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.

 

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.

 

 

Altit Fort Hunza
Posted in Forts Gilgit-Baltistan

Altit Fort

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.

Historic Background

Before its formal accession to Pakistan in 1974, Gilgit-Baltistan was divided into several independent princely states and the kingdom of Hunza was one of the states ruled by the Mirs. The rule of local Mirs came to an end in 1974 when the state system was abolished, and socio-political reforms took away their power during the reign of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Altit Fort was then handed over to the Aga Khan Foundation in 1990 for renovation.

The village of Altit was the oldest settlement (Altit Khun) founded in the 11th century and served as a capital of Hunza. The ancient name of Altit village was Hunokushal referring to the arrival of people from Turkic tribe of Huns from the Persian Empire in A.D 47. However, the name later changed to Burushal – the village of Burushaski speakers who were spirit worshippers before Islam was introduced in the 15th century and eventually people converted to Islam.

According to historical accounts, the rulers of Hunza first resided in the Altit Fort. A dispute between the two royal brothers – prince Shah Abbas (Shabos) and Prince Ali Khan (Aliqan) of the then Mir Sultan- lead to a divide and eventually, Shah Abbas had to move to Baltit Fort which soon became the new seat of power. With the capital shifted to Baltit, Altit Fort began to lose its significance. Prince Ali Khan made Altit Fort his stronghold and launched offensives against his elder brother. The fatal fight ended up with the death of Prince Ali Khan.

When princess Shah Khatoon from Baltistan was married to Mir Ayaaho II of Hunza in the early fifteenth century, she was accompanied by craftsmen as a dowry. The Balti craftsmen made some significant amendments in the fort with a Tibetan touch in its design. During their stay in Hunza, they used two Balti words to refer to the two forts as “Elte” and “Delte” to say “here” and “there”. Later, the term Elte became Altit and Delte was modified to Baltit as both valleys are famously known today.

The fort was purposefully built by the ruling family of Hunza as a display of power, to defend Hunza from external attacks, and to safeguard the predominant feudal system. Altit fort has undergone several ups and downs before it was abandoned. It has been dexterously renovated and now the fort houses a museum, a culture center, and the offices of a successful Social Enterprise.

Architecture

Altit Fort presents an unusual piece of building art and stood the test of time. The building is standing on a pair of rocks – the higher eastern rock and the comparatively lower western one. Its construction was completed in six different stages – the first stage construction, initiated over 800 years ago, was a two-floor building at the lower western edge as level one and another single floor on it as level two; the three-floor watch tower as the second stage construction; the storage space as third stage; the mosque as fourth; grain storage on the eastern side as fifth stage; and the guest rooms as modification of grain storage as sixth stage construction. The rooms at a lower level are accessible through narrow corridors while the upper ones can be accessed via the way to the watchtower.

The main entrance facing Ultar leads through a narrow dark corridor of the ground floor to the rest of the interconnected constructions. The fort has a main space with a rectangular seemingly supporting structure which has its anecdote. A prince is said to have killed by his own father after believing his involvement in a plot against his kingdom and was buried in the structure in a standing position.

The royal kitchen on the first floor decked with dexterous carvings inside is a little piece of interesting patterns to enjoy. Surrounding it are the lobby, the multipurpose traditional royal room, the queen’s room, and the rubble stone masonry.

The watchtower on the top built strategically, to monitor the entire land especially during the time of war or threat, provides a 360-degree scenic view. The tower was sometimes used to throw off prisoners who served their death sentence. The other major constructions including the mosque, the royal throne, and the guest rooms are located to the north of the tower while the storage space is to the south. The royal throne in the front of the mosque has a panoramic view of the whole settlement of Altit Khun.

Restoration

The fort was in great despair and Raja Amin Khan donated it to Aga Khan Cultural Services in 2001. After an extensive restoration work done by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Historic Cities Support Program and the Government of Norway, it was opened to the public in 2007 as a museum. Even since then, several development projects within and outside the premises of the fort have been carried out. Notable developments include the women’s social enterprise, the restoration of the Altit Valley, the Kha Basi Café in the lush green royal garden providing traditional Hunza Food, the apricot orchard, and the new art center cum guesthouse also providing special accommodation services. Special historical tours are organized within the premises running from 9.30am to 5.30pm, 7 days a week.

Access and location

Altit Fort is located on the edge of Altit valley, near the confluence of Hunza and Nagar rivers, about 3 km from Baltit Fort, in Hunza valley of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. The main entrance opens into the royal garden – an apricot orchard grown over an irregular plain of lush green grassland – leading through a path filled with sawdust all the way to the fort entrance.

The fort has several locations offering scenic views of Hunza and Nagar. The galleries in front of the royal guest rooms provide a beautiful view of the Altit village with its unique houses packed around each other. Likewise, the galleries hanging from the royal chambers has a scenic view of the Hunza River flowing parallel to KKH besides the beautiful landscape of Nagar Valley. The watchtower on the roof of the fort provides an exclusive view of the whole Hunza and Nagar valleys no other place can provide. Altit Fort also has a great view from the Karakoram Highway.

Awards

Altit Fort is the recipient of 2011 UNESCO Asia-Pacific Award for Cultural Heritage Conservation.

Conservation project mainly focused on fixing structural defects, mending and stabilizing existing walls, replacing some rooftops, treating wood decay and supplying appropriate lighting.

 

Rohtas Fort
Posted in Forts Punjab World Heritage Sites

Rohtas Fort

Rohtas Fort (also called Qila Rohtas) is one of the six World Heritage Sites in Pakistan designated in 1997. The fort is located in a gorge, built purposefully on a small hill 300ft above its surroundings, some 16km northwest of Jhelum city of Punjab in Pakistan. It is so strategically positioned with a commanding view of the old route from the north to the plans of Punjab across the Potoar Plateau. Qila Rohtas is situated some 98 km from Islamabad and 210km from Lahore on the Grand Trunk (GT) Road.

Historic Background

The gigantic Rohtas Fort is an exceptional example of early Muslim military architecture surviving today. It was built by Farid Khan – the “Lion King” of the subcontinent well known as Sher Shah Suri – in the 16th century. The major reason behind the erection of this rampart was to subdue the pro-Mughal Ghakkar tribe and to thwart the possible return of Mughal Emperor Humayun who had fled to Iran after his defeat in the battle of Kanauj at Chaunsa.

Sher Shah Suri was said to have commissioned his architect, Shahu Sultani, to erect an unshakable castle within a span of 3 years. The fort constructed by the architect, however, was way smaller than what Sher Shah Suri had envisioned. Sher Shah Suri, therefore, ordered the architect to be beheaded. But before his orders were materialized, the architect was granted a chance of mercy with the proviso that he rebuilds the fort in two years according to the wishes of Sher Shah Suri. Unfortunately, the Lion King died in a battle in 1545 before he could see the fort completed. His reign lasted barely for six years only and his death quickly lead to fall of his empire.

Humayun’s Return:

Humayun returned ten years after the death of Sher Shah Suri and the fort could not serve the purpose it was built for. Tatar Khan Khasi, the then governor of Rohtas Fort, escaped without a battle. Gradually, Rohtas lost its prominence as Humayun’s son Akbar moved to the newly built great fort in Attock in the 1580s. Later, only on their way to Kashmir, Emperor Akbar and his son Jehangir were known to have stayed briefly at Rohtas.

The fort remained in continuous use until 1707 before it was reoccupied under the Durrani and Sikh rulers of the 18th and 19th centuries respectively. Few of the original buildings erected in the inner citadel survive today including the domed tower called Haveli Man Singh, Shahi Mosque, three Baolis, and the Rani Mahal. Some of those constructions may have been added much later than the fort itself was built.

Construction of Rohtas Fort:

The foundation of the fort was laid in 1541 by Sher Shah Suri. It has an irregular shape built on an uneven land following the shapes and forms of the hill it was constructed on. Most of the fort was built with fine ashlar stones collected from nearby villages and some parts were built with bricks. Blended with fine architectural and artistic traditions from Persian and Afghanistan, this imposing historic monument had a deep influence on the development of Mughal architectural style.

Main Garrison:

The main garrison spreads over an area of 12.63 acres covered by 5.2 km circumference of a robust wall. The complex could house a force of up to 30,000 men at a time. The wall is between 10 to 18 m high and between 10 to 13 m wide supplemented with 68 bastions at irregular intervals for vigilance, and 12 main trap gates with interesting names and stories. There are some 1900 battlements throughout the rampart; muskets fired from those battlements and soldiers poured molten lead over the walls as well. The wall also has three terraces linked with staircases. A 533-meter-long wall divides the main citadel from other parts of the fort. However, there are some significant additions inside the fort some of which are still surviving till date.

Haveli Maan Singh:

Haveli Maan Singh is poised on a fair elevation with a guarding view of the fort and surroundings from its balconies. Although it seems to have originally comprised of four rooms of which only one is existing. The tower is named after one of Akbar’s greatest generals and is the only surviving example of Hindu architecture within the fort. This structure was believed to have built between 1550 and 1614. It is a two-story building constructed with bricks and neatly plastered bearing no resemblance to the Fort itself.

Shahi Mosque and Rani Mahal:

The Shahi Mosque is a small construction with only a prayer chamber and a small courtyard. Inside the fort also existed three Baolis (deep stepped wells) – Main Baoli, the Shahi Baoli, and the Sar Gate Baoli – for self-sufficiency in water and to withstand any major siege. Rani Mahal (Queen’s Palace) is a single-story structure located near Haveli Man Singh. It is also a Hindu architecture built around the same time as the Haveli itself.

Rohtasgarh to Rohtas:

Sher Shah Suri named Qila Rohtas after the famous Rohtasgarh fort in Bihar (now in India) that had been captured by him three years earlier in a battle. Rohtasgarh was named after Rohitasva, the son of Harish Chandra of Solar dynasty who built the fort. It cost a huge amount of money to build Rohtas fort more because of the opposition of local Gakkhars than for the material. Today, neither the successors of Sher Shah Suri nor the Mughal Empire resides in the fort but only an interesting story still survives in the form of this ramshackle structure.

The gates of Qila Rohtas

The Rohtas Fort has 12 gates, all built with dressed and fitted stone.

Sohail Gate

Sohail Gate provides the best example of masonry in use in the time of Sher Shah. It derived its name from a Saint named Sohail Bukhari, buried in the south-western bastion of the gate.

Shah Chandwali Gate

Named after a Saint Shah Chandwali who refused to get his wages for working on this gate, linking the citadel to the main fort. The saint died while working and had been buried near the gate.

Kabuli Gate

It was named “Kabuli” because it faces Kabul, opens to the west. This is another double gate, its opening measures 3.15 meters (10 feet) wide.

Shishi Gate

The Shishi Gate derives its name from the beautiful glazed tiles used to decorate its outer arch. Those blue tiles represent the earliest examples of the technique, later refined in Lahore.

Langar Khani Gate

Langar Khani Gate, a double gate, with a central arched opening leading to a Langar Khana (Mess hall or Canteen).

Talaqi Gate

The Gate derives its name from “Talaq” (divorce). Legend says Prince Sabir Suri entering the gate had a fatal attack of fever. It was regarded as a bad omen and therefore its name became “Talaqi.”

Mori or Kashmiri Gate

The Mori or Kashmiri Gate opens to the north, facing Kashmir, hence it’s called Kashmiri Gate.

Khwas Khani Gate

The Khwas Khani Gate had been named after Khwas Khan, one of Sher Shah Suri’s greatest generals.

Gatali Gate

The Gatali Gate faces toward the village Gatali. It was an important point to cross the River Jhelum for the Kashmir Valley.

Tulla Mori Gate

Tulla Mori Gate serves more like an entrance than a gate. On the eastern side of the fort, it measures two meters wide with a bastion next to the entrance.

Pipalwala Gate

Pipalwala Gate, a small entrance like the Tulla Mori Gate.

Sar Gate

Sar Gate, called “Sar (water)” because it constitutes a small entrance with a bastion and a Baoli next to it.

Although there has been no harmony in the Persian and Afghan construction styles; Qila Rohtas is an exemplary amalgamation of the two with Afghan style more prominent. There has been a later addition in the form of Hindu Architecture on the Balconies on Sohail Gate, decorations on Shahi Mosque and on the Haveli Man Singh. Its decorative features in the form of stone carvings intricately grace different parts of the building. The calligraphic inscriptions on different parts of the fort, glazed tile work, and fine plasterwork are some of the features describing the dexterity still living today. The combination of artwork is unique and vivid.

Although the fort is surviving today but gradually decaying too. It needs extensive repair and timely maintenance in order to pass the legacy on to next generations. Rohtas Fort loudly speaks of a great history and the legends lived here. It simply doesn’t have to die out mere owing to the negligence. Rohtas Fort is an identity of this country.

 

 

Baltit Fort Hunza
Posted in Forts Gilgit-Baltistan

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 defense and definition of the then rulers of Hunza. The majestic fort now serves as a museum and a cultural center. Baltit Fort is the recipient of several international awards and holds a global recognition.

Historic Background

Until 1974, the mountain kingdoms of Gilgit-Baltistan (formerly known as the northern areas of Pakistan) and Chitral constituted several small independent states ruled by the local Mirs (called Thumo in Hunza & Nager). Among them were the Hunza and Nagar states – two major principalities and traditional rivals – only separated by the Hunza (Kanjut) River. They often remained to engage in clashes and built strongholds as a display of their power.

Historical sources reveal that Hunza rulers first resided in Altit Fort but a conflict between two sons (Shah Abbas, also known as Shabos, and Ali Khan, also known as Aliqan) of the then Mir Sultan resulted in the separation of the two. Shabos, the elder son, had to move to Baltit Fort. The power struggle between the two brothers ended up in Ali Khan’s death and Baltit Fort eventually became the seat of power since then.

In the early 15th century Ayasho II (Mir of Hunza at that time) married a princess called Shah Khatoon from Baltistan (little Tibet). The princess was accompanied by numerous craftsmen as a dowry who carried out some significant modifications in Altit Fort and Baltit Fort. The modification resulted in merging of the architecture of both state cultures which reflects the Tibetan influenced architecture in Altit Fort and Baltit Fort today.

The fortified village of Baltit was called “Agaai Koot” (the Heavenly Fort) and the nearby Altit was named as Hunokushal (derived from the words “Huns”). When the Balti craftsmen used terms Elte` and Delte` to say “Here and There” and from the word Elte`, the name of the village of Altit and from the word Delte`, the name of the village of Baltit has established.

Later in the 19th century, attacks carried out by the Maharaja of Kashmir and the subsequent British invasion in 1891 lead to the partial devastation in the architecture of the fort and interference in the political system of Hunza. Mir Safdar Ali Khan and Wazir Dadu along with their families and fellows managed to escape to Kashghar to seek political asylum.

In 1891 the British reshaped the forts according to their own defense requirements by demolishing the fortified wall and watchtowers of the old Baltit village and watchtowers of the Baltit Fort. They also made some significant changes in the ruling system by appointing Mir Mohammad Nazim Khan as the ruler of Hunza state. The newly appointed Mir made subsequent alterations to the fort. He demolished several rooms on the third floor and added a few to give a new look to the fort defining British colonial style using lime wash and colour glass panel windows. No further changes were then made before its renovation.

Architecture

The Baltit Fort building is a basically very interesting wood pegged stone structure with mud plaster. The interior is decorated with prominent and eye-catching impressions of woodcarvings which became a norm and adopted in many new constructions now. The three-story building rests on a moraine overlooking the whole valley.

The basement of the fort has granaries and some stores with manmade narrow terraces for the stability of its ancient foundations. The first floor has the main kitchen, a winter guestroom, a large winter house, private meeting room, guardrooms, and stores which are all interconnected. Likewise, the second floor of the building has living rooms, a balcony with bay windows, and an impressive open terrace decked with a royal throne beneath a Moghul style wooden canopy having astonishing views of the Hunza & Nagar valleys and snowcapped mountains including Rakaposhi (7788 m), Diran Peak (7257 m), Golden Peak (7027 m), Ultar (7388 m), and the Lady Finger/ Bubulimoting (6000 m) high. The third floor of the fort has a tiny mosque and a shelter for guards in the corner.

 Restoration

The Fort was housed until 1945 by the local Mir family and then was abandoned for several years. Baltit fort started decaying and caused concern to authorities to consider a possible rehabilitation. Mir Gazanfar Ali Khan II, a descendant of the ruling Mirs of Hunza gifted the fort to the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the charitable organization endorsed the restoration project through its historic support program in 1989. With the help of the Getty Grant Program (USA), the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation along with the French Authorities, the project was accomplished in 1996. The Baltit Heritage Trust runs the fort as a museum and opens for tourists throughout the year.

 The renovation was accomplished with such sophistication that its view and vigor looked exactly how it used to look during its peak time. The power of the Mir was abolished in 1974 when northern areas were politically conceded to Pakistan. Currently, the fort has been turned into a museum serving as a good example of culture preserved for future generations.

Access

Baltit Fort is situated in Karimabad (Baltit), once was capital of the state of District Hunza, is accessible by Karakoram Highway (KKH) about 100 km north of Gilgit, the capital of Northern Areas, Pakistan. The fort is located on the top of Karimabad (Baltit) overlooking the entire bowl making up Hunza-Nagar and can easily be spotted from the Karakoram Highway passing through the central Hunza valley.

 Timings:

Summer          09:00 to 17:30 hrs (April 1st to Oct 30th)

Winter             09:30 to 16:00 hrs (November 1st to March 31st)

 Dinner at Baltit Fort

By maintaining the legacy of former Hunza state rulers who used to serve dinners and music for their guests and courtiers at the Baltit Fort, a dinner with light music for a group of minimum eight guests can be arranged. The dinner so arranged comprises of traditional dishes using local organic products including dried apricots, apricot and almond oils.

Awards

  • Grand Award to Aga Khan Cultural Services (AKCSP) in 1997 for “Restoration and Re-use of the Baltit Fort” by PATA (Pacific Asia Travel Association).
  • British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Global Award in 2000
  • Award of Excellence in the UNESCO 2004Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation.
  • Time Magazine Asia published (2005) Baltit fort featured cover page and complemented with best-renovated landmark
  • The government of Pakistan issued RS:15 of Stamp as a tribute to its legacy at 10th Opening anniversary (2006) of Baltit Fort
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