Reconstructing the Sufi Shrine as a Living Heritage: Case of the Shrine of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, Sindh, Pakistan
Living heritage sites are strongly connected to their historical, geographical, socio-political and cultural context. A descriptive narrative of the evolutionary process of the living heritage site of a Sufi shrine is undertaken in this research. It focuses on the changing relationship between the spatial and socio-cultural aspects over time. The larger or macro regional context is interrelated to the micro architectural context. The tangible heritage is defined by and intimately tied to the intangible aspects of the heritage. It is these constituting macro and micro elements and their interrelationships particularly through space and architecture that the research thesis explores in its documentation and analysis. The Sufi shrine in the South Asian Pakistani context is representative of a larger culture in the precolonial era. It is an expression of an indigenous modernity, belonging to a certain time period, place and community. The Sufi shrine as a building type has evolved from the precolonial time period, particularly starting at the golden ages of the Muslim Empire in the world (9th – 12th century), through the colonial age when western modernity arrived until the current neoliberal paradigm within the post independence period. Continued and evolved use of space, ritualistic performances, multiple social groups using the site are various elements whose documentation and analysis can establish the essential co-relations that contribute to continuity of its historical living. Physical and social relation of the historic site to its immediate settlement context is also a significant element that preserves the socio-cultural context. The chosen case of the Shrine of Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, situated in the small town of Bhitshah in the province of Sindh, Pakistan forms a unique example where the particular physical and socio-cultural environment forms the context within which the Sufi heritage lives and survives. It is well integrated within its context at multiple levels. What are these levels and how do the constituting elements integrate is a major subject of research? These form the background to defining some of the basic issues and questions addressed in this doctoral thesis. Given that living heritage sites are unique due to their particular association to the context, the case study method was used to gain deeper insight and understanding on the topic.