Pale and sickly, a woman totters up the stone steps leading to a small, dimly-lit passageway. She has a cannula in one hand; the other is holding firmly onto a man who has been guiding her. As they reach a padlocked gate, a guard motions for them to stop. He unlocks the gate but only permits the woman through.
Men are not allowed inside the burial place of the Seven Holy Sisters of Rohri, Sukkur.
The man watches anxiously from afar as the woman makes her way inside the cave-like abode of the Seven Sisters and then disappears from sight inside one of the rooms. Presumably, she has gone to pray, make supplications or offerings for her health.
There will be many more like her throughout the day, the caretaker tells us. Women visit the site to pray for their wellbeing or receive blessings from the Seven Sisters. To some they are healers, to some they are saints.
As the legend goes, some time between 600-700 A.D. a group of seven women had established their home on this hillside in Rohri, 16km from the city of Sukkur, adjacent to the left bank of the Indus river. They gained fame throughout the city due to their vow of refusal to come out of their humble dwelling into the world of men.
It was believed that these women were Muslim, whereas the ruler at the time was a Hindu man by the name of Raja Dahir who had ordered for them to be presented in his court. Upon their non-compliance, he had decided to storm their house and take them prisoner.
As word reached the women in Rohri, they were stricken with deathly fear. Huddled together under a shroud, they prayed for deliverance. It was then that the ground beneath their feet thundered and split open to engulf them. What remained was apparently just their shroud marking the site of this miracle.
This story, however, is a hagiographical account and there is no way to determine what actually transpired at the site. What is certain though is that it is the final resting place of Mir Abu Al-Qasim Namkeen, who ruled Sukkur in 1553.
On the rooftop, his and several other graves form a complex of tombs that overlooks the Indus river and Landsowne Bridge.
The Landsowne Bridge is itself a spectacle to behold. A feat of engineering and construction, the bridge was built in 1889, and was then known as “the longest rigid girder bridge span in the world.” Some experts claim it can be dismantled and shifted anywhere else in the world.
In the present day, tourists and locals visit the site to enjoy the view along the river. From late afternoon to evening, motorboats take tourists for picturesque boat rides under the massive Landsowne Bridge.