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Across Coveted Lands by Arnold Henry Savage Landor

Near these Ziarats was an extensive Beluch burial ground


Near these Ziarats was an extensive Beluch burial-ground, to which bodies were brought from very great distances for interment. There was a large rectangular Mesjid, the first I had seen of that shape, at the western point of the graveyard, and three smaller ones at the other corners, and the graves were very nice and tidy, formed generally of fragments of yellow marble, a high stone pillar at the head and one at the foot, and little chips of marble along the upper centre of the grave. Others more elaborate had a neat edge and centre line of black stones and coloured end pillars, while some consisted of a pile of horizontal sticks with an upright one at each end.

The bodies of more important people, such as chiefs, were given larger tombs, often very gaudy and of a prismatic shape, made of myriads of bits of crystal within a black border of stones. Occasionally a trench was dug round the graves.

It was interesting to note that here, too, as on the Kuh-i-Kwajah, one saw "family graves" which, although not in actual compartments like those on the Sistan mountain, were, nevertheless, secluded from the others within a low boundary stone wall. The prismatic graves seldom rose more than 11/2 feet above ground, but the semi-spherical tumuli which marked some of the more important burial places were from 31/2 to 4 feet high. These tumuli were either of mud or of large smooth pebbles, and generally had no pillars. One or two, however, had a pillar to the west.

To the east of the graveyard the graves which seemed of a more recent date had sticks at each end instead of stone pillars, and these were connected by a string to which, halfway between the sticks, hung a piece of wood, a ribbon, or a rag. The meaning of this I could not well ascertain, and the versions I heard were many and conflicting. Some said these were graves of people who had been recently buried, it being customary to erect the stone pillars some months after burial, and that the string with dangling rag or piece of wood was merely to keep wolves from digging up dead bodies. Others said it was to keep evil spirits away, but each man gave a different explanation, and I really could not say which was the true origin of the custom. The pillars over a man's grave, some say, signify that the man died without leaving issue, but I think this is incorrect, for it would then appear by most graves that the Beluch are the most unprolific people on earth, which I believe is not the case.

Children's graves were usually covered with pieces of white marble or light coloured stone, and those of women were generally smaller and less elaborate and with lower pillars than men's graves.

The preparing of corpses for interment is rather interesting. With men, the lower jaw is set so that the mouth is closed tight, and is kept in this position by the man's own turban which is wound round the chin and over the head. The eyes are also gently closed by some relative, and the hands placed straight by the sides. As soon as life is pronounced extinct the body is covered over with a sheet and the dead man's relations go and procure new clothes, after which the body is removed from the tent or house and is taken towards a well or a stream, according to circumstances. Here the body is laid down and carefully washed, after which it is wrapped up quite tight in sheets--so tight that the outline can plainly be distinguished. In most cases, a pillar is put up, a few stones laid round, or the outline of a grave drawn on the spot where the body has lain to undergo this operation. The body is then removed to the burial ground and laid most reverently in the grave.


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