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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The construction work of the Karakoram Highway completed in 1978 while before the construction of the highway, Gilgit-Baltistan was a remote territory. Access to the region from other parts of the country was hard and the poor infrastructure within the region made things tough for the residents.
Gilgit being the headquarters and business centre attracted people from immediate and far surroundings for many reasons – education, jobs, merchandise selling, medical treatment and for other purposes. For the people settled to the immediate south of Gilgit Town otherwise separated by the Hunza River, along with the northern bank of Gilgit river, that include Danyore, Oshikhandas and Bagrot, crossing over to Gilgit was a tough job. Before installation of the local raft (Jaalo) on the Hunza River in 1945 to cross over to Gilgit, these residents would make a long detour to reach the town and that would cost almost an entire day as compared to about 15 to 20 minutes today.
The need for construction of a bridge was conceived and a hefty fund of Rs. 20,000 was generated through the contribution by the residents of Danyore and southern regions in the late 1950s. As soon as the suspension bridge was erected, it was washed away by the Hunza River being extremely low to the riverside. It was indeed a huge loss.
The location for another bridge, on a fair altitude from the river, was selected and again through the contribution of funds and donation of construction wood by each household, the construction of current suspension bridge was accomplished in 1960.
The Danyore suspension bridge has for more than five decades served as a reliable source of commute to the people travelling to Gilgit and reduced the ordeals of frequent travellers. The local raft could provide transfer only in daylight; the bridge provided a 24-hour hassle-free service and made the lives of the people easy. Its construction proved as a big relief.
The bridge was constructed by Ahmed Ali (late), well-known as “Thikedar Bereno”, a renowned constructor and self-taught engineer from Hunza who had earned name and repute for his construction expertise and projects, particularly of bridges, across Gilgit-Baltistan.
The construction of Danyore suspension bridge began in 1957 and completed by the end of 1960. Principal work included the construction of the bridge itself over the Hunza River and the annexing single lane curved tunnel to the south leading access to Danoyre which was dug by locals without proper engineering equipment.
The bridge is situated over the Hunza River almost 2 km short of its confluence with Gilgit River. It was only meant to use for mini vehicles since it was constructed until an alternate concrete bridge was built. The western end of the bridge is connected to KIU campus that further leads to Gilgit town while the eastern end is connected to a single lane tunnel in Danyore side that further meets the Karakoram Highway.
The location, length, and design of the bridge make it one of the spectacular bridges in the world. Driving on the bridge and passing through the tunnel, abruptly connecting the bridge, is quite a technical job and a test the skill and nerve of local drivers.
The bridge has been closed for conventional transportation recently and only pedestrians and motorcyclists can pass through after it was declared unsafe by local administration. For general traffic, a concrete bridge has been constructed nearby that can sustain the flow of all type of traffic.
The Danyore Suspension Bridge was renovated in 2018 and the sections of road on both ends of the bridge have been refurbished and decorated to turn it as a tourist attraction. To the Gilgit side, there is a significant Buddhist rock carving site preserved for the visitors that further adds to the attraction of the site. The nearest attraction to the Danyore side, on the KKH, is the Chinese Graveyard which is a must visit tourist site.
The views of the bridge from both elevated sides are quite spectacular as the bridge itself has been built on a comparatively lower setting. Likewise, the views from the bridge are equally amazing. For new visitors, visiting this site is simply a memorable experience.
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 monument was built by his soldiers to celebrate his victory.
Location and access:
The victory monument of Taj Mughal is sited on the backdrop of the southern mountains of Gilgit city, about 1000 feet above Gilgit town, overlooking the Gilgit and Danyore towns. The monument can be reached by foot from the southern end of Jutial by crossing the water channel followed by a rocky track in about 45 minutes hike. It is about another 10 km drive if you plan to visit from Gilgit town. There is an alternate route from Jutial Nalah, yet very perilous, and is hard to trace. It is perhaps only used either by shepherds or local people. This track leading from Jutial Nalah is not recommended for anyone including tourists.
The monument is erected on the ridge of the Rocky Mountains using local stone and clay. The tower is round in shape yet gradually losing its composition and may come down to disappear at some point. Although the base of the tower is given temporary support by mending some sections, however, the southern face has almost worn down and an immediate renovation is required.
The site offers a scenic view of the entire stretch of Gilgit town from Bagrot in the east to Baseen in the west with Gilgit River running across the length of the city. The tower is called “Shikaari” in local Shina language. One can enjoy the picturesque views of Gilgit and surrounding valleys covered by guarding mountain peaks.
Best time to visit:
The monument should be visited either in the early morning or in the afternoon if planned in peak summers (May to August). The best season to visit is between February and November. It is a half day rewarding excursion for tourists. Erected on the barren mountain, there is no water available; a bottle of water is must to carry.
At an elevation of 1454 meters, Gilgit, the district and provincial administrative headquarter of Gilgit-Baltistan, is a spectacular quaint little town gradually a modern city. The town is located amidst three mountain ranges – the Karakoram, Hindukush, and the Himalayas – and has for centuries been a prosperous trading center and a melting pot of ancient civilization.
Gilgit is surrounded by beautiful lakes, gushing rivers, longest glaciers and some of the world’s highest mountains such as Nanga Parbat (8,125 meters) and Rakaposhi (7,788 meters). It is one of the world’s multi-lingual regions where more than 10 languages and several dialects are spoken. The local dialect is Shina, however, Urdu and English are also spoken and understood widely.
Besides the Victory monument, there are a number of attractions in Gilgit including the 7th century Karga Buddha, Hal ga Naal, Hanzal Stupa, Gilgit Suspension Bridge, Chinar Bagh, Buddhist Rock Carvings near KIU, Danyore Suspension Bridge, Rock inscriptions in Danyore, and Chinese Graveyard Danyore.
Gilgit has an airport and flights are operated from Islamabad on a daily basis though subject to weather condition. Gilgit can be reached by road from Islamabad along the KKH, Chitral via Gilgit-Chitral road, and from Kashgar in China along the KKH. The best season to visit is from May to mid-October.
Things to carry:
- Water bottle
- Sunburn cream
- Shoes with good grip
- Glasses and cap/hat
- Camera/cell phone
The 30 meters high Hiran Minar in Sheikhupura was built in 1606 to honor the memory of Mansraj, the favorite pet deer of the 4th Mughal emperor Jahangir (Prince Saleem). During the reign of Emperor Jahangir from 1605 to 1627, Sheikhupura had the status of a royal hunting ground as the Mughal rulers were fond of hunting. The monument is still in good condition and serves as a great tourist attraction.
Sheikhupura, once called Jahangirabad, derived its name from the term Sheikhu, the nickname of Emperor Jahangir. The modern day Sheikhupura is about 40 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital Lahore and Hiran Minar is situated about 9km west of Sheikhupura.
Hiran Minar basically refers to a complex comprising the monument itself and the eastward octagonal two-storeyed structure, having an open pavilion on the top, called Daulat khana or bara-dari (of twelve doors) located in the very middle of the rectangular water tank. Both the daulat khana and the tank were added in 1607 and 1620 respectively. (The term baradari is a misnomer in a sense as a baradari is essentially a structure with 12 openings, while daulat-khana has only eight, being an octagon with only one opening on each side.)
Daulat khana was used as a royal retreat by the emperor and is reachable by means of a bridge extending westwards the tower. The ground story of Daulat Khana can be accessed from the four main sides leading to the smaller square rooms which further leads to the king’s chamber. This chamber is located in the very middle surrounded by eight subordinate rooms. Four of the eight rooms are square in shape and smaller in size while other four rooms are octagonal in shape and are comparatively larger in size. All rooms have access to the central King’s chamber as well as with each other.
The water tank surrounding Daulat Khana has small pavilions featuring pyramidal roofs with entrances on four sides. The center of each side of the tank has shallow brick-ramps that allowed wildlife in the hunting park easy access to the water. The water level was maintained using a series of channels and catchment basins leading to the site.
The actual consequences leading Mughal Emperor Jahangir to order build a tower and a grave for his beloved deer was that he accidently killed Minseraj when he spotted a deer he tried to kill in the area where Hiran Minar was later built. The emperor becomes so sad that he ordered to bury deer in the ground where it died and build a tower called Hiran Minar. After the death of Mansraj, this hunting ground was changed into a protected sanctuary and hunting was prohibited. This is a very rare example of love towards a pet, a sign of love for wildlife in a time when the rest of the world was not even familiar with such intent.