Monday, January 28, 2008


A tectonic erosion near Lakhpat

Arid landscape around Lakhpat

Road leading to Lakhpat

Remains of Lakhpat fortification

Remains of Lakhpat fortification

The Great Rann of Kutch

Sayyed Pir no Kubo

Sayyed Pir no Kubo
Sayyed Pir no Kubo - Intricate design

Sayyed Pir no Kubo - Ornamental design

Sayyed Pir no Kubo - Domes

The Ghaus Mohammed no Kubo

The Ghaus Mohammed no Kubo - dome

In one of India's remote corners on India-Pakistan border lies a deserted village of hardly a few hundred populations within a sprawling fortification. The village is no other than Lakhpat, once a thriving port with daily revenue believed to exceed one hundred thousand (one lakh) koris. Hence its name is Lakhpat.

A visit to Lakhpat was in my mind three years back during the Diwali vacation in 2004. I had made a visit to near by Siyot where Kalini my wife worked for months in an Early Historic site called Kateshwar to trace the spread of urbanism in ancient Gujarat. Shivjibhai and his extended family was my host at Siyot for the two days stay. Kalini also stayed with them for months while doing her fieldwork. Some how I could not make my Lakhpat visit during that time.

This year during my visit to Siyot I had firmly decided that I would make a definite visit to Lakhpat. One may wonder about why such importance to a deserted village…but if he is told about its fascinating past and how it all became the nature's victim, he might gain the same curiosity as I had.

I asked Shivjibhai if he could give me company. He firmly accepted. We hired a jeep and drove towards Gunheri, the last village in the Indian mainland on the edge of Great Rann of Kutch, the vast saline flat desert. The landscape is extremely barren. There are traces of natural erosions due to frequent earthquakes. With no souls around for miles, the landscape looked stunning and peaceful. The view of the great Rann was spectacular. Equally fascinating was the desert wildlife – monitor lizards playing hide and seek, birds of different species mellowing and nilgai hoards grazing in the far-off horizons. The road was dusty and narrow. After a drive of thirty minutes we approached the giant fortification of Lakhpat.

Lakhpat fort sits at the point where Kori creek meets the Great Rann of Kutch. Lakhpat was built in the year 1805 by Jamadar Fateh Muhammed, a celebrated Kutch general, to defend the frontiers of the kingdom against the encroachment of the Sindhies. The fortification erected by him enclosed the entire town within a 7 km long fort wall, most of which still stands. A report published in a British – India journal says that it was garrisoned by 50 Arabs and 150 native soldiers, and contained a population of about 5000 persons, composed principally of merchants and Hindus, who had fled from Sindh to escape the tyranny of the Amirs. Near Lakhpat was Koteri (Kotri) a landing place on the bank of river Indus, where numerous ferryboats constantly passed between them, full of men, cattle and merchandise. From Koteri, the goods were conveyed on camels to the eastern part of the Indus delta, and distributed throughout the inhabited districts of the Thar.

It was the year 1819. An earthquake of high magnitude (over 8 in the Richter scale) shocked Kutch. Lakhpat crumbled. The sea rolled up to the Kori creek (the eastern mouth of Indus which divided Kutch from Sindh) as far westward as the Goongra River. An eyewitness account suggests that from 19th June to 25th June 36 shocks were counted. The river permanently shifted westward and altered its both physical and economic landscape. After the displacement of the Indus River in 1819 the busy port was abandoned and the town that once brimmed with 10,000 people stands almost completely inhabited today. A traveller in 1838 found the only legacy of Lakhpat's maritime legacy were the remains of several boats buried in the soil that filled the bed of the old river.

Guru Nanak is believed to have camped in Lakhpat on his way to and from Mecca. The house where he said was later converted into a Gurudwara, which still stands though heavily renovated in this deserted village.

The Ghaus Mohammed no Kubo is the mausoleum of the mystic Pir Ghaus Mohammed, who became a fakir at the early age of 12. The kubo is a classic example of stone architecture with very intricate carvings. Pir's body rests here along with other members of his family. The mausoleum stands besides a water tank that is believed to possess therapeutic properties, which can cure skin diseases.

The other attraction of Lakhpat is the Sayyed Pir no Kubo, a beautiful mausoleum dedicated to Sayyed Pir Shah. It had nine domes with the largest dominating the centre while eight smaller domes surround it. The entire mausoleum is built in stone with exquisite carvings and fine details along the doors and windows. The latticed jails are especially outstanding.