Dargah Lal Shahbaz
Bhadresvar, India
Ranked amongst one of the earliest extant Islamic monuments in India, dating to 1160, this tomb houses "Ibrahim", as stated on an inscription. According to local lore, Ibrahim is the legendary Shi'ite saint, Lal Shahbaz, who lived in the thirteenth century and is still revered both in Sindh and Gujarat. Despite the obvious anachronism, the shrine is locally known as the Dargah Lal Shahbaz.

Makhdum Lal Shahbaz was the title of Sheikh Uthman Marwandi, a descendant of the Shi'ite Imam Jafar al-Sadiq. He belonged to the Qalandar order of the Sufis and had many miracles attributed to him. Lal Shahbaz eventually settled in Sehwan, where he died in 1274 A.D. His tomb in Sehwan is considered one of the holiest of sites in Sindh. Henry Cousens in The Antiquities of Sind established in 1929 that this was indeed the shrine of Lal Shahbaz. Hence, the ascribing of the Shrine of Ibrahim as that of Lal Shahbaz is simply a tradition and not historically grounded.

The shrine consists of a square chamber with a portico at the main entrance, which is to the east. The chamber measures 19 feet square (5.7 meters square) on the interior, while the portico is 19 feet by 6 feet (5.7 meters by 1.98 meters). There appears to be no grave within the shrine chamber, though there are 11 small tomb structures that can be found around the shrine.

The shrine is built of large blocks of stone and mortar has not been used at the joints. The chamber is roofed by a Jain and Hindu type roof: pyramidal on the exterior but conical within that is formed by courses of concentric, superimposed stone. The dome is supported by 12 engaged columns that line the internal walls of the chamber. The portico has a flat ceiling that is supported by two columns in the front and corresponding pilasters where the roof meets the square chamber. The ceiling of the portico was visually divided into 27 squares with a large lotus flower in the center of each. The inscriptions stating the date and person to whom the shrine is attributed to, is found on the frieze that runs along the walls just under the ceiling of the portico.

The columns and pilasters are divided into three parts. For columns, the lower part is square, the middle is octagonal, and the upper is circular. All three parts of the pilasters are square in plan and distinguished only by the different use of molding. The columns and pilasters are decorated with traditional motifs used in Jain architecture and capped with stone brackets in the form elaborately carved foliage, to form ante-capitals that support the roof. Such structural techniques, along with decorative motifs, make this building an early example of indigenous Jain and Hindu architecture affected with Islamic sensibilities.

The Shrine would have been a variation of Hindu and Jain architecture, except that it has a mihrab attached to it. The mihrab is on axis with the entrance and is a semi-circular recess in the west wall that projects outward. It is a plain mihrab and is flanked by two windows. This configuration later became a common feature in Gujarati architecture. The projection of the mihrab beyond the exterior wall was a western Muslim tradition, and its use here supports the idea that there once was a direct link between the Arabs and the Muslims in Bhadresvar.

Sources:

Alfieri, Bianca Maria. Islamic Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent. London: Laurence King Publishing, 2000. 106, 107.

Shokoohy, Mehrdad. Bhadresvar: The Oldest Islamic Monuments of India. Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1988. 14, 15, 16, 17.
Location
Bhadresvar, India
Events
1159-60-554-55 AH
Variant Names
Dargah Lal Shahbaz
Shrine of Ibrahim
Variant
Shrine of Lal Shahbaz
Variant
Lal Shah Pir Masjid
Variant
Building Usages
mausoleum
funerary
shrine
religious