Pakistan: Home to the Mystifying Cultural Heritage
Spring is back in Pakistan. And so is the exclusive Defence Day Parade which is annually held on March 23rd to mark the Pakistan Resolution Day. The day when all the Muslims of the sub-continent agreed upon to fight for a country which they can call ‘home’. At this time of the year one can catch quite a glimpses of colours and smiles all around Pakistan.
Peace has returned to the country and so is the tourism. Credit goes to the Pakistani nation which stood resilient, fully supporting the military in their operations against militancy. The resolve this nation showed during these hard times is reaping rewards now. Pakistan, who lost her tourists to other regions of Asia is fast becoming famous around the tourism circle for her magnificent beauty and charm she offers to the visitors.
Pakistan day parade starts with zeal and vehemence. The capital city Islamabad roars with jet thunders rehearsing for the main day Parade from the mid of March. Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan lies on the Potohar Plateau, one of the earliest sites of human settlements in Asia. The word Islamabad means ‘the city of Islam.’ Famous for its greenery, peace and cleanliness, Islamabad is highly developed and is ranked second most beautiful Capital city of the world. Apart from natural beauty and huge green forests, Islamabad is also famous for the Faisal Mosque – the largest mosque in south Asia and sixth largest in the world. The mosque is a major tourist attraction, and is referred as a contemporary and influential feature of Islamic architecture. The trek trails of Margalla hills offers a breathtaking experience to the trekkers. Other places worth seeing in this city include Lok Virsa Museum, Rawal Lake, Pir Sohawa, Islamabad Zoo, Pakistan Museum of National History and said-pur village besides many others.
Pakistan has a very rich cultural heritage. The variety Pakistan offers is a true delight for the tourists and necropolis fans. The latter especially will not be disappointed. Starting from the ancient settlement of Taxila in the western outskirts of the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is considered one of the most important archaeological sites of South Asia. Taxila was a center of learning and is considered by some to have been one of the earliest universities in the world. The archaeological sites of Taxila include buildings and Buddhist stupas from 5th century to 6th century AD. The main ruins of Taxila are divided into three major cities, each belonging to a distinct time period. These ruins reveal the pattern of urban evolution on the Indian subcontinent through more than five centuries. Sirkap is the citadel of the ruined cities. It was a planned city with a multicultural population. When you visit Sirkap you can see the interesting style of masonry up till 6th century when the city was destroyed by the white Huns. Julian is a 300 meters easy climb you will see a well preserved monastery and the main stupa beautifully decorated with the statues of Buddha and other deities. The local guide will explain all the important aspects of the monastery and Stupa. Julian was the place where Sanskrit script was invented and it was a well-known college in its times (2nd to 6th century AD).
Nearly everyone on Earth is familiar with the Great Wall of China – well the Ranikot Fort is Pakistan’s answer to its much better known Chinese counterpart. But the Great Wall of Sindh is not a protection barrier like the Great Wall of China. Rather, the walls form the outer defense system of the fort of Ranikot. Within the outer walls there are three inner forts named Miri Kot, Sher Garh and Mohan Kot – and together they constitute what is generally regarded as the largest fort anywhere in the world.
Ramkot Fort is a major landmark of Mangla city. The fort, located on the top of a hill and surrounded by River Jehlum from three sides, presents a picturesque landscape. To approach the fort, you have to take a boat from the water sports club at the Mangla Dam for an almost 10-minute ride, would reach the northern extremity of the reservoir. Here, you will find a gigantic fort structure located on the summit of the hill. A short but steep climb uphill takes you to the fort.
Built between the 15th and 18th centuries, the Chaukhandi Tombs now form a remarkably well-preserved necropolis that often attracts curious visitors and archeologists alike, but the area is not without foreboding legends. The tombs at Chaukhandi are renowned for being one of the most haunted sites in the region, and visitors are particularly warned against entering the graveyard at night. Avoiding the tombs at night isn’t bad advice, haunting or otherwise, because the details and drawings on these fascinating artifices are clearly best experienced in the broad light of day. A fact for which many visitors are likely very thankful.
From around the 14th century through to the 18th century CE, the Thatta region was inhabited by local royalty who used Makli Hill as their communal burial site. Hindu, Islamic, Asian, and other styles can be picked out among the collection of tombs, which have been split into four distinct periods of creation corresponding to the ruling society of the time. Some of the tombs have tall columns, while others are decorated with sweeping arches. All together, the hill is like some sort of archaeological dreamscape.
In the town of Thatta, there is famous Shahjahani Mosque, also known as Jamia Mosque of Thatta, with its beautiful architecture. This mosque was built in 1647 during the reign of Mughal King Shah Jahan. The mosque is considered to have the most elaborate display of tile work in South Asia, and is also notable for its geometric brick work – a decorative element that is unusual for Mughal-period mosques. The mosque has overall 93 domes and it is world’s largest mosque having such number of domes. It has been built keeping acoustics in mind. A person speaking inside one end of the dome can be heard at the other end when the speech exceeds 100 decibels.
The Mohatta Palace is a museum located in Karachi. It was built in the posh seaside locale of Clifton by Shivratan Chandraratan Mohatta, a Hindu Marwari businessman from modern day Rajasthan in India, in 1927. The architect of the palace was Agha Ahmed Hussain. Mohatta built the Palace in the tradition of stone palaces in Rajasthan, using pink Jodhpur stone in combination with the local yellow stone from Gizri. The amalgam gave the palace a distinctive presence in an elegant neighbourhood, characterised by Indo-Saracenic architecture which was located not far from the sea.
Takht-i-Bahi, the most prolific religious and ceremonial complex of the Gandhara Civilization, is rightly known as the jewel of Pakistan’s cultural heritage. A visit to Takht-i-Bahi -Throne of Origins- offers a chance to explore the history of the Gandhara Civilization. Takht-i-Bahi is also referred to as the Monastery of Kanishka, the great Kushan King, who ruled Gandhara in the 2nd century CE and was famous for his military, political and spiritual achievements. It was first excavated in 1836, and numerous items were recovered, including coins from different periods. Most of the statues are now on display at the Peshawar Museum, which contains the largest collection of relics of the ancient Buddhist civilizations. Some of the most valuable pieces of Gandhara sculpture, now found in European museums, were originally recovered from Takht-i-Bahi.
With the list extended to Mohinjodaro ruins, which was one of the largest and most advanced cities in the world during its time, to the Baltit fort and the lunar landscape, a mud volcano and bizarre rock formations of the Hingol National Park, the list seems unending. How to not talk about the Muslim Sufi Shrine in Multan, the mystical branch of Islam.
People say that, in Thailand, Scotland or Morroco, you find the most hospitable people in the world. Well, clearly, they haven’t been to Pakistan. Whereas it’s true that these countries are very hospitable, Pakistanis bring it to the next level. While the people of Pakistan come from a variety of distinctive ethnic groups and speak a number of different languages, they share at least one thing in common: a uniquely gregarious nature. In this country, you are the guest, which means that the locals strive for you to have the best possible time in their country or region. The hospitality can even be overwhelming – for your trip to Pakistan, prepare yourself for the majestic treat.