District Umerkot of Sindh Province is bounded on the north by Sanghar district, on the west by Mirpurkhas, on the south and east by Tharparkar district. Total Area of the district is 5,608 Sq.km. The district has irrigated area in the west and north, and the desert area in the east and south. The fusion of these two features is visible towards south at Umerkot. There are sand dunes covered by thorny bushes spreading towards east. The ridges are irregular and parallel. Towards west is the alluvial plains with vast stretches of vegetation.
The district has different climate in its two portions. In the irrigated portion, the climate is temperate, neither exceedingly hot nor very cold in winter as compared to the eastern desert area. The summer heat is reduced by constant blowing of south wester breeze from the sea. The eastern desert portion has a tropical climate, more hot and dry, but receives more rain during monsoon. April, May and June are the hottest months. Average temperature during these months varies between 41C and 24C. December, January and February are the coldest months. Average temperature during this period fluctuate between 28C and 9C. Average annual rainfall is 222 mm. Months of July and August bring most of the rain to the district.
In the arid zone of the district, dominent vegitation is composed of deciduous, xerophytic trees and shurbs like Ak (calotropics procera), Phog (calligonum polyonoeides), Thuar (euphorbia caducifolia), Kandi (prosopis specigera), Liar (cordia rothii), Lai (tamarix gallica). There are common heroacious species such as; alternathera nodiflora, aristolochia brateata, aristida funiculata, sonchus oleraqceus. In the alluvial region, Babul (acacia arabica), Cactus (euphorbia nercifolia), panicum turgidum, zygophyllum simplex etc. are found. There are trees like Neam (azadirachta indica), Pipel (ficus religiosa) and Ber (zizyphus juguba) as well.
Chinkara (gazella bennetti) is the endangered specie here. Other animals found are desert fox (vulpus leucopus), Jackal (canis aureus), Hyaena (hyaenea striata) and Grey Mangoose (herpestes mungo). Among birds, peacock (pavis cristatus), black stork (ciconia nigra), rose-ringed parakeet (psittacula krameri), sirkeer malkoha or cuckoo (taccocua teschenaultii) and striated scops owl (otus brucei) are found in Umerkot.
The Umerkot Fort
The ancient Umerkot Fort might had been founded with the town itself. However, the present fort is not that old and was constructed on the site of the ancient Fort by Mian Noor Muhammad Kalhora in 1746. The cultural material found buried within the fort also verifies this fact.
The fort is roughly rectangular in plan measuring 292m x 228m. The fortification wall, 3m in width, gives a tapered look both on the exterior and interior. It has four semi-circular bastions at the corners. At present one of the bastions has completely vanished while still another reduced to shambles. The walls and bastions have burnt-brick facing with the filling of sun-dried bricks or simple mud and earth.
Main Gate & the Bastions :
The main gate, also known as Shahi darwaza, is situated roughly in the middle of the eastern wall. In plan, it is a crooked type of entrance, with an arched opening and a couple of bastions, all built in sand stone. The parapet, which seems to be of later period, is built in burnt-bricks and has musketry holes. The bastions are also provided with machicolations for pouring hot water or molten lead or oil on the advancing army frying to force their way through the entrance. Such machicolations are also found provided in the brick-wall around the fort. Close to one of the bastions, on the bricks making the facing of the Gate there seem impressions of hoofs of a horse, locally attributed to those of Rai Rattan Singh’s, which had tried to cross over when its master was about to be hanged in the fort by the British.
The Burj :
Almost in the centre of the fort, in front of the main entrance or Shahi Gate mentioned earlier, is a large burj or steps, about watchtower. A flight of 58 3m wide, is provided on the eastern side. The burj is a little over 17m high from the ground level. The burj is made with burnt-bricks, also clearly showing many repairs at different times of history.
On the top of the burj are fixed seven cannons with their barrels jetting out of the parapet. These cannons rest on platforms constructed on an equal distance from each other. Immediately south of the burj is a British period circuit house still in use even after over hundred years of its existence. In addition to the main Shahi gate the fort now has two simple entrances. The one with a rampart on the outside opens on the Umerkot-Mirpur Khas road, a little east of the northwestern bastion. The other doorway opens in the middle of the western fortification wall, opposite Circuit House. Both of these entrances, devoid of any special features, are simple doorways probably opened during the British period.
H.E. Watson Memorial:
Near the northern entrance there is a brick-built pond-like depression, which opens to an arched-shaped tunnel made to discharge the water collected inside the fort. A chhatri-like structure in sang-e-khattu, yellow sand stone, supported on eight pillars, stands in northwestern side of the fort, near the above-mentioned drain. Here in the shape of a cross is the grave of Herbert Edward Watson, Ex-Deputy Commissioner of Thar and Parkar.
There are three inscriptions in English:
- “H.E. Watson Sindh Commission: for many years Deputy Commissioner of this district, born 23rd November 1846, died 26th February 1894. This memorial was erected by the subordinate officials and zamindar of Thar and Parkar in Remembrance of his good qualities and in token of their affection for him.”
- “In loving memory of Herbert Edward Watson, Deputy Commissioner Thar and Parkar. Died Feb, 27th 1894 aged 47.”
- “Well done thou good and faithful servant Entre thou into the ion of the God.”
The Museum & Other buildings:
There are some other buildings, though not of any historical or architectural consequence, in the fort. Near to the northwestern gate are some residential quarters for the staff of the Umerkot Museum. In the southeastern portion are the buildings housing provincial government offices while on the other side in the northeastern corner is the newly built, ‘gymkhana’. On the western side of this building is the new museum building. The old museum, lying immediately west of it, is set in a single hall of considerable dimensions. It was inaugurated in 1968. Still serving well the scholars and general visitors alike it was conceived keeping in view the importance of Umerkot as birth-place of Emperor Akbar the Great. On display are some of the rare manuscripts, framin, specimens of calligraphy, miniature paintings, coins and armory. Some cannon balls and stone carvings retrieved from random excavations in the fort are displayed in the open outside the museum.