Noor Jahan's Tomb
Posted in Heritage Sites in Pakistan Punjab Tombs

Noor Jahan’s Tomb

Empress Noor Jahan’s Tomb is located in the Shahdra Bagh in Lahore, across Ravi River, just separated by a train track from that of her husband’s and her brother’s tombs. She was the beloved wife of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir and most popular queen of Mughal period. She died in 1645 and was buried in the tomb she built for herself during her lifetime. Empress Noor Jahan’s tomb is located near Emperor Jahangir’s Tomb.

About the Empress

Her original name was Maher-un-Nisa and Noor Jahan was the title given to her which literally mean “light of the world”. She was the daughter of Mirza Gayas Baig, a noble from Iran, and was the beloved queen of Emperor Jahangir from 1569 to 1627. She died in 1645 at the age of 72 years and outlived Jahangir by 18 years. Queen Noor Jahan was the most powerful empress in the history of Mughal dynasty and was the only empress to have her name appeared on the coinage of her period.

The mausoleum of Empress Noor Jahan was built in her lifetime and was completed in a period of four years at a cost of Rs. 0.3 million of the time. However, like other Mughal era monuments in Lahore, Noor Jahan’s tomb was also plundered during the Sikh era in the 18th century and the beautiful marble was removed to use in the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India.

Architecture

Noor Jahan’s tomb was built on an elevated podium, in the takhtgah (throne) style.  The platform making the base of the square mausoleum measuring 158 square feet, has the tomb in the shape of a square and measures 124 feet on each side and 19.6 feet high. There might be minarets previously have risen from the corners of the mausoleum, similar to the nearby Jahangir’s tomb but currently missing.

Exterior

Noor Jahan’s tomb is constructed using the red sandstone with flat roofing bordered with white marble grill similar to that of Jahangir’s tomb. It has 7 vaulted arches to each side covered with marble and fashioned with flower mosaics in semi-precious stone. The inner floor is covered with marble and outer platform with sandstone. The red sandstone was inlaid with floral motifs in addition to white, black and yellow marble. The central arch on each side protrudes out from the six flanking vaulted arches on its sides. The intricate patterns of the panelling and honeycomb shaped cornices in its several rooms surrounding the crypt.

Interior

The central vaulted chamber of the tomb contains a marble platform with two cenotaphs put together –  one that of Nur Jahan and the other of her daughter, Ladli Begum. It was built by Hakim Ajmal, Khan of Delhi in 1912, the original marble sarcophagus bears ornate workmanship and the name of Allah, in the same style and size as seen in the tombs of Jahangir and Asif Khan. On her tomb is inscribed an epitaph: “On the grave of this poor stranger, let there be neither lamp nor rose. Let neither butterfly’s wing burn nor nightingale sing“. The original tombs are underneath and accessible by a narrow entrance just outside of the mausoleum. The narrow room is dark and has two small openings to allow sun during sunrise and sunset as Noor Jahan was said to have a fear of darkness.

Gardens

The tomb stands in the centre of a Persian-style Chahar Bagh. The original garden no longer survives, but once included tulips, roses, and jasmine. It is under renovation currently on a 5-year project and hopefully will gain its past glory.

Tomb of Asif Khan
Posted in Heritage Sites in Pakistan Punjab Tombs

Tomb of Asif Khan

The Tomb of Asif Khan is a magnificent edifice crowned by a high bulbous dome. Asif Khan’s tomb is situated in Shahdara Bagh, adjacent to Akbari Sarai, in the city of Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan. Like that of other noble persons in the Mughal courts, Asif Khan’s tomb is also octagonal in shape and embellished using attractive designs and colours. Octagonal shaped tombs were only used for Mughal nobles and never for Mughal emperors.

Asif Khan was the title given to the Mughal statesman Mirza Abdul Hassan Jah, who was also known as Asif Jah. He was the brother the of Empress Noor Jahan, father of Arjumand Bano Begum who later became the consort of Shah Jahan under the name of Mumtaz Mahal, and he was also brother-in-law to the Mughal Emperor Jahangir. Asif Khan was elevated as Khan e Khana, commander in chief, and became governor of Lahore a year later.

Asif Khan died in a battle against the forces of rebel Raja Jagat Singh in 1641 and his tomb was commissioned to be built by emperor Shah Jahan. It cost 300,000 rupees and four years from 1641 to 1645 to complete the construction of this marvellous erection. The tomb is only separated by Akbari Sarai from Jahangir’s tomb which makes an axis.

Layout

The garden, where to tomb stands, measures 300 yards to each side and was divided by long pools along pathways into four squares (the Persian Chahar Bagh system). Each square is set with fountains, water reservoirs, and trails. The tomb once had water reservoirs at its four corners to fed fountains and pathways.

The garden was accessible through the gates erected on its northern and southern walls. The southern gate is a double storied structure, square in shape, serves as the primary entrance to the garden complex. Its southern face is decked with red stone and white marble while the other three faces are decorated with plasterwork. Its interiors feature small chambers. Its central portion features a tall two-story iwan portal finished with stucco work and flooring is done in geometrical design brickwork. The northern side gate is known as Jawab (response) gate, a two-storied structure with a central arched iwan portal flanked by four smaller portals. Its front is adorned with intricate tile work (Kashi Kari) but much of the intricate ornamental work has already gone. There is a small mosque found in the eastern wall which was used as a residence during the British era while there is access to Jahangir’s Tomb via the Akbari Sarai in the western wall.

Architecture

Asif Khan’s tomb was built in Central Asian style architecture.  The tomb was noted to feature some of the finest examples of building art and craft at the time of construction.

Standing in the centre of a vast garden the tomb is erected on a 3-foot 9-inch elevated podium accessible by stairs. It was built octagonal in shape with each side measuring 38 feet 8 inches with access to its interior from eight sides and arched window looking into the tomb. Each side of the tomb has a deeply recessed iwan or alcove.

The exterior of the tomb was originally decorated with red sandstone and rich marble stone inlay work. Its finishing was done with stucco tracery and blue Kashi tiles. The high bulbous double dome, resting on the octagonal base, was originally covered with white marble finishing. The use of bulbous domes was initiated by Emperor Shah Jahan and were never used before.

The interior of the tomb, renowned for its lavish use of white marble and precious inlay, ornamented with very bold stucco design, tile mosaic, and Ghalib Kari. The inner dome ceiling is decked in high plaster relief of interlacing patterns. The central cenotaph is made of pure marble carved with inscriptions from the Holy Qur’an like that in the nearby tomb of Emperor Jahangir. The floor on which the tomb stands was built red limestone (Sang-e-Abri) which does not exist anymore.

Sikh Era Mutilation

During the rule of the Sikh Empire, Asif Khan’s tomb along with Jahangir’s Tomb and other monuments were heavily damaged. Notable Sikh rulers like Gujjar Singh, Lahna Singh, and Subha Singh carried out the damages and planted large Pipal trees next to the tomb to obstruct its views which were removed later. Its marble, various decorative stones, and sandstones were pillaged and installed in the Golden Temple in Amritsar and to build the Hazuri Bagh Baradari in Lahore.

If the tomb had existed in its original shape with all designs and colours, it would have been a masterpiece. It did not attract much attention because its beauty was snatched by the Sikhs. It was later repaired by did not gain its glory. Also, the gardens and gateways were repaired too by the British and its walls were swept away by flooding in 1955 when River Ravi was inundated, and a second flood occurred in 1973 while repair work was carried out in 1986-87. But the tomb and its walls are still in disappointing condition.

The tomb, along with the adjacent Akbari Sarai and the Tomb of Jahangir, is on the tentative list as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Akbari Sarai
Posted in Monuments Punjab

Akbari Sarai

The Akbari Sarai (Palace of Akbar) is a large oblong shaped courtyard situated between Jahangir’s Tomb and Asif Khan’s Tomb in Lahore city in Punjab province of Pakistan.  This unique Mughal era structure was built in 1637 to host travellers and caretakers of Jahangir’s Tomb. It also served as mail station known as dak chowki.

History

The court historian to the Emperor Shah Jahan, Abdul Hamid Lahori, mentioned the original name of the building as “Jilu Khana-e-Rauza (attached court of the tomb) in his book the Padshahnama. The name Akbari Sarai began to be called during the reign of Islam Shah Suri in mid-1550s, not during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Akbar.

Architecture

The Sarai measuring 797 feet by 610 feet covering 12 acres of land is bordered by a raised terrace containing 180 cells with front verandas and a common passage. The Sarai has four Burjes in its corners containing elaborate chambers feature an elliptical hall in front with a veranda and an octagonal room in the back.

It is accessible by two stately entrances on its north and on the south. Featuring typical Mughal style art, these gates are beautifully adorned with frescoes and Ghalib Kari (a network of ribs in stucco and plaster applied to curved surfaces in each archway). Its topographies including the decorative elements, the style of the structure, the size of the bricks used for construction; the Sarai and the eastern entrance gateway to the Jahangir’s tomb, featuring a large double storied iwan linked by four other smaller arched niches, are believed to have been built in the same period.

To the west of the Sarai, in the middle of the row of cells, is a mosque from the Suri period with three splendid domes. Although most of the fine artwork is already gone, its sandstone facing decoder with inlay work is graceful. The cells which line the complex and its gateways date from the Shah Jahan period in the mid-1600s.

Administration

The Sarai actually served as a state guesthouse and was administered by a Shahna (official caretaker) and several assistants. It also had a physician and a resident baker. Fodder for animals, hot and cold water, and bedsteads were provided free of cost.

During the Sikh era, Maharajah Ranjit Singh converted the complex into a cantonment of one of his foreign generals called Musa Farangi. It was also used as a private residence. Likewise, during the British era, it was used as a rail depot and severely damaged following the construction of the nearby rail line.

All three monuments – Akbari Sarai, the Tomb of Jahangir, and Tomb of Asif Khan – were inscribed on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1993.

Jahangir's Tomb Lahore
Posted in Heritage Sites in Pakistan Punjab Tombs

Jahangir’s Tomb

The Mughal Emperor Jahangir’s Tomb is the most glorious edifice in Lahore, Pakistan. The tomb complex is sited in Shahdara – on the right bank of Ravi River, to the northwest of the Walled City of Lahore. In fact, it is the only Mughal tomb surviving intact in the region and is considered as the second most magnificent structure known for its beauty and texture after Taj Mahal in Agra, India.

History

The garden where the tomb is erected had been the most favourite place of Jahangir and his wife Noor Jahan. It was constructed by Nawab Mehdi Qasim, a special curator of emperor Akbar. When Meher-un-Nisa, title with Noor Jahan, became the Queen of India, she took the garden in her custody and further enhanced its charm with the beautiful trees and fountains due to which it was called Dilkusha Garden. Historically, this place served as a point of departure and arrival to and from Kashmir for Jahangir and Noor Jahan.

Emperor Nuruddin Salim Jahangir (1605-1627), the son of Emperor Jalal-Ud-Din Akbar (1556-1605) and father of Emperor Shah Jahan (1627-1658), was the fourth Mughal ruler in the subcontinent. Like his father Akbar the great, emperor Jahangir also made Lahore the centre of official affairs which resulted in the significant growth of the city during the rule of Akbar and Jahangir. When Jahangir died in the foothills of Kashmir near the town of Rajauri on 28 October 1627, his entrails were separated and sent to be buried in Kashmir and his body was transported to Dilkusha Garden in Lahore for burial.

Construction

Official records suggest that Emperor Shah Jahan was the head designer of the tomb who wished to construct a ‘Tomb befitting an Emperor’ to honour his beloved father. On the other hand, most historians believe his wife Noor Jahan had more influence over the construction of this tomb complex. The major bases that convinced historians was the profound Persian influence throughout the area as well as her inspiration from the tomb of her father, Itmad-Ud- Daulah, in Agra that reflects the design of the Tomb of Jahangir.

Besides leading the entire architecture of Jahangir’s tomb, empress Noor Jahan played a role in designing the gardens which resulted in making Lahore her permanent resident after Jahangir’s death. There’s also enough evidence that suggests the construction of this grand mausoleum was mostly financed by Noor Jahan rather than the imperial treasury. It took about ten years, from 1627 to 1637, to build the grand mausoleum at a total cost of one million rupees of the time.

Renovation

Later, during the Sikh regime, the tomb was used as army headquarters and as a private residence. During the time, it was desecrated, damaged, and precious pieces of art in the inner chambers were destroyed and pillaged. The tomb complex almost lost its prestige after the fall of the Mughal empire, particularly during the Sikh rule and British occupation. The British used the complex for coal dumping during the construction of a railway line which also separated Jahangir’s tomb from that of his wife’s.  However, the British later restored the tomb complex and Akbari Sarai to its former glory. Image of the tomb was used on the 1,000 Pakistani Rupee note until 2005 but no longer printed yet is still in circulation.

Layout

Jahangir’s mausoleum is set in a large quadrangle measuring 500 (600 gaz) meters to a side and is covered with a thick wall. The complex could be accessible by two grand entrances located to the west and east.  The eastern entrance gate of Jahangir’s tomb was destroyed because of the river the garden and is currently accessible by the western gate that features a small mosque and accessible through the Akbari Sarai – a square enclosure reachable from two gates standing to the north and south facing each other. The gate is artistically decorated with pietra-dura work – white marble inlaid in red sandstone – retains its unique glory. The arch of the gate is skillfully associated with the sun and the stars and present a beautiful example of human excellence.

Entering through the gate provides a panoramic view of the tomb which is surrounded by a retch of a magnificent garden laid out in the Persian Chahar Bagh scheme (Islamic paradise garden). The garden is separated into four squares by paved walkways (Khiyabans) and two bisecting channels of water designed to reflect four rivers that flow in the paradise (Jannat). All four squares are further divided into sixteen smaller squares with pathways and fountains in between.

Architecture

Jahangir’s great grandfather Babur chose to be buried in a tomb open to the sky, following the Sunni tradition, but the construction of Jahangir’s mausoleum with a flat roof compromised the conventional tradition as Jahangir was said to have explicitly forbade the construction of a dome. Standing gracefully on a 5 feet high podium and square in plan measuring, the 22-foot-tall single-story mausoleum measures 267 foot (100 gaz) to a side. The main grave is surrounded by forty rooms and every room has a corridor attached with a different design from the other. These rooms were used by Islamic scholars to recite the Quran in the al era in order to reward the king soul. The corridor around the mausoleum is adorned with a very elegant mosaic, floral frescos and verses from the holy Quran. Carved marble jali screens admit light in various patterns facing toward Mecca. The rooftop is remarkable, with intricate marble work on the ceiling that resembles a Persian carpet.  Its vaulted bays reflect Timurid architectural style from Central Asia.

The four octagonal minarets topped with white marble cupolas measuring 100 feet in height rising from the corners are decorated with zigzag inlay of brilliant white marble and yellow stone. Each one of the minarets is 5 floored, easily accessible, and provide a scenic view of the city. Badshahi Mosque lies opposite the tomb of Jahangir and the fun fact is that these structures have been built in such a way that only three minarets of the tomb are visible from the mosque and, vice versa. The exterior of the mausoleum, including the lowest stage of the towers, is clad with red sandstone facing with rich panel decoration inlaid with marble decorative motifs. The geometrical perfection and exquisite symmetry combine to reflect dexterity and human excellence simply admirable in this piece of art.

Cenotaph

Jahangir’s grave is situated at the centre of the mausoleum in an octagonal chamber 8 meters in diameter. It is connected to the outside of the tomb by four hallways facing the four cardinal directions. The floor is beautifully decorated with floral designs using a variety of stones including four types of 400 years old original marble while walls are decked with mosaic samples. The tomb was constructed in a Mughal style influenced by Safavid-style architecture from Persia, which may have been introduced into the Mughal Court by Noor Jahan – who was of Persian origin.

The cenotaph is laid out as a takhtgah – built upon a 1.5 ft high podium measuring 9ft by 6 ft which serves as a Takht, or “throne”. It is decorated using white marble on which beautiful floral fresco work is done with precious and semi-precious stones including Aqeeq, Suleiman, Sapphire, Zehar Mohra (Bezoar Stone) and Ubri Marble. The platform of the cenotaph is 2.5 ft from the podium made with white marble. The cenotaph has 99 traditional attributes of Allah decorated with pietra dura inlays. The flat top of the cenotaph is engraved with Quranic verses. The inscription to the feet side confirms the Persian influence, reads, “This is the illuminated grave of His Majesty, the Asylum of Pardon, Nooruddin Muhammad Jahangir Padshah 1037 AH”

The Original Building

There is another notion that the tomb structure was a three-story building and there was a Baradari on the existing building (Pavilion with 12 doors) where Jahangir’s grave amulet was built. During the Sikh rule, on the orders of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, several Mughal era buildings were undermined including the Jahangir’s tomb. The Baradari was said to removed from Jahangir’s tomb and reassembled at the garden (Hazuri Bagh) located between Badshahi Mosque and Lahore Fort which is standing even today. After extracting Baradari, Ranjeet Singh installed a temporary wooden roof which was replaced with a permanent concrete roof by the British, but the structure never looks the part of work done in the Mughal era. The roof of the tomb had intricately carved marble grill which was also removed by the Sikhs and sent to Darbar Sahib in Amritsar, India. To fill the space, lime plaster had been done on the roof of the mausoleum.

Well respected for their architectural marvel, floral designs, geometrical patterns, extensive application of natural colours, pietra-dura work, and use of precious and semi-precious stones for ornamentation, the Mughals have earned a name for their aesthetic brilliance. The intricate work inside and outside this massive complex is the testament of the marvellous art the Mughals have demonstrated. Visiting Jahangir’s tomb is always a rewarding experience. The two other complexes in Shahdara Bagh – Asif Khan’s tomb and Akbari Sarai – built by Shah Jahan are worth the visit and give a deep insight into the glorious days of the Mughal empire.

karakoram highway tourist attractions
Posted in City Breaks Gilgit-Baltistan Roads & Highways

Karakoram Highway Tourist Attractions

The Karakorum Highway (KKH), N-35, is the greatest wonder of the modern world. The highway is also dubbed as the 8th wonder of the world. It is a human determination and ingenuity and considered a great feat of engineering by Chinese and Pakistani workers. It runs along the Indus for 310 kilometers and leaves the Indus at the Junction of three mountain ranges for Gilgit, Hunza, and Khunjerab rivers to take on the Karakoram range where 12 out of 30 highest mountains in the world overlook the KKH. The Karakoram Highway tourist attractions are worldly known and there is no other highway in the world crowned with such rich attractions.

The 1300 kilometers (800 miles) long KKH originates from Hassan Abdal, a historic city some 45 kilometers from Islamabad on the Islamabad – Peshawar Highway. The asphalt ribbon runs through the cities of Abbottabad, Manshera, crosses the River Indus at Thakot, on to Gilgit through rugged mountains of Besham, Pattan, and Sazin and Chilas, and snakes through Hunza and Sost before crossing the Khunjerab Pass at 4,733 meters (15,750ft). The Khunjerab top is also named as Zero Point between Pakistan and China. The highway then enters the high Central Asian plateau before winding down through the Pamirs to Kashgar, at the western edge of the Taklamakan Desert.

The Karakoram Highway is crowned with a huge number of attractions ranging from ancient rock carvings and petroglyphs, natural beauty, and manmade marvels. Major attractions along the Karakoram Highway include:

Ashoka Rocks Mansehra

ashoka rocks mansehra
ashoka rocks mansehra

The three granite boulders bearing 14 edicts engraved by order of the Mauryan King Ashoka in the 3rd century BC are located on the north side of the town of Mansehra. The inscription bearing Kharoshti script is fading away and almost impossible to see despite the shelters to protect.

Petroglyphs in Chilas

Petroglyphs in Chilas
Petroglyphs in Chilas

The town of Chilas is surrounded by striking petroglyphs and are easy to access. The jeep bridge leading to Thalpan is the ‘Chilas I’ site with inscriptions found on both sides of the KKH. The most striking art is found on the large stupa bearing banners flying. And across the river, there are boulders bearing art of mythical animals, battle scenes, royal lineages, and Buddhist tales. The ‘Chilas II’ site near the police check post on the KKH, less than 1km down the jeep track, is a huge rock bearing hunting and battle scenes and Buddhist stupa, the long-horned ibex, symbols of fertility, and elusive trophy animals.

Fairy Meadows and Nanga Parbat

The Karakoram Highway
The Karakoram Highway

About 80 km short of Gilgit placed the Thakot Bridge on the Karakoram Highway which is also the place of departure for Fairy Meadows and Nanaga Parbat (the Killer Mountain) base camp. There are several places along the Karakoram Highway and Thalechi viewpoint is a designated point to make a short stopover to enjoy superb views of Nanga Parbat.

Partab Bridge

Partab bridge
Partab bridge

The Partab Bridge (Pul, in urdu), located at about 40 km southeast of main Gilgit city near the Junction Point of Three Mountain Ranges on the KKH, served as a major source of communication for the entire region. It was built to connect Gilgit with Bunji, Astore and Kashmir, years before the construction of the Karakoram Highway (KKH). The bridge was named after Maharaja Partab Singh, Maharaja of Kashmir in the 1890s.

The suspension bridge was constructed during 1889 and 1893 by a British agent named Col Algernon Durand who also inaugurated it and was used mainly for defense and trade. However, during the revolt of 1947 when Gilgit won its independence from Dogra raj, it was burnt down. Later it was rebuilt but again it had nearly collapse from a decade long neglect and was rebuilt after 2010 floods.

Junction Point of Three Mountain Ranges

Junction Point of three mountain ranges
Junction Point of three mountain ranges

The junction point of three mountain ranges is situated near Jaglot on the Karakoram Highway (KKH), only 40 km southeast of Gilgit, Pakistan. It is here that the world’s three famous mountain ranges – the Karakoram (the black gravel), the Himalaya (home of snow), and the Hindukush (the killer of Hindus) – make a knot popularly known as the “Junction Point of the world’s three mountain ranges”. This exclusive site also serves as the junction of Gilgit and Indus Rivers and the Skardu road branches out from the KKH near this place.

Uprising Memorial Gilgit

The Uprising Memorial is the final resting place of local heroes who rose against the Maharaja in 1947. The local heroes Mohammed Babar Khan and Safiullah Beg of the Gilgit Scouts, and Mirza Hassan Khan of the Kashmir Infantry. Through a rebellion, these heroes were able to emancipate Gilgit-Baltistan by arresting Governor Ghansara Singh on Nov 01 from the Maharaja of Kashmir.

The Victory Monument of Taj Mughal

Victory monument of Taj Mughal
Victory monument of Taj Mughal

The 700 years old Victory Monument of Taj Mughal is a commemorative tower, measuring 21’-10” high and 14’-4” wide, located on a mountain lap in Gilgit town, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. The monument was named after Taj-ud-Din Mughal, an Ismaili ruler from Badakhshan, who came to Gilgit -Baltistan during the 13th century AD. The Taj Mughal monument was built by his soldiers to celebrate his victory.

Danyore Suspension BridgeDanyore Suspension Bridge

The Danyore Suspension Bridge near Gilgit is one of the oldest suspension bridges in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. The 510 ft long bridge has served as a source of commute to the people otherwise had to take the local raft or a detour to travel to Gilgit city – the administrative headquarter and the capital of Gilgit-Baltistan, formerly northern areas. It is now serving as one of the major tourist attractions in Gilgit-Baltistan used only by the pedestrians and motorcyclists.

Danyore Rock Inscription

Danyore Rock Inscriptions1
Danyore Rock Inscriptions1

The Danyore Rock Inscriptions is a gigantic boulder bearing inscriptions from the 7th and 8th centuries A.D. The inscription is the most important discovery of Danyor and was seen for the first time by Karl Jettmar in 1958. The inscribed rock is situated in the premises of a private house in Danyore, across Gilgit city in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan and is locally known as “Likhitu Giri”. The archaeological site is not very much popular and known only to a limited count of individuals/organizations related to archaeology and tourism.

Chinese Graveyard Danyore

Chinese Graveyard
Chinese Graveyard

Locally known as China Yadgar, the Chinese graveyard (The memorial Park) is the final resting place of mighty Chinese engineers and workers who sacrificed their lives during construction of the mighty Karakoram Highway (KKH) in the 1960s and 1970s. The cemetery is located in Danyore, about 10 km across main Gilgit town – the capital city of Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan. To be exact, the graveyard can be accessed in the residential area on the KKH, adjacent to Sehat Foundation Hospital.

Memorial Monument on the KKH

Memorial monument on the KKH

Memorial monument on the KKH

At a distance of about 35 km from Gilgit, on the main Karakoram Highway, a monument bearing the symbol of a Drilling Machine has been erected in memory of the brave people who lost their lives during the construction of the Karakoram Highway. The monument reads:

MEMORIAL 103 EB (Engineering Battalion)

In memory of their gallant men who proffered to make the Karakorams their permanent abode.

There shall be-

In that rich soil a richer dust conceals.

1966-1972

Silk Route segments

Running parallel to the Karakoram Highway, across the river between Gilgit and Hunza, several sections of the ancient Silk Route still exist retaining the rich legacy of ancient trade. It is only being used by the locals mostly to graze heard or to travel locally to annexing valleys. These sections can be utilized to draw in tourists.

Collision Point of Continental Plates

Collision point of continental plates
Collision point of continental plates

The collision point of continental plates is located near Chalt Valley on the Karakoram Highway (KKH), some 53 km north of Gilgit town. The Indian and the Eurasian continental plates collided along a line which passed through this point giving rise to the Himalayan mountain range and formed Tibetan plateau some 50 million years ago. The tremendous pressure forced the earth’s crust to produce the towering Karakoram Mountains in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan.

Kino Kutto

Kino Kutto
Kino Kutto

Kino Kutto” or the Black Knee in local Shina language, is a section of the historic Silk Road which is now not in use. Located high up on the cliff side between Budalas valley of Nagar and Khizrabad village of Hunza, the section can easily be seen from the KKH. Once a footpath, then evolved to a pony track, it was later widened to a single jeep road in 1958-60 but remained unused since the construction of the Karakoram Highway. However, to show the nature of the historic connection, the Aga Khan Cultural Services Pakistan (AKCSP), with funding from the Royal Norwegian embassy Islamabad, restored the visible section of the road in partnership with Budalas and Khizerabad (Hunza) communities. Kinu Kutto has great views of Rakaposhi.

Rakaposhi View Point

Rakaposhi View Point
Rakaposhi View Point

Rakaposhi View Point or “the Zero Point of Rakaposhi” is a prominent viewpoint offering the closest view of Rakaposhi and the natural beauty lies in its scenery. This remarkable viewpoint is located right on the Karakoram Highway (KKH) in Ghulmet village of Nagar Valley.

Nilt Fort

Nilt fort
Nilt fort

The Nilt Fort was a fort once existed in Nilt, Nagar, on the main KKH about 65km from Gilgit. It was destroyed in the famous Anglo-Brusho war fought between locals of Hunza-Nagar and the British during 1891revolt. The Nilt Fort withstood for days but the offensive from a far superior army, duly supported by a local conspiracy, apparently lead to its destruction. However, a lasting history still remains. It’s not just the Nilt Fort that disappeared and only seen in the literature but the historic Maiun Fort in lower Hunza (Shinaki) across the river and the forts in Chaprote, Thol, and Pisson have all disappeared gradually even without any historical accounts. The Nilt Fort site is easily overlooked by travellers, even though it is easily accessible on the way to Hunza from Nagar.

Queen Victoria Monument

Malika mo Shikari
Queen Victoria Monument Hunza

Locally known as Malika mo Shikari, the Queen Victoria Monument on the shoulder of the rock face over Karimabad is a tower believed to be erected by Nazim Khan.  The tower can be reached in an hour from Baltit village by going straight up to the base of the cliff.

Kha Basi Cafe

Kha Basi Cafe
Kha Basi Cafe

The Kha Basi Café is a unique restaurant located under the shadow of Altit Fort in the ancient royal garden called “the Kha Basi” – a gorgeous and very well-kept-up fruit orchard full of apricot trees – located on the edge of the Altit town in Hunza Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. It was a nice piece of simple old-fashioned architecture almost falling to decay. The Café was recently renovated and turned into a classic restaurant. Standing at the verge of the royal garden, overlooking the majestic mountains of Hunza/Nagar and the Karakoram Highway running along the Hunza River, the Kha Basi Café has both majestic views and a traditional taste.

Altit Fort

Altit fort Hunza
Altit fort Hunza

Perched on the edge of a 1000 feet high rocky cliff rising sharply from the Hunza River, the epoch-making 900 years old impressive Altit Fort is one of the ancient forts surviving today in Gilgit-Baltistan (formerly northern areas), Pakistan. It has, for centuries, served as a palace to the local Mirs – the hereditary rulers of the state of Hunza – and later as a fort following some subsequent additions. The award-winning Altit Fort is a major tourist attraction not only because of its longstanding rich history but also for its unique architectural design facing the Karakoram Highway and for its strategic location on the ancient Silk Route.

Baltit Fort

Baltit Fort
Baltit Fort

Standing arrogantly on the moraine of Ultar glacier, with a commanding view of Hunza valley and its tributaries, the over 700 years old Baltit Fort featuring the Tibetan influenced architecture, is a glorious structure purposefully built for defence and definition of the then rulers of Hunza. The majestic fort now serves as a museum and a cultural centre. Baltit Fort is the recipient of several international awards and holds a global recognition.

Ganish Historic Settlement

Ganish Historic settlement
Ganish Historic settlement

Ganish (derived from Ghenish which in local brushaski language means Gold) is the oldest and the very first known settlement on the ancient Silk Road (now the Karakoram Highway) in the Hunza Valley. The town is located about 100 km (approx 2.5 hours traveling time) from Gilgit and about 180 km, approx 3.5 hours) from the Chinese border and situated on the right bank of Hunza River. It is one of the striking valleys bearing a rich history. The  more than 1000 years old settlement (now renovated) houses various homes, narrow streets, imposing watch towers, traditional mosques with striking floral designs, modern religious centers, and a water reservoir near the main entrance.

Haldikish

Sacred rocks of Hunza
Haldikish – petroglyphs and rock inscriptions on the KKH

Haldikish – the sacred rocks of Hunza – is a 30 ft high and 200 yards long huge boulder on the left bank of Hunza River located at a distance of 1.5 km from Ganish village and about a kilometre from Ganish Bridge on the KKH. The rocks are inscribed with the scripts and carvings of many different eras from past. Divided into two major portions, the upper portion of the sacred rock consist of inscriptions carved in Sogdian, Kharosthi, Brahmi, Sarada and Proto Sarada languages while the lower portion is engraved by the images of Ibexes. These ibexes are shown in different situations, including being hunted. There used to be many Buddhist shelter caves in ancient times which later collapsed or fell over time.

Attabad Lake

Attabad Lake
Attabad Lake

The Attabad Lake in Hunza, on the main Karakoram Highway, is a gorgeous lake and a major tourist attraction. It was created as a result of a massive landslide on January 04, 2010. The incidence claimed precious human lives and properties appearing a doomsday at the time of occurrence, but the entire scenario changed over time and unlocked a range of opportunities in the region. The lake has earned a great reputation and already placed itself as a leading tourist hotspot drawing a multitude of visitors on a daily basis.

Borith Lake

Borith Lake
Borith Lake

At 2,600 meters (8,500 ft) Borith Lake is a natural lake surrounded by Borith hamlet in Gulmit, upper Hunza Valley in Gilgit–Baltistan, Pakistan. The lake can be reached via a 2 km unpaved uphill jeep track from Husseini village, adjacent to Ghulkin village, on the KKH. The lake is a sanctuary for migrating wildfowl and is often visited by bird-watchers and nature lovers. The site is also a launching pad for beautiful Patundas trek and walking trails to nearby villages of Gulkin and Kamaris in Gulmit Village.

Husseini Suspension Bridge

Husseni Suspension bridge
Husseni Suspension bridge

The Husseini Suspension Bridge over the Hunza River in upper Hunza (Gojal) is a rickety cable and plank bridge with huge gaps between them. The long bridge connects Husseini village with Zarabad hamlet and used by locals mostly with heavy loads on. Tourists flock from around the world to test their nerves on this crumbling structure. It is probably the worst still-functioning bridge in the world located at about 45 km from Aliabad Hunza and 132 km from Gilgit.

Passu Glacier

Passu Glacier
Passu Glacier

The 20.5 km long Passu Glacier spreading over 115 sq km can be seen as soon as one enters the Passu village while travelling from the south to north along the Karakoram Highway. The glacier is located to the east of the highway displaying a panoramic view. At the same time, one has the best ever views of the entire Passu valley and the Passu Cones (Cathedrals) from this point. The Passu Glacier flows directly from the 7,478m (24,534 ft) Passu Peak which itself is positioned in the back end of the glacier.

Passu Cathedral

Passu Cones
Passu Cathedrals

Passu Cathedral or the Passu cones are the jagged spires rising from a set of mountain peaks located to the north of Passu Valley in the Karakoram mountain range of Pakistan. Standing to the other side of the Hunza River, the cones present a majestic view from different points along Karakoram Highway passing through the Gulmit and Passu Valleys. The sun-drenched mountain peaks are known by several names including Passu Cones, Cathedral Spires, and locally called Tupopdan but are still prominent among the tourists as Passu Cathedral. Passu Cathedral is the most photographed peak scaled for the first time by the British in 1987.

Sost

Sost
Sost

Sost is a beautiful village in upper Hunza and the last town on the Karakoram Highway before the Chinese border. At 2800 m above the sea level Sost is now a busy bazaar, has Pakistani immigration and customs departments based here, and all the trade goods and passengers pass through this town. It is almost a melting pot of diverse people, mostly traders, from different geographic backgrounds. Local inhabitants speak Wakhi Language but here almost every language is spoken which is spoken in all major cities of Pakistan besides some dialects of Chinese language and also English as a tourist language. Sost has a couple of good hotels providing accommodation facilities for domestic and international tourists.

Khunjerab Pass

Khunjerab Pak-China Border
Khunjerab Border

At 4700 m the Khunjerab Pass is the highest paved international border crossing in the world. It is the meeting point of two sections of the Karakoram Highway connecting Gilgit-Baltistan area of northern Pakistan and Xinjiang province of western China. Out of the 1300 km highway, 887 km traverses through Pakistan while rest of the 413 km passes through the Chinese territory.

Makran Coastal Highway Attractions
Posted in Balochistan City Breaks Roads & Highways

Makran Coastal Highway Attractions

The Makran Coastal Highway in Blochistan, also known as National Highway 10 (N-10), is a 653 km road connecting the western provinces of Sindh and Balochistan and running mostly along the Arabian Sea coast. The highway is decked with unique attractions becoming prominent to the world. Major Makran Coastal Highway Attractions are:

Princess of Hope

It was not discovered until the Hollywood actress Angelina Julie visited the area in 2002 and named the naturally carved rock formation as “Princess of Hope”. The standing lady is a fascinating natural mud structure in Hingol National Park that it appears to be a masterpiece of a skilled artisan. It is located about 275 km from Karachi and can easily be sighted while travelling on the Makran Coastal Highway. God knows for how long it has been standing there bearing all kind of weather conditions.

princess of hope
princess of hope

The Sphinx

About 150 km from the Zero Point of Makran Coastal Highway and about 280 km from Karachi, past Kund Malir beach, the Sphinx-like structure is another natural formation. The coast of Makran mostly constitutes of muddy hills with very fast winds blowing year round. These fast blowing winds cut through the muddy hills result in the formation of natural structures like the standing lady (Princess of Hope) or sphinx. The Sphinx is largely associated with Egypt, which were carved shapes as Egyptian goddesses. The Natural Sphinx is although not as sharply shaped as the Sphinx in Egypt, however, the structures are worth seeing.

The Sphinx
The Sphinx

Hingol National Park

Hingol National Park stretches over an area of 1,650 square km along the Makran coast in southwestern Balochistan contains a variety of topographic features. It is one of the largest national parks in Pakistan and was established in 1988. The park has some 250 plant species, 35 species of mammals, 65 species of amphibians and reptiles and 185 species of birds.

Hingol National Park
Hingol National Park

Hingol Mud Volcanoes

The Hingol mud volcanoes, also called Chandragup Mud Volcanoes, located about 200 km west of Karachi and about 8 kilometres off the main Coastal Highway leading from Lasbela to Gwadar. The unique construction of all of the muddy hills and statues in Hingol National Parks is an artwork of these mud volcanoes constantly erupting with clay. Only the locals may provide guidance to the exact location. A landmark, however, is an SSGC installation. The site has total 21 volcanoes including 3 major mud volcanoes. The site is also a sacred Hindu worship place.

Hingol Mud Volcanoes
Hingol Mud Volcanoes

Hinglaj Mandir

Hinglaj Mandir or Hinglaj Mata is a Hindu temple in Hinglaj town in the middle of the famous Hingol National Park on the Makran coast. It is also named as Hinglaj Devi or Nani Mandir considered to be one of the oldest temples in the world and an important place of pilgrimage for the Hindu population in Sindh. The Mandir is located in a narrow gorge on the west bank of Hingol River about 19 km inland from the Arabian Sea on the coastal highway, 250 km to the northwest of Karachi, at the end of Keerthar Hill range in the Makran Desert stretch. Unlike other shrines having manmade images, the Hinglaj Mandir has a small shapeless stone smeared with Sindoor (Vermilion) in a small natural cave which is worshipped as Hinglaj Mata.

Hinglaj Mata Mandir
Hinglaj Mata Mandir

Kund Malir Beach

Kund Malir is one of the serene beaches located in Hingol National Park, some 145 km from the Zero Point, around 270 km from Karachi. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in this world. However lacking the basic facilities like hotels, restaurants, fuel stations and no cell phone signals it still is worth visiting with a really calm peaceful and soothing environment. Apart from Kund Malir, there are long stretches of Arabian Sea beaches along the Coastal Highway which turns this long ride into a driving delight.

Kund Malir Beach
Kund Malir Beach

 

Ormara Beach

Ormara Beach is located on the midway between Karachi and Gwadar on the Makran Coastal Highway – about 360 km west of Karachi and 230 km east of Gwadar. Ormara basically was the name given to the town and then to the beach from one of the generals of Alexander the Great called “Ormoz” who died here when Alexander the Great and his army stayed there on their way back after conquering Sindh, Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces of modern-day Pakistan in 326 BC.

Ormada Beach
Ormara Beach

 Pasni

Pasni is an important small town at the Arabian Sea in Gwadar. Its significance relates to the discovery of rock formations including the ancient ruins of the Harappan era and the presence of antique Hindu temples, and proofs of Alexander’s passing the coastal belt.

Astola Island

About 25 km south of the nearest part of the coast and 39 km southeast of the fishing port of Pasni is a small uninhabited island called Astola Island or Jazira Haft Talar. It is known to be largest offshore Island measuring 6.7 km long and 2.3 km wide, and 246 ft above sea level. The Island is accessible by motorboat in about 5 hrs or by helicopter. It is a popular eco-tourism destination with no lodging facilities on the Island. Anyone planning for an overnight stay must carry a tent and food. The Island is famous for scuba diving, fishing, and to observe turtle breeding.

Astola Island
Astola Island

Gwadar

The term Gwadar is a combination of two Balochi words Gwat (meaning the wind) and Dar (meaning Gateway) thus Gwadar means “The gateway of wind”. There is a slightly different concept which suggests that the world Gwadar was derived from “Gedrosia” which was the ancient name of Balochistan given by the Greeks to the arid area making up the southern part of Balochistan.

Gwadar today is a port city on the southernmost coast of Balochistan at the Arabian Sea near the border with Iran located to the east of Persian Gulf and opposite Oman. However, historically, the city and environs were possessions of the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman from 1783 until Prince Karim Aga Khan purchased it on September 8, 1958, and presented to Pakistan. Pakistan assumed the territory on December 8, 1958, and integrated into Balochistan Province on July 01, 1970 as Gwadar District. It used to be a medium-sized settlement of fishing community.

In 2015 Pakistan and China announced the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as part of One Belt One Road.

Gwadar
Gwadar

Jiwani

Jiwani is a town and commercial port strategically located in the Gwadar District along the Gulf of Oman some 80 km west of Gwadar city and 34 km east of Iranian border. With an estimated population of 25000, the town making up the eastern end of Gwadar Bay duly shared between Pakistan and Iran and the area around the bay constitutes important mangrove forest which habitats a wide variety of wildlife. The town is also adjacent to the shipping lanes, has a small naval base and a 5500 ft runway. The town was used in WWII as an airfield and there is Victoria Hut built for Queen Victoria who planned to visit the area to watch the sunset. It is still not confirmed whether Queen Victoria visited or not but the Victoria Hut is still maintained.

Recommendations

The journey from Karachi to Gwadar is long enough without any proper shops, fuel stations, cellular connection or other provisions. Careful planning is very important before undertaking a journey along the Coastal Highway. Here are some recommendations.

  1. Start as early in the morning as possible to make it to Gwadar on time.
  2. Top up fuel tank in Karachi and refuel at Hub fuel station as there is no fuel station on the way.
  3. Keep basic tools and extra tires. Make sure the wheels are in good condition.
  4. Make necessary calls before Zero Point, mobile signals recede beyond Zero Point.
  5. Kund Malir Beach (Agor) and Ormara beach are major stopovers on the way.
  6. Keep enough water, cookies, dry/fresh fruit etc as reserve stock during travel.
  7. Make a hotel reservation in advance.
Shalimar Gardens
Posted in Heritage Sites in Pakistan Monuments Punjab

Shalimar Gardens

The Shalimar Gardens in Lahore is an exceptional Mughal garden complex. It was constructed during the artistic and aesthetic zenith of the Mughal rule. The construction of the Shalimar Gardens began on 12 June 1641 by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and completed after 18 months at the end of 1942. The Shalimar Gardens and the Lahore Fort together were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981.

The gardens were built primarily to entertain the royal guests yet the general public could enter to a specific section of the garden. The construction of the Shalimar Gardens was influenced by the older Shalimar Gardens in Kashmir built by Emperor Jahangir (Shah Jahan’s father) and Shah Jahan himself was involved in the construction of the old gardens in Kashmir.

Covering about 16 hectares (658 meters north to south and 258 meters east to west) by crenelated walls of red sandstone, the rectangle garden is constructed in three terraces descending from south to north. Each terrace has been given a special meaningful name. The upper-level terrace, for instance, was named “Farah Baksh” meaning Bestower of Pleasure, the middle-level terrace was named “Faiz Baksh” meaning Bestower of Goodness, and the lower level terrace was named Hayat Baksh meaning Bestower of Life.

There are a total of 410 fountains rising from the canal and from the basin water discharges into the marble pools. The water circulation system was so technically engineered that even scientists today still find it hard to understand thermal engineering. The architecture of thermal engineering was aimed to create cooler air through fountain water during beating down summers to relief visitors. Out of 410, there are 105 fountains in the upper-level terrace, 152 in the middle-level terrace and 153 in the lower level terrace.

Inside the covered boundary wall, there are a number of buildings used for a variety of purposes. The names of the buildings are:

  • Sawan Bhadun pavilions
  • Naqar Khana and its buildings
  • Khwabgah or Sleeping chambers
  • Hammam or Royal bath
  • The Aiwan or Grand Hall
  • Aramgah or Resting place
  • Khawabgah of Begum Sahib or Dream place of the emperor’s wife
  • Baradaries or summer pavilions to enjoy the coolness created by the Gardens’ fountains
  • Diwan-e-Khas-o-Aam or Hall of the special and ordinary audience with the emperor
  • Two gateways and minarets in the corners of the Gardens

Besides the terraces, various buildings, fountains, marble pools, and pathways, there used to be a variety of trees in the garden named as Almond, Peach, Apple, Plum, Apricot, Poplar, Cherry, Quince Seedless, Gokcha, Mango, Mulberry, Sapling of Cypress, Shrubs and Sour and Sweet oranges.

Historically the project of Shalimar Garden was supervised by a noble of Shah Jahan’s court named as Khalilullah Khan. The site originally belonged to the Arian Mian Family and the title “Mian” was given to the family by the emperor for its services to the Empire. However, the land where the Shalimar Garden was built was acquired by Mughal engineers by placing pressure on the Mian family only because of its ideal position and soil quality. In return, the Arian Mian family was granted the governance of Shalimar Garden which lasted for 350 years. Later, General Ayub Kahn nationalized the Garden only because the Mian Family had opposed his imposition of Martial law.

 

Lahore Fort
Posted in Forts Heritage Sites in Pakistan Punjab

Lahore Fort

The modern-day Lahore Fort is located in the north-western corner of the historical city of Lahore. Locally known as Shahi Qila, the royal fort is an architectural masterpiece bearing a rich history. Its irregular design covering an area of almost 20 hectares, measuring about 427 meters east-west and 335 meters north-south, excluding the outer fortification wall erected during the Sikh rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1799 – 1839 A.D).

The site where the existing Lahore Fort (Shahi Qila) is erected has been established for several centuries. The mud-brick fort of the 11th century, for instance, was the first structure ever recorded during the rule of Mahmud of Ghazni. Between the 13th and 15th centuries, the fort was damaged, demolished and rebuilt several times by numerous invaders and rulers before it came under the domain of Mughal emperors.

Historically, in 1241 Mongols destroyed the fort and Sultan Balban of the Delhi Sultanate constructed a new fort in 1267. In 1398, the invading forces of Timur destroyed the fort and it was rebuilt by Mubarak Shah Sayyid in 1421. Similarly, the fort was occupied by Shaikh Ali of Kabul in the 1430s and it remained under the control of the Pashtun Sultans of the Lodi dynasty. Lahore was later captured by the Mughal Emperor Babur in 1524 after the defeat of Ibrahim Lodi’s forces. It remained under Mughal Empire until their fall and was then captured by the Sikh followed by the British.

The foundation of the modern Lahore Fort was laid in 1566 during the reign of Emperor Akbar (1556–1605) when he made Lahore his capital. Akbar carried out modifications to the fort with architectural style featuring Hindu motifs. After Akbar, it was continuously damaged, renovated, improved, and expanded by successive emperors. Shah Jahan, for instance, changed the model by using luxurious marble with inlaid Persian floral design. The fort was entirely rebuilt in the 17th century when the Mughal Empire enjoyed the peak of its prestige and prosperity.

The Lahore Fort is located very close to the Badshahi Mosque, only separated by Hazur Bagh. The Fort has two distinct sections: the northern half of the fort comprises of the private or residential section and the areas for royal audiences make up the administrative section.  The Lahore Fort comprises several notable monuments each having a distinct name and history. Prominent buildings and structures of the fort are:

 Akbari Gate or the Masti Gate

The Akbari Gate was built by Emperor Akbar in about 1566 A.D. and later on, it was called the Masti Gate. Actually, the Empress of Akbar built a mosque outside this gate in 1614 A.D that still exists in good condition. The word” Masjid” (Mosque) in local version was corruptly pronounced Maseet and transformed as Masti; thus the name Masti Gate affixed. The fort during Akbar’s times had two gates including Masti Gate. The other gate was later replaced by Alamgiri Gate in 1673 A.D.

Alamgiri Gate

The iconic Alamgiri Gate, located on its western side, opens in the Hazuri Bagh and facing the renowned Badshahi Mosque, was the masterpiece built by the last of the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb (ruled: 1658 – 1707 A.D) in 1673-74 as a private entrance to the royal quarters enabling the elephants carrying members of the royal household enter at one time. It has two semi-circular bastions decorated with lotus petal designs at the base.

Diwan-i-Aam (Hall of Public Audience)

Diwan-i-Aam is a forty pillar complex built under the supervision of Asif Khan (brother of Nur Jahan, the empress of Shah Jahan’s father, Jahangir) during the reign of Shah Jahan in 1631 to receive official visitors, make a daily public appearance to address the issues, and review parades. It was demolished when Ranjit Singh’s son Sher Singh bombarded Lahore Fort by light guns during a fight against Chand Kaur, the widow of Kharak Singh (the elder son of Ranjit Singh). After the occupation of the fort in 1849 A.D The British rebuilt Diwan-i-Aam.

Jahangir Quadrangles

The northeast corner of the fort is made up of Jahangir’s Quadrangles. The construction of the Quadrangles started in during the tenure of Akbar in 1617-18 while it was completed by Jahangir in 1620 at a cost of seven lacs (Seven Hundred Thousand) of rupees. The design of the Quadrangles reflects Akbar’s influence as it employs column brackets carved in the form of animals. Moreover, the quadrangle’s layout differs from the mainstream Mughal quadrangles and its features reflect Hindu temple architecture referring the Akbar’s policy of tolerance. Usually the Mughal quadrangles used the layout of a Persian paradise garden, and instead, it is formed by concentric rectangles with a fountain in its center.

Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Private Audience)

Diwan-i-Khas is a hall commissioned by Shah Jahan where state guests were received and discussed matters related to the state. It is an arched pavilion built in semi-chaste marble and its parapet was decorated with pietra dura work (by inlaying semi-precious stones into white marble).

Khwabgah-e-Jahangir (Jahangir’s sleeping chamber)

The north end of the quadrangle is dominated by the Barri Khwabgah, or ‘large bedroom’, is Jahangir’s sleeping chamber attributed to Jahangir’s period and is located in the residential section. The current building is the reconstruction version from the British era. It is now used as a museum housing Mughal antiquities.

Khwabgah-e- Shah Jahan

It was the sleeping chamber and the first building built by Shah Jahan under the supervision of Wazir Khan in 1634 during his first visit to the city. The Khwabgah comprises five sleeping chambers aligned in a single row. The carved marble screens inside the chambers are decorated with inlaid white marble and frescoes. The incised work known as Ghalib Kari in Urdu and stucco tracery on the arches of this monument are the main features of this building.  Its original decorations have gone astray presently except for a trace of the marble.

Maktab Khana (Clerks’ Quarters)

Originally known as Dawlat Khana-e-Jahangir, the Maktab Khana was constructed in 1617 during the reign of Jahangir (1605 – 1627 A.D) under the supervision of Mamur Khan. There the carved Persian inscription on marble slab relates to the construction.  It was designed by Khawaja Jahan Muhammad Dost and used as a passage to the Audience Hall from the palace buildings to the north. It was also used by the clerks to record the entry of guests into the fort.

Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque)

It is one of the two mosques built between1630-35 by Emperor Shah Jahan; the other one is in Agra Fort and was built in 1654. The mosque has three superimposed domes, two aisles of five bays, and a slightly raised rectangular-framed central portal. The distinct five-arched front distinguishes it from other mosques of the similar class usually with three-arched facades. The interior is simple and plain, however, the ceilings are adorned and designed in four different orders, two arcuate, and two trabeated.

The white marble structure is a small building, a prominent addition, located on the western side of the Lahore fort closer to Alamgiri gate, the main entrance. After the fall of the Mughal Empire, it was used as Sikh Temple and renamed as Moti Mandir (Pearl Temple) under the rule of Ranjit Singh. Later it was used as state treasury by the Sikh. When the British took over Punjab in 1849, some precious stones and other inventories were collected inside the Mosque. It was revived to its former state later.

Lal Burj (“Red Pavilion”)

The Octagonal shape Lal Burj (watch tower) is a three-storied summer pavilion building lies adjacent to Diwan-e-Khas and stands in the corner of Shah Jahan’s Quadrangle, in the northeast corner of the Khilawat Khana (Place of Isolation). The top storey including most of the interior frescoes is the Sikh era addition while the lower two stories together with the basement chambers are the beautiful work of Emperor Jahangir while finished during the reign of Shah Jahan. The exterior is beautifully furnished with tile mosaic and filigree work. Its primary windows opened to the north are meant to catch cool breezes.

Kala Burj (“Black Pavilion”)

The Kala Burj stands in the northwest corner of Khilwat Khana and was also used as a summer pavilion. It is the most significant of the Jahangir-era additions and is similar to Lal Burj in many respects. It occupies north-west corner of Khilwat Khana. The top storey belongs to the British period and used as a bar. The Chhajja (eave) of the Kala Burj is built with interlocked brickwork. The arched ceilings in the pavilion feature paintings in a European-influenced style of angels which symbolize the virtuosity of King Solomon – a ruler with whom Jahangir identified.

Shahi  Hammam (Royal Bath)

The Shahi Hammam, also known as Wazir Khan Hammam, was built during the reign of Emperor Shah Jahan in about 1635 A.D. and lies adjacent to Shah Jahan’s Khwabgah. It is patterned on Turkish style, so it comprises Jama Khana (dressing and undressing room). The baths were built to serve as a waqf, or endowment, for the maintenance of the Wazir Khan MosqueThe bath, also had the facility of warm and hot water. No longer used as a hammam, the baths were restored between 2013 and 2015 by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the Walled City of Lahore Authority and restored in 2016 to its “former prominence.

Seh Dari (three-door) Pavilion

She Dari is located on the eastern side of the Barri Khwabgah inside Jahangir’s Quadrangle. The Sikh period architectural style pavilion is called Sah Dari (of three doors in the Persian language) because it has three entrance doors. The building is said to have served as an office of Faqir Syed Noor-Ud-din, the trusted Governor of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. It is decorated with fresco portray floral designs of birds and scenes shown reflect Hindu religious themes suggesting obviously belong to the Sikh period.

Sheesh Mahal (the Palace of Mirrors or the Crystal Palace)

Sheesh Mahal is the intricately worked white marble pavilion inlaid with pietra dura and complex mirror-work of the finest quality and is considered as a jewel in the crown. It was built by Asif Khan, brother of Noor Jahan, under the reign of Shah Jahan in 1631-32. It is located within Jahangir’s Shah Burj block in the northern-western corner of the Lahore Fort and was built for personal use by the imperial family and close aides. The extensive use of marble reflects the typical Shah Jahan style of construction. The palace has a complex mirror work, called Ayina Kari, in order to conceal from meddling eyes. The palace used to be the favorite place of Ranjit Singh during Sikh occupation of the Fort. Its walls were rebuilt in the Sikh period.

Summer Palace (Pari Mahal or Fairy Palace)

The summer palace or Pari Mahal is a jumble of chambers located directly underneath Sheesh Mahal and Shah Burj Quadrangle dating back to Shah Jahan period. The palaces were only accessible from Sheesh Mahal and used as a residence during hot weather months. The fairy palace was constructed skillfully using the flow of natural air and perfumed water to create a cool temperature with the aroma. The palace was even used during the Ranjit Singh’s reign and it was the store of British Civil Defence Department during World War II before it was transferred to Pakistan. Its integrity was affected by its use as a storehouse. It will now be restored to show how it looked as summer palace once.

Naulakha Pavilion

Constructed in 1633 during Shah Jahan’s period at a cost of 900,000 (as the name suggests), the Naulakha Pavilion is an iconic building of the Lahore Fort. It is located on the west side of Sheesh Mahal, made of prominent white marble and covered by a distinctive curvilinear roof, having inside lavishly decorated with tiny jewels as AgateJadeLapis-Lazuli, and Goldstone etc in intricate floral motifs. The Naulakha Pavilion served as a personal chamber reflecting a mixture of contemporary tradition at the time of its construction.

Paien Bagh (Ladies Garden)

Paved paths for walkways were the main feature of the Mughal Gardens. The Paien Bagh was built for royal ladies to sustain their health. These paths were surrounded by green patches and filled with cypresses and dwarf plants emanating delighted fragrance. In addition, the garden was adorned with a water basin in the middle of the spacious platform built in brickwork.

Hathi Paer (Elephant Stairs or path)

The Hathi Paer was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in 1631-32 A.D especially meant for elephants carrying the royalty from and to the palace. The 58 low and broad steps each measuring 216 inches in length and 18’-8” inches in width starts from Hathi Paer gate and ends on the outer courtyard of Shish Mahal.

Ath Dara ( having eight openings)

Located at an elevated podium at the original entrance of Shish Mahal, the Ath Dara was built, and used as Kachehri (court), by Maharaja Ranjit Singh who ruled over Punjab. The gilt frescos paintings on its northern wall were made by Maharaja Ranjit’s court artists and its ceiling is decorated with beautiful woodwork. The Department of Punjab Archaeology has magnificently renovated the woodwork with beautiful mirror work recently.

Kharak Singh Haveli

The Haveli of Kharak Singh, the heir to Ranjit Singh, lies in the south-east of the Jahangir’s Quadrangle. When it was occupied by the British, the first and the ground floor were used as a Commandant’s Quarters and servants’ house respectively. It is used as the archaeological survey office currently.

Picture Wall

The greatest artistic triumph, the monumental “pictured wall” in Lahore Fort was commenced by Emperor Jahangir in 1624-25 A.D and may have been completed under the reign of Shah Jahan in 1631-32 A.D. It is exquisitely decorated with a vibrant array of glazed tiles, faience mosaics, and frescoes stretch over much of the northern and western walls of the fort. The 116 embellished panels altogether measuring approximately 1450 feet by 50 feet is the most representative relic of Mughal period depicting an array of geometrical and floral patterns including elephant fight, angels, hunting, dancing, mythological scenes, and polo game. This art is known in Persian as Kashi Kari because it originated from Kashan the city of Persia (Iran).  These pictures do not seem to have a strong cohesion to explain a single story.

Khilawat Khana (Palace of isolation)

Khilawat Khana, the residence of the royal ladies of the court, was built by Shah Jahan in 1633. It is located to the east of the Shah Burj Pavilion, and west of the Shah Jahan Quadrangle. It is a building with a curvilinear roof made mostly with marble.

Lahore Fort Museums

There are three distinct museums in the Lahore Fort – the Armory Gallery, the Sikh Gallery, and the Mughal Gallery.

  1. The Armory Museum

The Armory Museum is located in Dalan-e-Sang-e-Surkh of Moti Masjid and showcases various arms captured by British during Sikh battles. These arms include pistols, helmets, guns, swords, daggers, spears and arrows

  1. Mughal Gallery

The Mughal Gallery is located in Jahangir’s Quadrangle and houses historic manuscripts, coins, calligraphy, miniature paintings and an ivory miniature model of India’s Taj Mahal.

  1. Sikh Gallery

The fall of Mughal Empire leads the control of fort to Sikh suzerainty before it was passed to British colonialists. The British took over Punjab following their victory over the Sikhs at the Battle of Gujrat in 1849. Located in the Haveli of Rani Jindan, the Sikh Gallery houses the Princess Bamba (the granddaughter of Maharaja Ranjit Singh) collection belonging to Ranjit Singh. This gallery carries a rare collection of oil paintings including some beautiful paintings by European artists.

Visitors Guide

 The entrance and the office for the entry ticket to the fort for the general public are through Hathi Gate.

  • The fort is open to public seven days a week as per the following timings.
Summer:

1st April to 30th September: from 7:30 hrs to half an hour before sunset.

Winter:

1st October to 31st March: from 8:30 hrs to half an hour before sunset.

 

Museum and Galleries timings

Summer:

8:30 to 12:30 hrs and from 14:30 to 17:30 Hrs

Winter:

9:00 to 16:00 Hrs

Toilets:

Toilets for the visitors are located in front of the Diwan-e-Aam area.

 

Danyore Rock inscriptions
Posted in Gilgit-Baltistan

Danyore Rock Inscriptions

The Danyore Rock Inscriptions is a gigantic boulder bearing inscriptions from the 7th and 8th centuries A.D. The inscription is the most important discovery of Danyore and was seen for the first time by Karl Jettmar in 1958. The inscribed rock is situated in the premises of a private house in Danyore, across Gilgit city in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan and is locally known as “Likhitu Giri”. The archaeological site is not very much popular and known only to a limited count of individuals/organizations related to archaeology and tourism.

The town of Danyore is located on the main Karakoram Highway towards Hunza, south of Gilgit and separated only by Gilgit River and Hunza River from two sides. Danyore is accessible by car in 10 minutes from Gilgit yet finding the exact location of the Danyore Rock Inscription can be a challenge as the signboard showing the direction to the exact location has been disappeared and the rock is located off the main Karakoram Highway leading through a narrow street to a private house in the settlement.  The family living in the house didn’t know much about the worth of the rock.

Measuring 13 x 7 feet, the gigantic rock bears the names of the Tibetan kings who ruled in Gilgit during the 7th and 8th centuries in a five-line Sanskrit inscription in the late Brahmi character. The inscriptions, as per the renowned Pakistani archaeologist Dr Ahmed Hasan Dani, were engraved by the prince Kumaramatya and belonged to the line of rulers mentioned in the Hatun inscription in the Ghizer Valley. It confers royal titles of Patola Shahi Shahanushahi and Parama-Bhattaraka to the ruler Jayamangala Vikramaditya Nandi of the Vikramaditya family.

According to Dr Dani, the purpose of this inscription appears to commemorate some conquest of a local ruler, probably the overthrow of a raid by Tibetans in the upper Indus valley. Moreover, the Kingdom of Great and Little Bolor merged under Tibetan suzerainty in 725. The rock, however, has deteriorated with the passage of time and the inscription faded badly. It shows that Sanskrit was once a part of this land and bears significant evidence of the past that needs to be preserved.

Derawar Fort
Posted in Forts Punjab

Derawar Fort

Derawar Fort or Qila Derawar is a gigantic citadel in Bahawalpur district, on the edge of Cholistan Desert, in southern Punjab, Pakistan. Square in shape and towering over the wide stretch of surrounding semi-desert, the massive fort can easily be seen from miles. It looks glowing gold particularly when the early morning rays hit the fort and during evening sunset on the fort. Derawar Fort is considered as one of the most impressive structures in the area that dwarfs other Nawab Palaces in architecture.  As a must explore landmark it makes an exciting trip from the city center.

History

Historically the fort was built in the 9th century under the kingship of Rai Jajja Bhati, a Hindu Rajput from Jaisalmer in the Rajasthan state India. It was captured by the Abbasi Nawab of Bahawalpur, Sir Sadeq Mohammad Khan I, in 1733. The fort was said to have rebuilt by the Nawab to its present looks. The fort was once lost owing to Bahawal Khan’s preoccupation at Shikarpur but was regained by Nawab Mubarak Khan in 1804.

The Cholistan desert covers 26,000 sq km (10,000 sq miles) and extends into the Thar Desert to India. The desert surrounding the fort was once well watered by Hakra, the then Ghaggar River known as the Sarasvati in Vedic times. Until 1960 when the Sutlej was diverted, Derawar was still watered by a canal but afterward, it was deserted and dried out. The fort has already lost most of the features and is in a state of turmoil. Along the 500km of the dried up river, there are almost 400 archaeological sites and most of the sites date back to Indus Valley Civilization.

Architecture

The red brick edifice has been fortified by a 5 foot thick and 30 meters high walls with a series of bastions on each side. Most of the bastions present geometric design made by burnt bricks. Running 1500 m in circumference with each side measuring 204.8m in length, the square fort is the most robust and glorious stronghold.

Inside of the fort, there are several buildings including quarters of the royal family and quarters for Nawab’s army. However, the entire building is deserted and turning to dust. In the dusty courtyard of the fort, there are two old vintage guns mounted on pedestals. There are small underground cells on the western side now infested with bats and wood being eaten by termite.  It still looks more impressive from outside than from inside.

The impressive Derawar mosque is situated nearby which is the exact replica of Moti Mosque at the Red Fort in Delhi and was built in 1844 AD. Moreover adjacent to the fort is the magnificent site of the burial ground of Nawabs family. Visiting the burial site requires prior permission. Moreover, there are some shops nearby but it is recommended that all visitors arrange prior arrangements for food/drinks, etc.

Access

Derawar Fort is located about 45 kilometers from Ahmed Pur East (Dera Nawab Sahib) and about 95 km from the city of Bahawalpur taking roughly 3 hrs to reach. A 4WD is preferred for this trip. The gate of fortress located on the southern side is reached by a winding ramp. Prior permission from the present Amir of Bahawalpur to get into the premises of the fort and royal graveyard is required.

 

 

Phander Lake
Posted in Gilgit-Baltistan Lakes

Phander Lake

Phander Lake is a striking Lake situated in the majestic Phander Valley of Ghizer district in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. The Lake is an important source of fresh water and trout fish, fed by the Ghizer River and located on the Gilgit-Chitral Road.

Locally known as Nango Chatt, the 44 meters deep crystal clear water of the lake is filled with grass and plants easily visible from a distance. The lake is surrounded by poplar trees that further add to the entire beauty. The curvy lake is sandwiched between two ridges that create a scenic view of the entire valley and the lake itself. One end of the lake is closed and the other is the major source of water passage from the river that keeps the lake water fresh.

The lake showcases panoramic views in four distinct seasons and is a major source of tourists’ attraction in the region. The western ridge of the lake has a government rest house while the eastern ridge has a small unit of PTDC motels offering best views of the lake and the valleys downstream.

Both for day excursionists and for overnight staying visitors, the valley has much to offer. Besides scenic views, the food, particularly the local trout fish, and fruits or various kinds are some of the other attractions of the region.

The lake is situated on the crossroads between Gilgit and Chitral and can be easily accessed from both sides. From Gilgit, it is about 173 km taking around 5 hours.

Gilgit-Baltistan
Posted in Gilgit-Baltistan

Gilgit-Baltistan

Formerly known as the Northern Areas, Gilgit-Baltistan, is the northernmost territory hosting some of the world’s highest mountains and longest glaciers outside the polar region. Besides housing an unmatched natural beauty and glorious manmade landmarks, the region populates a diverse range of ethnic groups proudly exercising respective cultures and speaking various languages and dialects. The land is worldly famous for its tourist attractions.

Geography

Geographically the territory stretches over an area of 72,971 km (28,174 sq miles) bordered by the Xinjiang province of China to the east and northeast, the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan to the north, the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the west, and Indian-administered state of Jammu & Kashmir to the south.

Geologically this region is considered unstable. The region is the meeting point of Indian and Eurasian plates and the 5 cm annual northward movement of Indian plate gives rise to Nanga Parbat an average of 7mm annually.

Major Districts

Gilgit-Baltistan comprises of three main divisions known as Gilgit, Baltistan, and Diamer. The three divisions further constitute ten districts. Gilgit division encompasses four districts including Gilgit, Hunza, Nagar, and Ghizer; Diamer division has Diamer and Astor districts; and Baltistan division incorporates Skardu, Shigar, Kharmang and Ghanche districts.

History

Historically, Gilgit-Baltistan has been the crossroads of ancient trade routes and a melting pot of ancient civilizations. The region has for several centuries remained an important Buddhist centre of learning. The Silk Route, one of the routes making up networks of ancient Silk Routes, is now the Karakoram Highway (KKH) has more than 50,000 petroglyphs and inscriptions located between Hunza and Shatial. These carvings were left by travellers including invaders, traders, and pilgrims who passed along the upper Indus. The earliest known carvings date back to between 5000 and 1000 BCE are the figures of triangular men, hunting scenes and single animals usually larger than hunters.

Gilgit-Baltistan has remained independent until British colonization in the 19th century. It was divided into many mountain principalities. During colonial period it remained under the dual control of the British Indian Government and Jammu & Kashmir state. After the partition of Indian subcontinent and creation of Pakistan, a local revolt overthrew Kashmir rule and claimed independence. Since then the area is administered by Pakistan and functioning directly under the federal government.

Festivals

There are cultural festivals and religious festivals celebrated in Gilgit-Baltistan with zeal and zest. Major cultural festivals celebrated in the region are:

Naltar Ski Festival is an international Ski competition takes place at Naltar every year in February.

Navroz is celebrated on 21 to 23 March to welcome the new beginning of the year with blossom.

Ginani/Ganooni is celebrated from 21 to 25 June to offer gratitude for the wheat crop and is celebrated with fervour by making local dishes and villagers all meet in one place to celebrate.

Shandur Polo Festival is a legendary event takes place every year in July on the highest and historic polo ground between the two arc rivals of Gilgit and Chitral polo teams.

Eid ul Adha

Eid ul Fitr

Eid Milad un Nabi

Shab e Meraj

Shab e Qadar

Shab e Barat

Jashan e Ramadan

Youm e Ashura

Attractions

Gilgit-Baltistan is home to five of the 14 world’s highest peaks more than 8000m above sea level, more than 50 peaks above 7,000 m, a countless number of peaks above 5000m and 4000m successively besides three longest glaciers outside the polar region.

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