Tharparkar: The history and culture amid catastrophe

Tharparkar, Pakistan – Tharparkar, a district spread over 20,000sq kilometres, lies in Pakistan‘s southern Sindh province.

Almost 2,000 children under the age of five have died in Tharparkar since 2011.

But the region paints a picture of beauty and adversity, for beneath the alarming mortality figures are deeper issues hampering human existence in this geographically, culturally and religiously complex district of almost 1.5 million people.


READ MORE: Tharparkar – Pakistan’s ongoing catastrophe


Poverty, population growth, lack of clean drinking water, unemployment and high illiteracy rates have seemingly trapped Tharparkar in a state of catastrophe.

Centuries-old temples, uniquely built houses and eye-catching handicraft remain shrouded under the persistent clouds of neglect. And there is the lack of awareness that keeps its history in its purest form, albeit in a constant state of deterioration.

Mules are used to carry water from wells and water plants. Their strength is particularly useful in drawing water from wells, a process repeated multiple times throughout the day under the desert sun. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]

Mules are used to carry water from wells and water plants. Their strength is particularly useful in drawing water from wells, a process repeated multiple times throughout the day under the desert sun. Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera
Camel hair art and carving is a skill found in abundance in Tharparkar. But gulkari, as it is known, is a dying art, according to the locals who practise it, in addition to selling camel milk. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]

Camel hair art and carving is a skill found in abundance in Tharparkar. But gulkari, as it is known, is a dying art, according to the locals who practise it, in addition to selling camel milk. Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera
For a region so heavily reliant on livestock, there are only 12 vets in the entire district of 4.6 million animals. The government ran a livestock vaccination programme across 68 villages after the dry season, and diseases accounted for the deaths of over 300,000 livestock in 2014. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]

For a region so heavily reliant on livestock, there are only 12 vets in the entire district of 4.6 million animals. The government ran a livestock vaccination programme across 68 villages after the dry season, and diseases accounted for the deaths of over 300,000 livestock in 2014. Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera
Around 80 percent of Tharparkar is rural and inaccessible by car. Here, people live in chaunras, or straw-roofed mud houses. Most of the villages – 2,300 registered and almost 2,000 unregistered – have no electricity. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]

Around 80 percent of Tharparkar is rural and inaccessible by car. Here, people live in chaunras, or straw-roofed mud houses. Most of the villages – 2,300 registered and almost 2,000 unregistered – have no electricity. Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera
The women of Tharparkar lead some of the most difficult lives in Pakistan. On the surface, brightly coloured clothing and bangles up to their shoulders (if they are married) illustrates what a Thari woman looks like. But malnutrition, early marriage, teen pregnancy, daily strenuous chores and looking after the family takes its toll. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]

The women of Tharparkar lead some of the most difficult lives in Pakistan. On the surface, brightly coloured clothing and bangles up to their shoulders (if they are married) illustrates what a Thari woman looks like. But malnutrition, early marriage, teen pregnancy, daily strenuous chores and looking after the family takes its toll. Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera
There are more than 500,000 children in Tharparkar. Of that number, 165,000 are registered in schools. The literacy rate in the district is below 20 percent. Most children are seen herding livestock or accompany their mothers to fetch water several times a day. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]

There are more than 500,000 children in Tharparkar. Of that number, 165,000 are registered in schools. The literacy rate in the district is below 20 percent. Most children are seen herding livestock or accompany their mothers to fetch water several times a day. Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera
In the urban parts of Tharparkar, shops stock up on locally made handicrafts and garments, which are sold in the district and sent to other parts of Pakistan or exported. The hands that knit the garments and the carpets are rewarded with a small fraction of the selling price. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]

In the urban parts of Tharparkar, shops stock up on locally made handicrafts and garments, which are sold in the district and sent to other parts of Pakistan or exported. The hands that knit the garments and the carpets are rewarded with a small fraction of the selling price. Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera
Away from the population lies Tharparkar's history. The Karoonjhar mountain range, made of granite rocks, stretches along Nagarparkar on Pakistan's border with India. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]

Away from the population lies Tharparkar’s history. The Karoonjhar mountain range, made of granite rocks, stretches along Nagarparkar on Pakistan’s border with India. Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera
High up in the mountains is a temple frequented by people who come here to pray for rain. At the time of the Shiv festival and the monsoon festival, there is a bustling market here, according to the caretaker. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]

High up in the mountains is a temple frequented by people who come here to pray for rain. At the time of the Shiv festival and the monsoon festival, there is a bustling market here, according to the caretaker. Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera
About three kilometres from the Indian border lies Ramdev Peer Temple, which, according to its caretaker, Kanji, is 460 years old. Kanji's family has been taking care of the temple for a long time and have often crossed over back into India. 'We don’t like it there. We always come back to Pakistan,' he says. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]

About three kilometres from the Indian border lies Ramdev Peer Temple, which, according to its caretaker, Kanji, is 460 years old. Kanji’s family has been taking care of the temple for a long time and have often crossed over back into India. ‘We don’t like it there. We always come back to Pakistan,’ he says. Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera
Bhodesar Mosque, of Hindu and Jain architecture style, was built entirely of marble in 1505. It is situated next to Bhodesar Dam, which is used to collect rainwater for irrigation purposes. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]

Bhodesar Mosque, of Hindu and Jain architecture style, was built entirely of marble in 1505. It is situated next to Bhodesar Dam, which is used to collect rainwater for irrigation purposes. Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera
Down a few winding roads, and in the middle of seemingly nowhere, is the Gori temple, a place of worship for Jains. The exact date of its construction is unknown, and the temple lies abandoned, its wall and domes crumbling. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]

Down a few winding roads, and in the middle of seemingly nowhere, is the Gori temple, a place of worship for Jains. The exact date of its construction is unknown, and the temple lies abandoned, its wall and domes crumbling. Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera
Another Jain temple, in the main Nagarparkar town, is being renovated with the help of a special endowment fund. Laxman, the caretaker, says people still frequent this temple, especially during the Shiv and Katti events. They even come from across the border, he says. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]

Another Jain temple, in the main Nagarparkar town, is being renovated with the help of a special endowment fund. Laxman, the caretaker, says people still frequent this temple, especially during the Shiv and Katti events. They even come from across the border, he says. Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera
In the middle of yet more fields lies this well called Marvi jo koonh (Marvi's well). Legend has it that Marvi, a Thari girl, was kidnapped by King Umar at this very place. The well is inside a maintained compound where other local cultural items are also on display. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]

In the middle of yet more fields lies this well called Marvi jo koonh (Marvi’s well). Legend has it that Marvi, a Thari girl, was kidnapped by King Umar at this very place. The well is inside a maintained compound where other local cultural items are also on display. Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera

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