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Tracts from a Volatile Region


Visalakshi Menon

CHAUKHANDI TOMBS: FUNERARY ART IN SIND AND BALUCHISTAN
By Salome Zajadacz-Hastenrath . Translated by Michael Robertson. 
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2003, pp. 182, Rs. 475.00

TRAVELS IN BELOOCHISTAN AND SINDE
By Henry Pottinger . With an Introduction by Rosie Vaughan. First published in 1816, reprinted.
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2002, pp. 411, Rs. 795.00

TRAVELS, TALES AND ENCOUNTERS IN SINDH AND BALOCHISTAN 1840-1843 WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY R.A. RAZA
By Marianne Postans
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2003, pp. 214, Rs. 525.00

SINDH: WAYS AND DAYS: SHIKAR AND OTHER MEMORIES
By Pir Ali Muhammad Rashdi
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2003, pp. 158, Rs. 395.00

A TESTAMENT OF SINDH: ETHNIC AND RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM A PERSPECTIVE
By M.S. Korejo
Oxford University Press, Karachi, 2002, pp. 273, Rs. 595.00

VOLUME XXVIII NUMBER 7 July 2004

This rather formidable collection of books on Sind spans the period from the early nineteenth century to the present. Or, to be more accurate, they go back to the fifteenth century, since the early Chaukhandi tombs have been dated to that period. Zajadacz-Hastenrath, an authority on ‘Islamic architecture’, has meticulously surveyed the very unique tomb structures found in the southern Baluchistan-Sind region, which are described as the ‘Chaukhandi tombs’ because a cemetery of this nature was found near the village of Chaukhandi in the vicinity of Karachi. She employs the style-critical method which is popular among German art historians. This method concentrates on bringing out and summing up the artistic characteristics of what is being studied and does not go into the historical or socio-economic context of the structures. For a mainstream historian, this approach can be somewhat frustrating since one wants to know why people chose to build their tombs in these fascinating ways. But if one were to deliberately put that inquisitiveness on the back burner, then one can enjoy this book for what it offers.   Typically, European interest in the Chaukhandi tombs was first aroused in the early twentieth century, when political agents in southern Baluchistan and Kalat chanced upon some of these structures. Their discoveries were followed up by archeologists of the period who began defining and dating them. Zajadacz-Hastenrath’s very valuable contribution is to painstakingly set down the main characteristics of each set of tombs, telling us about the building techniques used, some- times keeping in mind the local terrain, the kinds of decorative motifs and the changing patterns. Since the text is accompanied by an adequate number of photographs, we can see the tombs in all their ornate glory for ourselves. One is struck by their beauty, which must stand out strikingly against the barren landscape of Sind.   Henry Pottinger is a well-known name. He came to India in 1803 at the tender age of 14 with the intention of joining the Naval Service in Bombay but then changed his mind and decided to enroll in the East India Company Army. While awaiting confirmation he enrolled at the Company College in Bombay to learn local languages, for which he had a rare talent. Owing to his extraordinary competence he rose to meteoric heights—becoming British Resident in the native state of Kutch in 1820 and later the Resident of Sind. And that was not all—he ...


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