From prehistory onwards

Publication Year : 2018

Bastion at Chodry Dath in the Makhi valleyShare on FacebookShare on TwitterAbout 50 km west of Khairpur Nathan Shah in Dadu district is situated Makhi valley, an ephemeral river which originates from Kirthar. There are many hill streams in Kirthar which are famous for their picturesque views. Some valleys are known for the highest peaks and plateaux. Some of the famous peaks in Kirthar Sindh are Bandu Ji Qabar which rises to 7,102 feet, followed by Kute Ji Qabar (The Dog’s Tomb) at 6,877 feet, Daryaro at nearly 6,000 feet, Kachrak at 5,600 Feet, Gorakh Hill at 5,700 and Damaro Lak at 5,432 feet. On or around these peaks are some monuments and rock art of the prehistoric and later eras.Such a valley, containing both prehistoric and later monuments is Makhi, which is also famous for some prominent peaks and plateaus – namely Phir Thal (3,692 feet), Chauk Thal plateau, Chanhe Thal plateau and Damaro Lak which rises to 5,432 feet.There are many interpretations of the term Makhi, but the most convincing are those that relate to Zoroastrianism. ‘Makhi’ is probably a phonetic variation of moghan, the Zoroastrian priests who used to serve the ceremonial wine in feasts and festivals. The abundance of Sassanid-period monuments in the Makhi valley is testimony to the fact that the valley was once home to Zoroastrians.Pan Kumb in the Makhi ValleyGabarbands are ancient dams which were constructed by people of Kirthar in prehistoric Sindh. Later the traditions were continued by Buddhists and ZoroastriansThe valley also abounds in prehistoric monuments which are located in many side-valleys (dhoras and dhoris) in Makhi. Some of the prehistoric and protohistoric period monuments include ‘Gabarband’ or ‘Gorbandi’ and megaliths. Gabarbands are ancient dams which were constructed by people of Kirthar in prehistoric Sindh. Later these traditions were continued by Buddhists and Zoroastrians. Local people believe that a majority of these Gabarbands or Gorbandis were constructed by the Gors, the term that is used for Zoroastrians. One such huge and impressive Gorbandi is located in Larkandidhoro in Makhi valley which is believed to have been built by Zoroastrians to store the flash flood or rainwater. These Gorbandis were made at the mouths of hill streams to stop flash floods or rainwater which was later used by the Zoroastrians and other religious communities whenever water became scarce in valley. It was used for both drinking and irrigation. The technology of building gabarbands was also known to Sindhi Buddhists who also built gabarbands in Gaj, Khurbi, Nali valleys and many other valleys in Kirthar and Sindh-Kohistan.Apart from Gorbandis, the Makhi valley is also home to a large number of megalithic structures including stone rows and menhirs in the side-valleys (dhoras). Menhirs are locally called ‘Kafran Ja Chaura’ literally meaning the memorials of the non-believers. A few menhirs are found near Phir Thal, a plateau in the Makhi valley. There are two menhirs at this site, both of which are engraved. Local people who travel from southern valleys to northern valleys always take a respite at some of the rock shelters near Phir Thal. Those who halt at the rock shelters also leave engravings on the menhirs. They have engraved shoe-prints on the menhirs. Animal and weapon depictions can also be seen on menhirs. Rock carvings can be seen almost in every side-valley (dhora or dhori) which are evidence that these bygone religious communities once dominated the valleys of Kirthar. Both Buddhists and Zoroastrians left behind their records in the form of structures and rock art. Zoroastrians made engravings of fire altars while the Buddhists carved stupas in many dhoras of the Makhi valley.Closer View of the Damaro rampart and bastionsIn the seventeenth century, the Makhi valley became the centre of the Mianwal Faqirs of the Kalhoras who in times of war always retreated to Makhi, Sallari, Gaj and Nali valleys. The Kalhoras under the leadership of Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro were fighting the Mughals on one hand and the Brohis of Kalat on the other. In order to secure the western borders of Sindh, the Kalhoras built a serious of fortresses, ramparts and watch towers. To keep an eye on the Brohis of Kalat, Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro (1657-1692) and later his son Mian Yar Muhammad Kalhoro (1700-1719) built watch towers and ramparts in Makhi. Some ancient fortresses were also rebuilt, one of which was located in the Harar valley. This fortress was actually first built by the Zoroastrians and later renovated by the Buddhists and finally in seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, it was used by the Kalhoras and the Talpurs respectively.Gorbandi in the Makhi valleyMenhir in the Makhi valleyA rampart with two bastions was erected by Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro at Damaro Lak in the Makhi valley. This Lak (pass) was used by the Brohis of Kalat to attack the territory of Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro. The pass was closed with the construction of rampart. This rampart is located 22 km from Pan Kumb in the Makhi valley. Later this rampart was renovated and used by the Talpurs as a hunting hut in the nineteenth century. Another monument of the Kalhora period is located at Chodry Dath. Here is to be found a bastion which was erected to keep an eye on the enemy coming from the upper valley of Makhi. Later on this bastion was also used by the Talpurs to camp at the bastion for hunting game in the valley. Both of these monuments are in a very deplorable condition. Since the Damaro rampart is located in a remote valley and is perched atop of Kirthar, it makes the process of conservation particularly challenging. It takes a two day- hike to reach the Damaro rampart. This is one of the reasons that the rampart is falling to pieces and the authorities concerned have failed to restore it. Apart from Damaro Lak, there are many other passes (Lak) in Kirthar which were used by people of both provinces – Sindh and Balochistan. Some ramparts and fortresses were also erected near the Lorah Lak, Harbab Lak, and Phusi Lak in Kirthar to stop enemies from frequent marauding forays into Sindh.These monuments in the Makhi valley can be potential tourist destinations if the concerned Sindh tourism department were to pay some attention to them. The Makhi valley can offer the best sites for people interested in eco-tourism and cultural tourism. All that is needed is to involve the local community, who will provide security to the tourists intending to visit the monuments in the Makhi valley

The author is an anthropologist and teaches at the Department of Development Studies, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE)

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