Pakistan’s shrine architecture, epitomized by the fourteenth-century tomb of Shaikh Rukn al Din Rukn-i Alam in Multan, is justly renowned for vivid tile work, imposing domes, and surpassing beauty. These buildings are also stylistically distinct from architecture in adjoining regions. This book traces the emergence of this extraordinary building tradition with reference to lesser known commemorative sites throughout the Indus Valley that predate more famous monuments. On the basis of extensive fieldwork, Edwards provides detailed descriptions of individual structures tracking brickworking styles and other significant craft practices. The catalogue of monuments is contextualized with a brief historical narrative and art historical commentary. What distinguishes this study is its tight focus on material evidence and local ethos presented against the grain of previous scholarship. Thus, whereas traditional analysis explains Pakistan’s tiled and turreted tombs from the top down, citing dynastic patronage and stylistic influences from elsewhere, this book argues from the ground up emphasizing politically atomized environments, vernacular building methods, pertinent oral traditions, and indigenous modes of spirituality. By this means, the unique character of this architectural tradition is underscored. Moreover, the conceptual framework formulated here is incisive yet flexible, intended to accommodate and advance the study of sites that still await discovery or sustained scholarly attention.
Holly Edwards, PhD, is Senior Lecturer in the Art Department at Williams College where she teaches and writes about a wide range of subjects including Islamic art and architecture, American Orientalism, photography, and contemporary painting.