Frescoes on wall of Mian Noor Muhammad Kalhoro’s tomb, Sindh, Pakistan

Art of paintings of Sindh
By: Aziz Kingrani

The Sindhian art of painting and designing has its roots in history from Mohan-Jo-Daro and Amri civilizations, when it was tinted on ceramic pots and terracotta. But the art of painting on walls of monuments splendidly flourished in Sindh from early Kalhora period. Kalhoras had struggled for rule under the platform of Mianwal Movement from Adam Shah Kalhoro to Mian Deen Muhammad Kalhoro and they remained active to seek rule over Sindh. In 1718 AD Mian Yar Muhammad Kalhoro established Kalhora rule over Sindh under the orders of Mughal Empire. Kalhoras ruled over Sindh up to 1781-82 AD and were succeeded by Talpur Amirs who ruled up to 1843 AD. Both ruling clans were more interested regarding architecture and painting the walls of memorial buildings. Klhoras and Talpurs had highly promoted Sindhian art of painting during their periods. Undoubtedly, the Sindhian school of art of painting got influence from Islamic and different Indian schools of art of painting. The influence of Islamic especially Mughal art, Rajasthan or Rajput art, Kamangari art of Kutch, Pahari art of paintings and other schools of art of India can be observed in Sindhian artwork of frescos and murals. The influence of Islamic and Rajput art is more dominant than others. Mostly, the walls of monuments of Kalhora and Talpur periods are painted with glowing artwork. Sindhian artisans were quite aware of creating geometrical and floral designs and depicting imaginaries or sketches of men, birds and animals. While illustrating fauna and flora, they have followed particular pattern of dividing walls for paintings.


In Sindh, walls of many monuments are decorated with wall paintings but the tomb of Kalhora ruler Mian Noor Muhammad Shah Kalhoro is one of the glorious instances of gorgeous artwork of Sindhian painters. In 1719 AD, Mian Noor Muhammad succeeded his father Mian Yar Muhammad Kalhoro. He left Khudabad and shifted his capital place from Khudabad (District Dadu) to newly established village Mahmoodabad (District Shaedbenazirabad). At present, it is too difficult to trace the remains of Mahmoodabad. Though, the village near his burial place is called Mian Noor Muhammad-Ja-Quba but it can be suggested that earlier name of this village was Mahmoodabad and later it was named Noor Muhammad-Ja-Quba. His graveyard is at a distance of 10 kilometers from Shahpur Jahania Sugar Mill towards east. In necropolis of Mian Noor Muhammad Kalhoro, walls of all tombs are decorated with murals but paintings of some tombstones are vanished. The art work of painting appears to be different periods. However, observing these paintings, it can be believed that former Sindhian painters were aware of art of painting and all schools of art of painting of their time. Thus, they had used magnificently the Islamic and Mughal art of paintings in these paintings done on walls. Specially, walls of tomb of Mian Noor Muhammad are superb illustration of Islamic and Mughal art.

The calligraphy, floral adornment and geometric designs have been represented brilliantly with artistic approach. Arabesque, floral arabesque, floral scroll, trees, plants, leaves and fruits are decorated in the motifs of walls, arches, niches, Tudor niches and spandrels. The Arabesque, floral arabesque and scrolling flora shape cover the places of spandrel with systematical arrangements of floral and arabesque embellishment under influence of Islamic and Mughal art of fresco paintings.

In vegetal beautification, the leave of acanthus, muskmelon, watermelon, mangos and cypress tree and in flowery plants leaves of sunflower; chrysanthemum, lily and lotus adorn the walls. The lily, sunflower, chrysanthemum, rose and lotus flowers are depicted abundantly in different motifs. The flowers are also ornamented in vases. The vases are frequently modified either with arabesque, or with branches of flowery plants. At the same time, the muskmelons, watermelons, bananas, mangos and apples are festooned in dishes. The marvelous floral scroll designs are wonderfully decked on walls. In spite of describing all painted designs separately, it would be better to mention the patterns in nutshell. Herein the paintings, the amazing patterns or designs of stalactite, foliated or leaf designs, e-mulet or amulet designs, star designs, tile work and inlay work designs are garlanded in abundance on walls. This luminous sort of artwork is heritage of Sindh including Pakistan. Now a day, this inheritance is disappearing and dying. It needs preservation otherwise in near future it will be completely disappeared.
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine May 1st, 2016


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