By Tahir Imran Khan
Uch Sahreef is a small town known for its beautiful shrines ornamented with blue mosaic and other embellishments. It is situated near the confluence of the Chenab and Sutlej Rivers and can be approached either form Bahawalpur or from Ahmedpur East. It is just at a distance of 12 kilometres from Panjad Head Works, a famous picnic point as well.
At present it is a small town of mud houses with a small bazaar but it was the capital of a rich kingdom and a centre of political, cultural and literary activities, at the time when Multan was at her peak. At that time Uch was also considered important. According to local people there is a turban of the Prophet Hazrat Mohammad (peace be upon him) in Uch Shareef.
The etymology of the name Uch is uncertain, but it is thought that the town existed at the time of Buddhist period. Arrian (the 2nd century AD military historian) records that Alexander selected a place near the confluence of two rivers (Chenab and Sutlej) to built a city with he thought, would become rich and prosperous. He ordered to build a town, which was named Askandria or Alexandria (we find several places of same name at various places, all built by the Alexander).
By the start of the eighth century, Uch was a part of the Brahmin Kingdom of rule Chach (author of the Chach Name and believed to have invented and given his name to Chess).
After the Arab conquest of Sindh and Multan in 711/712 Ad by Mohammad Bin Qasim the town came under Muslim influence and five centuries later it reached its climax as a great Islamic centre.
In the Mughal era, Akbar - the great annexed Uch to his empire and the town developed as an important centre for cultural and literary activities.
In 13th century, it became a the hub of Islamic learning and piety, several Sufi-saints visited it and preached their theology from here. Most of the shrines, which are the attraction of devotees and visitors, are the tombs of those saints. Tombs of some of the most important and famous personalities who spent their lives for the preaching of Islam are being described hereunder:
He is supposedly the first learned personality to settle in Uch. He came from Baghdad around 980 AD. He was instructed by his uncle that wherever your camel sits down, you should select the same place for your stay. His shrine is a little difficult to find although it is said to be the oldest Muslim tomb in South Asia. This building is in a run-down condition and needs an immediate repair.
He supposedly come very early to this region and is also known as Bah-ul-Haleem. His mausoleum is the nearest to the tomb of Bibi Jind Waddi.
Baba Jalal-ud-Deen Surkhposh (117-1272)
Another building near the mausoleum of Bibi Jind Waddi is the tomb and mosque of Jalal-ud-Deen Surkhposh. The mosque is a flat roofed building, which has suffered damages at various times. There is an inscription on the main door that Sheikh Hamid ordered Mullah Ahmed in 1617 to repair the building.
Jalal-ud-Deen Bukhari (1303-1383)
Hazrat Jalal-ud-Deen Surkhposh. His tomb is situated at a few minutes walk from the tomb of Bibi Jind Waddi. Before setting down in Uch, he used to travel in various countries to get the knowledge of Islam. These places include Mecca, Madina, Mesopotamina, Egypt and Persia etc. He was a preacher of Sufi Suharwardiya School. His shrine is a flat roofed oblong hall supported by several wooden pillars.
Adjacent to it is another small, tomb which contains a footprint of Hazrat Ali.
Tomb of Bibi Jind Waddi
The most elegant building and the prime attraction in Uch is the tomb of Bibi Jind Waddi. Her name has been described by Bibi Jalwandi and Bibi Jind Waddi as well.
Since Jind Waddi is a popular name in this region so we believe, this name would be the most appropriate.
It is described by the historians that her mausoleum was built in 1494. The basic structure of her tomb is built by bricks, embellished with stunning glazed tile mosaic. The building is erected in three octagonal stories with lower storey supported by rounded and sloping corner turrets. The second storey was supported with a narrow gallery for walking round and the third is a hemispherical dome, which crowns the building.
There is an aesthetically carved wooden mehrab in the West wall. Basically it follows the typical pattern of Multani architecture on which the tombs of Hazrat Rukn-e-Alam and the Baha-ud-Deen Zakria are built.
The outside walls of the tomb are completely covered by glazed blue coloured tiles while the turrets are surmounted with a bunch of broad flowering leaves. This unique design makes it different from Multani tombs.
In the same graveyard, there is another important tomb, which is known as the grave of Ustad Ladla, the architect-mason who constructed the tomb of Bibi Jind Waddi.
Outside these splendid building, there is a common graveyard where children used to play. The bricks of the tombs are in decay. Although this place is included in the list of World Heritage but there is nothing being done so far.
These unique and majestic shrines, which are supposedly the most attractive archaeological sites in Pakistan are crumbling down to dust due to negligence and improper care of the concerned authorities.
Some 200 years ago, these buildings were destroyed by the change of course of river and floods, which washed out most of the parts of the buildings. The collapsed portions of the building should be completed on top priority basis otherwise after few years we may not find any trace of these splendid pieces of architecture.
A renovation of the collapse minaret of Chauburji in Lahore and renovation Shahi Qila is the superb examples of restoration work. Same methods should be practised here as this is the high time to save these superb monuments.
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