Salman Rashid

Travel writer, Fellow of Royal Geographical Society

Tomb of Kamaro

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Back in 1987, in my freewheeling days in Sindh, I one day found myself in village Kamaro nearly midway between Mirpur Khas and Tando Allahyar. Otherwise unremarkable, the village was known for a shrine and its adjacent mosque. But not being a believer in miracles attributed to shrines, I was there only because I had heard of the beauty of both buildings.

I was not disappointed. Compared to those humongous buildings that we generally see, these two were tiny. But the splendour of the predominantly blue tile work was exquisite. So exquisite was it, that it will not be wrong to rank the two buildings of Kamaro among the most beautiful of Sindh, so far as tile work was concerned.

Both buildings measured about seven or eight metres square and, not taking the minarets of the mosque into account, were of equal height. So far as I remember, the mausoleum did not have a dome. If it did, the flow of the patterns in blue was so smooth that one simply did not notice the dome. One was only lost in the melody of the ornamentation.

The tile work in the mosque, predominantly blue, was offset by a fine blend of ochre and green. The ochre being used more in the arches and in the merlons along the parapet, while there was one panel of green running along the three sides of the jamb of the main entrance in the east façade. In contrast, the tomb was entirely blue. Its western exterior bore in blue lettering and English numerals the date either 1914 or 1916.

The richness of the tile work defies description by a layperson like me. Suffice it to say that it was among the best in the province of Sindh.

The photographs that I took back in 1987 being for the Department of Culture, Government of Sindh, I did not retain any. That, I must confess, was titanic stupidity. Twice thereafter, I returned to Kamaro. On both occasions, I was there at the wrong time of day and did not do any photography in view of the bad light. In fact, these later visits were less for the purpose of photography, more to simply sit there and admire the breathtaking glory of the artistry.

Returning recently, I was horrified to see that the tomb of Kamaro had received a facelift. Sadly, like all makeovers committed (yes, committed, like a crime) by ignorant people, this too was rape. This time around, the tomb had a coating of marble tiles. It also had four corner minarets and a dome. Bereft of its nearly one-century-old blue tiles, the tomb looked altogether the poorer. If anything, it looked sad and forlorn even despite its newness. I was devastated.

The illiterate keeper came around to gloat on how the family whose ancestor was buried in the tomb had spent a huge sum to redo the building. He was proud of it. I told the fool instead of being proud, he ought to be ashamed for the crime inflicted upon the building. Its age alone made the tomb of Kamaro a protected national monument precluding the right of any citizen to alter it. But Pakistan is a country where people do not understand the value of historical buildings and the state holds no writ. Any old body can therefore up and do whatever they please, not just in remote Kamaro but in the heart of large urban centres as well. Consequently, when somebody thought they needed to spend some money on a dead relative, they destroyed his once opulent tomb.

One must be thankful to the owners of the Kamaro buildings that they left the mosque untouched. But sooner or later, this building too will bite the dust. With little reason, as they had in the case of the tomb, the owners will one day get it into their heads to redo the mosque. Once again, without a thought to its aesthetic beauty, the fact that the tile work represents a historical moment in the development of the craft or that the building is protected by the Antiquities Act 1974, they will go ahead and destroy it. Fifty years from now, nobody will even recall that there once stood in Kamaro two buildings of exquisite charm and beauty.

It will not be a waste of time if some student of architecture records the beauty of the Kamaro mosque in all its detail. That time to do that is now. Tomorrow may well be too late.

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posted by Salman Rashid @ 12:00 AM,

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My Books

Deosai: Land of the Gaint - New

The Apricot Road to Yarkand


Jhelum: City of the Vitasta

Sea Monsters and the Sun God: Travels in Pakistan

Salt Range and Potohar Plateau

Prisoner on a Bus: Travel Through Pakistan

Between Two Burrs on the Map: Travels in Northern Pakistan

Gujranwala: The Glory That Was

Riders on the Wind

Books at Sang-e-Meel

Books of Days