Driving through the largest necropolis in the world — the historical Makli graveyard in Thatta — is like driving through different eras of ancient history: great kings representing several dynasties are buried here as along with great saints, scholars, philosophers and common men.
As we reached the far end of the Makli graveyard, we found an area that was more restored and preserved than the rest. Men laboured away with machines and tools at a beautiful, intricately carved tomb that was completely different from the others.
This tomb belonged to Jam Nizamuddin II or, as he was popularly known, Jam Nindo — one of the greatest rulers of Sindh and the Sultan of the Samma dynasty.
Jam Nizammudin II reigned from 1461 to 1509 and, along with Sindh, ruled portions of Punjab and Balochistan as well. His rule is known as the golden age of the Samma dynasty as it is during this time that the legacy of the dynasty reached its peak.
He was known for his progressive ideals and his was a peaceful rule. He was a deeply religious man and was known for his pleasant disposition. His kingdom was based on strict Islamic rule where the welfare and safety of all was of paramount concern; travellers could pass through his land without being harmed. After his succession to the throne, he travelled with a large army to Bakkhar, rooting out troublemakers and robbers who had made the life of his people difficult.
Jam Nindo spent much of his time in discourse with learned men of his time. He was known as a seeker of knowledge. It is said that Jalaluddin Rumi sent two of his pupils, Mir Shamsuddin and Mir Muin, to Thatta to arrange for his asylum. When Jam Nindo came to know of this, he sent Rumi’s pupils back with a generous amount of money for travelling expenses and instructed them to return with Rumi immediately. He then ordered spacious, comfortable homes to be prepared for Rumi to live in. Unfortunately, by the time Mir Shamsuddin and Mir Muin reached Persia, Rumi had passed away.
During the latter part of Jam Nindo’s rule, a Mughal army from Kandahar under Shah Beg Arghun tried to invade parts of Jam Nindo’s empire. Under the command of his vizier, Darya Khan, Jam Nindo sent a large army to Halukhar (Duruh-i-Kureeb back then) near Sibi and defeated the army — killing Shah Beg Arghun’s brother, Abu Muhammad Mirza in the fight. The Mughals retreated immediately and they never made another attempt at invasion as long as Jam Nindo ruled the area. Jam Nindo passed away soon after.
The Sindh Samma Welfare Organisation recently paid tribute to Jam Nindo on his 503rd death anniversary last year. Sindh Minister for Culture, Sassui Palijo, announced on the occasion that the Urs of Jam Nindo would be officially organised by the Sindh Culture department this year.
The elaborate and intricate carvings on the tomb of Jam Nindo are symbolic of Hindu architecture in the Gujrati style with a slight influence of Mughal imperial architecture. There is no dome on the tomb; the walls stop at the springing lines — a horizontal line between the springing of the arch. The tomb has been constructed with painstaking detail and is breathtaking to behold.
In contrast, there is a simple, unadorned tomb nearby that the locals say belongs to a pious woman whose prayers protected Thatta from invasion for as long as she was alive and after whom the graveyard was named: Mai Makli.
Behind the tomb you see wide patches of lush green — vegetation that has grown on what once used to be the bed of the River Indus when it still ran through Thatta and when Thatta was a major commercial and cultural hub of the Subcontinent.