Pakistan’s third deep-sea port, Gwadar might not only transform Makran region into an important industrial and trade center, it is also likely to become instrumental in attracting tourists to this ancient land, which is dotted with sites of great historic interest. A brief account of some sites is given below:
Some 240 KM along Karachi-Gwadar highway, near Hinglaj in Lasbela district, the presence of Kuldevi is commemorated in a small shrine embedded in the rock in Kirthar Mountains. For Hindus, she is the revered Mata Hinglaj, the supreme Kuldevi. Local Muslims know her as BibiNani. The shrine marks the spot where, according to legend, the head of Devi was buried by her grieving husband Shiva. He disposed of her other 51 body parts all over India. In April each year, devotees congregate there in thousands to affirm their faith in her powers.
Sir Thomas Holdich, in his book “India” (published in 1904) records that the object of veneration by the Muslim and the Hindu is “probably the same goddess who was known to the Chaldeans as Nana a thousand years before the time of Prophet Abraham. According to him, “nothing testifies so strongly to the unchangeable nature of the geographical link formed by Makran between East and West than does this remarkable Ziarat,” which is revered by the Muslim and the Hindus who visit it to pay their respects to the saint.
Close to the shrine is a well, said to be of unfathomable depth, whose water is regarded as sacred and is taken in bottles by pilgrims to their homes. At a short distance is a tank of water called AlailKund, where pilgrims perform ablutions. Pilgrims also throw a coconut forcibly into the water, and if bubbles arise in sufficient quantities above the surface, the individual considers that his sins have been forgiven. The other places, according to Lasbella District Gazeteer, which the pilgrims to Hinglaj visited, are: Chaurasi, Guru Nanak-ka-saran, Gorakhji-ki-dhuni and JholiJhar.
Shah Bilawal: Shah Bilawal’s shrine stands among Pab hills, near a village of the same name, west of the ViraHab stream. Shah Bilawal was a Sayed saint from Sindh, who settled, around 900 AH, at Lahut from where he moved to the shrine’s present site. The shrine is held in veneration both by Hindus and Muslims.
Lahut-i-Lamakan: Another shrine of repute, which was frequented by devotees from all over India, at all seasons, is Lahut-i-Lamakan lying about 6½ kilometers from Shah Bilawal. Close to the shrine is a structure, resembling a manger and some upright peg-like stones which, according to an unsubstantiated local tradition, were used by Hazrat Ali for his famous mare.
Cave Dwellings: About 20 kilometers towards Bela’s north, beyond a range of low hills and Poorally river, the rocks rise perpendicularly to a height of around 140-150 meter, and are excavated in some place, where there is footing to ascend, up to the summit. These are the excavations of ShuhrRoghun and they are more numerous along the lower part of the hill and form distinct houses. They consist in general of a room 15 square feet, forming a kind of open verandah, with an interior chamber of the same dimensions, to which one can gain admittance by a door. There are niches for lamps in many, and a place built up and covered in, apparently intended to hold grain.
Legend of Badi-ul-Jamal and Saif-ul-Maluk: In the reign of Solomon, according to a legend, the city of cave dwellings was governed by a king celebrated for his wisdom, and great beauty of his only daughter – Badi-ul-Jamal. She was adored by seven young men, who perished one after the other in defending the object of their adoration from the designs of half-a-dozen demons who, attracted by Badi-ul-Jamal’s surpassing beauty, made repeated attempts to carry her off. At that interesting period, Saif-ul-Maluk – son of Egypt’s king – an extra-ordinarily brave and handsome man of his time, arrived at ShuhrRoghun. Saif-ul-Maluk had been dispatched by his father in the hope that he might conquer a few kingdoms for himself. The princess fell in love with him. The demon lovers were in despair, and made a desperate effort to carry her off, but were all slain in the attempt by the prince. The father of the fair princess rewarded him for his gallantry with the hand of his daughter, and the happy couple lived to reign for many years, in peace and security, over ShuhrRoghun. At the summit, the hill has a mosque where the princess is said to have been rescued by Saif-ul-Maluk.
Hinidan Tombs: These tombs are situated, in a Muslim cemetery, near Hinidan and Hab rivers’ confluence, about 80 kilometers from Karachi. Scattered among the graves are 71 highly ornamented sepulchers of unknown origin, which afford evidence of super-terrene burial with a universally south to the north direction. These ornamented sepulchers may be divided into two groups; 27 small ones consisting of one sarcophagus, and 41 large ones having two, and in one instance even three, sarcophagi placed upon the other. The tombs are either single or built in rows numbering from two to eight, sometimes raised on a common plinth. The lower sarcophagus is generally constructed of eight vertical slabs, three on each long and one on each short side. These are covered by three slabs on which the second sarcophagus is raised, similar to the lower one, but slightly smaller in its dimensions. On the upper sarcophagus four or five layers of slabs are laid horizontally, gradually diminishing in size so as to give the whole structure the general appearance of a slender pyramid. The topmost slab is set vertically, its northern end carved in the form of a cylinder, which projects above it and is terminated in a knob. These slabs are all carved and the whole structure bears peculiar designs and ornamentations.
Chandra Kups: The Chandra Kups are mud volcanoes, which are a feature of special interest along the Bela coast. Found at different places along the coast, they are conical in form, with apex flattened and discolored, and differ in size, height and circumference which, in some cases, is 90 meter. The Hindus look on the volcanoes as the habitation of a deity and consult them in the same way as the Delphic oracle was consulted in the olden times. They throw coconuts and bread into the crater and receive their reply in the shape of an answering gurgle. Another story regarding them is that there are 84 of them and they spring from 84 parts of a ball of ashes thrown to the ground, in a paroxysm of anger, by Shiva.
Legend of Sassi and Punnun: The Baloch legend about Sassi and Punnun is one of the most common tales of the Indus Valley, repeatedly commemorated in Persian, Balochi, Sindhi and Pujabi verse. Born of Brahman parents at Bhambur in lower Sind, Sassi was abandoned by her parents on the river in consequence of a revelation that she would become a Muslim. She was picked up by a washer-man. The foundling grew into a beautiful girl and Punnun from KechMakran fell immensely in love with her. But, Punnun’s father, who was against the uneven match, sent men to drug Punnun and carry him off. Sassi started in haste to overtake him, and near Paboni in Lasbela she fell exhausted, overcoming with thirst. Suddenly, a spring broke forth to quench her thirst. On regaining consciousness, Punnun left Kech, once again, for Sassi. On the way, he stopped near a newly dug grave. On learning that this was Sassi’s grave, Punnun could not bear the pang and died then and there. Instantly, there appeared an opening in the grave, which sucked in Punnun’s body.
The soft sandy beaches of Makran, with sea water beyond Pasni being clear from all types of pollutants, are ideal for swimming. The minimum temperature, in winter, in the Makran coastal belt remains above 13 degree centigrade, a phenomenon due to which the seawater here remains warm even during winter when elsewhere, in particular around Europe, America, Japan and Korea, it happens to be icy cold, if not freezing. Due to these features, Makran has the potential to become an ideal tourist paradise, if equipped with water sports, gliding and ancillary infrastructural facilities.
By Alauddin Masood, WEEKLY PULSE MAGAZINE, March 31, 2014