Shikar in Sindh survives centuries by staying on a wall

Kalhoro, Marri, Talpur rulers had tombs painted with their sport
Deer hunting in a Muridani Jamali tomb, Johi Dadu.
Deer hunting in a Muridani Jamali tomb, Johi Dadu. Image: Zulfiqar Kalhoro

Eighteenth and nineteenth-century Sindh witnessed an unprecedented upsurge in tomb construction. The distinctive feature of these tombs was the mural painting. The themes included folk romances, daily rustic life, sports, historic battles and hunting scenes.
Hunting is the most recurrent theme in the tomb in Sindh. The men are shown hunting deer, leopards and birds. Deer and leopard hunting was the pastime of the rulers and nobles whereas bird hunting was the preference for ordinary people. You can tell it is a royal hunter because they will always be shown on horseback.

Marri Tombs in Sanghar

We find the earliest paintings in the tombs of Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro (1657-1692). They depict leopard and deer hunting. Two tombs in the Muridani Jamali necropolis in Johi, Dadu district are particularly spectacular. In one of the tombs, there are three panels which show the hunters on horseback hunting deer and the hunters are shown with shotguns. 
The second tomb also has three panels on deer hunting. The deer are found in a large number in the Khirthar Range. These tombs lie very close to this Khirthar Range and apparently the inspiration has come from this range where the rulers used to go hunting.

Deer hunting scenes are also found in the tombs of Muridani Jamali, Mir Allahyar Talpur, Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro, Jalabani Lagharis in Johi, Dadu and in the tombs of the Abras and Marris in Nawabshah and Sanghar districts. In all these tombs, hunters are shown on horseback going after deer. There is only one exception in which a noble is shown hunting a wild boar. There are two panels in the tomb of Sultan Khan Marri in Tilla Shah graveyard in Sanghar. The first panel shows the noble hunting wild boar with the help of soldiers and dogs. The dogs are shown attacking the wild boar and the noble and soldiers are shown attacking the animals with guns and spears.

The second panel depicts the attendants carrying the hunt on wooden planks. This is a very interesting painting, not found in any other tomb of the Kalhora period (1700-1783) and Talpur period (1783-1843).
We find leopard hunting in the Kalhora  and Talpur tombs. The earliest one appears in the tomb of Bego Awan in the necropolis of Mian Nasir Muhammad Kalhoro and later in Muridani Jamali tombs. However, the most beautiful one is found in a tomb at the necropolis Muridani Jamali. The nobleman is shown attacking a leopard with a spear and behind him his attendant has a shotgun. The leopard attacks the hunter but the pouncing leopard is killed by the Kalhora and Talpur nobles. This story is found in several tombs, however, the one of Sultan Marri at the necropolis of Tilla Shah depicts the most interesting of such scenes.
There are two panels in the tomb which show nobles hunting leopards. In one of the panels the noble is armed with a sword and spear in both hands and is horseback. Dogs attack the leopard and the hunting helper aims the shotgun at the leopard to shoot it from behind.

In another panel, a noble on horseback is accompanied by two hunters aiming at a leopard with arrows. Dogs bite the leopard’s left leg. This gives the nobleman a chance to drive the spear into the leopard’s heart. Interestingly, the leopards here are shown as short-bodied, which is also a special feature of Jodhpur painting. The inspiration might have come from Jodhpur because the Kalhoras enjoyed friendly relations with its rulers. It is also possible that some Jodhpur artists either painted these tombs or trained Sindhi painters in the Jodhpur style. For that matter, the lion hunt also appears in Rajput paintings. Short-bodied figures of tigers are a noticeable feature of Jodhpur and Marwar paintings. The leopard or tiger hunting frequently appears in Mughal and Rajput paintings as well. Apart from tiger hunting, wild ass and boar hunting also appear in the Mughal and Rajput painting.

The contributor is an anthropologist. He may be contacted at [email protected]





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