Sindh is the third largest provinces of Pakistan with Karachi being the capital city. Locally known as Mehran, the region covers an area of 54,407 square miles (140,914 square km) inhibiting some 47,886,051 (as per 2017 census) people following a unique culture with 52.02% urban population.
Geographically Sindh is located to the southeast of the country making up the lower Indus Basin. The entire landscape of Sindh province is flat except the Kirthar range making the western border with Balochistan province. Punjab is located to the northeast, the Indian state of Rajhistan and Gujrat to the east, and the Arabian Sea bordering the entire south.
The province of Sindh has 29 districts including 5 in Karachi. Major cities of Sindh are Karachi, Thatta, Hyderabad, and Sukkur, where most of the tourist attractions are located.
The name “Sindh” has been derived from a Sanskrit word “Sindhu” which essentially means “ocean, river or stream” referring primarily to “Indus River”. The term “Sindhu” was phonetically transformed into Hindu in old Persian and with a slight further modification, it was then called Indu by the Greek who conquered Sindh under the command of Alexander the great. The word Indu was further extended to the word Indus to feature a broader concept, basically a name given by the British to an entire region of South Asia and called it India.
The land making up today’s Sindh has been a cradle of successive civilizations. The first known village settlements to the human on this land dates as far back as to 7000 BCE when the Mehrgarh settlements of Baluchistan expanded westward to Sindh. It then gave rise to the Indus valley civilization which was known as a highly developed society ever existed in the region from about 3000 BC to 1500 BCE.
Sindh was conquered by the Persian Achaemenid Empire in the sixth century BC before Alexander the Great conquered the region in 326 and 325 BC. Following his death, Sindh came under the dominance of the ancient Greek Seleucids Empire for a brief period and then Mauryan Empire lead by Chandragupta. The Mauryan emperor Ashoka spread the Buddhist religion in Sindh during his rule and later it was replaced by Hinduism which introduced the caste system. The 17 years old Arab conqueror Mohammad Bin Qasim invaded Sindh in 711 AD to spread Islam which is still deep-rooted in the region.
Form 9th to 19th century the province hosted seven successive dynasties named as Sumras, Sammahs, Arghuns, Tarkhan, Mughals, Kalhoras, and Talpurs.
In 1524 the Mughal Empire was welcomed into Sindh and the empire became more powerful in the region gradually. During the reign, Mughals produced various scholars but after the death of Aurangzeb, the Mughal Empire and its institutions began to decline. The British came through East India Company in the 19th century and divided it into districts and assigned the Wadera system to collect taxes. The British ruled the area for a century before it became part of Pakistan in 1947.
Sindhis are the most colorfully dressed people. The women in the cities wear the Shalwar kameez or the sari and those in the rural deserts dress in long red skirts and bright tie-died shawls. The men in the urban wear the traditional shalwar kameez or the kurta with pajama and typical Sindhi colorfully cap embroidered with glittered tiny mirrors. In the rural areas, the men wear traditional long-tailed shirts over Lungis and embroidered slippers with upturned pointed toes.
Sindh is also known as “Bab ul Islam” meaning “the gateway to Islam”. Most of the rural Sindhi cultural life revolves around the Shrines of Sufi saints where devotional songs and religious music makes up the major part of religious ceremonies.
Arts and crafts
The tradition of Sindhi craftwork has roots dating back to 5000 years of invaders and settlers. The graceful floral and geometrical patterns that can be observed in everyday objects from clay to fabric and from wood & stone to metal traces the Muslim influence in the region.
Sindh is world renowned for its arts and handicrafts. The province was historically a large producer of traditional indigo and cotton cloth and the produce was sold in ancient markets of Damascus, Baghdad, Basra, Istanbul, Cairo, and Samarkand. Sindhi blue shade Ajrak has existed in Sindh since the birth of its civilization and is a mark of respect when it is given to an honored guest or friend.
The Sindhi language is the major provincial language and the identity of the province yet there are other regional languages like Kutchi, Lari, and Saraiki are also spoken in the different parts of the province. Karachi, the provincial capital, is a melting pot of diverse cultures and languages where Urdu is spoken as a major source of communication while English is the official language in the entire province.
Sindh, one of the ancient cities of the world, has a number of tourist attractions ranging from historic ruined cities to contemporary edifices. Mohenjo Daro, Sukkur bridge, The Talpur-era Kot Diji Fort, Noor Mahal Palace in Khairpur, the gigantic Ranikot Fort, Shah Jahan Mosque, Makli Necropolises, Heliji Lake, Keenijhar Lake, Sindh Museum, Karachi port, and tourist attractions in Karachi are the places make Sindh a destination of choice.
Sindh also has a rich legacy of traditional handicrafts evolved over the centuries. Its tradition of Lacquered woodwork; paintings on woods, tiles and pottery; and hand-woven textiles and Ajraks is a tradition alive today and is a source of living for many hardworking Sindhis.
The economy of Sindh is largely agriculture-based and depends entirely on Indus River as a prime water source. Major produces include cotton, rice, wheat, and sugarcane besides the production of dates, bananas, and mangoes which are sold in the international markets. The province also has a reputation for producing polished ornaments including pottery, leatherwork, textiles, carpets etc. and the craftsmanship of Sindhi people since the Indus Valley Civilization.
Sindh lies in the tropical and subtropical regions of Pakistan; the climate of Sindh, therefore, ranks among the hottest during summers (30 to 50 degrees) and mild during winter (10-30 degrees). The northern territories are mostly hot and humid being mostly desert plains while the southern regions annexing the Arabian sea enjoy cool breezes in the evenings and nights.
Best time to visit
November to March is the best time to visit Sindh as summers are hard to travel particularly in the interior parts of the province.
Things to do
Sindh has a rich cultural, architectural, and natural heritage. Its several thousand years old ancient ruins, holy shrines, Palaces, Forts, British era Gothic-style buildings, Lakes, and its rich wildlife heritage in the Kirthar national park provides with a range of options to choose from. Karachi is base, one can enjoy tourist attractions in Karachi and day excursions from Karachi.
Sindh is accessible both by air and by road. Jinnah international airport in Karachi is the major international airport besides several domestic airports at major cities. One can also fly from Islamabad International airport and Lahore International airport by making a domestic connection with an international flight. By road, Sindh is accessible from other major cities of Pakistan either by train or by private buses.
The gigantic Muslim necropolis of the historical monuments, Makli Necropolis in Thatta, is one of the largest graveyards in the world. The cemetery encompasses an area of 10 km2 and is home to about half a million monuments. Sprawling in a diamond-shaped site, Makli houses alluring tombs and graves of people from all walks of life; notably of kings & queens, scholars & soldiers, philosophers, governors, and saints. It was included in the world heritage sites in 1981.
According to historical accounts, the sleeping city of Makli is the final resting place of over 125,000 saints. The city has historically been an important centre of learning. According to an estimate, there were some 400 educational institutions where students from the Muslim world and Asia learned different disciplines including religion, politics, and philosophy.
However, the fable that who first inhabited this city has remained unresolved. It is generally believed that the cemetery grew around the shrine of the fourteenth century Sufi Hamad Jamali. Likewise, why this place was called Makli is another legend. Two notions hold – the first that locals believe Makli means Mecca-like and the other is the association of the name with the pious women “Mai Makli” whose prayers said to have averted Sultan Firuz Shah Tughlaq’s conquest of Thatta until she died. She was also buried in Makli near the tomb of Jam Nizamuddin.
Thatta remained a glorious capital of Sindh from 14th to 18th centuries reigned by three successive dynasties – Samma, Argun and Tarkhan – before it was ruled by the Mughal emperors of Delhi from 1592 to 1739. The province was then ceded to the Shah Nadir of Iran in 1739 when Thatta entered into a period of depravity and neglect.
There are monuments notable for their design, size, and artwork. The tombs of Jam Nizamuddin II, who ruled from 1461 to 1509, is an impressive structure square in shape built of sandstone and adorned with floral and geometric medallions. Likewise, the two-story mausoleums of Isa Khan Tarkhan the Younger and also of his father, Jan Baba, was constructed before 1644 – a stone building with majestic cupolas and balconies. The most colourful is that of Diwan Shurfa Khan (died in 1638). All the tombs are different in size, shape, and design. Some of the monuments are built a double-story with covered premises indicating the trademark of the buried inside.
Impressed by the extent and prominence of Makli Necropolis, Dr. Anne Marie Schimmel, the distinguished German Sufi scholar and an authority on Iqbal’s poetry once wished to be buried here. Makli, the city of silence, is an archaeologists’ paradise. It is equally fascinating for domestic and international tourists as well as for pilgrims. Makli, however, became an unsolved legend today in many aspects.
The historical monuments at Makli mark the social and political history of the Sindh province between the 14th and 18th centuries. Most tombs and graves of the upper echelon during the glorious period of Thatta were built with architectural dexterity, displaying a unique art of the time, using a variety of materials including sand bricks, stone, and marble. Some of the monuments at Makli are lavishly decorated with glazed tiles. These monuments feature various designs with arched domes and towers inscribed beautifully of Islamic calligraphy and devotional carving representing motifs drawn from various religious and iconographic traditions.
Most of the monuments of the iconic figures are still standing in good condition today, even after several centuries of exposing to all weather conditions, representing Hindu and Islamic architecture. A considerable renovation, however, is required to pass on the rich heritage to the next generations.
Location and access:
The site making the historical monuments at Makli lies adjacent to the tip of Indus river delta, on the outskirts of Thatta – the ancient centre of Islamic civilization – clustered at the edge of 6.5 km long plateau of Makli. It is about 89kms east of Karachi in the Sindh province, south of Pakistan. Makli Hill is an ideal day trip from Karachi. The entire site of the graveyard is easy to navigate through wide streets giving access to all monuments.