Zoroastrian Ruins in Kachho, Sindh, Pakistan

Zoroastrian Ruins, Kachho, Sindh, Pakistan

Aziz Kingrani

 Sindh, a southern province of Pakistan has been remaining very prosperous and fertile in historic heritage since prehistoric period. Unfortunately, the invaders of western and northern countries always attacked and ruled on the Sindh. Thus, socially, culturally and religiously, this land remained under influence of invader nations. This act had been repeated in past almost in every century (1). While tenancy, the ruler nations stressed on the people of Sindh to embrace their religion. Including other nations, the Iranians invaded Sindh. Sindh was a province of Persia. According to “Firdosi’s” Shah Nama, Hind, Sindh, Kabul, Kashmir, Multan were under the rule of Iranian empire (2). Daruis-1 had been received 1078272 pounds as a tax from Sindh (3). In 480 BC the boundaries of Iranian empire were from Sindh to Abbyssia (Now Ethiopia) (4). In Sassanid’s period Sindh also remained under Iranian’s occupancy. Hence Iranian’s influence on Sindh can easily be traced through the history. From the period Daruis-1, Persians followed Zoroaster. So, the earlier Iranians were Zoroastrians.

Before spreading Islam in Persia, the Zoroastrianism had remained the ancient faith of Persians. It had been proclaimed or founded by Zoroaster, the prophet of Zoroastrians, probably some times before the 6th century. Zoroastrianism can be counted as major religion of the world. The Zoroastrianism had served as national and official or the state religion of vital portions of Iranian people for the centuries. Zoroastrianism contains both the monotheist and dualistic features. In the light of Zoroastrians religious terminologies, beliefs, worship places, religious characteristics of ritual and burial rites or traditions, their migration to western India and Kohistan nieghbouring to Sindh and  occupancy of ancient Iranians on ancient Sindh, we can trace the ruins and remains of Zoroastrians in Kachho.

1, Rock carving sites


There are many rock carving sites along the banks of streams of different Nais (hill torrents) and Kumbs (springs) in Khirthar mountains range. These sites have been described separately in this book. The symbols of fire temples are chiseled on rocks provide the instance for claiming the presence of Zoroastrians in this area in ancient times. The ruins of Dakhmas in Kai (5) depiction of fire temple near Nai Nalli and other symbols found in rock carvings, located in valleys of Gaj, Naig, Angai and Nighawal hill torrents  ensure to suggest that this area was abode of those people who were related to Zoroastrianism and they had continued Zoroastrian traditions.

2, Gabr Bands


The gabr, gour, gowr, gabri, gabrak or gori bands were constructed before the streams of almost all the hill torrents in the neighborhood of Kachho. From taluka Sehwan of Jamshoro district to Qamber-Shahdadkot towards north, gabr bands were built to collect the water of the rainy streams for the purposes of cultivating and harvesting. The ruins of ancient gabr bands can be observed yet. It is believed that Ggbr is new Persian terem which signifies Zoroastrian. The word Gabr or Gour are commonly in Laasi Sindhi (of Lasbela Balochistan) and Balochi for non Muslims. The meaning of Gabr, in concise dictionary of Persian to English by Dr: Abbas Aryan pur Kashyani and Dr: Manochar Aryan pur Kashyani is given as Zoroastrian, worshiper of fire and Gour means Zoroastrians (6).

According to other scholars, the French words gaur and guebre are commonly used by Europeans travelers when referring to Zoroastrians. It is a rendition of early New Persians gabr and its dialect variant gawr, the derivation of which is still disputed. Uder the Safavids, gabr or gawr was the current Muslim term for Iranian Zoroastrians (7). Some accounts verify that they (Zoroastrians) worked as labourers, carpet weavers, nurserymen and farmhands. There was a large society of Zoroastrians, about 3000 families who lived in a suburb of Isfahan, which was called Gabr-Mahal, Gabristan or Gabrabad. The word Gabr was an insulting term that Muslim used for Zoroastrians (8). Chardin (1643-1713) subsequently attempted to find a Zoroastrian symbolism in the ancient monuments of Persepolis, Naqsh-e-Rustam and Ka’ba-ye Zardosht. Chardin refers to the winged figure as being of important to religion of the guebres (9). The words Gori or Gour have same denotation and Bandi or Band have same meanings. Gour means non-Muslim and Bandi means a band or dam. A band constructed by non-Muslims (10). Now, it became confirm that term gabr was used only for Zoroastrians, not for other non-Muslims. So no doubt the gori or gabr bands had been constructed by the people belonging to Zoroastrianism, who lived in Sindh. Especially, in Khirthar mountain range near Kachho region, the gabr bands are constructed at large scale before the rainy watercourse of every Nai in the area of Kachho.

3, Romi’s or Zoroastrian’s Graves:


The bustling village of Wahi Pandi, taluka Johi, 45km from Dadu is the site of two ancient graveyards of which are well-known as Roman graves. Wahi is a Sindhi word meaning spring stream and the name of the village ‘Wahi’ is also derived from the spring torrents that flow down from the Khirthar hills. These graveyards are located on both the banks of a hill torrent named Narri or Nalli on the top of the hills. The water of springs as well has been flowing through the stream of Nai Nalli since the centuries. Both the graveyards belong to different periods. The graves are constructed just like chambers or columns with carved yellowish brown stone blocks on platform and stone blocks were fix with mortar but centre of the chambered graves is filled with sand.

Through their history, the Zoroastrians are known to have considered entombment, burial and varieties of exposure admissible options for the disposal of dead bodies (11). In accordance with Zoroastrians laws governing the sanctity of earth, fire, air and water, in Achaemenid times dead were exposed and their bones later gathered to be placed in ossuaries or tombs in rocks.  But in later centuries large stone walls were built on rock and the body of Zoroastrian man, women and children were placed on their designated, paved zone on the open stone platform inside. A small central pit, filled with sand, charcoal and phosphorus to pavement pollution of earth, acted as drain (12). The east and west sides consist of heavy carved stones while the north and the south sides of graves are open. The northern and southern sides are covered with unfixed stone blocks. The structure of these graves is very distinctive from other graves made up of curved stones in other areas of Sindh. The erection of these graves is nearer to the opinion that a Zoroastrian grave is distinctive in that it is lined either with concrete or stones to ensure that body does not come into contact and pollute the earth (13). In these graves the corpses were exposed in a strange manner. The head of the dead body was to the south and the feet towards the north. I myself had observed in 1980s, a skeleton of a child in a columned grave, in the graveyard of Smail Fakeer whose head was towards south and feet were towards north. Even today one can see the bones in the chambered graves mixed with sand. On other hand, according to Zoroastrianism, it is stated that the corpse is to be exposed naked, and must be bound to ground or fastened to it with stones or bricks. The corpse to places where there are plants or water (14). It can easily be surveyed that the graves near the canopy of Smail Fakeer and so called Roman graves in the vicinity of Wahi Pandhi are on top of the hills. While, wild plants are around the graveyards and the water of springs is flowing continuously through the stream of Nai Nalli close to both sites close to Wahi Pandhi.

The carving on the stones of the graves located on the right bank of the hill torrent Narri is not as beautiful as that on the stones on the left bank side. These stones also bear various inscriptions including holy verses and names such as ‘Notak Yousif’ and ‘Allah’. The sentences and phrases, either in Kufi script, Nastaleeq or Persian can also be seen inscribed on stone blocks. When and why did these graves begin to be called Roman graves? It is very difficult to learn the accurate reason and the proper period. Probably, Roman term is common in all over Asia for such type of graves. Some may believe they date back to the time of Alexander the Great, who invaded Sindh in 327BC and stayed here till 324BC (15). However, it would be impossible to build such glorious monuments in three years’ time. Some prominent scholars believe these graves to be Roman, on account of Roman type of carvings; others are of the opinion that these graves are related to Baloch tribes, but it is unknown which Baloch tribe had a tradition of leaving the corpses exposed in columned or chambered graves. Bheru Mal Maharchand Adwani writes in his book “Qadeem Sindh” that some Zoroastrians entered the fold of Islam, and were called Mughals, Afghans, Balochs & etc (16). In history, it is frequently declared that the Zoroastrianism religion itself was regarded rather ambiguously in Muslim legal and historical texts: some defined it as ahl-e-kitab (of book) (17). The Umayyads were succeeded by the Abbasids family which came in to power with the help of Iranian Muslims. They respected not only the Iranian Muslims but also the Zoroastrians. Some Zoroastrians found it advantageous to convert to Islam (18). Whereas, under the rule of Shah Abbas-1, (1588-1629), many Zoroastrians were forcibly relocated from Karman and Yazd to Isfahan, where they worked as labourers, gardeners, and agriculturalists. Under Shah Soltan Husain in 1699, Zoroastrians were forcibly converted to Islam or martyred, although a few escaped back to Yazd. (19).

As for the canopy of Smail Fakeer and graves located infront of canopy on the top of the hill, it can be believed that these are as ancient as the graves situated on right bank of stream of Nai Nalli. These graves are sited at a distance of half kilometer from village Murad Jamali towards west-south on the bank of hilly torrent “Haleli”. The canopy of Smail Fakeer is a unique structure and part of the cultural heritage of the region. With out any historical reference, some researchers have related Smail Fakeer to Nizamani tribe and follower of Mian Naseer Muhammad Kalhoro (20). The Nizamani tribe has been remaining follower of Pir Pagara and followers of Hur movement. Moreover, at any cost, these ancient graves do not refer to Kalhora dynasty (1718-1783). The structure of canopy of Smail faker is most ancient and it consists of large carved stones and the roof rests on four pillars. The ceiling of the canopy is round and looks like the Sun, with lines carved on the stones similar to rays radiating from the sun. Some lines are also carved on the stones of sun like ceiling of canopy. According to Zoroastrian’s belief, sun and lines are the symbol of light and form of fire. In all the Saami, Iranian and Indian subcontinent religious traditions platter (plate) or lines are the symbolic expressions of sun (21). A few graves situated in front of canopy of Smail Fakeer, resemble to Roman graves of Wahi Pandhi by structure. Still, the Muslims do not bury their dead in both the graveyards. Some scholars have opinion that these graves are made-up of carving stones and on account of this these are called Roman’s graves. History supports this opinion that these are called Roman’s graves due to the Roman type of construction. But the arrangements of these graves appear according to directions of sacred text of Zoroastrian which clearly says, “On that place they shall dig a grave, half a foot deep if the earth be hard, half the height of a man if it be soft (they shall cover the surface of the grave with ashes of cow-dung) they shall cover the surface of it with the dust of brocks, of stones, or of dry earth (22).

No doubt, the tower of silence of Zoroastrian has been remaining identified for disposal of corpse and practice of ritual exposure for which there is no standard technical term in either scripture or tradition. Placing the body where it may be eaten by scavenging birds and animals or weathered to its essential elements has been held by many groups to be the most desirable form of disposal for spiritual as well as material reasons. The Zoroastrians have been perhaps the most widely known practitioners of this type of burial, which developed out of the belief that the corpse is so unclean that to inter or cremate, it would contaminate the “pure elements” of earth, fire, and water. Since the 6th century BCE it has been their custom to leave bodies on mountains or hills at a distance from the community (23). We know from the texts discovered in archives at Persepolis that the Persian priests prepared an intoxicating drink (haoma) from a plant to be used for rituals and text specify the profits made from its sale. Further support comes from an actual mortar and pestle, used for haoma found in Persepolis. Thus, the Persians must certainly have offered libation during their sacrificial offerings. Herodotus account clearly differentiates between the Persian and Magian custom of disposal of the dead. Unlike the Magians, who expose the corpse to be torn by the wild birds and beasts of prey, the Persians, states the Herodotus, wax and then covered it with earth. The Spring Cemetery of Persepolis and Achaemenid rock-tombs present evidence of Persian burial custom (24).

It is already mentioned above that Allexander the great, who was also called Roman or Macedonid, conquered big part of the world. During his stay in Sindh, thousands of Greece waded from people of Sindh (25). This enlightens only on the relations of conqueror nation. During the stay of three years, it is unbelievable to leave remains in the shape of such graves. These graves are made up of carved stones as Syrian (Shami) type of construction (26). The Suspicion regarding Syrian (Shami) is considerable. The battle of al-Qadisiyya was probably fought in June 637 AD. It is said to have lasted for three days and casualties were heavy on both sides (27). After the invasion of Arabs on Persia, some people relating to Zoroastrianism embraced Islam and migrated to Syria (Sham). They are called Syrian but generally they kept alive the traditions of Zoroastrianism (28).

There is no authentic historical evidence for removing confusion that when and wherefrom the Zoroastrians entered in the region of Kachho. In 936 AD Zoroastrians migrated to India from town of sanjan in the state of Khorasan and settled in various parts of western India. This was the start of Parsis in India (29). The Zoroastrians migrated from Iran to India by sea. The late sixteenth century narrative, Qeser-ye-Sanjan, claims to describe a migration of Zoroastrians from the port of Hormuz in late Umayya or early Abbasid period (30). The writer of a book  “Al-Hind”  writes that number of Bihdins, ‘People of good religion’ (Parsis) fled before Arabs to the mountainous district of Persia which was known as Kohistan and remained there for a hundred years before moving on to Hormuz, where they remained for another  fifteen years, and then crossover to Hind by sea (31). Probably, during mentioned period, from Kohistan of Persia, some of the Behdins (Zoroastrians) traveled to the region of Kachho and its neighbouring mountainous area. Since, in ancient times, this area had remained connected with ancient trading routes, leading to Persia via present province Balochistan of Pakistan through different mountainous passes. It can also be believed that during the period of Persian invasion on Sindh, the Zoroastrians settled here for long time. However, the ruins of Zoroastrians and their settlement in this region can not be denied due to the following reasons.

(a) The location and structure of graves: The structure of these chambered graves resembles to the Zoroastrian religious burial traditions which have been already referred. Some Zoroastrian communities make the tower of silence high; some are made very small just like palanquin and mausoleum or under ground with stones or cemented columned rooms (32). These columned graves are made as small tower of silence with stones having paved on the surface of earth. These graves are located on high hills as tower of silence and are distant from the villages. These graves are not dug deeply into earth but the corpse seem to be laid on little dug surface of earth. The stone blocks were used to make platform and chamber. The bones of corpses can easily be seen until now.

(b) Behdin or Behadin:  when the Muslims attacked Persia at the time of Hazrat Umar (a.s) and conquered Iran. Zoroastrians became weak and were called Gabrs. In reaction Zoroastrians called them selves as “Bahadin”, means having fresh religion (33). It is referred above that number of Bihadins, ‘People of good religion’ (Parsis) fled before Arabs to the mountainous district of Persia which was known as Kohistan and remained there for  a hundred years before moving on to Hormuz, where they for another  fifteen years, and then crossover to Hind by sea (34).

The other sources also bear that In June 1777, the punchayat with the consent of the majority of community passed a bundobast or ordinance proscribing marriage between behdin or lay females and mobads or priests. This began the famous behdin/mobad dispute which was large enough to capture the attention of Bombay government. The behdin/mobad is significant in the early development of the Parsi punchayat and the Parsi community of Bombay. The behdin/mobad controversy marked the first time British government was call on to adjudicate a dispute among the Parsis and the earliest instance that produced an official critique of inner workings of the Parsi community (35).

In this regard it is considered that Communities exist in Tehran, as well as in Yazd, Kerman and Kermanshah, where still many people speak an Iranian language distinct from the usual Persian which is well-known as Gabri or Dari. The western travelers found the Zoroastrians were not willing to talk about their religion and their customs because they did not want the Muslims to learn about them. By now, Zoroastrians had invented a new dialect called Dari (36).

History enlightens that Zoroastrians were called “Gabr” by Muslims and in result of this; the term Behdin or Behadin was used by Zoroastrians for themselves which means “of fresh or good religion”. The word “Behadin” is inscribed on one stone of the graves lying at the left bank of spring channel of Nai Nali, in close proximity to Wahi Pandhi.

مُلا محمد رادو کلمُوند تراش، راز برادیہ ، اسحاق کوہ تراش، پریا بحادین

Mula Muhammad Rado Kalmud Tarash, Raz Brodiya, Ishaq Koh Tarash, Perya Behadin”

Translation: “Mula Mohammad mason, word inscriber, mason community, Ishaq rock carver, a head of Behadin community”.

The inscribed word “Behadin” refers the graves to Zoroastrian community. While the Word mason community (Raz Brotheya) clarifies that a community had business of carving, engraving and inscribing on the stones. The Zoroastrian community was very expert in its work. It clears that such communities might have lived in Khirthar mountain range in Sindh or even in the boundaries of Balochistan. HT lambrik has mentioned the gabr bands in the areas of Saroona, Kanrach and Devana, Bahlore on the left bank of river Hub, Balochistan (37) There may be remains of graves, hamlets and fire temples (Dakhmas) and such graves of Zoroastrian communities in mountainous area. Some researchers have wrongly interpreted the mentioned writing. They have understood “Haji Mula Muhammed Radho Kalhoro” a noble person of Kalhora dynasty (38). Positively, the Kalhoras had never used title of “Mula” for themselves. The phrase neither bears Haji nor Kalhoro. The word “Kalmud” has been interpreted as Kalhoro and Rado (mason) as Radho while Kalmud means word. However, written word ‘Behadin’ certainly refers to Zoroastrians and their presence in this area in ancient times.

(c) Strange Names: One grave bears a compound name “Notak Yousif”. At Wahi Baradi close to village Drigh Bala, in the graveyard of so-called Noohanis, a grave bears name “Omer Yousif”. Sindh has no tradition of naming a person in compound words such as “Notak Yousif” and “Omer Yousuf”. Most probably, these compound names refer to Persian community.

(d) Gabr Bands: There are many remains of Gori or Gabr bands in this region. The term Gabr was used only for Zoroastrians, and not for other non-Muslims. Gabr bands surely suggest the presence of Zoroastrians in Kachho region.


In the light of the above mentioned reasons and discussions it can be surely said that the graveyards commonly known as Roman’s graves are the monuments of those Zoroastrian’s who lived here for a long time. Later, either they migrated or embraced Islam but continued their religious traditions for a long period.


1, Rahimdad Maulai Shidai, Janat-ul-Sindh, Sindhica Academy, year 2000, p-47

2, same reference, p-50

3, same reference p-50

4, same reference p-51

5, Taj Sahrai, Sindhu Thebes, 1989, p-23

6, Badar Abro, Deewar-e-Sindh, National fund cultural heritage, 1996, p- 90

7, Jenny Rose, Zoroastrianism: An Introduction, I.B.Tauris, 2011, p-176

8, Meena Iyer, Faith and Philosophy of Zoroastrianism, Gyan Publishing House, 2009, p-43

9, Jenny Rose, Zoroastrianism: An Introduction, I.B.Tauris, 2011, p-177

10, Badar Abro, Diwar-e-Sindh, National fund cultural heritage, 1996, p- 89

11, Albert De Jong, Traditions of the Magi, BRILL, 1997, p-433

12, Iran, Patricia L. Baker, Hilary Smith, Bradt Travel Guides, 2009, p-212

13, Sarah Stewart and other editors, The Everlasting Flame, I.B.Tauris, 2013, p-40

14, Albert De Jong, Traditions of the Magi, BRILL, 1997, p-434

15, Rahimdad Maulai Shidai, Janat-ul-Sindh, Sindhica Academy, year 2000, p- 45

16 Bheru Mal Mahar Chan Adwani, Qadim Sindh, Sindhi Adabi Board, 1992, p-129

17 Jenny Rose, Zoroastrianism: An Introduction, I.B.Tauris, 2011, p-163

18 Meena Iyer, Faith and Philosophy of Zoroastrianism, Gyan Publishing House, 2009, p-42

19 Jenny Rose, Zoroastrianism: An Introduction, I.B.Tauris, 2011, p-175

20, Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro, Art and Architecture of Sindh, EFT Karachi, 2014, p-102

21 Taj Sahrai, Sindhu Thebes, 1989, p-23

22 Marilynn Hughes, the Voice of the Prophets, LULU Press, 2005, p-166

23,   www.britanica.com

24 Solomon Alexander Nigosian, the Zoroastrian Faith, McGill-Queen’s Press, 1993, p-29

25, Sipt Hasan, Pakintan Mein Tahzeeb Ka Irtaqa, Maktab-e-Danyal Karachi, 1987, p-114

26, Mohammad Usman Hasan, Jang Mid Week magazine, 20 to 26 July 1994

27, Touraj Daryaee, the Oxford Handbook of Iranian History, Oxford University Press, 2012, p-209

28, Mohammad Usman Hasan, Jang Mid Week magazine, 20 to 26 July 1994

29 Meena Iyer, Faith and Philosophy of Zoroastrianism, Gyan Publishing House, 2009, p-42

30 Jenny Rose, Zoroastrianism: An Introduction, I.B.Tauris, 2011, p-162

31 André Wink, Al- Hind, BRILL, 1991, p-107

32, Encyclopedia Britannica volume, year, 1979, p-1175

33 John, B Noss, Man’s Religion, Second edition1969

34 André Wink, Al- Hind, BRILL, 1991, p-107

35, Jesse S. Palsetia, The Parsis of India, BRILL, 2001, p-70, 71, 72

36 Meena Iyer, Faith and Philosophy of Zoroastrianism, Gyan Publishing House, 2009, P-44

37 H.T lambrick, Sindh Hik aam Jaizo (Sindh, a general Introduction), Sindhi Adabi Board, 1982, page: 106 to 110

38 Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro, Art and Architecture of Sindh, EFT Karachi, 2014, p-97


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