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Driving north on the plateau, about 6km from Makli’s southern entrance, we arrived at the Samma monument cluster. Though the origins of the Samma Dynasty are not clear, many scholars maintain that the rulers were native people belonging to the Rajput clan, the ruling Hindu warrior class of north India. They gained control of Thatta in 1335 and expanded their territory north to modern-day Punjab. It was during the rule of Jam Tamachi, a 14th-century Samma prince, that the foundations of Makli were laid.

Sufi saint Sheikh Hamad Jamali established the site as a khanqa and was later buried there. As a result of the veneration Tamachi felt towards the saint, he and other followers wanted to be buried in the vicinity of their spiritual teacher. Today, the Samma cluster is spread over five acres, displaying exquisite Gujrat-style relief work coupled with calligraphic carvings from the book of Quran.

A carefully carved pillar once supported a canopy in the Samma cluster, Makli, Pakistan
A carefully carved pillar once supported a canopy in the Samma cluster. (Urooj Qureshi)

The tomb of Darya Khan, a Samma general known for his bravery, looks as though it could be a small fortress from Rajasthan. During his early life, Khan was a slave who was adopted by Jam Nizamuddin, a Samma ruler between 1461 and 1508. Khan rose to prominence after defeating the Arghun army in battle, for which he received the title of “Hero of Sindh”. His military success eventually led to his appointment as Madrul-Muham (Prime Minister). But he died when he was struck by an arrow in battle in 1521.

The tomb of Darya Khan, Makli, Pakistan
The tomb of Darya Khan. (Urooj Qureshi)

One of the most outstanding monuments in the Samma cluster is the tomb of Jam Nizamuddin, adoptive father of Darya Khan and the most famous ruler of the Samma Dynasty. Completed a year after his death in 1509, the rich ornamentation on his tomb speaks of a time of peace and prosperity in the country.

The tomb of Jam Nizamuddin, Pakistan, Makli
The tomb of Jam Nizamuddin. (Urooj Qureshi)

The centrepiece of the tomb is a jharoka, an overhanging, enclosed balcony used in Indian architecture. Consisting of carved motifs and niches, arches, and even a miniature sikhara – a mountain peak like roofing structure common to Hindu temples – the monument looks more like a place of worship than a funerary.

Along the exterior of the tomb there are 14 bands of decorative motifs. The seventh band features verses from the Quran while the 10th band has a unique feature of carved gander, a symbol frequently found in Hindu temples dedicated to god Brahma. It is a common thread in the history of people as far as the Caspian Sea to the west and the farthest corners of India to the east.

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