Zulfiqar Kalhoro

Memorial Stones in Sindh: Meanings, Symbols and Motifs


The practice of erecting memorial stones to commemorate the heroic death of a warrior was widespread in the early medieval period in Sindh. One cannot say with certainty when was the first memorial stone or pillar was erected. Based on dated memorial stones one can safely say that the memorial stones were in vogue in the 10th and 11th century-Sindh.  Memorial towers, pillars and stones are found in different parts of Sindh.  Memorial stones are erected for men who died as heroes in battle or met with an unnatural death. In close connection with them figure the innumerable sati monuments.

The subject of memorial stones is a new addition to the archaeology and religious studies in Pakistan in general and Sindh in particular. We know that there is a growing interest on this subject in India.  But not much has been written on the memorial stones in Sindh. Therefore, this talk will deal with the memorial stones of Tharparkar district of Sindh focusing on meanings, symbols and motifs. While discussing memorial stones in Tharparkar, a brief introduction to the commemorative towers and pillars in other districts of Sindh will also be made.

Memorial stones are found in almost every historic village in Tharparkar. These stones are objects of veneration for the Hindu community in Tharparkar district. There are many local terms which are used for the memorial stones and symbols and motifs which are found on these memorial stones. Meanings, symbols and motifs which are associated with these stones will be discussed in detail.


ZULFIQAR ALI KALHORO is an anthropologist and an assistant professor at the Department of Development Studies in the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), Islamabad. He completed his PhD in Asian Studies with focus on Kalhora history and architecture in Sindh from Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. His main area of interest is religion and art of Pakistan especially in Sindh. He has also researched in the Punjab, Balochistan, and Gilgit-Baltistan provinces of Pakistan on religion, heritage, Sufism, folk art, asceticism and Islamic architecture.

Before joining the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics; he worked in the Taxila Institute of Asian civilizations under the guidance of late Ahmed Hasan Dani and studied culture and art of Gilgit-Baltistan. He has worked on the representation of women in folk romance paintings of Sindh. One of his books entitled Perspectives on the Art and Architecture of Sindh (2014) deals with lesser known heritage of Sindh. Apart from Islamic art and architecture, he has also written several articles on Sufism, Hindu and Sikh heritage of Pakistan. His three most recent books Memorial Stones Tharparkar (2017) and Archaeology, Art and Religion in Sindh (2018) and Symbols in Stone: Rock Art of Sindh deal with the cultural heritage of Sindh, Pakistan.

Currently he is working on two research projects 1) Women Islamic mysticism in Pakistan: Reflections on Female Sufi saints and their shrines and 2) Honor, identity and religion in Indus Kohistan, Pakistan.