Nausherwani tombs

Nausherwani tombs

Nausherwani tombs or Noshirwani tombs are located near Qila Ladgasht in Mashkel tehsil, Kharan District, Balochistan, Pakistan.

The Nausherwani tombs are a set of nine tombs dating back nearly 800 hundred years. According to district gazetteer of Kharan (1906) there were nine tombs of which two have collapsed by 2004. The district gazetteer of 1906 records that one of these buildings had the inscription ‘Mazar e Nikodar’ (Tomb of Nikodar).

Nikodar Ooghul belonged to the Arghun Dynasty and he converted to Islam and adopted the name Sultan Ahmad Khan[1] in 681 Hijri. First from Marco Polo as he crosses the desert region near Kerman. He tells us that the villages were strongly defended against bandits who could magically bring darkness upon settlements and passing caravans. Since they themselves were very well acquainted with the country, they descended upon the blinded caravaners to plunder them. These bandits, Polo tells us, were under the leadership of a man call Nogodar. Now, there was a Nikodar (or Nogodar) Oghlan, grandson of Chaghata Khan of the house of Chengez whose range was northern Iran and Georgia. Here he attempted to dislodge his uncle Abaka Khan who ruled over Iran, but was defeated and disarmed by the Khan. Nikodar died in or about 1278 and his band of freebooters was absorbed in the Khan’s army.

Then again we hear of the Nikodaris from Mughal emperor Babur. He tells us that in 1519 these lawless men had to be punished for ganging up with the equally lawless Hazaras to plunder the countryside north of Kabul. The implication is that the charisma of Nikodar who gave his name to his followers lived on well over two hundred years after his death and that these people continued to follow the ways of banditry he had shown them.

The logical deduction to draw then was that the tombs of Mashkel date back to the late 13th century when Nikodar was terrorising the country south of Farah in Afghanistan as the Herat chronicle tells us. The rational story then would be that a large number of the Nikodari band was slaughtered during one such raid into this arid country and were buried here by the survivors. That would explain the multiple burials. That or some pestilence that wiped out most of the marauding army.

These are funerary monuments that are now known as the Nausherwani tombs, after the leading family of the district. The first floors contain variable numbers of graves, while the ground floor vaults, originally bricked up but broken into at some point in time, have multiple burials. Back in 1987 I found amid the jumble of human bones, skulls, femurs, ulnae et al., pieces of cereous, yellowed shroud as well which was missing on the second visit. Each of these vaulted chambers appeared to have held up to twenty corpses and it was evident then that the graves had been disturbed, perhaps by treasure seekers.


Sultan Ahmad Khan

It is related that Sultan Ahmad, before his conversion to the Islam, was called Nikodar Ooghul, and that after the death of his brother, having consulted with his chiefs and ameers, it was determined that Arghun, the son of Abukai Khan, who had received charge of the province of Khorasan during the life-time of his father, and who commanded a large army there, and was therefore an object of dread, should be summoned, by a fictitious order, to attend his father; and by such an order he did attend, and some consultation took place regarding the succession. Arghun Khan, who was ignorant of the death of Mango Timoor, his great-uncle, was of opinion he, Mango Timoor should succeed his father. Nikodur Oghul however, having assumed the office of Mango Timoor, Arghun was reluctantly compelled to submit. On the 13th Rabi' al-awwal, 681 Hijri, Nikodur Ooghul ascended the throne in the town of Alatak, and reigned with justice over the country of Persia, particularly Azerbaijan and Iraq. This prince was the first person of his family who became a Muslim; when he was converted he took the title of Sultan Ahmad Khan. Sultan Ahmad continued the Vuzarut, as before, of Khawajah Shams-ud-deen Muhammad; he also received Alauddin Malik Ata into his favour, and gave up Mujeed-ul-Mulk Yezdi (for some offence against the Islamic law) into his hands to be put to death. Khawajah Ata Malik also died on the 4th Dhu al-Hijjah 681.

As at that time by the righteous endeavours of Khawajah Shams-ud-deen Muhammad and Sultan Ahmad Khan, Islam began to acquire great strength, several of the princes who were pagans, commenced to entertain and display great malice towards the Sultan and his faith; among these, Arghun Khan, the son of Abukai Khan, retired to Khorasan and raised the standard of rebellion, and in the month of Safar 683 Hijri, advanced to Damghan. Sultan Ahmad on hearing this, despatched Ali Ibnak, otherwise called Alinak, to Khorasan, to oppose him. Alinak, on his arrival there, took and plundered Damghan and put the inhabitants of that city to death; and shortly after the armies met in the plains of Fuhwacheh, and a battle followed, in which prince Arghun was defeated. After this event, Sultan Ahmad Khan himself marched to Khorasan, and Alinak hearing of his movement, renewed his pursuit of Prince Arghun, who sought refuge in the fort of Kalat; about that time Sultan Ahmad and his army arrived at Khojan, and despatched orders to Alinak (who was his son-in-law), to prevail on Prince Arghun to quit the castle of Kalat, and then bring him to his presence. Alinak therefore entered the fort of Kilat, and by assurances of safety persuaded Arghun to proceed to Sultan Ahmad’s camp at Khojan. Alinak, in secret, however, used every means to prevail on the sultan to put him to death, but Sultan Ahmad did not attend to his suggestions, but placed him in confinement in a khirgah, and appointed Oorook, the brother of Meer Yoogha, with four other persons selected by Alinak, to keep him in custody. Alinak modestly gave those men orders to put Arghun to death seven days after he departed, and then went to amuse himself at the camp at Purmahro, in Iraq. After he departed, the independent horse of the Sultan Ameer Yoogha Jungshanuk, of Khutaie, and a number of other Amirs who were offended at the sultan’s conversion to Islam, assisted by the friends of prince Arghun released him in the night from prison, and in concert fell upon Alinak, who was slain, with many servants of Sultan Ahmad. The next day, Ameer Yoogha despatched a camel messenger to the tribe of Kara Qubash, to desire them to seize the passes by which the Oltulli troops under Sultan Ahmad Khan were about to advance, and after a few days Arghun also proceeded to oppose the sultan. The sultan heard of the release of Arghun and the events which followed it, in the vicinity of Isferain, and being without the means to oppose Arghun, sought refuge with his mother Kowuti Khatoon, who resided in the Sorab of Herat. When the sultan arrived at Qazvin, he fell in with Teelai Timoor, one of the chief ameers of Arghun, whom he seized and put to death with his sons; and from Kazvin, continued his flight without halting until he arrived at Herat. In his flight, almost all his servants abandoned him.

Two or three days after the arrival of Sultan Ahmad at the Sorab of Herat, the tribe of Kara Oubash attacked his camp and plundered it, and soon after Prince Arghun also arrived in that vicinity. In these circumstances Bookai and Shunkoor, the chief servants of his mother, to seek favour with Arghun, treacherously seized Sultan Ahmad, and carried him to Arghun, pretending they were originally his servants. For this reason some historians have stated, that when Sultan Ahmad arrived at Herat he was recognized and seized by the troops of Arghun Khan, and that by Arghun’s orders he was put to death. The facts are, however, that when Bookai and Shunkoor carried Sultan Ahmad to Arghun, he delivered the Sultan over to the sons of Kunkur Bai, whose father had been slain by Sultan Ahmad, and they, in retaliation, broke his back, and, at the same time, broke the hearts of Muslims. Sultan Ahmad reigned two years and about three months.

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