SUKKUR: A sanctuary, a watch tower, a suicide hotspot and now finally a neglected but determined mark of Islamic heritage and architecture, Masoom Shah ka Minar and the neighbouring Baradari have withstood 400 long years.
Syed Nizamuddin, the renowned diplomat and poet from the Mughal era who was fondly called Mir Masoom Shah Masoomi, built the Baradari, a 50-foot high domed sanctuary with 12 doorways, in 1582 to get away from the hubbub of Old Sukkur. He was the governor of Sindh back then, during the rule of Mughal King Jalaluddin Mohammad Akbar.
After the Baradari was constructed, Masoom Shah started building the minar which took 23 years to complete. Masoom Shah personally supervised its construction for 16 years and then, after his death in 1598, his son, Syed Abu Mohammad Shah, continued and finally completed construction in 1605. The tower was then inaugurated by Emperor Akbar.
As history recalls, the minaret was constructed with special bricks that were made with a local stone. The bricks were first boiled in oil and then plastered together with a strange mixture including Dal Mash, crushed bones of goats, cows and other halal animals, sand and water. The minaret is 84 feet high, the circumference of its base is 84 feet while the number of stairs curling up to the top is also 84.
Originally designed to be a watch tower, the minaret was soon open to public so that people could see far and wide from its top. When people went a step beyond sightseeing and started jumping off the tower, it was decided to erect an iron fence at the top.
The Mir Masoom Shah Minar is slightly tilted towards the Baradari, which according to historians might be a flaw in the construction or the aftereffect of the earthquake which jolted Sindh in 1828.
According to the Sukkur evacuee trust property manager, Shabbir Ahmed Brohi, repairs of the Baradari, the minar’s stairs and re-plastering of its upper portion was carried out in 1986 by the archeology department.
He said that recently, the federal government approved Rs25 million to renovate and repair the minaret. The money will continue to gather dust till a contract for repairs is given out, however.
Meanwhile, the minaret is being looked after by a contractor at a charge of Rs265,000 per year. Even now, the beautiful minaret and its domed neighbour attract hundreds of visitors from across the country, says an employee, Zahid Shah.
The contractor, Masood Ahmed Dole, charges Rs8 per adult and Rs4 for children above 12 years. Anyone younger can enter free of charge.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 1st, 2010.