud (l.O99? 1ll5), at Ghazni itself, appears to have been the first example within the {ranian?Islamic framework ofthe use of this device of ceremonial Sassanian architecture in a royal palace. A Kufic inscription in marble at the same palace at Ghazni is o11e ofthe oldest examples, and one of the ITLOSI revealing, of the epig- raphic usc of Persian and is a document of great cultural value, The bas-reliefs of "l1unting scenes of the Sassanian type, anim- als, dancing girls, and bodyguards in Central Asian costumes, contributed a completely new chapter to the history of Muslim Art"25. Yet another contribution to Islamic architecture made by Ghazni appears to have been a new type of minaret: tall and slender, with its cylindrical shaft on a usually polygon base, which appears to have emerged in northwest iran at the close of the 1{lth and the beginning of the llth ccnturyz? If Ghazni was the most important Muslim cultural centre east of Baghdad, the Ghaznavids themselves established its most bril- liant outpost in india at Lahore. Lahore, which until this time had been only a fort. became by the end ofthe llth century and the beginning ofthe l2th a great and famous city, referred to with great attachment by many a poet". The last three Ghazna- vid kings made Lahore their centre and resided here. Lahore became a centre of learning and accomplishment. A number of Muslim families came from other countries in search of liveli- hood, government employment or religious preaching. Local citizens also began to be converted to Islam in large numbers, and a Muslim society took shape. Today, the early Muslim architecture of India is represented only by a number of surviving buildings at Multan and Uchch,

 particularly the tombs of Sufi saints from 12th to the 14th centuries. Although no complete buildings from the pre- Sultanate or early Islamic period have survived, the literary and fragmentary evidence suggests that Muslim architecture in the north-western region ofthe subcontinent: Sind, Multart, Punjab and the North West Frontier, roughly corresponding to the present area of Pakistan, had developed as an extension of the Turko-Persian cultures to the west. The north-south band of the Indus Valley forms a not too constant dividing line between the Indian and Persian worlds. All along the mountainous western frontier of Pakistan, the people speak some form of corrupt Persian dialect. When the Turkish tribes from South Russia swept across Persia and Ana- tolia, Pakistan was absorbed into the newly formed Turko- Persian cultural network. Because the emergence of this new cultural unit coincided with the adoption of Islam by its people, the earliest Muslim buildings in Pakistan, Iran and Turkey, are a product of a common architectural tradition, Practically every element of these early Muslim buildings in Pakistan identities them with the contemporary architectural traditions of Persia and Afghanistan. This is as true of the functional types as it is of every other`detail of plan, elevation, massing, materials of construction and decoration. The predominant type of building that survives from this period is the mausoleum, with those at Multan being the most repre- scntative. But numerous other buildings at Uchch, Sukkur, Hyderabad and Thatta, even as late as the 19th century, can

only be ascribed t0 Persian influence rather than to any Indian tradition. Usually square or octagonal in plan, with occasionally polygonal or round corner towers, they are often roofed by a large central dome. Although the use of brick was not new to this region, the manner of its employment in these buildings is certainly not indigenous. Besides, the pointed arches, the geometric patterns in relief in brickwork, the floral, geometric and calligraphic motifs of the surface decoration in glazed tiles or carved stone are all clearly an extension of contemporary Persian practice. The similarities of the climate and materials of Pakistan and its western neighbours as well as their ethnological and frequent political associations, gives the dry steppe and desert region of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan a common cultural identity. But Pakistan occupies a peripheral position in regard to the main centres of Turko-Persian culture. The interests of the Ghazi Turkish warlords were necessarily orientated towards the events in Baghdad and Damascus. Equally important in their ambition and those of the Turkish and Persian bourgeoisie, however, was the enrichment of their own cities. Thus, while Bukhara, Samarkarid, lsfahan and I-Ierat became the focus of local ambitions, concern for the welfare of the universal Islamic state forced their gaze further westward. Viewed in this light, the early Muslim architecture of Pakistan pales before the brilliance of its Russian, Afghan and Persian counterparts. But its real significance becomes apparent when

seen in the context of the architecture of the Indian subconti- nent. For it is in the monuments at Multan and Uchch that we find one of the two main sources of Indian architecture associ- ated with the Sultanate period. Tomb of Khaliq or Khalid Walid The recently identified tomb of Khaliq or Khalid Walid in Kabirwala Tehsil near Multan may be the earliest known Mus- lim funerary memorial in the subcontinentza. As the only sur- viving Ghaznavid structure in Pakistan it provides invaluable material for study. The tomb consists of a rectangular fortified brick structure measuring about 70 feet by 90 feet, with inward-sloping round- ed buttresses at each corner and similar buttresses in the middle of three outer walls. On the fourth, the west wall, the round buttress is replaced by a rectangular projection marking the mehrab within. The south and east walls are punctuated by three generous windows with pointed arches; the west wall is windowless, while the north wall contains the entrance, placed off-centre between two buttresses. A generous flight of steps leads through what must have been an imposing high gateway, up to the floor which has been raised some fifteen feet above natural ground level. Inside, the whole

area appears to have originally been roofed, although only the tomb chamber is now covered. The space is divided into a series of galleries forming an outer ring or ambulatory around three inner chambers; the tomb chamber in the centre flanked on the north and south by two smaller rooms. The oblong gallery or hall on the west contains a mihrnb which is particularly signifi- cant. '1`he rich cut-brick patterns in relief include calligraphic inscriptions in a foliated Kufic script and a number of motifs such as the trefoil arch, pillasters and capitals which are re? miniscent of the Kashmiri or Hindu Shahiya temples. The tomb itself lies in the central chamber which is a square of about 24 feet on each side. The zone of transition to the dome above is formed in two stages. Beginning at a rather low level, wide arches in each corner ofthe square, springing from about five feet above the present floor, make an octagon at a height of about ten feet above the floor. At this level a set of miniature squinch arches convert the octagon to a sixteen-sided drum over which is the circular dome, Externally, the dome appears to have been given an exaggerated pointed slope, presumably to lend it extra height. Even in its present dilapidated condition the structure provides a sufficiently clear illustration of the basic features of Ghazna- vid architecture. It is also an important landmark in the evolu- tion of the domed mausoleum represented at Multan by three succeeding examples: Sheikh Baha ul-Din Zakariya {died 1262), Shadna Shahid, (died 1270] and Shah Shams Sabzwari

(died 1276), all built within a period of fifteen years. These are also rectangular in plan but rise in three stages, the lowest 0f which is square, above which is an octagonal second storey and finally a hemispherical dome. In the pocess of evolution it appears that thc central tomb chamber was enlarged and the dome raised higher to dominate the entire scheme, whereas the ancillary chambers were reduced to a secondary position or eliminated altogether. The outer wall eventually became part of the supporting structure of the central dome. Tomb of Shah Yousuf Gardezi Glazed tiles are one of the most characteristic of the decorative crafts of the lower Indus region, and one of the most striking applications of this technique is on the small tomb chamber of

Shah Yousuf Gardezi. This simple cubical structure is entirely covered with dazzling blue and white tiles, which, though re- placed from time to time, probably retain the character of the original as it was built in 1152 some 400 years after the death of the saint whose grave it covers. The tomb of Yousuf Garclezi represents the flat?roofed type of tomb structure, and if the claim of this tomb to being one ofthe earliest of the group of tombs in Multan2? is to be accepted, then it would appear that the two types ?? domed and flat- roofed -?? enjoyed an equal antiquity in this region. Tomb of Sheikh Baha ul-Din Zakariya The most elegant of the Multan shrines is the tomb of Sheikh Baha ul?Din Zakariya. The low front pavilion is probably a later addition and the austere simplicity of its lines has been further exaggerated by the continuous application of plaster and whitewash which have gradually obscured much of the detail on the external surfaces. However, the essential form of this early example, with its square plan, octagonal drum, a central dome and corner minarets, establishes a type of

mausoleurn building which was to endure in the lower Indus Valley for 700 years. Tomb of Shah Ru kn-i-Alam l-lalf a century later an undertaking commenced which became the tour de force of its type and the finest achievement of the Multan builders. The mausoleum of Shah Rukn-i-Alam is popularly believed to have been executed to the order of the Delhi ruler, Ghias-ud-Din Tughlaq, between the years 1320 and 1324. Possibly it was initiated by the Sheikh himself and com- pleted by his disciples after his death.

Unlike its predecessors the plan is not square but octagonal, an early_ if not the initial, appearance of this form in the Isiamic architecture of the subcontinent. nearly fifty years before it was accepted at Delhi. Another feature of this mausoleum, tlte battered walls and sloped turrets, seem to have attracted the attention of that enthusiatic builder Firoz Tughlaq. who some twenty-five years later reproduced it in his own buildings at Delhiw. The structural system of thrust and counter-thrust of the dome and buttress is emphasised by the exaggerated slope of the massive rounded corner turrets, the boldness and directness of the materials of construction ? brick and bands of timbering at intervals ? adds to the strength of its form, while the sparing introduction of decorative brickwork and glazed tiles lends an appropriate note of restraint. its octagonal base measures 90 feet in diameter, and its height including the finial, is 115 feet. The height of the first storey is 50 feet and the second 25 feet. while the dome is SU feet wide inside. Uchch Monuments The architecture of the numerous mosques, tombs and mndms- sahsfkizciitqnhs at Uchch has been described as an extension of, or a derivation from, the bette1??known monuments of Multan However. while these two centres did have close cultural and political ties, the characteristics of the Uchch monuments are sufficiently distinct to be identified as a related but independent building tradition.

There are two distinct types of buildings I0 be found at Uehch: flat-reefed and d0med. Beth also exist in Multan But while the brick-domed structures might well have been inspired by Mul- tam precedents, the reverse might equally be true ofthe flat- r00fed timber ferms. These flat-reefed structures are repre- sented by the tombs mf Jalal Din Surkh Bukhari, Abu Hanifu,

Jahaniyan Jahan Gasht and Rajan Qattal. The dates of original construction in most of these are not certain, and most of them were restored or rebuilt during the 19th or early 20th centuries. Nevertheless, even in their present form they faithfully repre- sent the originals built in the 13th and 14th centuries, This is borne out by inscriptions on the tombs recording the restora- tions, and is confirmed by the remaining structure of the tomb of Abu I-lanifa, which has survived in its original shape without major repairsal. Typically. these structures consist of rectangular halls, with flat timber roofs made up of boards on puriins carried on timber beams spanning from column capital to column capital in both directions. The column capitals themselves are elaborately- carved brackets supported on slender square, round or octagon- al posts. The interior woodwork is painted or lacquered with brilliant yellow and white floral designs. usually on a brilliant red or orange ground. The enclosing external walls are in fine burnt-clay bricks, often in rnud or lime plaster, cut and dressed into a variety of geometric patterns. The walls are sometimes slightly battered, and occasionally reinforced with timber courses. The entrances are usually marked by a generous pro- jeeting porch, also in timber, with projecting eaves. These details are characteristics also of the domestic architecture of the region as it survived into the 19th and early 20th centuries. '1`he use of brick domes was usually restricted to mausolea, but may on occasion have been employed for a zavia or madrttsmh. Typical of the domed mausolea at Uehch are those of Baha al-

Din Uchchi (also known as Baha?al-Halirn), Bibi Jawindi, Ustad Ladla and Musa Pak Shahidm. The development of this type of tomb structure has been traced from the Tomb of Kltaliq or Khalid Walid near Multan to a similar tomb at Bela in Baluchis? tan, to the tomb of Shah Gardz at Adam Wahan in Bahawal? pur, to the tomb of Baha ul-Din Zakariya at Multan (1262), to the mausoleum of Shah Rukn al-Din Rukn-i-Alam (1320- 25)]}*. Although none of the domed mausolea at Uchch have survived without major damage, the features of a distinct local style are evident from the remaining structures. These consist of an approximately hemispherical, slightly-pointed dome on an octa- gonal drum over a square or oetagonal chamber, with round corner towers, slightly tapered towards the top and sloped inwards. Externally, the surfaces are decorated with striking bands of blue glazed tiles, alternating with broad bands of lime plaster. Each of the round corner towers and smaller turrets on the octagonal drum appear to have been crowned with elabor- ately seulptured floral forms. The tombs of Baha al-Halim and of Bibi Jawindi are probably the best examples of the domed mausolea at Uchch. Among the other extant buildings of this period are the much- altered tombs of Baba Farid-ucl-Din Shakar G:-mj and Ala-ud- Din Mauj-e-Darya at Pakpattan [Ajudhan). The latter was built by Shah Mohammad Tughlaq in 133534.


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