WRITER: Zareef Baloch
TRANSLATED BY: Banok Sadia Hoth
The Kech Valley is considered to be the custodian of ancient civilization and culture in Balochistan. Also known as the Land of punnu (meer dostin), it is home to ancient history, civilization, and cultural heritage dating back thousands of years, which remains to be explored. Many battles have been fought in the past to conquer the Kech Valley. This land has been ruled by different nations at different times. Traces of ancient civilization remain in the fertile land of Kech, suggesting that thousands of years ago, this valley of Balochistan was of great importance and its inhabitants were skilled.
Meeri Kalat is located about 10 to 12 km northwest of Turbat in Kech. It is an ancient and historical place. The remains of the large fort built on a high mound are in ruins. Having been neglected, over time, the ruins and remains of this historic and ancient fort, locally known as ‘Meeri Kalat’ and ‘Punnu Kalat’, have been reduced to rubble. Remains of the fort walls and towers can be seen. The old walls of this fort are hidden due to its location on a high mound. Most likely, buildings up to 10 meters high were used by residences thousands of years ago. Presently, only the remains and traces of the upper part of the fort can be easily seen. Wood has also been used in the construction of this fort made of mud and stones. As you get closer, you can see wood on the roofs of the fort. Remains of three wells are also found in the fort compound, which suggests that thousands of years ago, the people here were well acquainted with the art of stone carving and mud fortification.
The fort is made of mud and stones and it is most likely that the stones and mud were taken from the Kech River, as the Kech River flows close to the ‘Meeri Kalat’. The fort was fortified on all sides to protect it from external invaders and the evidence shows that the fort was protected by these forts. Traces of the forts built around the fort can still be seen, while there are palm groves nearby. Excavations at the fort show evidence of continuous occupation from about 2700 BC to about 100 years ago. According to Naeem Shad, a local writer from Turbat, ‘Meeri’ is derived from the Balochi word ‘Mir’, and because of Mir, it is called Meeri Kalat. The Great Mir Jalal Khan Hoth ruled the area in the 12th century, and the local tradition of the story of Sassi and Punnu strengthens the Hoth tribe’s rule over the fort. Imran Shabbir, a professor of archeology at the University of Balochistan, told The Independent Urdu that the fort was inhabited by people at 12 different periods and is 5500 to 6000 years old. He said that different cultures are identified by the color of the soil in excavations, the oldest culture is identified by the soil below the fort and the last culture is identified by the soil above, and research has revealed that 12 different kings and people of different cultures lived here.
It is probable that this historic fort was ruled by different kings and rulers in different periods, who had unconditional power in their respective periods. It is also possible that the Mongols, Arabs, Greeks, and Ghaznavids ruled this land in different periods, although there are no historical documents in this regard. Archaeologists are still struggling to gather enough evidence before reaching the final conclusions about the location of the ancient fortress.
The love story of Sassi Punnu in Balochi folklore and poetry gives information about only a part of the past of this fort and historical documents regarding the remaining 11 periods are still missing. According to local folklore and poetry, Mir Jalal Khan Hoth ruled the fort in the 12th century. According to local folklore, Mir Dostin Hoth (Punnu) was the son of Mir Aali. Mir Aali Hakim was the son of Mir Muhammad and he was the grandson of The Great Mir Jalal Khan Hoth. Mir Jalal Khan was the chief and ruler of the Hoth tribe, and the people of this tribe still live in different parts of Makran, including Turbat.
According to the local tradition, Mir Dostin Hoth (Punnu), son of The Great Mir Ali Hoth, the ruler of the land of Kech, went to Bhanbhur, a city in Sindh, from Kech for business and fell in love with Sassi. It goes that a daughter was born to a King. A soothsayer told the king that the girl was a sign of bad luck for the royal family. The king of Bhanbhur put the girl in a wooden box and handed her over to the waves of the river Indus. He fell into the hands of a childless laundress of the village who raised the girl as her own child, considering it a gift from God.
Mir Dostin Hoth, the son of the ruler of Kech, fell in love with Sassi, the daughter of a laundress of Bhanbhur, and on the condition of becoming a laundress, Punnu succeeded in marrying Sassi. It is said that Punnu’s family was angry over this relationship and under the pretext of meeting Punnu, Bhanwar came and took Punnu back with him after offering him an intoxicating drink. When Sassi woke up in the morning, she went crazy looking for Punnu. In the hot desert, exhausted by the intensity of thirst, Sassi asked a shepherd for water. He started praying. Meanwhile, the ground cracked and Sassi went underground. When Punnu regained consciousness, he did not see Sassi. When the shepherd told the whole story to Punnu, he shouted Sassi. In response, Sassi’s mournful voice came, a grave was dug and Punnu and Sassi were both buried in that grave. The tombs of this timeless love story of Sassi Punu are located in the Lasbela district of Balochistan where devotees come to visit.
A French team has excavated the site and other forts in Makran in recent years, and experts have unearthed artifacts from different periods, while Italian archaeologists have been excavating the fort in the past. According to archaeologists, excavation is not possible without an integrated and comprehensive plan of pre-excavation protection and management.
According to Imran Shabbir, it is not possible to bring this fort back to its original form. However, a fort-like this can be built from the materials from which this fort was built so that the ancient civilization and relics can be preserved. Two years ago, the government began planning to restore the historic fort, but work has yet to begin. It is possible that funds will be allocated for this in the coming budget. According to archaeologists, in order to restore Meeri Kalat, it is necessary to close it with a fence and complete excavation to identify the different periods of the fort.
The writer hails from Tump, Balochistan. She is currently a student of BS History at the University of Karachi.