Last Places team of anthropologists and historians visited Pakistan for the first time in 2015. By then Pakistan had experienced a sharp downfall in tourism due to its not-so-great reputation in Western media. In a selfish way we were delighted not to see tourists in most the regions we visited. During that first prospective trip we realised the great potential of that country, mixture of India and Iran, home to the unique Kalash shamanic mountain people, and home to some of the last true nomadic tribes in Asia. Besides our passion for ethnographical encounters, the historical and architectonic heritage is overwhelming. It is a haven for history and art lovers.
With a local Pakistani partner, a former mountain guide, we opened an office in Chitral (base to explore Kalash Valleys and to plunge into the Hindu Kush) and since then we have been offering tailor made trips and ethnographic and historical set departures to the Last Places of Pakistan.
Also known as Kalasha or Kafir.
Population & Ecosystem
3.000 Kalash live in 3 valleys of Chitral namely, Rumbur, Brumbret and Birir. The valleys are surrounded by the Hindu Kush mountain range.
Economy & Society
Historically a goat herding and subsistence farming people, the Kalash are moving towards a cash-based economy whereas previously wealth was measured in livestock and crops. Tourism now makes up a large portion of the economic activities of the Kalash. To cater to these new visitors, small stores and guest houses have been erected, providing new luxury for visitors of the valleys. People attempting to enter the valleys have to pay a toll to the Pakistani government, which is used to preserve and care for the Kalash people and their culture. After building the first jeepable road in the Kalasha valleys in mid 1970s the people are engaged in other professions like tourism and also joining services like military, police and border force etc.
Besides their unique culture and Animistic rituals the Kalash people outstand for their physical appearance. Surrounded by dark hair, dark skinned and brown eye Pashtuns and Khos, most people of Kalash Valleys are white skinned with golden brown hair and blue eyes. Up to nowadays, the origins of Kalash still remain unresolved as their history is shrouded behind a number of theories, mysteries and controversies. Of these many theories, three carry with them great significance and are considered closest to reality.
The grandest of all is that the Kalashas carry a romantic view of being the descendants of Alexander the Great. On the other hand, many historians believe that they are indigenous tribe of the neighboring area of Nuristan also called Kafiristan (the land of Kafirs). It is believed that in 1895 Amir Abdul Rahman, the king of Afghanistan, conquered the area of Nursitan and forced the inhabitants of the area to convert to Islam. It was during that time that many people fled to Chitral to avoid conversion. The third theory claims that the ancestors of Kalashas migrated from a distant place in South Asia called Tsiam. The Tsiam is considered to be the traditional home of these people. The Kalasha folk songs and fables hint the existence of Tsiam and that their roots belong in that region.
The people of Kalash are extremely particular about their religion and break ties with anyone of them who converts to Islam. The converts are not allowed after the conversion to be a part of their community. They keep their identity strong.
The people of Kalash differ from the people of the surrounding areas in a number of ways. There is no separation between males and females in Kalash and are allowed to keep contact and communicate without any fingers being raised at them. Moreover, the females of Kalash are sent to live in a bashaleni when they are considered to be impure for e.g. during the child birth period and other occasions. These women are only able to live this place after they regain their purity and have undergone the ritual of restoring purity.
The people of Kalash march to a different drummer. Their customs and traditions are as different as day and night, especially vis–à–vis the concept of marriage. Marriage by elopement is more frequent in the Kalash valley and is also common amongst women who are already married to another man. In fact, wife elopement is considered to be one of the great customs of the people of Kalash.
When a man and woman get married the man pays the woman’s family a certain amount in order to have her. When a woman wants to leave her current husband and marry some other man, she offers herself to that man and informs him of how much her current husband had paid for her. In order for the man to marry an already married woman he has to pay double the amount to have her.
Culture & Religion
The women of Kalash wear long black loose robes with colourful embroideries and cowrie shells. These women are also found wearing colourful beads and necklaces that further distinguish them from the other women of the Chitral region. They accessorize their black robes by making use of colorful long braided head wears. The males of the Kalash on the contrary have adopted the Pakistani national dress i.e. the shalwar kameez and are often found wearing waistcoats over them. They also wear hats common to the northern area of Pakistan.
The Kalash are polytheistic believing in 12 Gods and Goddesses. A renowned linguist Richard strand, is of the view that the people of Kalash practice an ancient form of Hinduism which gradually developed locally and got influenced by the neighboring areas of pre Islamic Nuristan.
They believe in a number of Gods e.g. Yama Raja also called Dezau and Khodai who is the creator deity. Another god is the Balumain who is the cultural hero and taught the people of Kalash how to celebrate the winter festival. Other gods include Destak, Munjem, Dezalik. Like all the other religions, the Kalasha also have different religious rituals and practices. In Kalash the rituals are the means of generating economic activity and are gift giving festivals. The numerous Gods and Goddesses have shrines and altars all over the valley where goat sacrifices are offered regularly. Crows that are considered to be their ancestors are frequently fed with their left hand at a number of places including tombs. Moreover, the people of Kalash do not bury their dead under the ground rather their coffins are left out in the open. They believe that the soul was excited to leave the human body and reunite with the already departed souls. It is for this reason that they celebrate the funeral of a dead person by singing and dancing rather than mourning over their bodies.
Also known as Gujjar, Gujar or Gurjar.
Population & Ecosystem
300.000 Bakarwal nomads live in cold and desolated pastures of Deosai Plateau, in the Himalayas.
Economy & Society
As sheep and goat rearing transhumants, the Bakarwal alternate with the seasons between high and low altitudes in the hills of the Himalayas. The economy of Bakerwal tribe is primarily based on the rearing of sheep and goats. To fulfil day to day needs a Bakerwal tribe to trade sheep and goats with the Mutton traders in the local areas and to the sheep and goats traders in bulk during the season of Eid-ul-Zuha. Bakerwals used skins of sheep and goats to store foodstuffs during their migration and transport this on the back of their Mules, horses. Although they are now part of the mainstream economy, they continue to practice the ancient barter system as the supply of food and essential items is restricted in the hamlets located in the upper ridges of the Himalayas.
The Bakarwals are the scholars of nature. They know the seasonal flowering, grasses and medicinal herbs of various kinds. They are the doctors of their herd and apply the medicinal herbs to the cattle’s whenever they are sick. Some of the Bakarwals collect medicinal herbs during their travels which are sold in the market at handsome price. Milk, curd, butter, ghee, etc are the ingredients sold by these nomads to make their both ends meet. They also sell raw wool.
Nomadic communities of Bakarwals are struggling to continue with their centuries-old migratory lifestyle. In recent decades, urbanisation and environmental conservation efforts have put pressure on their livestock based subsistence economy- like never before. Still, some Bakarwals possess the spirit to undertake a long and arduous journey from the winter pastures in the Potohar region of Punjab to the Deosai plains in the Gilgit Baltistan region, accompanied by their livestock. The Bariyankhel clan undertakes the longest annual migration of 400 kilometres, cross four administrative units of the country and which covers at least seven ecological zones. Their roaming region is marked with extremes, both in gradient and temperature. Their happiest time is spent in the far north in their summer pastures where they have the comfort of companionship of their kinsmen, abundant grass to feed their herds and the least amount of interference from the state functionaries.
Bakarwals always move in groups. A single kabila may consist of several families together. Each family used to have a head of the family and all of these heads combine together to elect their leader. Generally it is unanimously decided and the most active one or the most powerful and rich is elected to perform the duties of a leader. This headman of the herds is popularly known as Mukadam. These Mukadams were, once upon a time, the most powerful persons who used to decide the fates of the feudal lords. Even now they play an important role in deciding the trend in the general elections in the area. All the quarrels of the families are settled by these headmen of the clan. Even the major disputes between the clans are solved mutually among themselves. The deciding person used to be the Mukadam whose verdict is supposed to be final. Bakarwals seldom go to courts for getting justice. It is only when they are forced that they knock the doors of the courts.
Nowadays, at least 16 out of 24 clans of Bakarwals have permanently sedentarised and left their annual migration temporarily for good. These Bakarwals have forsaken their traditional dress code, food habits and specific cultural traits and have adapted themselves in order to enjoy education, health and job opportunities in cities.
Culture & Religion
Bakarwal men wear long shirts and salwars of dark colours. Jackets of black or dark colour are always in use but pattu coat is in vogue during winter only. They use white turban in the style of Turks. Big leather shoes are in vogue which are nailed heavily at the soles. The females are thin and tall. Their attire is almost similar to that of their male counterparts. They are very fond of braiding their hair. Numerous small braids divergently appear from the upper part of the forehead and convergently slide down to a single braid of hair at the back. They usually wear a dark coloured cap on their head covering the turning point of the braids. They carry their younger kids on their back in cloth cradles fastened around their backs. Sometimes young lambs are also cradled. Newly born lambs are always carried on the backs to lure the sheep mothers. The free hands are always busy.
Bakarwals are Sunni Muslims but preserve some pre-Islamic rituals. The rituals and other celebrations are very simple. Almost every celebration starts with the distribution of ghee and shakkar among the poor and the kith and kin’s followed by the chanting of the folk songs. At the time of new births and also during marriage ceremonies hilarious folk songs are chanted. They are generally the love epics popularly known as Masnavis. Thus Masnavis like Saifal Malook, Heer Ranja, Laila Majnu, etc. are recited accompanied by folk music instruments like bag pipe, algoja, mattian, flute and drums.
Also known as Povindah or Kohistan Gujjar.
Population & Ecosystem
50.000 Pawindha nomads live in the mountain plains of Kohistan and travel every season towards the plains on Punjab on a centuries old route on foot, near Taxila.
Economy & Society
Their main source of income is their livestock, which travels with them and serves as transport for the elderly, women as they travel through the countryside, and pitch tents wherever they stop. The Pawindha clans live in makeshift dwellings and own few possessions. They migrate during each season, heading from Kohistan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa carrying household items and accompanied by hordes of animals, such as goats, sheep, mules and horses, down the Silk Road to the plains of Punjab in the winter, and back to the mountains in the summer.
The Pawindha have their own customs, culture and language, although they also speak the language of their traditional wintering places too. So those spending the winter in Punjab speak Punjabi as a second language as this is necessary for them to conduct business plus, as some of them are appointed as agricultural labourers, it is a must that they can converse with their employers in order to understand the jobs to be done.
Surprisingly enough, these people rarely eat meat as they consider their animals far too valuable to kill. Their diet largely consists of milk, cheese, yoghurt, edible wild plants which they gather from their surroundings while keeping in mind never to harvest too much from one place as this would mean that there may not be a crop the next time they are passing through. They also eat lots of roti — buying sacks of flour from the income they make by selling animals now and then, and they wash everything down with endless cups of tea, tasting of smoke from the campfires over which they cook.
Culture & Religion
Pawhinda ladies are in the habit of plaiting their hair in hundreds of tiny plaits from which they hang a variety of highly decorative hair ornaments. When in camp, they also spend hours on end embroidering their clothes with traditional designs, echoing these intricate patterns on the cushions, blankets and mats with which they furnish their tents and also on the bridles, saddle cloths and ornaments used on their ponies and mules which are a colourful site to see as, fully loaded with goods, they traverse the roads from one place to another.
The Pawhinda nomads are Sunni Muslims thought some pre-Islamic customs and believes survive among them.
Also known as Kuchi, Pawanda or Kadwal.
Population & Ecosystem
2 million Kochis live in the mountains and dry plains between Pakistan and Afghanistan and migrate with their animals every year from Damaan to Khurasan.
Economy & Society
Given that they are herders, the Kochi’s main source of income is their livestock. All their basic needs — such as milk, cheese, yoghurt, ghee, meat and wool — come from their goats and sheep. Though they contribute immensely to the local market in terms of dairy items, meat and wool during their semi-annual migration, the people of nearby villages do not allow them to set camps on their grazing land though they stay everywhere temporarily.
The word Kochi is a derivative of the Pashto word ‘Koch’ meaning migration.
The Kochi people are always on the move, migrating to Pakistan in the autumn and returning to Afghanistan in the spring and follow the historical caravan routes during their semi-annual migrations. Accompanied by their herds of cattle and carrying items of daily use, they travel on foot using the same route as their ancestors did for hundreds of years. The Kochis speak a rustic dialect of the Pashto language and live on the margins of main cities.
During their travels, the Kochis are accompanied by fierce dogs that protect the caravans, the camps and people. These dogs are often colloquially referred to as the Kochi breed as well. Children and the elderly, travel the thousands of kilometres on camels and donkeys. Kochi people always say that their destination depends on weather and season. While life may be harsh for Kochi women, their nomadic existence means they are able to lead a more liberal lifestyle — Kochi women don’t use the veil as conservative Pashtun woman traditionally do. The women are often busy contributing to the community — collecting water, making dairy products and cooking food. They spend their free time embroidering traditional designs on clothes and weaving rugs. The newly-wed brides can easily be spotted as they wear brightly coloured dresses which are heavily embroidered and decorated with traditional mirrors and sequins that clink as they move.
Culture & Religion
Kochi women still tattoo their cheeks, forehead, and chin with green natural ink, and wear silver saucers in their ears, bangles up and down their arms, and dress in red and green velvet clothes.
Kochis are Sunni Muslims but practice several pre-Islamic rituals related with their animals and the surrounding nature.
Also known as Punjab Gypsies, Pakhiwa, or Ghonpar Patti.
Population & Ecosystem
22.000 nomadic or semi-nomadic Khana Badosh live in various districts of southern Punjab. Every one or two years, communities of Khana Badosh migrate from one location to another depending upon the availability of work, livelihoods, and places to set up their huts. They choose places which are near the banks of rivers or outside urban localities. Most live around major cities like Lahore.
Economy & Society
The main occupations of the Khana Badosh of Pakistan are: Begging, Singing and Dancing, Garbage Collectors, Labor, Bangle Makers and Sellers, Snake Charmers, Acrobats, Making Mud Toys, Hunting, Cane-Makers, Cattle Keepers. Khana Badosh keep moving from one place to another because they have no proper homes, that’s why they are also called Ghonpar Patti (house on your shoulders). They tend to stay put for a few weeks, months, or sometimes even years in Lahore.
They usually live in temporary huts made with cloth, straw and bamboo (wooden pillars support the structure of the cloth made hut). Thus, they make these handmade temporary huts which consist of 25-50 in each colony and live in small or large groups where they have to live according to their norms and principals. They bear the hardships of cold winters and very hot summers in these huts and also strong winds, thunder storms, and rainy seasons as well. Normally, a family consists of a man and wife and their 5 to 10 children. Children are married at an early age (12-15 years). Because of early age marriage the number of children increases and the family is unable to fulfil their basic needs, and the children are always at risk of dying at an early age or being disabled.
Culture & Religion
Khana Badosh Gypsies preserve a distinct look from the surrounding Punjabi people. Both women and men pierce their earlobes and many women also pierce their nostrils with metal rings. They like make up and dress Rajasthan-style clothing. Singing and dancing is an essential part of Khana Badosh culture.
The primary religion practiced by the Khana Badosh is a light informal form of Sunni Islam. Many pre-Islamic rituals are still practiced among the nomadic groups.
Also known as Baloch or Baluchi.
Population & Ecosystem
50.000 Baluch still spend most of their year in tents or other temporary dwellings with their families and flocks rather than opting for jobs in the booming Gulf Emirates. Baluchistan is a semi-desert, sparsely populated area comprising some 350,000 km² of western Pakistan and a further 400,000 km² in south-eastern Iran and southwestern Afghanistan. It is probably the poorest and least developed area of each of the three countries.
Economy & Society
The Baluch are important for the economy of the area. They provide valuable milk products and are an indispensable source of labour for the date harvest which coincides with the slack season in the pastoral cycle. They are also agricultural producers themselves: much of the agricultural production of the area depends on unpredictable river flow and runoff, which only the Baluch understand. Small pockets of soil scattered throughout the area produce crops when a downpour happens to bring water, but only if a nomad is there to apply it. In addition to their economic role, the nomads are even more important for the morale of the total population. Their way of life embodies the values to which the rest of the population subscribes. Baluch values derive from the conditions of the nomadic life. Their moral code encompasses the major rules of honour, hospitality, asylum and compensation for homicide, governing relations with strangers, refugees and criminals, and between men and women. The contribution of the nomads to Baluch society cannot be quantified as it is not so much economic as cultural. The nomads generate the Baluch view of the world, which is the cultural basis of the whole society, nomadic and settled. Without the nomads, Baluch society as a whole will lose the cultural glue that holds it together. In Makran especially (the southwestern Division of the Province, approximately 38,000 km², continuing westward across the border into Iran), but to some extent throughout Baluchistan and even beyond, these Baluch nomads are considered a people apart. It was they who somewhere between 500 and 1,000 years ago brought into the area the language, the identity and - most importantly - the values which have come to constitute the culture of Baluchistan.
The decline of the Baluch, which now threatens Baluch society, is due to a syndrome familiar in other pastoral areas of the world. Changes in the larger political economy as well as changes in dominant values in the larger consumer-oriented society have altered the day-to-day economic and political balance between farmers and nomads. Nomadism, as a way of life, is rarely explicable simply as ecological adaptation. In modern conditions, seasonal movement could in many cases be accomplished by commuting shepherds as well as by migrating families. But the intimacy and commitment nomadism forges between the family and the range in marginal conditions is probably unattainable by any other means and more promising ecologically in the long run than any other feasible use strategy. Moreover, the nomads' knowledge and understanding of the total territory is an important support for other sectors of the economy and for the society's general conception of nature, the relationship between the total society and its environment.
Culture & Religion
Gold ornaments such as necklaces and bracelets are an important aspect of Baluch women's traditions and among their most favoured items of jewellery are dorr, heavy earrings that are fastened to the head with gold chains so that the heavy weight will not cause harm to the ears. They usually wear a gold brooch that is made by local jewellers in different shapes and sizes and is used to fasten the two parts of the dress together over the chest. Traditional clothing for the Baluch man is a long, loose shirt that reaches below the knees, worn with baggy trousers, and a turban. The turban is a long cloth wound around a turban cap on the head. Leather shoes or palm-leaf sandals are worn. A shawl or wrap provides extra warmth in winter but can also be used as a towel, sash, or head cloth; it can be used to carry things. Women wear a long shift reaching to the ankles, with a wrap used to cover the head, shoulders, and upper body. The wearing of trousers under the shift has been restricted to women of high status. Bright colours are usually avoided, but scarlet is popular among girls of marriageable age. Widows wear black.
Music plays a role in all ceremonies except death rituals. Dancing accompanies many events, such as weddings and other festivals. Men's dances reflect the warrior traditions of the Baluch i. The drum, the lute, and the shepherd's flute are the most common instruments for accompanying the singing and dancing.
The Baluch are Muslim, mostly Sunni, but also including members of the Zikr sect. Zikr live mostly in southern Pakistan. They are followers of a fifteenth-century Islamic messiah Nur Pak (Pure Light).
Also known as Thari.
Population & Ecosystem
480.000 Bhil live in desert but fertile plains of Thar in Tharparkar District of Sindh Province. More than 10 million Bhir live scattered throughout neighbouring India.
Economy & Society
The Bhils live mostly in rural areas, where many are migrant farm workers who follow the seasonal crops to bring extra income to their families. In Pakistan many work for Muslim landowners. Wheat and millet are staple food crops, followed by rice, cotton lint, and corn. For the farmers, the arid land requires irrigation. Monsoon rains are the key to their existence.
The Bhil peoples are low on the social totem pole in Hindu society of Pakistan where the caste system is still in effect despite Islam being the dominant religion.
Culture & Religion
Bhils have rich and unique culture. The Bhilala sub-division is known for its Pithora painting. Ghoomar is a traditional folk dance of Bhil tribe. Ghoomar is the symbol of womanhood. Young girls take part in this dance and declare that they are stepping into the shoes of women. Bhil painting is characterised by the use of multi-coloured dots as in-filling.
In India most Bhils are Hindu or animistic, but in Pakistan they mix Islam with traditional religion. There are many Hindus among the Bhil people in Pakistan. Some Bhil in isolated communities near the Indian border continue to worship tribal deities such as Dev Mogra Mata and Sitla Mata.
Also known as Lambadi, Mareecha, Marrecha, Rohi or Cholistani nomads.
Population & Ecosystem
200.000 Banjara live in Cholistan Desert. The majority of Banjara live in Thar Desert across the border in India and number several millions.
Economy & Society
Living off the land and raising cattle (mainly camels), the Banjara also are skilled craftsmen. Historically they were nomadic and kept camels, goats, and cows, traded salt, and transported goods. Now, most of them have settled down to farming and raising cattle or grain. Others still trade in salt and other commodities. In some regions, a few hold white collar positions or work as government servants. Not only do the Banjara usually have more than one occupation, they also use additional skills to supplement their incomes, depending on the societies needs at the time. Some specialize in making items such as broomsticks, iron tools, and needles. They may also repair tools or work with stone. Others believe that one does not have to work for a living and gain income by "religious begging." They sing and wear special make-up while begging in the name of a specific deity. Many live in grass huts, often with extended families. The Banjara families are closely knit, having minimal relationships with other castes. The role of leader of the community is passed down to the leader's son. All biological sons get an equal share from parental property. Marriages may be arranged, especially to avoid the union of relatives to three generations back. In some groups, however, cousins are allowed to marry.
Culture & Religion
The brightly coloured, detailed designed clothing embellished with bright beads, coins, and discs that many of the Banjara women wear is made by their own hands. Many of them can fashion tools that their society needs, anything from needles to broomsticks. The Banjara delight in music, dancing, and stories, and their love for art can be seen in their paintings, tattoos, and embroidery. They are known throughout India for their work sewing mirrors, animal bones, silver, gold, plastic, beads, disks, coins, and more onto their merchandise and clothing. The Banjara love music, playing folk instruments, and dancing. The Banjar are also acrobats, magicians, tricksters, story-tellers, and fortune-tellers.
The majority of Banjara are Hindu; some have combined Hindu practices with their own Animistic beliefs. Other groups follow Islam. Banjara often follow folk beliefs, and mixed with these religious beliefs are many taboos (things one must never do.) One Hindu taboo is that a woman's hair must not be combed or let down long in the presence of men. Another is that a woman should not pass in front of a man who is sitting, but rather behind him. Even though Banjara are unreserved in speech, many have high moral standards. For example, chastity is very important. In the past, some girls who were involved in prostitution were buried alive. Unmarried girls are still discouraged from going into the cities, and they usually wear veils over their hands and feet while sitting with strangers.
Also known as Kasi or Tribal Pashtun.
Population & Ecosystem
400.000 Shinwari live in the mountains valleys between Landi Kotal (Pakistan) and Jalalabad (Afghanistan), as well as in Parwan province of Afghanistan where they are concentrated in Shinwari.
Economy & Society
The most important resource for this tribal society is land. Everything is organized around land ownership. The landowners are one of the highest-esteemed castes and they are the richest people from the tribes. Being a Pashtun is in a sense synonymous with being a landowner. The caste of Pashtun – or the landowners, in translation – is higher than even the caste of the priests and it is overcome in hierarchy only by the caste of Saints. Only the castes of Pashtuns and Saints maintain a wide range organization. But the statuses and rights from castes are defined contractually, not patrilineal. Patrilineal descent, as mentioned above, functions as a first order relationship for the division of labour. The castes limit only the range of positions for a man to aspire to, otherwise, they are free to choose their profession and tribe. And there can be labour turnover within the system of castes and of patrilineal kin once there is an increasing demand for a certain service and shortage of labour supply. This was the example of the herders turned into muleteers.
Pashtunwali refers to an ancient self-governing tribal system that regulates nearly all aspects of Pashtun life ranging from community to personal level. One of the better known tenets is Melmastia, hospitality and asylum to all guests seeking help. Perceived injustice calls for Badal, swift revenge. Many aspects promote peaceful co-existence, such as Nanawati, the humble admission of guilt for a wrong committed, which should result in automatic forgiveness from the wronged party. These and other basic precepts of Pashtunwali continue to be followed by many Pashtuns, especially in rural areas. Another prominent Pashtun institution is the loya jirga or 'grand council' of elected elders. Most decisions in tribal life are made by members of the jirga, which has been the main institution of authority that the largely egalitarian Pashtuns willingly acknowledge as a viable governing body.
Culture & Religion
As a chiefly rural and tribal population, the Pashtun dress of Pakistan is typically made from light linens, and are loose fitting for ease of movement. The Pashtun dress includes local forms of the shalwar kameez. The traditional male dress includes the Khet partug and Perahan wa tunban. Males usually wear kufi, Peshawari cap, turban, sindhi cap or pakul as traditional headgear. Pashtun Leaders sometimes wear a karakul hat, like former monarchs of Afghanistan. The traditional female dress is the Firaq part?g. Women typically wear solid-coloured trousers, a long kam?s shirt with a belt. Sometimes they will wear an encompassing burqa over this outfit. More elaborate and fancier dresses are detailed with gold threading, gold beads, and come in many different colours on silk fabrics. These dresses are usually worn to special occasions and weddings.
The overwhelming majority of Pashtuns follow Sunni Islam, belonging to the Hanafi school of thought. There are some Shia Pashtun communities in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. Pre-Islamic traditions, dating back to Alexander's defeat of the Persian Empire in 330 BC, have survived in the form of traditional dances, while literary styles and music reflect influence from the Persian tradition and regional musical instruments fused with localised variants and interpretation. Pashtun culture is a unique blend of native customs with some influences from South and Western Asia. Like other Muslims, Pashtuns celebrate Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr. Some also celebrate Nouruz, which is the Persian new year dating to pre-Islamic period.
Also known as Brogba, Drokpa, Dard, Shin, or Minaro.
Population & Ecosystem
2000 Brokpa live in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir. They are found in Chechethang mountain valleys in Baltistan.
Economy & Society
The Brokpa economy has shifted from agro pastoralism to wage labour, and the division of labour that relied on stratifications of age and gender is now obsolete. The Brokpa transition to private property, monogamy, nuclear families, formal education, wage labour, and their incorporation into a highly militarized economy of soldiering and portering illuminates the complex workings of modernity in their mountains.
Despite the over 2000 years long tradition of veganism, recent developments have forced the Brokpa to take up alternative diets, comprising milk, eggs and meat. Even high up on the Himalayas, climate change has made summers longer and winters warmer, bringing on pests and jeopardizing the health of the soil. Crops are not as prosperous as they used to be, potatoes or barley don’t grow as well above certain temperatures, causing the introduction of more fruits and less carbs into their diets. The shortages caused by this are more and more often complimented by cow meat, butter and milk. Changes within the culture are also propelled by the influx of tourists, emphasizing the importance of their identity over spirituality or social structures.
Culture & Religion
For centuries, the Brokpas have been indulging in public kissing and partner swapping without inhibitions. Their cultural exuberance is reflected in exquisite dresses and ornaments. Their features are pure Indo Aryan and they have preserved their racial purity down the centuries.
Their culture and religious practices are very similar to ancient pre- Buddhist religion known as Bon-Chos. Both the men and women folk adorn headgears made with handpicked fresh flowers, every single day.
The inhabitants of the Kalash Valleys celebrate a number of festivals all year round. The 3 predominant festivals are as follows:
Joshi Festival: It is celebrated in May and marks the arrival of spring. People wear new clothes and women accessorize heavily, girls are sent to the hill side for dancing and singing. Women decorate their houses and collect milk from the cattle, One year old babies and their mothers are also purified in this festival.
Uchau Festival: This festival takes place in mid-August at the altar of Mahandeo where newly made cheese is brought from the pastures. Dancing and singing again forms an integral part of the festival.
Caumus or Choimus Festival: It is the most important festival held in mid-December.
The Kalash worship the many gods of Kafiristan like Balomain, the heroic demi-god of the Kalash whom the Choimus Festival celebrates. Balomain’s spirit is said to pass through the valley counting the people of the Kalash and collecting their prayers returning them to Tsiam, the mythical land of the Kalash.
Much dancing in giant circles around bonfires and chanting in mesmerising repetitions – with just a drum beat accompanying the voices. The girls wear intricate costumes with dresses made of cowry shells, coins and beads with intricate hair braiding and headwear. The heavy headdress weighing several pounds is presented to the girl by her uncle. Other jewellery includes necklaces made from apricot kernels, a traditional gift during Choimus. Women often paint their faces with ink (replacing earlier customs of facial tattooing). Single woman are expected to find themselves a husband during these festivals. Just before the main festival, seasonal foods are offered to the ancestral spirits and a kotik, light for the ancestors, is lit. After this ritual the food, considered impure, is offered to the elderly women to be eaten.
During the festival, purity is paramount and celibacy is enforced throughout the days of the event so all the people will be in pure mind when Balomain visit the valley. All the people must be cleansed in a ritual bathing the week before the festival begins. During the men’s purification ceremony, they must not sit down at all during the day and at night the blood of a sacrificed goat is sprinkled on their faces. Special bread is eaten cooked away from the main village which is prepared by men only during the purification ceremony. Other bread called jaou or choimus breadis prepared for the festival which is stuffed with crushed walnuts and goat’s cheese.
Special dance halls exist for the purpose of dancing at festivals. They are decorated with ornate carved wooden pillars and goat-like figurines. The music and dance is a performance of set songs: the Cha or clapping song is the simplest song with a lilting dance, sung by the elders, with an energetic round dance and the women cry like goats. The drajahilak songs are long and slow, sometimes one song can last up to 2 hours and it is a kind of solo and chorus using improvisation and variation techniques. The Dushak combines the styles of Cha and Drajahilak, presenting both traditional songs and new compositions. The dancing involves side stepping, fast and rhythmical.
During the festival prayers, a procession is made to a high plateau outside of the village in Balanguru where the long night of dancing begins. The festivals continues for many more day moving on to different locations within the valleys.
Bumburante is the largest and most accessible place for a tourist to view the festivities.
Nauroze: (21-23 March)
Celebrated only in Gilgit, Hunza, Skardu and Chitral. Polo, foot-ball, volley-ball and hockey matches, folk dances and music.
Gianni Festival (21st June to 25th June)
The traditional “Ginani’’ festival has been celebrated in Central and Lower parts of Hunza valley, with traditional zeal and fervour. Main gatherings were organized in Altit and Aliabad villages. The local community has performed rituals at central places and also performed traditional dances on local tunes. Special traditional dish locally known as Dirum Pitti has been prepared to mark the festival.
Before the construction of KKH, the local community was totally dependent on subsistence farming and during the winter seasons most of the families were also facing shortages of foods. This festival was thus celebrated to mark the beginning of new harvesting season. During the time, when Hunza was an independent principality, these rituals were performed at royal courtyard. This event is called Ginani and Chineer in Hunza, Strublah in Baltistan and Ganoni in Gilgit.
Shandur Polo Festival
Shandur Top (el. 12,200 feet (3,700 m) located in District Ghizer (Gilgit-Baltistan Province), Shandur-Top in Shandur is often called the ‘Roof of the World’. The top is flat, a plateau and can be crossed between late April and early November. The grade is very gradual, and the area is crossed by small streams of trout. Grazing in summer is plentiful.
Every year there is a Polo match played on Shandur Top between the home teams of Gilgit-Baltistan and guest teams from Chitral. Shandur Pass is one of the major mountain passes of Gilgit-Baltistan; the people who live on both sides of Shandur Top speak the Khowar language.
Shandur Polo Festival held from 7th to 9 July
Shandur invites visitors to experience a traditional polo tournament which since 1936 has been held annually in the first week of July between the local teams of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral. The tournament is held on Shandur Top, the highest polo ground in the world at 3,700 meters (the pass itself is at 3,800 meters). The festival also includes Folk music, dancing and a camping village is set up. The polo tournament is featured in the first episode of Himalaya with Michael Palin.
Various teams of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral have always played the game of polo closest to its original form. In the past, the British Rulers were the patrons of the game.
Free-styled mountain polo is arguably polo in its purest form. This version of the game played at Shandur-Top has attained legendary status and is of great interest to international and domestic adventure tourists alike. There are no umpires and there are no holds barred.
In order to decide the final teams to play at the Shandur Polo Festival preliminary matches are played both in Gilgit and Chitral in which the best horses and players are chosen for the final games by the local juries. The festival begins on the 7th of July with a polo match between the local teams of Ghizer Gilgit-Baltistan with the guest teams coming from Chitral (KPK). During the course of the tournament A, B, C and D teams of Gilgit and Chitral battle it out on the polo field. Each team has six members with 2-4 reserve players in case of injury etc. The match duration is usually one hour. It is divided into two halves, with a 10 minutes interval. During intervals the locals enthral the audiences with traditional and cultural performances. The game decided in favour of the team scoring nine goals. The final is held on 9 July.
Joshio Chilmjusht (14th -15th May)
Function is organized to pay thanks to Almighty. They celebrate the arrival of spring season with new hopes and aspiration.
Silk Route Festival (Cultural Experience On The Roof Of The World)
Festival on the Roof of the world where natural environs, landscape, privileged location in the highest mountains of the world, breath-taking spectacles of sheer scenic beauty, wildlife and nature, awe-inspiring snow peaks, glittering glaciers, serene valleys of lush green foliage and fruits, gleaming and scintillating streams of unpolluted water, rich diversity of people, culture, folklore, arts, crafts and heritage, await you.
This ceremony takes place every evening immediately before sunset at the Wagah border, which as part of the Grand Trunk Road was the only road link between these two countries before the opening of the Aman Setu in Kashmir in 1999. The ceremony starts with a blustering parade by the soldiers from both sides, and ends up in the perfectly coordinated lowering of the two nations' flags. It is called the Beating Retreat border ceremony on the international level.
One infantryman stands at attention on each side of the gate. As the sun sets, the iron gates at the border are opened and the two flags are lowered simultaneously. The flags are folded and the ceremony ends with a retreat that involves a brusque handshake between soldiers from either side, followed by the closing of the gates again. The spectacle of the ceremony attracts many visitors from both sides of the border, as well as international tourists. The soldiers of this ceremony are specially appointed and trained for this auspicious ceremony. They also have a beard and moustache policy for which they are paid additionally.
Religious festival celebrated on 14th of Shaaban, the 8th Islamic month. Prayers, fireworks, exchange of sweet dishes and visits.
Religious festival celebrating end of fasting month on 1st of Shawwal, the 10th month of Islamic Calendar. Special prayer after sun-rise, exchange of sweet dishes, visits.
Sibi Festival: (Last week of February)
At Sibi (Balochistan). Traditional sports, handicrafts exhibition, folk music and dances.
Sindh Horse & Cattle Show: (Last week of February)
At Jacobabad (Sindh). Similar activities as in Sibi Festival.
Jashan-e-Larkana (Last week of February)
At Larkana (Sindh). Traditional sports, exhibition of handicrafts, folk music and dances.
Bassant or Basant
With the advent of spring Basant Festival is celebrated with pomp and show in mid-February every year in Lahore. In other words this is the spring festival. Alleging that kite flying is a Hindu event is also sheer ignorance. The sport originated in China about 5000 years ago, when Hinduism was in non-existent. Why single out kite-flying then, especially when it is a source of joy for the old and the young men and women? The simple reason is that Hindu at Basant Festival fly kites for enjoying Basant. With times Muslims who were living together with Hindus in the sub-continent also join them in kite-flying. Since then Muslims are taking participation in just kite-flying at the time of Basant connotating it as Pala Urant. Now a day’s people of Lahore enjoy it by kite flying competition and by visiting the shrine of Saint Madho Lal Hussein, where they assemble to pay their benediction. Lahore is becoming the main focal point for the celebration of this festival in Pakistan. People traditionally fly kites on the roofs of their buildings. It is commonly observed that rest houses, hotels and house of relatives of the participants are fully packed with guests from all over the country. Moreover some five star hotels also arrange this function on their roof top for foreigners and other high class gentry. They also arrange variety of dishes with musical concert. Sometimes Lahorities on this occasion become emotional and in this state create law and order problems for the administration. Some of them use metal thread for kite-flying. Such a deed often imposes, besides life threat, a serious problem for WAPDA when the thread touches the live wires. In spite of the fact Basant Festival which has no links with the Muslim culture is becoming very popular and being celebrated in Lahore regularly every year with zeal and fervent.
Pakistan Day (23 March)
Commemorating the anniversary of Pakistan Resolution passed on March 23, 1940. Military parade at provincial capitals and Islamabad.
Mela Chiraghan or Festival of lamps (Last week of March)
Held for 01 week outside Shalimar Gardens, Lahore.
Horse & Cattle Show (End of March till 1st week of April).
At Dera Ismail Khan. Local games, folk dances, music, cattle races and exhibition of local handicrafts.
Jashan-e-Shikarpur: (In April for 01 week)
At Shikarpur, Sindh. Cultural activities, local sports and handicrafts exhibition.
Religious festival commemorating the great sacrifice offered by Prophet Abraham. Celebrated on 10 Zilhaj, 12th month of Islamic Calendar. Collective prayers after sun set, sacrifice of goats, sheep, cows or camels and distribution of meat among relatives, friends and poor.
Birth Anniversary of Prophet Hazrat Mohammad. On 12th of Rabi-ul-Awwal - the 3rd month of Islamic Calendar.
Independence Day (14 August)
Meeting, processions, rallies, decorations and illustrations all over the country.
Defense of Pakistan Day (06 September)
Parades and exhibitions of military equipment at Rawalpindi, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta and Karachi. Visits to the war memorials. (No national holiday except Armed Forces).
Air force Day (07 September)
Display of latest aircraft of Pakistan Air force and air shows at Rawalpindi, Sargodha, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta.
Lok Mela (1st week of October, for one week)
Folk Festival held at Islamabad. Folk Music, songs, music contests, folk dances, craftsmen at work, exhibition and sale of handicrafts. The festival presents a unique opportunity to watch the culture and craft of the whole country at one place.
National Horse & Cattle Show Lahore (dates vary: end of February, or first week of March, or 3rd week of November. It lasts for 5 days).
Held at Fortress Stadium, Lahore. Cattle races, cattle dances, tent-pegging, tattoo show, folk music, dances, bands, cultural floats and folk games. Additional attractions include a subtle interplay of lights to weave enticing patterns at night and breathe taking acts by foreign groups.
Baluch people celebrate every 2nd of March their Cultural Day. It is celebrated in Quetta, Balochistan capital but also in other major cities in Pakistan where many Baluch people live. The Baloch Culture Day consists in Baluch or Baloch people wearing traditional dress, diverse cultural activities including exhibition of Baloch costumes, and the performance of Balochi traditional musicians and dancers.
Cultural Heritage of Pakistan
Pakistan is endowed with a large number of ancient sites and historic structures. These historic assets are our link with our past and, as the custodians, it is incumbent upon all Pakistanis to stabilize and conserve them so that they could survive for many centuries more.
In an age when globalization is all pervasive, it is Pakistan’s ancient lineage that provides us with a distinct identity. Lest we forget —since this seems to be our best kept secret from the outside world — Pakistan is a treasure-house of ancient heritage, spanning over scores of centuries.
Pakistan is home to Mehargarh, Moenjodaro and Harrappa —it is the land that beckoned Alexander to sail down river Jhelum with purple flags fluttering; the spectacular Gandharan civilization as the seat of Buddhism; the devotional carvings of the Hindu Shahi temples of the Salt Range and Tharparkar; the stately funerary clusters of Makli, Multan and Ucch Sharif, a fusion of local trabeated and imported arcuate, representing successive Sultanate dynasties; the heart-expanding chahar-baghs and jewel-like edifices of the greatest kingdom in the world, established by the young ruler of Farghana; the Sikhs emulating the Great Mughals, and the shared legacy of eclectic architecture with its European overtones, a bequest of the British who colonized this land.
It is not only the ancient sites and historic monuments, but equally the historic urban cores, stretched from the peaks of the Khyber in the farthest north to the southern-most edge of the mighty river Indus — Peshawar, Multan, Thatta and Karachi, and scores of other living cities with their historic environments, all valuable in our search for, and understanding of our cultural diversity.
There are the Walled Cities, a depository of irreplaceable architectural heritage, with their organic morphology and the meandering streetscapes, which need to be saved from destruction, and revitalized to continue to endow our fast-growing urban centres with distinction, and historical flair. These footsteps of history are a reflection of a traditional value system, tempered over centuries, but needing support to meet the demands of contemporary life without losing their inherent radiance — the traditional lifestyles determined by, and themselves determining the historic environments.
Pakistan’s heritage is among the country’s best kept secrets. The country has several World Heritage sites as well as countless sites of national and local importance.
For ease of safeguarding, tangible heritage of Pakistan is considered in the following categories:
a. Archaeological sites
b. Historic Monuments
c. Urban Historic architecture
The Antiquities Act of the Federal Government provides protection to archaeological sites and historic monuments, however, urban historic architecture in most cities remains largely un-catalogued and unprotected.
Through the efforts of Heritage Foundation the Sindh Cultural Heritage (Preservation) Act 1994 was promulgated by the Sindh Assembly. Through the heritage act, almost 600 heritage sites of Karachi, catalogued and published by the Foundation were provided protection. This is the largest number of protected heritage sites in any province of Pakistan. However, most of the historic towns in Sindh are in the process of losing the valuable heritage.
Under the Punjab Premises Act, a few dozens historic buildings have been provided protection in the entire province. The walled cities have suffered a great deal of degradation and loss of the historic environment. The recent proposal of Punjab Government at the revitalization of the Shahi Guzargah in the Walled City, originally identified by Yasmeen Lari in her Lahore Heritage Guide, is likely to bring the value of heritage for economic regeneration into sharp focus and it is hoped that it will be instrumental in revitalizing of other historic towns and districts.
Although Peshawar walled city is among the most exciting traditional environments, because of lack of protection, the city as well as other historic cities in the Frontier are in grave danger of losing their valuable heritage. The recent steps by the NWFP government, taken under the direction of Additional Chief Secretary, in establishing a Heritage Fund and the Documentation Centres as proposed by Yasmeen Lari, are likely to initiate a process of cataloguing and protection through participation of the private sector.
There is no protection to historic environments of Balochistan and its historic architecture is extremely vulnerable.
Pakistan possesses remains of several ancient civilizations. The most famous is Indus Valley Civilization which dates to 3,000 BC.However, due to investigations in Balochistan the remains of Mehergarh have stretched the antiquity even further back in time to 5,000 BC. The most famous sites of Indus Valley Civilization are Moenjoaro (Sindh) and Harrappa (Punjab).
The other famous ancient sites are evidence of Buddhist civilization that flourished in this land. There are several of them and are found in the northern part of Pakistan. They are situated in Taxila (Punjab) and Takht-e- Bahi (NWFP).
Most archaeological sites are protected under the Federal Antiquities Act.
The historic monuments are standing monuments or ruins which are found all over Pakistan. They represent various periods of our history and demonstrate the rich cultural milieu of the land. Thus, we can find historic Hindu temples in Tharparkar (Sindh) and Punjab, Sultanante period monuments in Makli Tombs, Thatta, in Multan and Ucch Sharif, and Mughal monuments in Thatta,Multan, Lahore etc. Many monuments are protected under the Federal Antiquities Act; however, there are thousands of others which still need to be provided protection.
Urban Historic Cores
There are many historic urban areas that are found in various provinces. Most of them had been constructed as walled cities e.g. Peshawar, Multan, Lahore etc. Although the walls have long since disappeared, the special urban morphology continues to provide them with a special character. Although there has been a lot of destruction in the past years, many of the historic structures continue to endow them with a special flavour. Unfortunately, due to lack of protection, we continue to lose a large number of valuable historic structures. There is an urgent need to provide protection to them in order to save the special flavour that the historic urban cores possess.
Most cities of Pakistan have a shared legacy with Britain. This shared legacy is equally important for the growing urban centres of Pakistan. The British built centres are now part of the Central Business Districts of major cities, gifting them with a special flavour. Except for Karachi, where over 600 buildings identified and published by Heritage Foundation, have been provided protection under the Sindh Cultural Heritage (Preservation) Act 1994, and Lahore where over 3 dozen historic buildings have bene provided protection under the Punjab Premises Act, historic structures in most cities are gravely threatened. As part of growing metropolis, the compulsions for modernity is destroying valuable heritage.
Heritage assets are rated according to their intrinsic heritage value according to the study and research that might have been carried out up to a certain date. It does not mean that the classification is static and cannot be changed if more information is gathered or more research is conducted.
The number of world heritage sites that a nation possesses is a measure of how high heritage is rated in any country. Most countries strive hard to have their heritage sites placed on the World Heritage List. The World Heritage Committee which meets at regular intervals examines the dossiers on each application and depending upon how the case is put forward, accords approval for it to be placed on the List.
The acceptance of these sites signifies that they contain universal values which are valuable for the entire world. As such the safeguarding and conserving them is also the responsibility not only where they are located but also of the world.
To date Pakistan has 7 sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage list:
• Moenjodaro Archaeological Site, Sindh
• Thatta Monuments or Makli Necropolis, Sindh
• Lahore Fort and Shalamar Gardens, Mughal Monuments, Punjab
• Rohtas Fort, Pre-Mughal Monument, Punjab
• Takht-e-Bahai, Gandhara Archaeological Site, NWFP
• Taxila Archaeological Site, Punjab & NWFP
All the provinces in Pakistan have a large number of national heritage sites. The Federal Department of Archaeology has traditionally been the custodian of these sites. However, in the recent past there have been moves to shift the custodianship to the provinces. Although so far only some monuments in Punjab have been handed over to the provincial department of archaeology, it is likely that gradually all sites in the provinces will become the responsibility of the respective provinces.
360 archaeological sites and historic monuments have been placed on National List, with purview of their being provided protection under the Federal Antiquities Act.
Under the act, it is incumbent upon the custodians to ensure that measures are taken for safeguarding and conserving them.
These heritage sites are located in different parts of Pakistan. Where it is necessary that the federal department should conserve them, it becomes important that each Pakistani also participates in their safeguarding.
There are hundreds of monuments that are found in all provinces of Pakistan. Although rudimentary, some form of inventories have been prepared by various provinces; however, due to lack of funds, most of the monuments are in a greatly deteriorated state. Many of them, which were recorded, are probably no longer in existence. This is a grave state of affairs which needs to be rectified through a collective effort.
It is clear that local heritage is of extreme importance to the community and local initiatives are needed to catalogue and preserve the sites. Heritage Foundation has prepared a Catalogue of Heritage Assets of the Siran Valley as part of the work being carried out in the Earthquake Area. There is a need to develop many more such catalogues which would initiate the process of heritage safeguarding in various areas.
Urban Historic Cores
Pakistan has a wealth of historic cores as part of various cities that back to Mughal and post-Mughal period. Even those that were developed during the 19th century British rule have areas which are extremely valuable as representative of a shared heritage with Britain. Since many historic cores have become part of the downtown, the historic assets in these cores are gravely threatened. There is an urgent need to declare conservation districts in order to apply special zoning and building byelaws for maximizing their value as heritage assets, which can enhance the distinctiveness of various cities.
Heritage Foundation has carried out the work of cataloguing extensively in Karachi Old Town, as well as in Lahore, Peshawar and the Siran Valley in Mansehra. The catalogues are published as part of the National Register of Historic Places of Pakistan.
Where the identified and protected monuments suffer from natural threats and causes, historic architecture found in Urban Historic Cores and Urban Centres is gravely threatened due to wilfull destruction. Since most urban centres are now growing at a rapid pace, the planning byelaws allow a higher Floor Area Ratio than the original planning parameters. This has resulted in pulling down of valuable structures and replacement with modern buildings. The chaotic condition in many of the inner city areas is due to destruction of heritage buildings. There is an urgent need to save them through a campaign for identification and protection, as has been done in Karachi.
Indus Valley Civilization
For history passionate Indus Valley (South of Pakistan) is the place to explore. In Last Places we collaborate with Pakistani archaeologists who come in the tours with our tour leader so our clients can learn more about what they are observing.
During the British colonial period, archaeologists excavated numerous ancient cities, among them Mohenjo Daro, Harrappa and Kot Diji, which have a uniform, appropriate structure with broad roads as well as well thought out sanitary and drainage facilities. The majority of the discovered brick constructions are public buildings such as bath houses and workshops. Wood and loam served as construction materials. Large scale temples, such as those found in other ancient cities are missing. With the collapse of the Indus Valley civilization the architecture also suffered considerable damage. View of Mohenjo-Daro towards the Great Bath.
Unfortunately little is known about this civilization, often called Harappan, partly because it disappeared about 1700 BC for reasons unknown and because its language remains undeciphered; its existence was revealed only in the midst of the 19th century (your text says the 1920s), and excavations have been limited. Surviving evidence indicates a sophisticated civilization. Cities like Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro (the "City of the Dead") had populations of some 35,000, they were laid out according to grid system. Inhabitants lived in windowless baked brick houses built around a central courtyard. These cities also had a citadel, where the public and religious buildings were located, large pools for ritual bathing, granaries for the storage of food, and a complex system of covered drains and sewers. The latter rivalled the engineering skill of the Romans some 2,000 years later.
People living in the contemporary world show great interest in the oldest known civilizations of the world. The civilizations died thousands of years ago but still have their remains which give an idea about their culture and the lifestyle they had. This thing comes naturally to people that they show interest in knowing about history by visiting different museums and other historic sites. The historians are another big source for developing interest in general public with the great true stories that they come up with in different magazines, journals and history books. Mohenjo-Daro is one of the oldest known civilizations of the Ancient Indus Valley which was in place around 2600 BC. Mohenjo-Daro archeological site is in Sindh, province of Pakistan. It is regarded as the oldest urban settlement of the world which still has it remains in the today’s world. The Mohenjo-Daro got abandoned in the 19th century BC era and was rediscovered in 1922. The archeologists from different parts of the world gathered here for the considerable excavation conduction at the site which was later acknowledged by UNESCO in the year 1980 as a World Heritage Site. There are some threats to the site by improper restoration and erosion which needs to be addressed for preserving it for a number of future generations.
Mohenjo-Daro is actually the contemporary name of the site which is in Sindhi language and it means ‘Mound of Dead’. The original name of the place is still unknown but according to some historians, he possible ancient name was ‘Kukkutarma’ which means’ City of Cockerel’. This name is not authentic and for this reason it never gained any official status. Cock fighting in the Mohenjo-Daro used to be a very sacred and religious ritual. The disciplined chickens were bred in the region in the ancient times for very sacred purposes. Mohenjo-Daro is also touted as the main area of diffusion of the domesticated chickens worldwide.
Mohenjo-Daro was built in 26th century BC. It is known as the largest city of the Indus Valley civilization which is also famously known as the Harappa Civilization. The Harappa Civilization was built in 3000 BC having the prehistoric Indus culture. The Indus Valley Civilization of today spans more of what is now Pakistan and the Northern side of India. On the western side, it extends towards the Iranian border and towards the State of Gujarat in India at the southern side. Moreover, on the Northern side, it goes to the area of Bactria. The major urban centers are at Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa, Rakhigari, Lothal, Dholavira and Kalibangan. The most notable thing about the ancient city of Mohenjo-Daro is that it was one of the most developed cities of the era. There was some incredible urban planning and outclass civil engineering done by the then people, as reported by the historians. At the time when the Indus Valley Civilization declined in the 19th century BC era, the great Mohenjo-Daro was also abandoned. The Mohenjo-Daro Civilization is 4000 years old which is only the second known civilization after the great Chinese Civilization which is 7000 years old.
The remains of the remarkable Mohenjo-Daro ancient city were left undocumented for more than 3700 years. It was with the efforts of R.D. Banerjee who took the initiative of rediscovering the site. R.D. Banerjee who was also famously known as Rakhaldas Bandyopadhyay was part of the Archaeological Survey of India as a renowned archaeologist. He actually went to the site for the identification of the stupa of Buddhists from the 150 to 500 CE eras which was supposedly there. He came across a flint scraper which eventually convinced him that it is a very old ancient site. He returned again in the year 1922 for further excavation and this time John Marshall (an archaeologist) was accompanying him as well. It was in 1930 when some serious excavations were performed at the Mohenjo-Daro site which was led by John Marshall, Ernest Mackay and D.K. Dikshitar. Then, things came to a halt until the year 1945 where again the exaction conductions took up in pace. His time, the notable archaeologists were Mortimer Wheeler and Ahmad Hasan Dani. The last most notable excavations at the site were conducted in the year 1964-65 under the leadership of Dr. George F. Dales. It was soon after this time in 1965 when a ban was imposed on further excavations due to the potential threat to the exposed structures through weathering damage. However, there were still some considerable projects carried at the site which includes the surface surveys, conservation projects and the salvage excavations but no hardcore excavations were performed at all. It was then in the year 1980 when Italian and German archaeology survey teams came under the leadership of Dr. Maurizio Tosi and Dr. Michael Jansen. They came with innovative and sophisticated techniques which used very less invasive approaches which includes the likes of localized probing, architectural documentation and the surface surveys. This effort helped the archeologists with lots of information about the Mohenjo-Daro civilization which soon became public.
The architecture of the Mohenjo-Daro site give glimpses of an urban infrastructure which those people had in their times. It was evident because of their much planned layout which was primarily based on a street grid for giving the then advanced and developed rectilinear buildings. Most of the construction at that time was done using the mortared and the fired bricks. There are some traces found of the wooden structures and also the use of sun-dried mud brick in a variety of construction projects. The covered area of the site is about 300 hectares. The population of Mohenjo-Daro with a weak estimation at their peak time was around 40000.
The big geographical area of Mohenjo-Daro and the sophisticated facilities and the public buildings of that time give an indication of having a top level social organization of that time. The city of Mohenjo-Daro is divided into two major parts which are the Lower city and the Citadel city. The names are fictitious because of lack of evidence. In the Citadel City, there is a mud brick mound that is 12 meter in height. It is also known to have the public washrooms and a vast residential structure which can accommodate 5000 people at a time. Moreover, two spacious assembly halls were also there which were used for varied purposes. The Citadel City also had a common marketplace and a big well. The individuals and also the groups of household used the wells for satisfying their water needs. The waste water was intelligently channelled to cover all the drains going through the major lanes/ streets.
Some of the residential structures which presumably belonged to the wealthy inhibitors of the time used to have attached bath with their rooms. There were also some traces found of an underground furnace (hypocaust) which most probably was used for heated bathing. Most of the residential buildings at the time had courtyards along with doors which opened towards the side-streets. Moreover, there were several houses which were double-story.
It was during the excavation of 1950, led Sir Mortimer Wheeler who actually identified a vast structure as the ‘Great Granary’. It was a huge wooden structure with wooden wall divisions which served them as a grain storage area. The structures, surprisingly also had the air ducts for the purpose of drying the grain. According to Sir Wheeler, people used carts for bringing grain from remote areas and the offload grain directly in the storage bays. Just next to the Great Granary is a grand public bath which also is known as the Great Bath sometimes.
The Mohenjo-Daro site is a great heritage site and it is the responsibility of the law-makers to take serious steps about its preservation. There were some recent threats to the site due to some cultural programs arranged in the area by the local Sindh government. However, timely intervention by the head of Archaeology Department from Punjab University Pakistan did a great job in its preservation. There is a need of some serious efforts to make sure the preservation of this incredibly unique Mohenjo-Daro site.
Situated strategically on a branch of the Silk Road that linked China to the West, Taxila reached its apogee between the 1st and 5th centuries. It is now one of the most important archaeological sites in Asia. The ruins of the four settlement sites at Taxila reveal the pattern of urban evolution on the Indian subcontinent through more than five centuries. One of these sites, the Bihr mound, is associated with the historic event of the triumphant entry of Alexander the Great into Taxila. The archaeological sites of Saraikala, Bhir, Sirkap, and Sirsukh are collectively of unique importance in illustrating the evolution of urban settlement on the Indian subcontinent. The prehistoric mound of Saraikala represents the earliest settlement of Taxila, with evidence of Neolithic, Bronze Age, and Iron Age occupation. The Bhir mound is the earliest historic city of Taxila, and was probably founded in the 6th century BC by the Achaemenians. Its stone walls, house foundations, and winding streets represent the earliest forms of urbanization on the subcontinent. Bihr is also associated with Alexander the Great’s triumphant entry into Taxila in 326 BC. Sirkap was a fortified city founded during the mid-2nd century BC. The many private houses, stupas, and temples were laid out on the Hellenistic grid system and show the strong Western classical influence on local architecture. The city was destroyed in the 1st century by the Kushans, a Central Asian tribe. To the north, excavations of the ruins of the Kushan city of Sirsukh have brought to light an irregular rectangle of walls in ashlar masonry, with rounded bastions. These walls attest to the early influence of Central Asian architectural forms on those of the subcontinent.
The Taxila serial site also includes Khanpur cave, which has produced stratified microlithic tools of the Mesolithic period, and a number of Buddhist monasteries and stupas of various periods. Buddhist monuments erected throughout the Taxila valley transformed it into a religious heartland and a destination for pilgrims from as far afield as Central Asia and China. The Buddhist archaeological sites at Taxila include the Dharmarajika complex and stupa, the Khader Mohra grouping, the Kalawan grouping, the Giri monasteries, the Kunala stupa and monastery, the Jandial complex, the Lalchack and the Badalpur stupa remains and monasteries, the Mohra Moradu monastic remains, the Pipplian and the Jaulian remains, and the Bahalar stupa and remains. The Giri complex also includes the remains of a three-domed Muslim mosque, ziarat (tomb), and madrassa (school) of the medieval period.
Bhir Mound (6th-2nd centuries B.C.)
The Bhir mound is all that remains of a thriving city that flourished from the 6th to the 2nd centuries B.C. Built on a small plateau in the open fields, the city took advantage of the various trade routes crisscrossing central Asia. Though fortified, the city was no match for Alexander the Great, who conquered the area in the 3rd century B.C. It was here that King Ambhi received Alexander and his Greek armies. Little survives of the city beyond foundation stones, but these tell us that the streets were narrow and the house plans very irregular. There is little evidence of planning—most of the streets are very haphazard. The houses were probably made of stone rubble with wooden ceilings. Settlement at the Bhir mound site ended when the Bactrian Greeks built a new city called Sirkap (also archived on this website).
Jain Stupa (6th-2nd centuries B.C.)
Just a few dozen meters from the Shrine of the Double-Headed Eagle sits the Jain Stupa, a relic of the Sirkap city period (2nd century B.C. to the 2nd century A.D.). The shrine is badly ruined. Nothing of the superstructure survives. The persepolitan columns with lion ornamentation that sit on the four corners were brought here from the ruins of the courtyard.
Jandial Temple (built 2nd century B.C. to 2nd century A.D.)
Located in Jandial, about 1.5 kilometers from the north gate of Sirkap, are the remains of Jandial temple, one of the most unique buildings in Central Asia. Probably intended as a Zoroastrian temple, the building closely follows the paradigm of the temples of classical Greece, consisting of a central shrine with four Ionic columns supporting a porch. The main shrine is rectangular in plan, but instead of the usual colonnade found in Greek temples, the wall is solid masonry with pierced window openings. Behind the main shrine is a set of stairs that leads to a platform where a Parthian fire Sanctuary probably existed in the 1st century B.C.
The Greek influence is not surprising, as Hellenic culture spread through the area in the wake of Alexander the Great's conquest in the first few centuries B.C.
Mohra Moradu Monastery (3rd to 5th centuries).
The Mohra Moradu Monastery is located in a small valley between Sirkap and Jaulian. It was heavily damaged by treasure-hunters who split apart the main stupa hoping to find gold inside. The lower portions of the stupa were protected, however, as earth covered most of the site before excavation began under the auspices of John Marshall earlier in the 20th century. A Buddhist shrine, the monastery was once a place of meditation in the rural areas outside of busy Sirkap.
The stupa is famous for the many bas-reliefs of Buddha that adorn its base. The monastic cells around the stupa are badly damaged, but yielded such treasures as the stone stupas shown in images 5 and 7.
Sirkap City Remains (2nd century B.C. to 2nd century A.D.)
After the Bhir Mound site was abandoned, Sirkap became the major city of Taxila in the 2nd century B.C. The city is heavily influenced by Greek city planning principles introduced to the area after Alexander the Great's conquest in the 3rd century B.C. Now a ruin, the city once boasted a 6-meter thick, 5 kilometre long defensive wall made of course rubble. As in ancient Greek cities, there was a fortified "acropolis" or high ground within the defence perimeter.
The streets of the cities were more regular than those at Bhir, and the houses were mostly made of coursed stone. There were temples, houses, shrines, and stupas all along the main north-south street.
On the east side of the street are several notable structures, such as the Shrine of the Double-Headed Eagle, the Apsidal Temple, and a palace at the south end of the streets. Next to the Apsidal Temple is a small stupa which was probably constructed by a private owner. In the house near the stupa was found several items such as a bronze statue of the Egyptian child-god Harocrates, a silver Dionysus head, and gold and silver jewellery.
Sirkap flourished under several different regimes, beginning with the Greeks, then the Scythians, Parthians, and finally the Kushanas. The city lost its importance after King Kanishka of the Kushan dynasty founded another city at nearby Sirsukh.
This one arguably is the best fort in Pakistan. It was constructed by the famous king Sher Shah Suri in 1547 AD. It is situated in the town of Dina, which is near Jhelum city and also not far from the capital, Islamabad.
Rohtas Fort, or Qila Rohtas as the natives call it, is a garrison fort with great historical value. It is located in Pakistan’s most populated province, Punjab, on the GT road. It is at a distance of approximately 8 km from the city Dina in district Jhelum. The Afghan king, Farid Khan, more commonly known as Sher Shah Suri, had Todar Mal build this fort in the 16th century. Farid Khan is the founder of the Suri Empire. The circumference of the fort is 4 km. Its construction took as many as 8 years for completion. Meanwhile, Sher Shah Suri died on 22 May 1545 during the siege of Kalinjar Fort due to a fire erupted in result of a gunpowder explosion in his store room. The fort with its distinct architectural style, massiveness and historical significance is enlisted as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 A.D.
This fort is just near Bahawalpur City and the area is known for the historic monuments and forts. This is one of the largest square type fortresses in the country. The walls of the fort are 30 meters high and have a circumference of 1500 meters. This was the residence of the Royal Family of Bahawalpur and was constructed in 1733. Derawar Fort is located 100 kilometres from Bahawalpur, Pakistan. This stronghold is the largest and most magnificently sustained fortress of Cholistan.
This fort is also famously known as the great wall of Sindh. It is situated in the Jamshoro District and is a talismanic wonder of the country. It was build way back in 836 AD but it was again reconstructed in the year 1812.
Bala Hissar Fort
Bala Hissar Fort is located near the Peshawar City which was the residents of the Afghan kings in the early 19th century. The fort has seen good and bad times in the times of wars which resulted in destruction of the fort. But, still it is preserved in reasonably good condition which fascinates the visitors.
This famous fort in Muzaffarabad is also popularly known as Muzaffarabad fort. The Chuk rulers of the area initially began with its construction but was completed much later by Sultan Muzaffar Khan in 1646.
The construction of Sheikhupura Fort is traditionally accredited to Emperor Jahangir, but there is no conclusive evidence of this.
The most impressive buildings inside the fort are the magnificent havelis (mansions) that were largely the product of the Sikh period and the latter Mughal era (the mid-17th to early 19th centuries). One famous occupant of the havelis was Maharani Datar Kaur (died 1838), the wife of Maharaja Ranjit Singh of the Sikh Empire.
This ancient fort is located in the picturesque Hunza valley and the collage of history with nature creates a majestic spell for the visitors. The rulers of the Hunza state constructed it some 1100 years ago for their private residence.
Altit Fort is a spectacularly sited defensive work overlooking the Hunza river valley in Gilgit-Baltistan. Carbon-14 dating of its central shikari (watchtower) has shown that at least part of the central tower of the fort was built over a thousand years ago, predating nearby Balit Fort by at least 300 years. However, many of the fort's buildings probably date from later periods, as indicated by dates corresponding either to 1583 or 1581 that were discovered on a lintel of a door frame in the shikari. Traditionally, village lore holds that the fort was constructed by craftsmen from Baltistan, who came here at the behest of the Balti princess Ayashu who was married to the Mir of Hunza, Shah Khan. Although the primary purpose of the fort was defensive, it also served as the seat of power of the Mir of Hunza before the political center moved to nearby Baltit (modern-day Karimabad).
The architecture of the fort is heavily influenced by the square layout common to Pamir, Hindukush, Karakorum and the Western Himalayas. One of the oldest areas, apart from the watchtower, is a lantern-roofed room on the second level that was likely used for official receptions. Its distinguishing features are the four trapezoidal columns which taper from floor to ceiling, reflecting the cosmological concept of the 'pillar of the world', or axis mundi. These columns, which are often feature elaborately decorated woodwork, are to be found throughout Altit village in private homes. The earthen platform behind these columns is generally reserved for the use of men even today.
In the late 1990s the fort and the surrounding village were in a precarious state as local residents built modern dwellings outside the village, threatening the upkeep of the town and its architectural heritage. Recognizing the historic value of the site, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture developed and implemented a comprehensive rehabilitation plan from 2006-2009. Their work involved stabilizing and repairing the fort and also providing clean water and electricity service to the village. Since that time, the population of the village has stabilized and many residents have returned.
This is another ancient fort just near the Altit fort which is also on the tentative list of World heritage of UNESCO. It is 700 years old fort and alterations and rebuilds were done over the centuries.
It is situated in the Skardu valley which used to be the royal residence of the kings of Skardu. It was constructed in the 16th century and because of its so much charm, Emperor Aurangzeb of the Mughal tried to capture the fort but in vain.
Quetta fort in the province of Baluchistan is a military garrison fortress which was constructed by the British Empire in the late 19th century. Its historic relevance and impeccable beauty makes it one of the finest forts in Pakistan.
Ramkot Fort stands on the summit of a hill in Mirpur, Pakistan. It is surrounded on three sides by the Jhelum River. It was likely built no earlier than the late 16th century following the Mughal emperor Akbar's visit to Kashmir in 1589. At present it stands just inside the boundaries of Jammu and Kashmir in an area controlled by Pakistan. Excavations at the fort have uncovered the remains of a Hindu temple and relics from the 5th through the 9th centuries. However, the chronology of the fort's construction and even its age remain open questions.
Although maintenance of the fort is nominally in the hands of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department very little has been done to preserve this historic site.
The fort at Lahore is the most important historical construction in Lahore and is the result of many centuries' work. The earliest reference to the fort comes in a history of Lahur (Lahore) compiled by Al-Biruni, which refers to a fort constructed in the early 11th century. The early history of the fort is subject to debate, but it is known for certain that the fort was extensively upgraded during the reign of Emperor Akbar (mid-16th century). Sometime before 1566, the mud-brick fort was demolished and replaced with burnt bricks. The exact date is not known for certain since the records first refer to a fort at Lahore in connection with the rebellion of Muhammad Hakim in 1566.
The fort was greatly expanded during the reigns of Jahangir, Shah Jahan, and Aurangzeb. During the period of Sikh occupation, Ranjit Singh added several pavilions on the upper ramparts. Modifications to the fort were even made during the British colonial period beginning in 1846, but consisted mainly of converting older buildings into hospitals, barracks, and other colonial functions. Perhaps worst of all, portions of the gardens were converted into tennis courts, but abuses such as this have been corrected as preservationists have slowly restored portions of the fort to its pre-1846 appearance.
Lahore Fort Akbari Gate (early 17th century)
The Akbari Gate served as the main entrance to the fort during the Mughal era. It is physically less impressive than the Alamgiri gate which replaced its counterpart at the west side of the fort during the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb.
The gate is also known as the Masti (Masjid) Darwaza after the Maryam Zamani Masjid adjacent to the fort. Its outer facade comprises a central arch flanked by two semi-octagonal bastions topped with a crenellated wall--the same overall design used at the Alamgiri gate, though less boldly ornamented.
Lahore Fort Alamgiri Gate (built 1674)
The Alamgiri Gate is the only major addition to the fort built by Emperor Aurangzeb. It was likely constructed at the same time as the Badshahi Masjid which it faces.
Lahore Fort Diwan-i Amm Hall (Public Audience Hall)(built 1628, rebuilt 1846)
The Diwan-i Amm Hall occupies a place of prominence within Lahore fort, sitting immediately to the south of the royal jharoka (royal audience dais) which had been in use since the reign of Jahangir. The hall was destroyed by cannon fire in 1841 during the succession struggle following the deaths of Kharak Singh and his son Nau Nihal on the same day. The British reconstructed the pavilion in 1846 when they took control of Lahore.
Lahore Fort Hathi Paer Stairs (built 1631-32)
The Hathi Paer stairs are located at the northwest corner of the fort, just south of the Shah Burj Quadrangle. They were designed with extremely wide treads and shallow riser height to allow royal elephants to ascend from ground level to the top of the fort. The stairs form a three sided courtyard with the south wall having been demolished to create a modern path into the fort from the southeast. The only original entrance to the courtyard was through the Hathi Pol, a large gateway at its southwest corner. The exterior of the Hathi Pol is integrated into Jahangir's Paint Wall ensemble.
Lahore Fort Jahangir Quadrangle (built late 16th century onward)
Jahangir's Quadrangle occupies the northeast corner of the fort and is the largest quadrangle along the north wall. Akbar's influence can be seen in the use of column brackets that are carved in the form of animals--a typical feature of Akbar's syncretic architecture. Although it is a British-era reconstruction of the original, the north wall is thought to have survived from Jahangir's era.
Lahore Fort Kala Burj Tower (Black Pavilion) (built 1617-31)
This summer pavilion stands in the northwest corner of the Khilawat Khana quadrangle. Its present form differs substantially from its original design during Shah Jahan's reign. During the Sikh period an upper level was added, and the British made numerous alterations including the addition of a liquor bar. The interior frescos dating from the Mughal and Sikh era were also plastered over at this time.
Lahore Fort Khilawat Khana (Room of Solitude) (built 1633)
This quadrangle was constructed in 1633 as the private residence of Emperor Shah Jahan. It is divided into northern and southern portions with the south area comprising the Paien Bagh (Lower Garden) and the north section containing the private apartments of the Emperor and his harem. The quadrangle was a self-contained world, equipped with a mosque in its southwest corner and rooms for guards and servants along the perimeter, as well as baths (hammam).
Lahore Fort Lal Burj Tower (Red Pavilion) (built 1617-31)
Like the nearby Kala Burj (Black Pavilion), the Lal Burj was built during the reign of Jahangir and Shah Jahan. Octagonal in plan, it was used as a summer pavilion with its primary windows open to the north. The surviving interior frescoes are mostly from the Sikh period, as is the upper level.
Lahore Fort Maktab Khana (Clerk's Quarters) (built 1654)
The Maktab Khana is a small cloistered court immediately adjacent to the Moti Masjid. The word Maktab Khana is a corruption of the word makatib khana, or Clerk's Room, suggesting that this was a place where clerks (muharirs) recorded entry into the fort. It is a Persian-style compound with pointed-arch arcades and deep iwans at the center of each of the four sides. However, an inscription found above the main entrance records that it was built under the supervision of Ma'mur Khan in 1617-18 and identifies the site as the "Daulat Khana-i-Jahangiri", the "Residence of Jahangir". It is therefore likely that the Maktab Khana is a surviving fragment of a much larger mansion complex serving the Emperor.
Lahore Fort Mosque (probably built 1633)
At the southwest corner of the Khilawat Khana courtyard is a small, heavily damaged mosque that originally served the women of Shah Jahan's court. Stripped of its red sandstone and marble veneer and lacking a roof it is almost unrecognizable but for its distinctive orientation toward Mecca and its surviving mihrab (niche) at the center of the west wall.
Lahore Fort Moti Masjid (built 1654)
The Moti Masjid, or Pearl Mosque, is a relatively small structure located at the western side of the fort. It is built entirely of white marble mined from the town of Makrana in contemporary Rajasthan. The mosque is one of the few buildings inside the fort that deviate from the overall north-south orientation of the complex, satisfying the liturgical requirement that the mosque's mihrab (central niche) face directly toward Mecca.
Lahore's Moti Masjid was not the only "Pearl Mosque" built in the Mughal era. Mosques with the same name may also be found in Agra and Delhi, as it was common Mughal practice to name mosques after precious stones. The word "Pearl" also refers to the lustrous surface of the marble, resembling pearl, as well as the mosque's comparatively small size.
Lahore Fort Paint Wall (built 1624-32)
Like his grandfather Babur, Emperor Jahangir enjoyed spending time in nature and taking part in hunting expeditions in the countryside (for example, at Hiran Minar). Beginning in 1624, Jahangir ordered that the northwest facade of Lahore Fort be tiled in nearly 7000 square meters of mosaics depicting hunts and royal recreation. Scenes include polo games, animal hunts, and views of trees and vegitation. The mosaics do not form a coherent narrative and can be viewed in isolation. Most scenes are framed in geometric borders and inset slightly into the walls, providing modest protection from the elements.
Although Jahangir died before the paint wall was completed, his son and successor Shah Jahan completed the project in 1632.
Lahore Fort Shah Burj Quadrangle (built 1632 onward)
The Shah Burj Quadrangle stands at the northwest corner of Lahore Fort. Built by Shah Jahan in 1632, it served as the residence of the Empress when she visited Lahore. Largely spared the damage and abuse that other areas of the fort suffered during the British Occupation and Sikh period, it remains the grandest and most opulent reminder of Mughal splendor in Lahore today.
Beneath the quadrangle is an extensive basement area that served as the Empress's summer residence.
Lahore Fort Shah Jahan Quadrangle (built 1645)
The Shah Jahan Quadrangle is a classic chahar bagh (four-part garden) dominated by the imposing Diwan-i-Khas (Hall of Special Audience) at the north end of the courtyard. Here, the Emperor would meet with his subjects in the daily darshan ceremony. The Diwan-i-Khas is square in plan with five bays of lobed arches on three sides. The north facade includes delicate jali screens that overlook the northern ramparts of the fort. A shallow fountain sits at the centre of the pavilion. The emperor ordered the construction of these rooms in 1633 while travelling from Lahore to Kashmir. Unfortunately, the structure has been mostly stripped of architectural ornament except for the delicate jali screens along its south facade.
Lahore Fort Shish Mahal Basement (built 1631-32)
Beneath the Shish Mahal and the Shah Burj Quadrangle is an extensive series of interconnected chambers often referred to as the 'Lahore Fort Dungeons'. In fact, the area was likely used as a summer residence as the massive stonework and minimal fenestration kept the chambers naturally cool during the warmer months. During the Mughal, Sikh, and British eras the basement chambers were wholly off limits to the public. Only in 2006 did the Punjab Archaeology Department begin opening the chambers for visitors, and then only for short periods to host various exhibitions.
Akbari Serai (built 1640s)
The so-called Akbari Serai is a 470 by 365 meter courtyard situated between Jahangir's Tomb to the east and Asaf Khan's tomb to the west. The most impressive feature of the courtyard is the gateway on its east side leading to Jahangir's mausoleum. Opposite the gateway is a small mosque. The north and south ends of the courtyard are punctuated with gateways providing access to the whole ensemble.
Ali Mardan Khan Tomb (built 1657)
Ali Mardan Khan was a high official in the Mughal Empire under Shah Jahan.
As the tomb sits within the confines of a modern-day rail yard, the authorities have built a kilometre long passageway from the street to the tomb in an effort to prevent visitors from trespassing on the rail yard grounds.
Anarkali Tomb (built 1615)
The tomb of 'Anarkali' traditionally belongs to Nadira Begum, the lover of Prince Salim (the later Emperor Jahangir). According to legend Anarkali(Pomegranate Bud) was a member of Akbar's harem. The tomb originally stood at the center of a large garden in the manner of the Asaf Khan Tomb. In the early 1800s it was occupied by Kharak Singh, the son of Ranjit Singh, and was later converted to a residence for General Ventura, a French officer in the Sikh army. In 1851 it was converted to a Christian church and substantially remodeled with the arched openings largely blocked off. At the present time it is used as a library for the Punjab Records Office.
Asaf Khan Tomb (built 1642)
Asaf Khan was the brother of Nur Jahan, foremost of Emperor Jahangir's twenty wives. He was also the father of Mumtaz Mahal, wife of Emperor Shah Jahan and the woman for whom the Taj Mahal was built.
Badshahi Mosque (built 1672-74)
Badshahi mosque is one of the few significant architectural monuments built during Emperor Aurangzeb's long rule from 1658 to 1707. It is presently the fifth largest mosque in the world and was indisputably the largest mosque in the world from 1673 to 1986 when the Faisal Mosque was constructed in Islamabad. Although it was built late in the Mughal era in a period of relative decline, its beauty, elegance, and scale epitomize Mughal cultural achievement like no other monument in Lahore.
After the British took control of Lahore in 1846 they continued to use Badshahi Mosque as a military garrison. It was not until 1852 that the British established the Badshahi Mosque Authority to oversee the restoration of the mosque so that it could be returned to Muslims as a place of worship. Although repairs were carried out, it was not until 1939 that extensive repairs began under the oversight of architect Nawab Zen Yar Jang Bahadur. The repairs continued until 1960 and were completed at a cost of 4.8 million rupees.
Bradlaugh Hall (built 1900)
Bradlaugh Hall was built at the tail end of the 19th century along Lahore's Rattigan Road. The name of the building honors Charles Bradlaugh, a British MP in the late Victorian era who was fond of India and outspoken in his belief in social justice. Mr. Bradlaugh visited India in 1889 and attended the 5th annual session of the Indian National Congress
Although the building was used by the school for several decades the institute closed down in the late 1990s. The management then rented the building out to teachers of nearby government schools and other short-term clients. Tragically, the partitioning and renting out of small portions of the hall to various tenants who had little understanding of the historical value of the property lead to widespread damage to the interior of the building. In its present state, the building is nearly a ruin, but enough of it is salvageable that a determined rehabilitation program could restore it to its rightful glory.
Buddu Tomb (built mid-17th-century)
Traditionally, this tomb is attributed to Buddu, a brick manufacturer during the reign of Emperor Shah Jahan (r. 1628-58). However, it may in fact be the tomb of the wife of Khan-i-dauran Bahadur Nusrat Jang, a high-ranking nobleman in the court of Shah Jahan. The domed tomb likely once stood amidst a garden, but all traces of landscaping have vanished.
Chauburji Gate (built 1646)
The Chauburji gate is the only remnant of a large garden that has all but disappeared. It now stands alone in a grassy roundabout at the intersection of Multan Road and Bhawalpur Road. There is considerable uncertainty regarding who constructed it. An inscription on the monument gives the date 1056 AH (1646) and attributes it to "Sahib-e-Zebinda Begam-e-Dauran". According to the 19th century historian Syad Muhammad Latif, the full inscription reads:
The design of the minarets with their distinctive flairing capitals is a stylistic variant found only in Lahore.
Cypress Tomb (Sarvwala Maqbara) (built mid-18th century)
The so-called 'Cypress Tomb’ is located about 200 meters north of Dai Anga's tomb. It was originally surrounded by a garden--perhaps one abutting Dai Anga's tomb, but no evidence remains of its former boundaries or dimensions.
Dai Anga Tomb (built 1671)
Dai Anga's tomb is located at the site of Bulabi Bagh, an earlier garden of which the only the gateway, Gulabi Bagh, survives. The exterior of the tomb was originally covered with mosaics, but in the manner of many tombs in Lahore, most of these have been worn or stripped away over the centuries. However, the tomb does retain its original four chattris (kiosks) at each of its corners, which contribute a certain lightness to the otherwise weighty structure.
Gul Begum Bagh Garden (built 1850s)
Gul Begum was the wife of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, whom she married in 1831 when he was 51 years old. Curiously, although the garden was relatively small by Lahore standards, nearly a square kilometre of present-day Lahore is known as the Bagh Bul Begum neighbourhood. One hopes that this now-dilapidated garden may one day be refurbished to make it an integral part of the neighbourhood that has taken its name.
Gulabi Bagh Gateway (built 1655)
The Gulabi Bagh Gateway is the last remnant of a pleasure garden built by the Persian noble Mirza Sultan Baig in 1655. Gradually over the centuries the garden was encroached upon by urban development so that the only remaining portion of the garden is the narrow yard running from Gulabi Bagh to Dai Anga's Mausoleum.
Hazrat Mian Mir Tomb (built 1630s)
Mian Mir (c. 1550 - August 11, 1635) was a Sufi saint of the Qadiri order of Sufism. The tomb remains popular with Muslims as well as Sikhs to the present day.
Hazuri Bagh and Baradari (present form, early 19th century onward)
In recent times the garden has seen a few significant additions such as the tomb of Allama Iqbal, one of the leaders of the Pakistan Movement. Built in the late 1940s, it is constructed of red sandstone and is located in the southwest corner of the garden.
Jahangir's Tomb (built 1627-37)
The tomb of Jahangir is located in Shahdara, a suburb of Lahore to the northwest of the city. The area had been a favorite spot of Jahangir and his wife Nur Jahan when they resided in Lahore, and the area was commonly used as a point of departure for travels to and from Kashmir and Lahore. When Jahangir died in 1627 he may have initially been buried in Shahdara in one of its many gardens. His son, Shah Jahan, ordered that a mausoleum befitting an Emperor be built as a permanent memorial.
Today, the tomb of Jahangir holds special significance for Pakistanis as it is the only Mughal tomb located in present-day Pakistan. Its image appears on the 1,000 rupee banknote and it remains one of Lahore's most popular attractions.
Kamran's Baradari (built 1520s or mid-17th-century)
Kamran's Baradari is the ostensibly the earliest known Mughal monument in Lahore, said to have been built by Prince Kamran in the 1520s.
The baradari originally stood at the edge of the Ravi River, but over time the course of the river changed and the site became an island. Sometime over the course of the centuries the river flooded, taking half the baradari along with it. As Mughal buildings are generally symmetrical, it was possible for historians to infer the design of the lost portion and it was rebuilt in 1989. Unfortunately, the restoration extended to the remaining half and resulted in the total effacement of its surface decoration including the few fragments of original decoration to have survived. Of the gardens, very few traces survived in the late 20th century and a new garden based partially on Mughal motifs was built to the west of the Baradari.
Khan-e-Jahan Bahadur Kokaltash Tomb (built ~1697)
Khan-e-Jahan Bahadur Zafar Jhan Kokaltash was a high-ranking officer during the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb Alamigir. He served as subahdar (governor) of the Panjab from April 11th, 1691, but was dismissed from office in 1693. He died four years later on November 23, 1697, and was presumably interred here shortly thereafter. Overall, the tomb is in a poor state of preservation. At some point in the past, most of the east facade collapsed. Fortunately, the dome was spared, but it is now supported by a brick pillar of modern design. The muqarnas at the tops of the alcoves are substantially damaged, revealing the underlying brickwork. Significant restoration is urgently needed to avoid further dilapidation.
Khwaja Mehmud Tomb (built mid-17th-century)
Khwaja Mehmud (also known as Hazrat Eishan) was a Sufi religious leader from Bukhara who moved to Lahore during the reign of Shah Jahan. He was a contemporary with Hazrat Mian Mir and was also noted as a great scholar and physician.
Mai Dai Tomb (likely built mid-18th century)
The so-called "Mai Dai" tomb is located in an alley off the beaten path in the Kot Khwaja Saeed neighborhood of Lahore. In urdu, "Mai" and "Dai" are words that both mean "Respected Lady" and are polite titles used to refer to women. This oral tradition suggests the tomb is associated with a woman, but there is no definitive knowledge of who was buried here. It bears a strong resemblence to the nearby 'Cypress Tomb', which was built by a pious widow who wished to elevate her grave out of site of the public eye.
Unfortunately, the tomb is not a protected monument and it is currently occupied as part of a house.
Maryam Zamani Mosque (built 1614)
The Maryam Zamani Mosque is named after Queen Maryam Zamani, the wife of Emperor Akbar. It is the earliest surviving Mughal mosque in Lahore and is the first to exhibit the five-bay facade that would become typical of nearly all future mosques built by the Mughals. It is a comparatively small structure, measuring just 50 meters east-west and 50 meters north-south. Often called Begum Shahi Masjid, the mosque stands just opposite the Masjidi Gate of the Lahore fort.
Mian Khan Tomb (built 1670s)
This is the tomb of Nawab Mian Khan, the son of Nawab Saadullah Khan who served as Prime Minister during the reign of Shah Jahan. It is built in the form of a baradari (literally, 'twelve doors') with a tripartite facade on four sides.
Nadira Begum Tomb (built 17th century)
Nadira Begum was the wife of Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Shah Jahan and heir-apparent to his throne. In 1657 a power struggle broke out between Dara Shikoh and his three brothers over succession to the throne after Shah Jahan fell ill. Initially, fate seemed to favour Dara Shikoh. He prevailed in battle against his brother Shah Shuja and gained signifiant support from his father, who recovered enough to assist Dara Shikoh in his bid for power. However, father and son could not overcome the combined strength of his two other brothers, Aurangzeb and Murad.
The tomb stands on a raised platform at the centre of what used to be a vast water tank. The tank was dismantled during the British period.
Nau Nihal Singh Haveli (built mid-19th century)
The word "Haveli" is used to refer to mansions in India and Pakistan. The word is derived from the Persian word "hawli", meaning "an enclosed place". Havelis typically were built by wealthy aristocrats to house themselves and their extended families, and were often constructed several stories high with one or more courtyards in the interior.
Nawankot Monuments (built 1646)
The so-called Nawankot Monuments are the remains of the eastern wall of the tomb garden of Zeb-un-Nisa, comprising two corner turrets and the east gate. The ensemble is difficult to distinguish in the crowded district, as the monuments are hemmed in on all sides by contemporary houses and roads. In the Mughal era, the three Nawankot monuments were linked together by a brick wall forming the eastern edge of the garden, and were in turn linked to two turrets that delineated a square area of greenery with Zeb-un-Nisa's tomb at the centre. No trace of the western turrets and walls survive and the gardens have disappeared under urban sprawl. The Nawankot monuments themselves are in considerable danger from the effects of neglect, urban encroachment, vandalism and environmental stress.
The eastern gate is the most impressive of the monuments. It is a two story structure measuring 11.1 meters east-west and 13.0 meters north-south. It was once almost entirely covered by kashikari (enameled mosaic work) but large areas have worn away.
Nur Jahan Tomb (built 1640s)
Nur Jahan was the daughter of I'timad-ud-Daula, Jahangir's prime minister.
In 1626 the emperor was captured by rebels while on his way to Kashmir.
Nur Jahan's tomb is stylistically similar to Jahangir's tomb, but is about half the size and lacks corner minarets. The tomb suffered substantial damage in the 19th century when its marble decoration was plundered for use in other monuments. The destruction extended even to the sarcophagus, which is no longer extant. The present cenotaph at the centre of the tomb is a modern restoration. More recently, over-zealous rehabilitation of the tomb has resulted in the loss of some of the remaining fragments of original ornamentation.
Prince Pervez Tomb (built early 16th century)
Traditionally, this tomb is attributed to Prince Pervez, one of the sons of Emperor Jahangir. In any case, the tomb is in a deplorable state of conservation. This is all the more unfortunate as its octagonal plan suggests that a high-ranking nobleman or member of the royal family was buried here. Originally, the tomb likely stood at the center of a large garden with gateways on four sides (similar to the layout of Asaf Khan's tomb tomb and landscape ensemble). No traces of the gates or gardens survive and modern housing has encroached nearly to the edge of the tomb itself. The remaining portion of the tomb stands denuded of much of its surface decoration which likely included marble cladding and bas reliefs. The marble sarcophagus it once housed was removed in the 19th century or earlier and replaced with a crude brick replica.
Shahi Hammam Bathhouse (built 1634)
The Shahi Hammam bathhouse, also known as Wazir Khan, is the only remaining bathhouse of its type in Lahore. During the Mughal era, hammams (public baths) were introduced based on Persian models and flourished for a time, though their popularity never reached the level maintained in Persia as public baths were not an established cultural institution in the Punjab. The Hamman was first established in 1634. The interior of the Hamman is mostly intact and preserves frescos dating from the Mughal era. Unfortunately, the actual bathing facilities were filled in and tiled over in the mid-1990s when the building was briefly converted to another purpose by its private owners. In recent years the site has been acquired by the Tourist Information Centre of Lahore and is being conserved. About 75% of the interior area is now open to the public.
Shalamar Gardens (built 1633-42)
Lahore is often described as the "city of gardens". Although deserving of this title, few of its historic gardens survive to the present day and even fewer are preserved in something close to their original state. Shalamar is a grand exception to this trend. Comprising nearly forty acres on three broad terraces, its majesty brings to life the Mughal genius for landscape architecture like no other monument in Lahore. Many of the present structures are largely reconstructions in plaster and brick.
Sunehri Masjid (Golden Mosque) (built 1749)
The Sunehri Masjid is a relative latecomer to Lahore's traditional cityscape, having been built in 1753 during the waning years of the Mughal empire by Nawab Bhikari Khan, the Deputy of Lahore during the tenure of Governor Mir Mu'in al-Mulk Mir Munoo. It stands on a small plot of land where one street diverges into two. When Nawab Bhikari Khan acquired the property, it was a vacant parcel of land at the chowk (square) of Kashmiri Bazaar. He was required to obtain a special fatwa from Muslim scholars to construct the mosque, as the local authorities has been concerned that the construction of a building in the square would interrupt the flow of traffic.
Shah Ali Akbar's Mother's Tomb (late 16th century)
This small tomb stands to the southeast of Ali Akbar's own tomb. Its cube-shaped form is consistent with a long tradition in Multan of rectangular flat-roofed tombs, a contemporary example being the late 16th-century tomb of Shah Yousef Gardezi.
This monument—and Shah Ali's tomb, along with other monuments in Multan and Uch Sharif—also follow the Suhrawardi archetypal practice of aligning the main entrance along the southern axis, which stands in opposition to the preferred orthodox practice (in South Asia) of placing the entrance on the east so that the worshipper enters the building facing Mecca and departs with his back to Mecca, symbolizing the expansion of Islam into the wider world.
Bahauddin Zakariya Tomb (early-mid 13th century)
The tomb of Bahauddin Zakariya stands in central Multan in the northeast corner of the former fort at the heart of the old city.
The tomb houses the mortal remains of Bahauddin Zakariya (1170-1262), a noted Sufi wali (saint) who brought the Suhrawardiyya order of Sufism to Multan. He was also the grandfather of Rukn-e Alam, a noted saint in his own right who is buried at a magnificent mausoleum 500 meters to the southwest.
In his youth, following the death of his father at age 12, Zakariya traveled widely around the Islamic world and visited Khurasan, Bukhara, and Medina. He later reached Baghdad and studied under the Sufi master Abu Hafs Umar Suhrawardi (c.1145-1234), the nephew of the founder of the Suhrawardiyya order, Abu Najib Suhrawardi. Abu Hafs Umar saw such great potential in him that he cut short Zakariya's studies after 17 days and ordered him back to Multan to set up a Suhrawardiyya khanqah there (a khanqah is a building or compound for Sufi gatherings). While Zakariya was not immediately welcomed—the city already had such a profusion of Sufi notables that many were skeptical of adding another to the roster—the khanqah continue to prosper under Zakariya's guidance which lasted over a half century. As the Suhrawardiyya order did not eschew poverty (unlike other Sufi orders), Zakariya grew rich over the course of his long life, particularly after he gained the support of local elites and the favor of regional rulers such as Nasir al-din Qabacha, the Muslim-Turkic governor of Multan and Uch Sharif. Despite holding no formal political office, Hasan Ali Khan notes that "In time, Zakariya commanded a near absolute say in the decision making process in Multan" (Khan, p. 31).
The base of the tomb measures 15.9 meters on each side and its dome rises 23.6 meters above ground level. The monument is enclosed in a vast quadrangle measuring 62 x 79 meters with entrances on all sides but the north. At the southeast corner of the courtyard is a small mosque which stands immediately adjacent to the ruined Prahlad Mandir, a former Hindu temple which was destroyed by a mob in 1992 in retaliation for the razing of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, India by a Hindu mob.
Khawaja Awais Kagha Mosque (unknown age)
The Khawaja Awais Khaga mosque is a Mughal-era building directly adjacent to the eponymous saint’s tomb. The mosque has undergone a partial restoration, which appears to have been tastefully done with full fidelity to the original design.
Khawaja Awais Kagha Tomb (early 14th century)
The Khawaja Awais Kagha tomb is located in a cemetery in Dera Basti, Multan, about 1.6 kilometers southwest of the old city center. It was probably built around the year 1300, corresponding with the death of Khawaja Awais Kagha, a noted Sufi wali, or saint.
Khuddaka Mosque (built 1873)
The Khuddaka mosque is located in a dense neighbourhood about 750 meters WSW of the Shah Rukn-e Alam tomb. At present the mosque remains in active use and was thoroughly and tastefully restored in the mid-2000s.
Shah Ali Akbar Tomb (1585 onward)
Shah Ali Akbar was a great-great-grandson of Shah Shams Sabzwari, an early proselytizer of Isma'ili Islam in South Asia active in the mid-to-late 13th century.
Shah Rukn-e-Alam Tomb (1320-24)
The mausoleum of Shah Rukn-e Alam is located in central Multan and houses the graves of the Sufi saint Sheikh Rukn-ud-Din Abul Fateh (1251-1335) and dozens of his disciples and family members.
Shah Shams Sabzwari Tomb (originally early 14th century, largely rebuilt 1770s)
Shah Shams Sabzwari’s tombs stands about 1.5 kilometres east of the former Multan fort.
Shah Yousuf Gardezi Tomb (built c. 1152, rebuilt 1548)
Shah Yousuf Gardezi's Tomb is located about 600 meters southwest of the former fort of Multan.
Shahi Eid Gah Mosque (1735 onward)
The Shahi Eid Gah Mosque is a late-Mughal era mosque built on the northern outskirts of Multan during the reign of Emperor Muhammad Shah (r. 1719-48). In 1891 the building was restored to its original function and has remained active ever since.
Hiran Minar (built 1606 onward)
Hiran Minar (literally, the "deer tower") is a hunting retreat built by Emperor Jahangir to the northwest of Lahore. It was constructed in memory of an antelope named Mansraj that was beloved by the emperor. The memorial tower stands 30 meters high and is 10 meters wide at its base.
Unlike nearby Lahore, the surrounding countryside is thinly populated and remains largely rural. A belt of forest surrounds the site, further insulating it from the modern environment, allowing the visitor to experience the Mughal garden in a landscape that has changed relatively little since its inception.
Jandiala Sher Khan Baoli and Mosque (built 1542)
The town of Jandiala Sher Khan is located about 13 kilometers northwest of Sheikhupura, an important provincial town in the Mughal Empire. Although the town was located on a floodplain, there were no nearby sources of water, requiring local residents to dig wells to irrigate their crops.
As late as 2010 or thereabouts, the baoli was in extremely poor condition and partially collapsed. It was recently restored with a total reconstruction of the destroyed portions. Although the reconstructed pieces lack the ornamentation and elegance of the original design, they allow the visitor to experience the scope and grandeur of Sher Khan's vision.
Makli Necropolis (primarily 15th - 17th centuries)
The Makli necropolis is one of the world's largest cemeteries, containing a half million tombs in a 15 square kilometre area. The mosque was restored during the 1960s and 70s. The mosque has been on the UNESCO tentative World Heritage list since 1993 but has not yet achieved official recognition.
Baha'al-Halim Tomb (late 14th century)
The tomb of Baha'al-Halim stands in the northwest corner of Uch Sharif on a low hillside, the site of an old fort, amid the ruins of several other architecturally significant tombs, among them the tombs of Ustad Nuria and Bibi Jawindi. The tomb requires active ongoing conservation to shore up and stabilize the remaining walls, turrets, and decorative features.
Bibi Jawindi Tomb (1494)
The tomb of Bibi Jawindi stands in the northwest corner of Uch Sharif on a low hillside, the site of an old fort, amid the ruins of several other architecturally significant tombs, among them the tombs of Ustad Nuria and Baha'al-Halim. The tomb requires active ongoing conservation to shore up and stabilize the remaining walls, turrets, and decorative features, but overall it is in better shape than the nearby Baha'al-Halim tomb. Five of the original eight turrets have survived in partial form, versus three at Baha'al-Halim. From certain angles enough of the tomb survives to present a clear impression of its original magnificence.
Fazaluddin Ladla Bukhari Tomb & Mosque (age unknown)
This is a domed mosque and a flat-roofed tomb associated with the Sufi saint Hazrat Fazaluddin Ladla Bukhari. The front of the tomb building features a projecting wooden veranda that is typical of residential architecture from the 19th century.
Jamaluddin Khandan Rau Tomb (age unknown)
This is another typical flat-roofed tomb of the type commonly found in Uch Sharif. It may also be known as the shrine of Hazrat Syed Jamal Khandan.
The architect and historian Kamil Khan Mumtaz notes that the age of many of these buildings in Uch is uncertain. All of them were definitely standing by the 19th or early 20th centuries, but they are likely restorations of far older structures, some of which may be faithful reconstructions of 13th or 14th century originals.
Makhdoom Jahaniyan Jahangasht Tomb and Mosque (possibly late 14th century onward)
The tomb of Makhdoom Jahaniyan Jahangasht is a fine example of the flat-roofed tomb building tradition at Uch Sharif. This tomb, as well as many others in Uch Sharif, remains a site of popular devotion.
Ustad Nuriya Tomb (early 16th century?)
The tomb of Ustad Nuriya stands in the northwest corner of Uch Sharif on a low hillside, the site of an old fort, amid the ruins of several other architecturally significant tombs, among them the tombs of Bibi Jawindi and Baha'al-Halim. It is thought to honor the architect of Bibi Jawindi's tomb, suggesting that it is the newest of the three major monuments on site. However, as with the others, this tomb was partially damaged in major flooding in 1817.
Rajan Qattal Tomb and Mosque (19th century or earlier)
The tomb of Rajan Qattal is a fine example of the flat-roofed tomb building tradition at Uch Sharif.
Abdul Nabi Khan Mausoleum (early-mid 17th century?)
About a half kilometre northeast of the village of Kotli Maqbara, the Abdul Nabi Khan Mausoleum rises elegantly from the fields.
Atmaramji Shrine (late 19th, early 20th century)
The Atmaramji shrine is located in central Gujranwala at the junction of the Grand Trunk Road and Parao Road. The building is no longer in active use by the Jain community as the local police commandeered the property in 1984 for use as a police station, though most officers moved to a new building in 2003. According to the Pakistan Express Tribune, traffic wardens and officers fighting vehicle theft continued to use the building until 2015. Currently only the central chamber remains occupied by the police, used as the personal office of the Gujranwala Deputy Police Superintendent.
Lodhi-era Mosque of Eminabad (late 15th, early 16th century)
Along the east side of a small reservoir built in the era of Jahangir stands a modest one-story brick mosque.
Mahan Singh Samadhi (c. 1835)
This samadhi (tomb) marks the cremation site of Mahan Singh (r. 1770-92), the father of Maharaja Ranjit Singh who founded the Sikh Empire.
At present, the samadhi is ill-maintained and is marred by a number of holes tunnelled through the walls of the tower. Graffiti and rainwater infiltration have almost wholly ruined the interior murals, with only fragments still legible. The ground floor level is difficult to access as it stands adjacent to newer dwellings, with a number of openings crudely bricked-up. Inside, trash and debris clog most of the available space. Despite these problems, the building appears to be in reasonably good condition (as of early 2018) and could still be restored to much of its former glory with a determined and comprehensive restoration.
Ranjit Singh Birthplace (built 18th century or earlier)
Ranjit Singh, the future leader of the Sikh Empire, was born in this stately haveli (mansion) on November 13, 1780. His father, Mahan Singh (1756-1792) was the leader of the Sukerchakia Misl, one of many small principalities that arose in the Punjab as Mughal rule faltered.
The mansion is shaped as a long rectangle, oriented north-south but canted to the northeast in the prevailing direction of Gujranwala's urban fabric. In the late 18th century it was likely surrounded by more greenery and open space, but today it stands in an extremely crowded environment surrounded by illegally built makeshift dwellings. The interior is an oasis of calm, far quieter than it would have been in Ranjit Singh's time when its courtyards and halls rang with the to-and-fro of Mahan Singh's domestic servants and the many members of his extended family. In 2012 or 2013 the ground floor portion of the haveli beneath the front porch was converted into shops for vegetable vendors. This also resulted in the destruction of the main stairway which was converted into a parking lot for two-wheeled vehicles. It is feared that further such encroachments may result in the destruction of the main building, which so far survives, though in a perilous state of neglect.
Chiniot Mosque (built 1646-55)
The Chiniot Mosque in central Chiniot is attributed to Saad Ullah Khan (1595- 1655), the prime minister of Emperor Shah Jahan.
One somewhat atypical feature of the mosque is the use of columns to support the arcades in front of the mihrab (prayer niche) facing Mecca. A similar prototype may be found in the Moti Masjid mosque in Lahore Fort, also from the Shah Jahan era.
Omar Hayat Mahal (built 1923)
The Omar Hayat Mahal is a five-story wooden haveli (mansion) built by Sheikh Omar Hayat in 1923. Local lore holds that it was intended as the residence for his new-born son, who was born in the same year. However, the son died shortly after his marriage 15 years later and was buried in the ground floor chamber alongside his mother, who died the same year. These graves are still present today.
By the late 1930s the mansion had begun to fall into disrepair as the descendants of Omar Hayat's servants took up residence there. Later, the organization Anjuman-e-Islamia Chiniot attempted to convert the mansion into a girls' school, but it was converted into an orphanage instead. By the 1970s the upper story was in such unsound condition that the local municipal authorities demolished it. The level beneath it was itself destroyed in the 1990s when heavy rains caused it to collapse.
Although the mansion is currently being used as a library it remains in precarious condition. The inside and front facade are relatively well preserved due to restorations conducted during the late 1980s. However, the partially destroyed upper floor and exterior woodwork is not protected from the elements and the lack of effective drainage means that continued damage to the building is inevitable. One can only hope that the local authorities in Chiniot will recognize the value of this cultural treasure and take action to protect it.
Vernacular Architecture of Pakistan
Vernacular architecture is commonly recognized as the fundamental expression of the world’s cultural diversity. The desire for modernization and the well-known globalization phenomenon are some of the most frequent evoked issues responsible for endangering the survival of vernacular heritage in Pakistan. In Last Places we aim to highlight the outstanding universal value of vernacular architectural heritage in Pakistan and to raise awareness to the increasing need, not only the protection of these structures’ integrity but also for the preservation of such ancient and sustainable building techniques as a living heritage.
In Pakistan vernacular architecture can be divided in 7 eco-regions:
1-The Delta Region
2-The Indus Plain
The NGO Heritage Foundation of Pakistan, under the leadership or renowned architect Yasmeen Lari is doing a superb job documenting and conserving the traditional and historic built environment of Pakistan. Heritage Foundation of Pakistan and sensitive tour operators such as Last Places are creating an awareness of Pakistan’s rich and diverse historic architecture and art; and promoting cultural heritage for social integration, peace and development through responsible tourism.
The KaravanGhar programme was carried out by Heritage Foundation of Pakistan from November 2005 to March 2006 as part of Emergency Phase Housing. The KaravanGhar was built by salvaging stone and wood from the debris from the earthquake that affected the region in 2005. The programme was carried out in 75 remote and dispersed villages of the Siran Valley, Mansehra.
Philosophical Basis of KaravanGhar
• Correspond to lifestyles, cultural norms and traditions of the community
• Avoid imposition of culturally inappropriate interventions
• Avoid use of alien forms which negatively impact topographic environment
• Restore pride in vernacular construction techniques
• Maximize use of volunteers in rebuilding lives
• Utilise building activity for community regeneration
Karakoram Architecture – Hunza Valley
The Karakoram Mountains contain a most remarkable number and variety of historic buildings of monumental and domestic scale. Their survival up to the present shows how well they have served their inhabitants; it is proof of excellent material qualities, of superb construction detailing, of regular maintenance and of minimal external pressures for change.
Since the opening up of the region by the Karakoram Highway (KKH), this important architectural heritage has become readily accessible for tourists and for specialist research. Meanwhile, this very event and the ensuing recent development trends also constitute a considerable threat to the survival of the Northern Areas cultural heritage.
The historic buildings of Hunza included many magnificent old strongholds, now represented by the surviving Baltit and Altit forts and the fortified village of Ganish. These forts bear testimony to the times of the historic Silk Routes from China to northern India and Europe (which provided the local principalities with rich raiding opportunities), while in the late nineteenth century, the local kingdoms became involved in the ‘Great Game’, the political and military ‘tournament of shadows’ between the British and Russian Empires. There are still good-quality structural remains of other traditional forts and palaces found to the south and west in Gilgit, Gupis and Yasin. Further east, intact structures are to be found, for example at Rondu, Skardu, Shigar, Kiris and Khaplu.
On a smaller building scale, historic villages are still intact, mostly including ‘core’ cluster housing with associated animal byres, stores, simple shops and mosques and other religious buildings. Historic mosques and tombs of saints (astanas) are found throughout the Karakoram landscape and are spectacular pieces of architecture. Up in the remoter side and high altitude valleys and summer pastures, individual farms and small clusters of houses tend to cling to the most precarious mountainsides.
All these traditional buildings are characterised by the use of building materials found at hand, that is rubble and dressed stone, soil (as ‘adobe’ blocks or ‘pisé’ rammed earth) and timber(softwoods today but mostly deciduous hardwoods in the past). These materials were used in the most simple of ways for ordinary buildings. Important buildings involved itinerant craftsmen proudly showing off high-quality structural engineering skills and carving. The older monuments, probably dating back more than a thousand years, illustrate indigenous features and also cultural influences derived from the west (typically from Afghanistan but from as far as western Turkey) and the south-east (Ladakh and Kashmir). Within the region, the use of ‘cator and cribbage’ construction techniques has reached its zenith, presenting us with wonderful testimonies of elaborate timber building techniques.
Today, traditional buildings and settlements in the main valleys are rapidly being replaced and upgraded – much construction work being done in the self-help mode or by governmental and non-governmental organisations in the field of health, education and agriculture. The first signs of change go back to the 1980s with the early construction works of the Public Works Department. This was then followed by some initial development schemes sponsored by the Ismaili communities and dramatically increased with the later activities of the Aga Khan Development Network programmes.
Many of these recent building activities have resulted in new architectural styles and structural technologies related to those found around Rawalpindi, for example. The more sophisticated buildings, including schools and hotels, are now characterised by concrete frames of columns and beams with infilled panels. New ordinary houses are typically built with concrete block load-bearing walls. New roofs are made of corrugated galvanised sheet steel. These new self-built structures commonly show poor architectural and engineering designs, as well as crude craftsmanship, since little construction practice is being transferred from previous vernacular craft skills. At the same time, the historic houses and monuments are becoming rare ‘antiquities’ and are threatened by decay.
Therefore, efforts to understand, revive and adapt traditional building techniques are needed, both for new construction and for restoration purposes. Hence, this article aims to throw some light on the vernacular construction techniques of the region and on the morphology of its most prominent historic structures – the forts and palaces.
Astana Syed Mir Muhammad
Astana Syed Mir Muhammad is located in the historic town of Khaplu in Baltistan region of Pakistan. Astanas are places of eternal rest for saintly persons so are held in reverence and visited frequently by public. Astana of Syed Mir Muhammad was built around 310 years ago by Syed Mir Muhammad's descendants. Like most astanas in Baltistan region, it is a square building topped with a conical tower. The astana has an inner square chamber enclosed by wooden jallie (carved lattice-work screens) in the Kashmiri style, with geometrically-shaped perforation.
In 1999, when Aga Khan Cultural Service, Pakistan (AKCS-P) initiated the technical study of the astana, the building was in an advanced state of deterioration. The entire structure was fragile and out of alignment, leaning 30 cm to the south west. Also half of the roof top tower was missing and the erosion of the earthern roof top had resulted in the decay of major structural members and jallie pieces. The entire structure was first documented followed by careful analysis and then actual work with low-intervention approach was started.
Similar to other projects of AKCS-P, the guiding principle in this project was also minimum intervention and maximum retention. With this framework, original features were maintained while structural changes were minimized except those needed to increase strength and durability. The building’s aged patina and historic character were carefully retained through skillful and sensitive conservation techniques. Furthermore the approach of using local materials and construction techniques ensured that restoration work is carried out in accordance with vernacular architectural practices and can be maintained in a sustainable manner.
In the process some of the major interventions carried out were, replacement of decayed roof members, water proofing of roof, strengthening of foundation, repairs of cribbage boxes, internal finishing including replacement of wooden jallies and finally staining and oiling to prevent termites.
Gulabpur Khanqah is located in Gulabpur village of Shigar valley in Baltistan. It was among the six Khanqahs constructed in Shigar around 1679AD, when local population converted from Buddhism to Islam on the direction of Syed Mir Yahya, a descendant of Shah Syed Muhammad Noorbaksh. For the local population Khanqah holds the highest value in architecture as it is used for daily and Friday prayers and also used during Islamic festivals. Khanqah is also used for resolving social issues.
The conservation of Gulabpur Khanqah has saved this 331-year old historic monument which served as the long-time centre of social, cultural, religious activities for the surrounding communities. The project demonstrates the inclusion of yet another building typology in the grassroots conservation movement already actively underway in Shigar. From a state of severe deterioration and degeneration, the building has been lovingly restored through the collaborative efforts of local community members, external funders and technical advisors. A process of intensive research and documentation created a thorough understanding of the building’s structure and dilapidation and informed the subsequent conservation work, which drew upon locally-available materials and artisans trained from previous restoration activities. The project has sensitively maintained the building’s patina and sense of history, while accommodating new building services such as electricity deemed necessary for its on-going function as a space of prayer, meditation, and communal mediation. A great sense of commitment was demonstrated by the Gulabpur community, which makes the project an examplar of community-led architectural restoration undertaken with a view towards sustaining living cultural traditions.
Central Karakoram National Park
Central Karakoram National Park is among Pakistan's best snow leopard habitats.
The Central Karakoram in the Gilgit-Balitstan of Pakistan is a mountain area endowed with rich biodiversity, natural beauty and important resources. The Park compasses the world’s largest glaciers, outside the Polar Regions. It was declared as the Central Karakoram National Park (CKNP) in 1993: today it is the largest protected area of Pakistan, covering over 10,557.73 km2 in the Central Karakorum mountain range and the highest park all over the world, it is characterized by extremes of altitudes that range from 2,000 m a.s.l. to over 8,000 m a.s.l., including K2, the second highest peak in the world. It falls into four administrative districts of Gilgit-Baltistan Region.
In order to facilitate the maintenance of Central Karakoram National Park ecological integrity while, at the same time, providing sustainable management opportunities for local communities and visitors, a zoning system has been implemented.
This consists of two main zones, the Buffer Zone and the Core Zone, for a total of 10,557.73 Km2. The Buffer Zone, which is part of the Park and the Core Zone, which includes areas with a higher degree of protection and corridors for tourists with basic facilities.
The Buffer Zone (BZ) is supporting a harmonic interaction between nature conservation and the use of the natural renewable resources through a sustainable way. This promotes the conservation of landscapes, traditional forms of land use, together with social and cultural features. It is considered a part of CKNP and is spreading for about 2,950.9 square kilometres. It is not continuous around the whole Park, but it is present mainly near the human settlements and near to the areas where there are unsustainable activities and therefore a transition zone is needed.
The Core Zone, with a surface of about 7,606.83 square kilometres aims at preserving a unique ecosystem, representative of the CKNP area. It is populated by important species, where long-term conservation and preservation have to be ensured. On the one hand, this area is impressive both for flora and fauna, on the other hand, the presence of a relevant number of high peaks, many of them over 7.000 m, and glaciers covering about the 38% of the whole Park surface, is attracting a relevant number of visitors. To preserve the nature integrity, the Park has designated specific corridors where tourists are allowed to enter, with basic facilities to reduce as much as possible their impact on this fragile, yet highly valuable, zone.
A valid passport and a visa are required for travel to Pakistan. Applications for visas have to be made in advance in the travelers’ home country. Last Places assists all travelers that need any type of help applying for the visa at the embassy. We recommend that passports be valid for six months from date of arrival.
Bring 50 passport & visa photocopies. It is good to bring loads of photocopies because, at some check posts, if you have a passport copy, you do not have to get out of the car. Otherwise, you are going to waste your time.
Vaccines and Travel Health in Pakistan
There are no mandatory vaccinations needed to enter or travel through Pakistan. Said this, Polio is still a threat in some parts of Pakistan. Make sure that you have been vaccinated. Dengue, malaria and chikungunya are also present. Repellents and netting provide protection. You may require antimalarial tablets based on your itinerary.
Security in Pakistan
Pakistan is a vastly misrepresented country in the Western media. The grand majority of Pakistan is very safe for travellers. In the past, political instability has led to outbreaks of violence and some of this is still ongoing. The best parts of Pakistan, the ones that attract the most foreign attention, are safe for tourists. Whilst you might have to travel with an armed police escort in some places (for example Kalasha Valleys in Chitral), you should not let that put you off the great unique experience that is visiting these remote tribal communities and stunning mountains ecosystems.
When to go to Pakistan
Travelers can visit Pakistan all year around. Last Places offers trips to Pakistan all year around (May - October Pakistan’s summer, November - April Pakistan’s winter. Said this Pakistan’s High Season would be from May till October and Low Season from November till April (cold). The best time to visit Pakistan depends on where you wish to travel. May - October is generally the best season to visit, as the weather is rather dry and warm throughout the country. If you want to visit the north-west regions of Pakistan, like Pakhtoonkhwa, Sindh, Punjab, or Balochistan, October - February would be a good time to travel, as the weather will be cool enough for you to enjoy your trip.
Currency in Pakistan
The official currency of Pakistan is the Pakistani Rupee (PKR).
Time in Pakistan
Pakistan Standard Time (PKT) is 5 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).
Electricity in Pakistan
The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.
In Pakistan the power plugs and sockets are of type C and D. Check out the following pictures.
Type C: also known as the standard "Euro" plug. This socket also works with plug Eand plug F.
Type D: mainly used in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and some African countries. This socket only works with plug D.
Communications in Pakistan
The international dialing code for Pakistan is +92. There are many more mobile telephones than fixed lines and the mobile coverage is much more reliable than fixed lines. Internet access is available at most hotels. Except in Gilgit-Baltistan, the internet works reasonably well throughout the country.
Language in Pakistan
The official languages of Pakistan are English and Urdu. In remote rural areas most people do not speak neither of them and the figure of a translator guide will be needed.
Prohibitions in Pakistan
Do not take photographs of government buildings, or use binoculars near them, as this could lead to arrest. We recommend asking permission to people before taking their picture to avoid uncomfortable situations.
Since 1977 alcohol consumption is forbidden in Pakistan except for non-Muslim minorities such as Hindus, Christians and Zoroastrians who are allowed to apply for alcohol permits. The ban officially is enforced by the country's Islamic Ideology Council, but it is not strictly policed. A foreign non-Muslim person can drink alcoholic beverages in Pakistan. However, consumption of alcoholic drinks in public places is strictly prohibited. In many hotels, the foreign people can purchase alcoholic drinks upon presenting proof of foreign national ID and age.
Route designed to discover little-known corners of Pakistan. The journey begins at the Afghan border and ends at the Arabian Sea. We will visit places away from the tourist circuits without neglecting iconic places such as the Mughal fort of Lahore or the southern Sufi shrines. We will move with a comfortable vehicle (minibus with a / c) from the center-north to the deep south, parallel to the great river Indos.View Trip Details
Route designed to explore Lahore, its Mughal monuments and continue towards the Hunza Valley, in the heart of the Himalayas, along the mythical Karakorum mountain road. There we will meet small kingdoms anchored in time and spectacular landscapes. We will cross mountain tracks to the isolated Nuristan, ‘land of light’, on the Afghan border. It is the last enclave where an animist religion is preserved in this region of Asia. We will live with the kalashas and we will know aspects of their daily life and their ancient customs. We will visit places secluded from the tourist circuits without neglecting iconic places such as the Mughal fort of Lahore or the ruins of the Ghandara Kingdom near Islamabad. We will move with a comfortable vehicle (minibus with a / c) through the low areas and by 4x4 through the mountain slopes.View Trip Details
Route designed to discover little-known corners of Pakistan. The journey begins at the Afghan border and ends at the Arabian Sea. We will visit places away from the tourist circuits without neglecting iconic places such as the Mughal fort of Lahore or the southern Sufi shrines. We will travel with a minibus from the center-north to the deep south, parallel to the great river Indos. Going hand in hand with a passionate anthropologist will allow you to discover and live with nomadic societies and other cultural minorities.View Trip Details