The Chowkandi graveyard, near Sohrab Goth, is being chipped away bit by bit, as the magnificently carved stones are stolen from the 15-foot tall graves.
Legend has it that people of the Kalamti tribe, who are buried in the graveyard, also put treasure in the tombs. Over the years, many people have dug them up in an attempt to hunt down the buried treasure — ruining the intricately built monuments at Toti Chowkandi.
The Kalamti tribe is believed to have migrated to Murad Memon Goth, 15 kilometres away from Karachi airport, in the 18th century, from Lasbela, Gwadar, Pasni and other areas in Balochistan. According to Sindh Archaeology Secretary Kalimullah Lashari, the area used to be called the ‘chowkandi’ (four corners) of Malik Tota Khan, the Kalamti leader who is also buried here with his tribesmen. Hence, the name Toti Chowkandi.
The Kalamtis were prosperous and powerful people. “At that time, in the 1700s, each grave was built for about Rs10,000,” says Lashari. For the people of the Kalamti tribe, being buried here was an honour. Even though similar graves were found in other areas, Chowkandi had a special significance to the people.
However, in the 19th century, there was a conflict amongst the tribesmen. People kept moving to Mirpur Sakro, in rural Sindh, till nothing was left here but the graveyard. Since then, many graves have been dug up by treasure hunters.
The graveyard are spread over 60 acres. Besides theft, the site also faces the danger of being engulfed by encroaching commercialisation of nearby areas. “This site has priceless stone carvings. The government should do something, otherwise, precious stones on the graves will continue to get stolen,” says Shah Mir, a resident of Murad Memon Goth.
Secretary Lashari said that restoration of Chowkandi’s historical graves has begun. The west wing of the graveyard will be finished first and then will gradually restore all the damaged graves.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2011.