The Mausoleum of Bahauddin Zakariya

Overview of Bahauddin's tomb

On the dominating mound what is now the Old Fort in Multan stands the Mosque & Tomb complex of Sheikh Bahauddin Zakariya
Built in exquisite cut brickwork aesthetically augmented with blue tiles this tomb is one of the oldest in the City of Shrines

Architectural drawing Bahauddin's tomb

Ahmed Nabi Khan gives us the architectural details in his own style and what a delight it is to revisit these
A little taller than 87 feet the structure is built in three tiers
First level is a square plan with battered walls, on top of which is placed an octagon

Bahauddin's tomb

Each face of this octagon is arched in recess, the octagon is then topped with a hemispherical dome
Ornamenting the edifice we have four minarets on the square level, clerestory windows on the octagonal drum at second tier and a finial that crowns our magnificent dome

Bahauddin's tomb

Bahauddin an eminent scholar of his time has a well recorded date of death Dec 21, 1262 CE
But we don’t have a date of construction on his tomb
Some believe it was built by the Shiekh in his life
Other’s say it was constructed by Ghiasuddin Balban the last of Slave Kings of India

What Scholars do agree on is that this peculiar three tiered architectural tradition originated with Sheikh Zakariya’s tomb in Multan
Ahmed Nabi Khan however differs and takes us outside the confines of Multan to look for the prototypes
We, dear reader, now take the road to Lodhran
Taking Multan – Bahawalpur road just having crossed Lodhran is the hamlet town of Adam Wahan
Here stands a tomb attributed to one Daud Shah Gardez
A three tiered structure with a square plan topped by an octagon and the dome, a perfect architectural match to the tomb at Multan

The construction is of mud tiles covered with an inner and outer layer of the fired bricks
The second storey octagon squinches on top into 16 sides on which rests the dome

Bahauddin's tomb
Architectural drawing Bahauddin's tomb

Now we have a saint of no known origins but taking the simplicity of the brickwork it appears to be a predecessor of Bahauddin’s tomb at Multan. The question however is if this is a true precursor of Multan’s tomb architecture?
Here, Khurshid Hassan differs

Shaikh Khurshid Hassan in a flight due north west takes us to Derajats
Here once passed the old Peshawar – Multan route
A little west on the patch of Indus Highway that connects the Dera of Ismail Khan to that of Ghazi Khan, 30 miles south west of D.l.Khan stand Lal Mahra Tombs

Lal Mahra tombs

The spot known as Andiray translating to ‘graveyard’ in Pashto now hosts four structures partially restored to their magnificent cut and molded brickwork adorned with exquisite blue tiles
Once there were 11 of these of which now stand 4 on square plan with two variants in design

Dome, Lal Mahra tombs
Design Variant 1 | Lal Mahra Tombs

The ones with steep straight walls have a dome placed right on top of square chamber in a two stage construction
The dome is built with concentric rings of bricks
Other than the cut and molded brickwork we also see terracotta plugs in aesthetically pleasing friezes and patterns

Dome, Lal Mahra tombs
Design Variant 2 | Lal Mahra Tombs

Other style has round turrets in each corner that taper inwards towards the top
The transition from base to dome is in three stages
Now we see a much developed & mature form of this design in Shah Rukn Alam tomb in Multan
So these tombs are believed to be an earlier construction

Lal Mahra tombs

All of these tombs house multiple graves, and there are graves in open much adorned with blue tiles
With no inscription whatsoever these are ‘Graves of The Unknown’
Our beloved travel historian Salman Rashid gives us few clues

Lal Mahra tombs

Salman tells us of a battle given by Muhammad favorite son of Ghias ud Din Balban to Mongols outside Multan in 1285
There might have been other battles with Mongols that could not make to the history books and Lal Mahra might be one of such battle sites, so believes Salman Rashid

Lal Mahra tombs

Dr Taj Ali takes us further back in time, when Ghaznavids having defeated Afghan Hindu Shahis had their ingress into Gomal Valley
With an architecture similar to Central Asia Lal Mahra tombs might very well be a Ghaznavid footprint in Gomal Plain from late 11th/early 12th centur

From Andiray we take yet another flight due south west to a fairly recently discovered site
12 miles south of well known town of Sibbi as the crow flies lies Mithri and its graveyard on a raised mound
There beside a modern construction of a dargah stand a few ancient tombs

Tombs of Mithri

Here’s another possible precursor to our Multan model
The dilapidated tombs of Mithri have that signature architectural footprint, three tiered construction, octagonal drum and a dome
Our curse of anonymity, dear reader, follows us for we don’t know who lie buried in these tombs

Tombs of Mithri
Tombs of Mithri

We know the ancient route through Bolan Pass towards Punjab & Sind passed through here
The Central Asian tradition in these tombs of Mithri place them around 11th/12th Century CE
Sibi was a tributary of Multan so the architecture must have had its influence on Mausolea of Multan

Tomb at Mithri

One structure in the Mithri graveyard is peculiar being different from the rest
Built on an octagonal plan with tapered walls and turrets on the corners it has a striking resemblance to one another tomb at Multan

Shah Rukn e Alam's tomb at Multan

Termed as “tour de force and the finest achievement of the Multan builders” by Kamil Khan Mumtaz the tomb of Rukn ud Din Abul Fateh a.k.a Shah Rukn e Alam, the grandson of Bahauddin Zakariya appears to be a mature and much ornate form of the octagonal tomb at Mithri

So contrary to common belief the Tomb of Shah Rukn e Alam at Multan is not the first funerary monument constructed on octagonal plan
But then, is our saint, Rukn ud Din Abul Fateh actually buried here?
Another day, dear reader, and we shall listen to another story


The pictures of Bahauddin Zakariya’s tomb and those from Lal Mahra Graveyard were very kindly spared by my friend Dr Syed Muzammil Hussain of Wasaib Explorer

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author bio

Imran Saeed

I am a teller of old tales. History, folklore, military, and more. Mostly covering Pakistan, my homeland, but also the Great White North, where I am currently settled.
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