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18. Later Developments

Earlier, there was an open piece of land on the hill surrounded with small mounds and sand-hills. It is difficult to ascertain its size during its acquisition. It is however assumed that originally its size was 10 acres. Later, few more surrounding areas were obtained from the government. The document of the Registry Office of Thatta confirms that the size of the location was 14.10 acres in March 4, 1955. Further sites were also acquired till it reached to 24 acres. The location was thickly covered with thorns and wild bushes. The pilgrims came on camels and wheeled carriages and lodged in the small huts of jute. The local people at the distance of three miles in the village of Khoodie came to sell milk, butter, fish and mutton. Water was hygienically pure. The water carriers brought water in the earthen pitchers from the lake. Below the hill was the cave with simple enclosure of the quba, where the people reached through a rough slope passage.

The pilgrims visiting the cave were mostly the seekers of financial and material prosperity. The newly wedded couples came to untie the knot (chhera chhori), which had been tied during marriages by joining nuptial dress of bride and bridegroom. During the ceremony, they hurled coins in the air. Few families also brought their newborn babies to clear their scalps and tied the threads around their necks as the sign of good omen. The old vows were repeated, which were not fulfilled, or replaced by new vows. The pilgrims entered the chamber of the cave in sitting posture and crawled slowly onwards alike, and terminated from the exit door by keeping the faces focused on the cave. The kissing of the different articles in the cave was a normal feature. Each pilgrim was given a sacred thread and piece of coconut.

There was an old musafarkhana below the hilltop, being a square of 50 yards each side, made of stone and lime : three sides were formed into rooms, the front part supported on pillars of stones. The height of the inside walls was 15 feet. It was demolished most probably after 1840, but existed when Captain E.P. Delhoste visited Amir Pir’s location in 1839.

There existed two main lakes called Kinjar and Soneri, lying between Thatta and Jerruk. These lakes were fed with water by hill torrents and heavy rainfall. Soon after the independence of Pakistan, these lakes were dried up and turned into two deep depressions. It was reported on March 1, 1957 that a biggest artificial lake would be made known as the Kalari Lake, spread over an area of 45 square miles, with at points, four miles width and 20 miles length. Its depth would range between 16 and 18 feet containing 1,25000 million gallons of water (20,000 million cubic feet). The long canal of 40 miles thus had been taken out from the right bank of the Indus at the Ghulam Mohammad Barrage, feeding the lake constantly to act as a reservoir for the lower Sind. The Kalari Lake engulfed the Kinjar and Soneri lakes situated on the right bank of the Indus at a distance of 80 miles from Karachi. This unification of Kinjar and Soneri lakes cherished as the Kalari Lake in 1960. Accordingly, the area of Amir Pir fell within the Kalari Lake. The Government built a bund (small dam) around the Amir Pir’s cave at a cost of one lac rupees for its protection in October, 1958. In January, 1972, the Kalari Lake was renamed as the Kinjar Lake.

On March 4, 1996, Syed Abdullah Shah, the Chief Minister of Sind performed ground breaking ceremony of drinking water supply scheme at Amir Pir. The scheme had been approved at a cost of Rs. 53,886 million executed by Sind Arid Zone Development Authority. Rs. 5 million had been provided under Social Action Program for its implementation. The scheme completed in two years. It started to provide sweet, clean and bacteria-free chlorinated water to about 9000 people and 50,000 animals of village Suleman Brohi and 16 other settlements in Union Council Jhimpir through 22 km main and 12 km branch pipelines from Kinjar lake. The area fell within arid zone, the provision of sweet surface water for drinking to people of these parched areas mitigated their sufferings as they used to fetch potable water from far off places by foot in very hostile weather condition.

On November 17, 1920, the Ismaili leaders declared construction of the houses in Amir Pir, such as Itmadi Bhula Ali Khimani and Merali Khimani announced five houses each, one by Varas Rahim Basaria, two by Mukhi Sajan Damji, etc. According to a report, there had been 36 houses in 1930.

There is an old room to the right side of the cave. It is said that the Ismaili pilgrims used it for the prayers when no Majalis Hall or the Jamatkhana existed. It was lastly renovated in 1984.

The 14th Shaban to 18th Shaban represented old dates of the Mela. In 1913, its charge came into the hand of the Ismailia Supreme Council, Karachi. In 1920, the Imam changed its date and fixed 15th to 20th November. Later, its supervision was handed over to the Hy-Sultanabad Local Council Management, who fixed the date from 10th to 19th November.

With the cooperation of the Hy-Sultanabad Council, Pir Amir Khidmat Committee in Kharadhar, Karachi was founded on June 16, 1968 for providing manpower of volunteers and other facilities during the Mela. Its first President was Sadruddin Dhala Bachoo with Hon. Secretary Ashraf Ali Muhammad. In 1981, the Regional Council for Karachi and Sind took over its charge till 1989. When the Regional Council for Sind came into existence with the imposition of the New Constitution in 1986, it took over its charge in about 1990. In the meantime, the Pir Amir Khidmat Committee also liquidated in 1994.

On November 10, 1951, a certain Tajddin repaired the “Shah’ja Kadam” with marbled enclosure in memory of his late father, Muhammad Kurji. He put there a curious plaque, which reads: “Dargha Khanaqa’i Pir Amir.” Beside, Tajddin also built a hall, known as the Vanda Hall on November 10, 1951 in memory of his late father along with the members of the Young Ismailia Club, Kharadhar, Karachi.

The mosque is the highest edifice on hilltop. It was built around 1929. In 1972 and again in 1980, the author did not find any trace of inscription or written plaque outside or inside the mosque. Later, someone has put there a plaque with the words, “Muhammad Hanif Masjid” with a false date of May 27, 1494. The writer actually intended to justify the fictitious traditions to attract the visitors. Writing fictitious date clearly means to play with history when one fails to confirm the genuineness of the oral traditions. The writer also meant to give a long life to the Amir Pir Mela. Unfortunately, there is no restriction on putting the plaques in different places in Amir Pir. It will provide free rope to the venerator elite to cultivate false stories.

In 1950, there was no significant construction of the houses. In 1951, the practice of building small houses started and became more rapid after 1984. According to a survey, there were 167 built houses in 1987.

In sum, the veneration of the cave attributed to Amir Pir is to the extent of some persons, who have leaning towards it. In order to legitimate the old traditions and enhance a further lease of life to the legend of the cave, many fictitious plaques and stories have been created by vulgar section. Before installation of any plaque, it must be verified and approved from authority concerned. This practice perhaps may influence the new visitors, but cannot resist before the historical fact. The physical face of the Amir Pir Mela will differ after ten to fifteen years if it is not restricted.

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