City Landmarks – Silawat Jama’t Graveyard, Mewa Shah

Silawats are Marwaris from Jaisalmir who have been known as master stonemasons for centuries. Jaisalmir thrived on taxes received from overland trade, which started diminishing after increasing trade by the sea. With lesser opportunities in their area, Silawats started migrating to urban centers of subcontinent. In Sindh, they established themselves in Talpur’s court and crafted tombs for royalty. After British conquest of Sindh, some of them settled in Karachi, the port city which brimmed with new possibilities at that point in history. Silawats as stonemasons played a major role in infrastructure development in colonial Karachi. They helped give this booming city an architectural identity.

Therefore it is only logical that Silawat Jama’t’s graveyard celebrates its community’s achievements. Some of the graves date back to 1850s. The tombstones are made with yellow stone possibly from Rajhistan but this is not what makes this graveyard unique. It’s use of miniature models of famous buildings as tombstones that make this graveyard unparalleled at least in Karachi. We are told that the miniatures commemorate the connection of stonemason with that particular building, celebrating his role in construction, his achievement.

The graveyard is situated inside Mewa Shah and is separated with the walls. There is a mosque in the middle where I find several men resting on a Saturday noon. They have been used to visitors and don’t mind people photographing the graveyard. They don’t show much enthusiasm either but that can be attributed to the afternoon temperature of a hot and humid day. We walk past the mosque with a cemented pathway leading to the center of graveyard. The most elaborated tombstones are right in the beginning. Perhaps the most eye catching tombstone is that of Ibrahim Kotwal who supposedly worked on Merewether tower. However a closer look at dates and age don’t seem to add up with the construction time of the tower. Nevermind. There are two dozen or so tombstones in a larger graveyard which seem to denote some stone facade in the city! Ah those peculiarities which gave birth to the myths and created legends larger than life.

There are few graves with stone canopies and two tombs on the farther side of the graveyard. They seem to belong to some influential in the community. They are simple and elegant in design. We see some tombstone which are lying on the floor. Signs of old graves disappear but the tombstones live.

The graveyard and tombstones can certainly benefit with some expert care. In this city we often debate on the qualification of a landmark as heritage. Surely there must be no doubt that Silawat Jama’t graveyard qualify as important piece of Karachi’s heritage.

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Categories: City Landmarks

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