Chaukhandi Tombs, Karachi

Photo by Roman Bruehwiler.

Chaukhandi Tombs, Karachi is part of the Tentative list of Pakistan in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.

The Chaukhandi Tombs form an early Islamic burial ground located in Sindh province, about 30 kilometres east of Karachi. The necropolis consists of ornate tombs and mausoleums mainly built between the 15th and 18th centuries. The tombs are remarkable for their intricate design and elaborated sandstone carvings. They are decorated with geometrical patterns but also with figural representations of horsemen, hunting scenes, arms and jewellery.

Map of Chaukhandi Tombs, Karachi

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The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.

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Els Slots

The Netherlands - 08-Dec-23 -

Chaukhandi Tombs, Karachi (T) by Els Slots

The Chaukhandi Tombs lie on the outskirts of Karachi, at the end of a street in an industrial area where truckers park their vehicles in between trips. It’s a surprising location for an archaeological site, but it has a formal entrance gate, a local caretaker/guide and amenities such as toilets. There’s no entrance fee. The state of conservation has improved since the last review that we have available (from 2013): the tombs lie now in a neat park with flowering plants and walking paths marked by white stones. The decorated tombs look like they have been cleaned and certainly do not suffer from any vandalism such as graffiti – this is the result of renovations in 2020.  

About 1,500 of these sandstone tombs lie close together in a graveyard. It’s worth looking at them closely one by one, as the mostly geometric motifs used in the decoration vary greatly. There’s a somewhat Hindu/Indian feel about the site, which might be explained by the Hindu Rajput descendence of the (Muslim) Jokhio tribe who created the tombs.

Most are single tombs for individuals, some are family graves grouped on a platform and probably the richest family had their members buried in a kind of pavilion. You can also see tombs at the far end of the site, but the guide told us that they were not historical but recent ones and we could not go there.

Overall, it’s a site that definitely should be part of your Pakistan itinerary. The WHS of Makli has tombs in Chaukhandi style too, but I found the ones here more impressive in their details. Could it ever become a WHS? I am quite positive: of course, it’s a small site at only 2 square miles (we spent half an hour there), with a single focus, but we have the Holy Trinity Column or the Madara Rider on the List as well. Scholars have named it "a most original and independent contribution to Islamic sepulchral architecture and ornamental sculpture".

Read more from Els Slots here.


UK - 28-Nov-13 -

Chaukhandi Tombs, Karachi (T) by Solivagant

Chaukhandi tombs were our first introduction to Pakistani T List sites but their condition set the tone for much of what was to come. An interesting site of beautifully carved sandstone tombs created by Baluchi tribes-people starting in the 15th C but gradually decaying and becoming overwhelmed by the inexorable spread of Karachi. This newspaper report from 2012 confirms everything we saw.

But what about the positives? View these tombs as an introduction to the much grander Makli (around 75kms further east.) in their use of sandstone and in their geometric designs (the stone in fact was quarried from near Makli). Most are “body sized” rectangular tombs though a few are larger with pillars and even a covering dome (photo). All the male tombs have a stylised stone turban carved at the head end – a motif we were to see again and again in the Sufi tombs we visited throughout our tour of Pakistan. There the turbans were of wound rich fabric placed on top of the tomb – and at a Saint’s tomb at Harappa pilgrims left beautiful turbans all along the tomb as a sign of respect. Female tombs were decorated with necklaces etc. Some tombs had carvings of fish and snakes or weapons.

Even if well maintained I wouldn’t have seen these tombs as “WHS material” but they are worth a stopover on the road out to Banbhore and Makli – they are around 25kms out from Karachi centre just past the airport.

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Full Name
Chaukhandi Tombs, Karachi
Structure - Burial
1993 Added to Tentative List

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Chaukhandi Tombs, Karachi (T)
WHS 1997-2024