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The Chaukhandi Tombs: historical graveyard of the Jokhio tribe

David Goran

Located near Landhi town on N-5 National Highway, 29 kilometers of east Karachi and spanning over an area of roughly two square miles, the Chaukhandi Tombs contain tombs of certain warriors of Saloch families settled in this area sometime during the 15th and 18th centuries A.D.

They were constructed either as single graves or as groups of up to eight graves, raised on a common platform. Some of the more elaborate graves in the cemetery are made from buff colored sandstone with carved decorations, revealing an expert level of craftsmanship in its construction.

Built between the 15th and 18th centuries. Photo Credit

Built between the 15-th and 19-th century  Photo Credit

 

built in typical Sindh architectural form and is remarkable due to its unique North-South orientation. Photo Credit

Built in typical Sindh architectural form, remarkable due to its unique North-South orientation Photo Credit

This unique architecture style can only be seen in Sindh and cannot be found anywhere else in the Islamic world.

Chaukhandi Tombs date back to one of the earliest civilizations that lived in this part of the world and were adept in the stone carving techniques. Photo Credit

Chaukhandi Tombs date back to one of the earliest civilizations that lived in this part of the world and were adept in the stone carving techniques. Photo Credit

 

The tombs are built of yellow sand stone which were acquired from Jungshahi, a railway station near Thatta. Photo Credit

The tombs are built of yellow sandstone which was acquired from Jungshahi, a railway station near Thatta. Photo Credit

 

The intricate carving in geometric designs is unique and its delicacy gives the impression of wood carving. Photo Credit

The intricate carving in geometric designs is unique and its delicacy gives the impression of wood carving Photo Credit

A typical sarcophagus consists six vertical slabs, with two long slabs on each side of the grave indicating the length of the body and the remaining two vertical slabs on the head and foot side.

These six vertical slabs are further covered by a second sarcophagus, but of a smaller size, giving the shape of a pyramid.

According to a rough estimate, the number of such graveyards ranges between 200 to 300. Photo Credit

According to a rough estimate, the number of such graveyards ranges between 200 to 300  Photo Credit

 

Chaukhandi Tombs Sculpture. Photo Credit

Chaukhandi Tombs Sculpture Photo Credit

 

 

Interior. Photo Credit

Interior Photo Credit

Most of the tombs represent family graveyards and only a few are placed under pillar canopies finished in Hindu style. The tombs of men are capped and stylized by a turban and occasionally carved with horses, shields, swords, bows, and arrows and most of the women’s graves have been decorated with jewelry, such as anklets, bracelets, necklaces, rings, ear-pendants etc.

The tombs are generally in a shape of a pyramid and remarkable for their elaborated, exquisite sandstone carvings depicting both geometrical and floral motifs.

Detail view of 'Turban of Chaukhandi'. Photo Credit

Detail view of ‘Turban of Chaukhandi  Photo Credit

Generally, the tombs are attributed to the Jokhio (also spelled Jokhiya) and known as the family graveyard of the Jokhio tribe, although other, mainly Baluch, tribes have also been buried here.

Jokhio was a tribe that was from Samma tribe that is known as the clan of Rajput (the decedents of ruling Hindu warrior classes).

The family graveyard of Jokhio tribe. Photo Credit

The family graveyard of Jokhio tribe Photo Credit

 

Detailed stone carving at Chaukhandi. Photo Credit

Detailed stone carving at Chaukhandi Photo Credit

There are various opinions over the meaning and connotation of the term Chaukhandi, but it is still controversial whether it is an architectural term or a name of the place. On one tomb the word Chaukhandi is engraved. That might signify the location rather than the structural style of the monument.

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It is, therefore, possible that the word Chaukhandi, originally referring to the style of construction, became associated with one particular site.