Category: Pakistan.

A Complete Guide to Pakistan’s World Heritage Sites That are Safe to Visit

by Agha Iqrar Haroon (former Consultant Ministry of Tourism Government of Pakistan)

Pakistan has inherited a wide array of heritage sites, six of which have been inscribed on the list of “World Heritage Sites,” while a new tentative list has been prepared and submitted to the World Heritage Centre for approval. This article is a comprehensive guide to sites that are easy to visit, where there is no law and order problem for anybody. The list of all sites that are currently in troubled areas has not been added.


The ruins of an immense city, Moenjodaro, which flourished in the valley of the Indus in the 3rd millennium B.C. were inscribed in the World Heritage List in 1980. The remains of the city are situated on the western bank of River Indus, about 12 kilometres from Moenjodaro railway station, in Larkana District of Sind.

The well-planned city, built mostly in baked brick buildings, having public baths, and a college of priests, elaborate drainage system, soak pits for disposal of sewerage and large state granary, bears testimony that it was a metropolis of great importance, with approximately forty thousand inhabitants, enjoying a well-organized civic, economic, social and cultural life.

Excavations comprising figures of animals like rhinoceros, tigers and elephants on seals recovered from the site, and the brick-lined street drains, suggest that the region enjoyed heavier rainfall at that time than at present. Wheat, barely, sesame, field peas, dates and cotton appear to have been the main crops. Discovery of precious stones and other metallic objects, not normally found in this region, indicate trade with foreign countries.

At Moenjodaro (Mound of dead) in the west-bank of the Indus in Sindh have been found the remains of one of the earliest and a most developed urban civilisations of the ancient world. Discovered in 1922 Moenjodaro once metropolis of great importance forming part of the Indus Valley Civilisation. Moenjodaro 4,000 years old brick ruins of the Indus Valley Civilisation city of Moejodaro.

The Indus Valley Civilisation flourished from 3,000 to 15,00 BC, making it contemporary with the ancient civilisation of Egypt and Mesopotamia. At its height, it comprised atleast 400 cities and towns along the Indus and its tributaries, covering most of the present-day Pakistan and stretching north-west as far as modern Kabul and east as far as modern Delhi. The water ways were the main highways connecting the empire, and flat bottomed barges almost identical to those still use today plied the rivers from city to city. Few of the cities have been excavated.

The most imposing remains are those of the great bath, which consisted of an open quadrangle with verandahs on four sides, galleries and rooms at the back, a group of halls on the north and a large bathing pool. It was probably used for religious or ceremonial bathing. Nearby are the remains of the great granary, possible public treasury where taxes were paid in kind. Testifying to the high developed and artistic sensibility of the Moenjodaro people is discovery of necklaces pendants of beads earrings and anklets of ivory and mother-of-pearl, vessels of silver, copper and browns and polished stones weight and measures which suggest the existence of strangest civic regulations. From coins discovered, archaeologists believe trade and cultural links exist between Moenjodaro and the contemporary civilisations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. Various objects d’art found at Moenjodaro include burnt clay male and female figurines, and models of the bird, steatite bust of a noble man or a priest- king wearing a loose robe on which the trefoil pattern is engraved and small dancing girls in the browns with slim figures and flat Negroid features. Figural art is best illustrated by steatite seals bearing life like representations of animals and mythological creates such as is the unicorn.

Kot Diji

Kot Diji site is 51 kms south of Khairpur town in the Khairpur District of Sindh. Archaeologists say that the discovery of this pre-historic site has furnished information of high significance since it pushed back the pre-history of Pakistan by atleast, another 300 years from about 2,500 BC to 2,800 BC. Evidence of new cultural element of pre-Harappan and pre-Moenjodaro date has been found at Kot Diji. The excavations there have proved that the Indus Valley Civilisations people borrowed or developed some of the basic cultural elements of the Kot Dijians. The site consists of two parts: one comprising the citadel area on the high ground where the ruling elite lived and outer area inhabited by the common man. The Kot Diji culture is marked by well- furnished, well-made pottery and houses built of mud-bricks on stone foundations. In fact, the Kot Dijian ceramics through different in form and technique are no way less artistic then the sophisticated back-on-red pottery of Harappans. The Harappans borrowed some of the basic cultural elements from Kot Diji. The Harappan decorated designs such as the “fish scale “ intersecting circles and the pipal leaf pattern were evolved from the Kot Dijian decorated elements like the horizontal and wavy lines, loops and simple triangular patterns. There is a no proof yet of the place or the regions from where the Kot Dijians arrived in the Indus Valley.

Kot Diji situated between Ranipur and Khairpur on the highway from Hyderabad, on the east bank of the Indus close to Rohri. Worth site trip.


Taxila a situated about 32 kms north-west of the capital city of Islamabad. It is bounded by the Murree Hills running from north to south. The waters of two rivers flowing through the plane has turned the valley green and fertile, while the geographical location made it an important meeting place of three great routes between the subcontinent, the Central Asia and the Western Asia. It was an outstanding city of ancient Pakistan located on the south-eastern fringe of the celebrated Ghandhara region and mentioned in almost all the important religious, literary and historical sources.

Sir John Marshall, a renowned British archaeologist, carried out extensive excavations in the vicinity of Taxila from 1913 to 1934, as a result, he discovered three ancient cities and more than two dozen stupas and monasteries dated from 6th century BC when it formed a part of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia (518 BC to 330 BC); subsequently it was conquered by Alexander the Great in 326 BC. The Greek chroniclers described it as “The greatest of all the cities” in this part of the world. Since then, it remained under the successive domination of the Mauryans, the Bactrian Greeks, Scythians, Parthians, Kushanas and Sasanians, till its final destruction by the White Huns in the 5th century AD.

Bhir Mound

The oldest settlement of Ghandhara civilisation is Bhir Mound. The Mahabharata relates that the city was conquered by King Janemejaya of Hastinapura, who performed there the great snake sacrifice. According to the literary sources of the Ramayana, the city was founded by Taksha, the son of Bharata and the nephew of Rama at the same time as Pushkalavati was founded by Pushkala in Gandhara.

The discovery of Sarai Khola, about 2 miles south-west of Bhir Mound, has pushed back the history of this region and has placed Taxila on the pre-historic map of Pakistan. The late stone age implements superimposed by the Kot-Dijian culture not only help in providing links with established agricultural communities of the Indus valley but has opened important and exciting possibilities in regard to the beginning of the pre-historic civilization in the Ghandhara region.

However, the history of the site begins with the conquest of the area, then known as Gandhara, by the Achaemanians during the 6th century B.C. Taxila came into prominence when, in 326 B.C. Alexander the great, after subduing the Persian Empire, pushed his way into the Ghandhara region. Ambhi (Omphis) the king of Takashasila, who was at war with the neighbouring Paurava king (Porus), beyond the Jhelum, not only submitted to Alexander without any resistance but also helped him by supplying a garrison of 5,000 troops from his own army in battle against Porus. Before his departure, Alexander established a Macedonian garrison here under Philip but soon after the death of Alexander, that garrison was ousted by Chandragupta Maurya. During the rule of the Emperor Asoka, when Buddhism became the predominant religion of the empire, Taxila was regarded as an important centre of Buddhism.

With the coming of the Bactrian Greeks, the city was shifted from Bhir Mound to Sirkap and the next references to these historic remains are traceable from the numismatic record. The Greeks were followed by the Scythians, the Parthians and the Kushans. It was in the time of the Kushans, that the city was shifted to a third location known as Sir-sukh. The overlords of these ruling dynasties gave a new aspect to the city apparently with a special bias derived from Greek traditions. Then, in the early decade of the 5th or 6th century A.D. it faced the horror of indiscriminate destruction by the White Huns from which it never recovered.

The city was prosperous, lying on the tri-junctional route connecting western Asia, central Asia and India, and has been well described by the Greek writers Arrian, Strabo Plutarch and the Chinese pilgrim, Hiuen Tsang. All of them have left glowing accounts of its greatness, the fertility of its soil, its invigorating climate and its rich harvests.

The remains of Bhir Mound, (Lat: 330 .44-1/2 N and Long: 720 .49-1/2 East), close to the Archaeological Museum and the Taxila Railway Station, is situated about 22 miles north of Islamabad. Located on a small plateau, the site extends from north to south, covering an area of 1200 x 730 yards, and rises to an average height of 60 to 70 feet above the Tamara Nala which separated it from Sirkap, the second city of Taxila. It was Alexander Cunningham who correctly identified the ruins as those of the ancient Takshasila or Taxila of the classical writers.

Subsequently, from 1913 to 1934, large scale excavations at Bhir Mound, brought to light an irregular and haphazard city lay-out, very different from the symmetrical and well planned later city of Sirkap. The deep digging carried out at a number of places at the site showed four successive strata of which the lowest dates back to the 6th-5th century B.C. While the second (from bottom) has been ascribed to the time of Alexander the Great. (4th-3rd century B.C.) The third stratum, to which the major part of excavated remains belong, has been assigned to the Mauryan period and the fourth to the period when the city under the Bactriart Greeks, was shifted to a new site at Sirkap. Most important discoveries at mound are fair number of coins, terracotta human and animals figurines, votive or ritual tanks and seals. These coins are square, uninscribed cast coins, which have, on the obverse “lion-with svastika-on-top” and “crescent topped arched hill” type while the reverse is invariably mutilated and indistinct. These coins apparently belonged to the local Taxilan currency which was in wide circulation after the fall of the Mauryan Empire. According to Vincent Smith, these coins may be dated a little before the Christian era. Recently, Dr. Dani, has also suggested a post-Mauryan date for such type of local Taxilan currency and it may, therefore, be reasonable to assign them to the 2nd to 1st century B.C. The evidence of these coins is also fully corroborated by the evidence of seals belonging to the same cultural Period. Palaeographically, as noticed elsewhere, these seals may be assigned to 15 B.C. – 50 B.C.

A fairly large number of Terracotta human and animal figurines were also recovered from this Period. Previously, terracotta of this type has been assigned to the Mauryan and Sunga Periods by authorities on art and for them, a date between 200 B.C. to 50 A.D. meets with general approval. Among other terracotta objects, mention may be made of square-form litual or votive tanks of which similar examples have been noted at other sites such as Kausami, Hastinapura and Ahichhatra. At the latter site, their first introduction is dated around A.D. 100-200. They are described as foreign in origin, are attributed to the Parthians, and are said to be associated with the cult of the Mother Goddess. Marshall has enumerated three varieties of such tanks from Taxila and a similar simple, square-walled example recovered from Sirkap has been dated back to the Parthian Period about Ist B.C. which is more appropriate when dating this cultural period of Bhir Mound.

This co-relation and comparison of cultural material from the last Period of Bhir Mound with that of early level of Sirkap affords the easiest clue. In the light of this presence and continuity of cultural material, the terminal date for the settlement at Bhir Mound can safely be fixed between the 2nd to the 1st centuries B.C.


Sirkap, the second city of Taxila, was founded by the Bactrian Greeks on the usual rectangular grid pattern in the 2nd century BC situated at the extreme western end of the Hathial spur, it was fortified by a massive 21 feet wide fortification wall of stone with bastions at regular intervals. The plan of the city evidently shows that services of some Hellenistic town-planner were requisitioned for the layout of the city. Excavations have revealed the remains of some of the most spectacular buildings, both religious as well as secular, including the market place, houses of the commoners, the royal palace, the shrine of the double-headed eagles, apsidal temple etc. All along the main street, a regular row of shops run on its either side while at its back were arranged blocks of residential houses. On the western side overlooking the main street, was the spacious royal palace having private Hall of Audience, Court of Guards, the Hall of Public Audience, the residential quarters, etc. The city remained under occupation for three hundred years during the successive rule of Greeks, Scythians, Parthians and Kushanas down to the time of Vima Kadaphises when it again shifted to the site of Sirsukh.


Sirsukh, the third fortified city of Taxila, was located on the Haro plain of the further side of the Lundi Nala, about a mile north-east of the northern fortification of Sirkap. The largest of all the previous two cities, it was founded by great Kanishka in the opening years of 2nd century AD. Not much of this third city was excavated except a comparatively small portion of defence wall, built in a beautifully heavy diaper pattern.

Besides, several other Stupas and monasteries were built around Taxila during the period from 3rd century BC to 5th century AD. Remains of many of these have been found and excavated by archaeologists like Alexander Cunningham and John Marshall. Among these, the more important establishments are Dharmarajika, Jaulian, Mohra Moradu, Bhallar, Piplan, Kalawan, Giri Bhamala and Kunala. Kunala stupa is of particular interest. It has been attributed to a legend to Kunala, son of Asoka. The others were majestic and fabulous erection planned elaborately and decorated tastefully with masterpieces of the Ghandhara art. Besides these Buddhist establishments, the Fire Temple at Jandial deserves special mention. Located at about half a mile from the north gate of Sirkap on a high mound, the building represents a Greek temple in its classical form having almost all the essential elements though in a varied form to the extent that instead of a peristyle or surrounding colonnade, it had a continuous outside wall with window-like openings; and behind the main shrine was a solid platform approached by steps. According to the estimation of Sir John Marshall, the main or southern entrance had two Ionic columns. This is a unique structure in Taxila. The Temple belonged to Zoroastrians, and must have been constructed during the Scytho-Parthian period (1st century BC to the 1st century AD).

Taxila Museum

The Taxila Museum was opened to public in 1928, which is located in a beautiful campus garden. Old and huge cypress trees planted in the garden made it worth visiting place. The architecture of the Museum building is in Graeco-Roman style. The entire building is constructed in local stone, whereas the facade is in sand stone. Over seven thousand antiquities discovered from various archaeological sites located in the vicinity of Taxila, are displayed in three galleries of the Museum. The central hall, comprises mainly, stone sculptures depicting the life of Buddha and some other monastic events. The minor antiquities are displayed in the centre of the hall whereas the gold jewellery and silver are displayed in a small room adjacent to the central hall. The north gallery, comprises the best specimen of stucco objects whereas household and miscellaneous objects are exhibited in the southern gallery. It is one of the best museums in Pakistan and is famous for its worth seeing Gandharan art sculptures in


Some 7 km north-east of the Taxila Museum, are the remains of a monastery and two stupa courts at different levels with caplets set around. The monastery has cells for the monks on four sides. A veranda in front, an open quadrangle, assembly hall, store rooms, refectory, kitchen and bath rooms are also parts of the monastery buildings. The lower court of the stupa area has five small stupas with very beautiful, well preserved stucco-reliefs of Buddha and Bodhisattva images seated in niches with stone-carved rows of elephants, lions and atlantes to give support to each other. The second court contains the main stupa which is surrounded by votive stupas.

Mohra Moradu

Mohra Moradu, about 3 km away from Jaulian, is another Buddhist establishment including a large monastery and a stupa. The monastery has rows of cells on all four sides with a rectangular court in the middle and spacious rooms to serve as assembly hall, kitchen and store.

A small stupa, almost complete in its detail, was found inside a cell of this monastery. A group of excellent stucco figures on the southern wall of the main stupa is now preserved in the museum. Other archaeological finds of Mohra Moradu include coins of the Kushan period, an excellent Gandhara statue of the Bodhisattava Maitreya, many terracotta images of the Buddha and a large steatite seal of one Harischandra belonging to the Gupta period (5th century A.D.).

Apsidal Temple

This spacious structure has a porch in front and a circular apse behind. It lies on a raised platform on the eastern side of the main street. Hoard of gold and silver ornaments, coins, jugs, goblets, cups, bowls, plates, saucers, a head of Dionysus in silver and a bronze status of the Egyptian chid-god of silence were recovered from this temple and a house nearby.

Double headed eagle

This shrine, which is probably a Jain temple, lies to the east of the main street further south.

The Palace

Situated further south, on the eastern side of the main street, the palace contains the King’s private chambers, audience chambers, guest rooms, the ladies’ palace and quarters of attendants. The plan bears a striking resemblance to those of the Assyrian palaces of Mesopotamia. Copper coins and gems were recovered from this site and in a room outside the palace, were found earthen moulds for casting coins. All these objects are preserved in the museum.

Dharmarajika Stupa

This great structure lies on a lofty plateau, about two miles to the east of the museum, admidst a large number of smaller stupas, chapels and monasteries and it belongs to the period 1st-5th century A.D. The main structure is built on a circular platform with Kanjure stone decorations and niches in bold design, well preserved on the eastern face. Enshrined holy relics of the Lord Buddha, in a steatite vessle, were recovered from one of the Chapels around the main stupa alongwith an inscribed silver scroll. To the north of the main building is the monastery area, the original construction dating from the 1st century B.C. The monasteries at Dharmarajika are the earliest Buddhist establishments in Taxila. A large number of antiquities were recovered from here including glass tiles, Gandhara Sculpture, gold, silver and copper coins all of which are preserved in the museum.

Mankiala Stupa

Mankiala is situated a little off the main highway (Grand Trunk Road), sixteen miles southeast of Rawalpindi. A few hundred year south of the village stands Manikyala tops, a gigantic Buddhist stupa on the crest of a high ridge. The stupa is conspicuously visible from miles away. Manikyala village, itself, is situated on an ancient mound which most probably marks the site of the legendary Manikpur or Maniknagar. More than 60 per cent of the houses of Manikyala are built of ancient material dug from the soil.

Manikyala village and the great stupa are not the only archaeological remains there. In fact, a large tract of country, covering an area of six square miles, around Manikyala village is littered with ancient sites mostly of the Buddhist period. Among these sites, the most conspicuous is the famous stupa 92 feet high once regarded as one of the four great stupas of the sub-continent.

In the popular legends ascribed to one Raja Rasalu, Manikyala is referred to as Manikpur or Mainknagar. It is thought to have been the seat of the residence and power of demons or Rakshasas who were eventually killed by Raja Rasalu. As a seat of Rakshasas, Mainkpur was also called Bedadnagar or the City of Injustice. The local traditions, persisting even today, are precisely those which were recorded by Cunningham. According to these traditions, this city was founded by one Raja Man or Manik who is also believed to have built the great stupa. Manikyala is also associated with one of those places “that strive for the honour of being the burial place of Alexander’s horse Bucephalus”. The tradition of Mainkpur may have some truth because during the third quarter of the last century. Alexander Cunningham discovered, in a small stupa located east of the village Manikyala, a coin of the satrap Zeionises, son of Manigal who might have reigned over Chukhsa territory during the time of the Parthian king, Gondophares in the beginning of the Christian era. On this evidence, the site may be dated to the time of Manigal, or his son Jihonia about the early Indo-Scythian period. On the other hand, if we accept Cunningham’s identification of Manikyala with the site of the famous Vyaghri (Tigress) Jataka or the “Body Offering”, then it may be dated to the middle of 3rd century B.C. falling during the reign of Asoka.

The Chinese pilgrims who visited Manikyala have not mentioned its name. Hiuen Tsang visiting in 630 A.D., gives only the estimated distances at which a big religious establishment containing the stupas of “Blood and Body Offering” were located but he does not mention its name. According to Hiuen Tasng, this religious establishment of Manikyala is located southeast of Takshesila across the river Sin- Tu6 where (which is Soan river) “ Long ago the prince Mahasattva gave up his body to feed a hungry tigress. About 140 paces from this was a stone tope at the spot to which Mahasattva pitying the wild beast’s feeble state, came here piercing himself with a dry bamboo, to the tigress, and she after taking it ate the Prince; the soil and the vegetation of the spot, had a red appearance as if blood-dyed.

Yuan Chuang (Hiuen Tsang) further adds:

“ To the north of the Body Offering Tope was a stone Asoka Tope above 200 feet high with very artistic ornamentation and shedding a miraculous light. Small topes and above 100 small shrines encircled the grave; pilgrims afflicted with ailments made circumambulation, above 100 brethren all Mahayanists.”

The stupa, as described by Hiuen Tsang, has also been identified by Cunningham with the stupa at Manikyala. He also identified the monastery referred to in the above passage with a mound now covered by the Muslim graveyard, situated a few hundred yards east of the main stupa. The latter from ailments by making circumambulation around the stupa is still in practice in a different from. On July 21, 1809, Elphinstone, on his way back from Kabul, noticed the stupa and thought it a piece of Grecian architecture. Recording a local tradition, he adds: “ The native call it the tope of Manuicyala and said it was built by the gods11.” Moorcraft and Trebeck, visited Manikyala stupa on November 18, 1822 and wrote “ It has much great resemblance with the monumental structures of the Tibetans12.”

General Ventura was, however, the first to dig a 73 feet deep shaft in the centre of the great stupa in April 1830. The first principle deposit was revealed at the depth of over ten feet from top. It consisted of an iron box containing a smaller one of gold with an ornamental top. The gold box contained among other objects, a silver coin of Abdullah bin Hazin, the governor of Khorasan, struck at Merv and dated 66 AD, one silver coin of Yasovarman of Kanauj (c. 692-736 A.D.) and two coins depicting the sun-god of Multan (c. 600-700 A.D.)13. The second principal deposit, between 45 and 64 feet , contained gold and copper objects with these Sassanion with those of the Kushan rulers, Further downwards, at 73 feet depth, a small box of gold was lying inside a copper box. It contained one gold and five copper of the Kushan rulers. The inference would be that the original stupa was constructed during the time of Huvishka and it re-constructed in 720 and 730 A.D. by Yasoverman of Kanauj who did not remove the old coins.

In 1834, General Court explored the surrounding area and excavated fourteen different mounds located north of Manikyala. From one, he discovered an inscription mentioning Huta Murta or “Body Offering” twice. This is the same stupa mentioned by Hiuen Tsang, reportedly erected on the spot where “ Prince Mahasattva gave up his body to feed a hungry tigress” One of the coins found inside the model stupa had a legend meaning “ Of the great king, the king of kings, Kajula kara kadphisis”. On the evidence of the coins, Cunningham dated the small stups and other remains to the 1st century A.C. At one of the sites he discovered bronze sculptures only white at Munshian-da-Mahel, a few hands of Buddha were found.

The pottery included red wares of medium fabric with smoothed external surface, comparable with that recovered from the Scytho-Parthian levels of Banbhore and datable to the 1st century B.C. The burning was not of localized nature but was widely spread so as to affect the whole building complex on the site. Numerous iron nails, clamps and hooks were also found in the burned material constituting layer 8. Among the heaps of ashes and lumps of charcoal were found gold and mica sheets of different shapes, probably used to embellish the wooden fittings of the rooms.

It may be pointed out that in Ghandhara and Punjab it has been observed that more than a few ancient sites in these regions, at some particular period of their history, were burnt down partially or wholly. Cunningham recorded evidence of conflagration on many sites around Manikyala. Marshall recorded a similar phenomenon resulting into the final destruction of the monasteries of Taxila. At Rumial Pind, a site not very far from Manikyala, a wholesale destruction of the site by fire was observed.

The mound was re-occupied after a brief period of desertion for an unknown length of time. The materials recovered from the layers overlying the burnt layer 8 and sterile deposit 7 were quite different in many respects. New pottery forms, of new fabric and decoration made their first appearance in layer 6 and persisted until the last occupation at the mound. The inference may be that the main stupa at Manikyala and other establishments were flourishing between the 1st and 8th centuries A.D.

Rohtas Fort

About ten miles north-west from Jhelum lies the great fort of Rohtás. After expelling Humáyun in A.D. 1542, the emperor Sher Sháh Súri found it desirable to take measures against the return of the exile, and against his friends the Gakkhars, he therefore, visited the Jhelum hills and selected the spot, where the Kahán torrent bursts through the low continuation eastwards of the Tilla range, for the construction of a great fort, to be named after the fort of Rohtás in Bengal. The Gakkhars did all they could to boycott the builders, and with such success that for a short time an ashrafi was paid for each stone, but eventually the work was completed, in 1543 A.D. The Gakkhars made a feeble retort by building some insignificant fortifications near the village of Sultánpur. The fort of Rohtás has a circumference of about two and a half mile miles, and a dividing wall in addition, about 1/3 miles long: the walls are at their base in many places 30 feet thick, and from 30 to 50 feet high: there are 68 towers or bastions and 12 gateways, and the walls are everywhere peered for musketry or archery, and here and there for cannon: in the parapets near the gateways are machicolations, from which inolten lead could be poured on attacking troops. The fort has never stood a serious siege, and even in mediaeval warfare would have taken a large army to hold it, for some of the gates are remarkably easy of access, and but poorly constructed.

It is now in parts ruined, especially on the north side, where a considerable section of the walls has collapsed; in other places the foundations of soft sandstone have worn away, leaving the walls supported only by the excellent mortar with which they were constructed. Many of the gateways after the Sohal Darwáza are the Khwás Kháni, where the road from Jhelum enters the fort, and the Langar-khána, on the north side. The northern part of the fort is separated from the rest by an interior wall, much the same as those on the outside, so as to form a kind of citadel (andurkol): within it is a small high building of incongruous appearance, said to have been erected by Mán Singh in the time of Mughal Akbar. The fort contains two baolis or wells with long flights of steps on one side giving access to the water, now no longer to be found in them. The citadel contains a small ruined mosque of the same period as the rest of the fort: and there are several inscriptions over the gateways, but nothing of importance. In the body of the fort is the small town of Rohtás, with it flourishing bázár, where old coins were found, chiefly Indo-Scythian, and dáms of the Súrí Kings, and of the Mughal Emperors.

Rohtás was subsequently visited by many of the Mughal Emperors and other rulers and invaders; but it is not associated with any important historical event, and is chiefly remarkable for its size and massiveness.

The best general view of the fort is perhaps that to be obtained from the opposite side of the Kaháh torrent to the north: the first view of the walls as the place is approached from the Jhelum side is also striking. Until the construction of existing Grand Trunk Road, Rohtás was a halting place on the main road between Lahore and Peshawar.

Tilla Jogian—-The fight of Korupandu

The monastery of Jogis on the summit of the isolated peak of Tilla, which rises to a height of over 3,200 feet about 25 miles west of Jhelum, is undoubtedly one of the oldest religious institutions in Northern India. It is now known as Tilla Gorakh Nath, or more usually as Jogi Tilla or Tilla simply; but was formerly called Tilla Balnath, and the name is still well known. Balnath was a prominent disciple of Gorakh Nath, the legendary founder of the institution. Cunningham (Ancient Geography of India, pp.164-6) sees a reference to the place in a curious fable related by Plutarch (De Fluviis), to the effect that, when Porus was preparing to oppose Alexander in B.C. 326, the royal elephant rushed up a hill sacred to the sun, and in human speech implored him to cease his opposition to the invader; and that the mountain was afterwards called the “Hill of the Elephant:” in this Cunningham finds further proof that Tilla Balnath is referred to, and that the monastery was in existence in the time of Alexander, “for the Macedonians, who had just come from Persia, would almost certainly have mistaken the name for Filnath or Pilnath, the ‘Elephant.’“ All this, however, is mere conjecture, which has no critical foundation.

All that is really known of Tilla is that the institution is of venerable age; for how many centuries it has been in existence there is nothing to show. Of popular traditions regarding the place there are plenty: Raja Vikramaditya of Ujjain may be taken to be an historical personage, but the popular story connecting him with Tilla has no historical foundation; the popular tradition states that his elder brother, Raja Bharthri, resigned the throne to become a faqir and a member of the Tilla monastery, as Gorakh Nath’s disciple: details of his journey and his acts there are given, and one of the oldest samadhs on the hill is known as that of Raja Bharthri: he is said to have founded the similar institution on the Koh Kirana hill in Jhang/Sargodha.

Tilla again is connected by tradition with the name well known in folk-songs of Puran Bhagat, a son of Raja Salwahan of Sialkot, another semi-fabulous king, of whose times there is really no historical information: Puran is said to have joined the Jogi fraternity on being restored to life by their head, and to have subsequently founded a well-known monastery in the Rohtak Range. Balnath of the Jogis is mentioned in the time of Sher Shah Suri, and Abdul Fazl in the Ain-i-Akbari writes of “the temple of Balnath Jogi, which is called Tilla Balnath,” as being held in veneration by the faqirs of India.

Tilla is supposed to have been sacked by Ahmad Shah Durrani about the year 1748 A.D. It is probably due to this that there is practically nothing on the surface or in the present buildings on the hill to show the antiquity of the place: it is believed, however, that it has never been examined by a trained archaeologist, and it is possible that remnants of earlier buildings might be found: one such remanant is probably the handsome carved stone doorway in the courtyard of the monastery, which recalls, both in material and style, the sculptures found in the Gandhala valley near Choa Saidan Shah. The present buildings are an irregular straggling pile of no great distinction: separate from them are a number of masonry tombs, large and small, of past Jogis, for their custom is burial not cremation; and there are various storage tanks, of which the largest, the Kwar Sar, is embanked pond on a large scale. There is a fine masonry tank near the monastery: the rude figures surmounting the steps on one side seem to be comparatively recent. The conspicuous shrine on the rocky pinnacle to the west (the summit of the hill), commemorates a visit paid to Tilla by the Sikh Guru, Nanak.

Kitas—-The sacred place for Hinduism

Going eastwards along the Salt Range the next places of interest are Kitas and the Gandhala valley, separated from Kitas by a lofty hill, both about 8 miles from Shivganga, and in a straight line 10 miles from Malot. The remains at these two places may conveniently be considered together for reasons that will appear further on. They will first be described as they now are.

Kitas is situated in the centre of the Salt Range, opposite Pind Dadan Khan, from which town it is 15 miles distant, at a height of over 2,000 feet above the sea: it lies between low stony hills, at the head of a small ravine that gives access to the eastern end of the great Kahun upland; it is remarkable chiefly for its sacred pool visited every year by thousands of pilgrims who come to bathe in its holy waters, till the participation of sub-continent in India and Pakistan. The pool is of irregular shape, about 200 feet long, 150 broad at the upper end, narrowing to 90 at the lower end, where it is spanned by a low stone bridge. It is reputed to be bottomless, but soundings did not show a greater depth than 23 feet.

Cunningham gives the following account of the remains at Kitas:

“The pool is partly artificial, the rock having been cut away to enlarge the natural basin in the bed of the Ganiya Nala. Just above the pool there is a strong masonry wall 2-1/2 feet thick and 19 feet high, which once dammed up the stream so as to form a large lake; but only the land portions are now standing, and the water disappears entirely amongst the broken rocks and ruins of the embankment. The Brahmans say that the dam was built by Raja Patak, the Dewan or minister of some King of Delhi, for the purpose of turning the water away from the holy pool of Kitaksh. There certainly is a channel cut through the rock, for 122 feet in the length, which would have carried off the waters to a point below the tank, but as there are springs in the pool itself, it seems more probable that the dam was made to retain water for irrigation. This channel was originally a tunnel, but the roof has fallen in, and the rock still overhangs on both sides in rough unshielded masses.

“About 800 feet below the pool, the Ganiya Nala passes between two flat-topped hills, about 200 feet in height, on which the ancient town is said to have stood. On the west hill, named Kotera, I traced several walls and towers of the old fortifications, and the remains of a brick building which the people call Sadu-ka-Makan or Sadn’s house. In the middle of the north side of the hill one can trace the walls of a gateway leading down to a lower enclosure, at the east end of which stand the Sat-Ghara or ‘seven temples.’ These are the only ancient remains of any interest that now exist at Kitas. The upper fort is 1,200 feet long by 300 feet and the lower fort 800 feet by 450 feet, the whole circuit being about 3,500 feet, or less than three quarters of a mile. But the whole circuit of Kitas, including the ruins of the town on both banks of the stream above and below the fort, is about two miles.

“The Sat-Ghara or ‘seven temples’ are attributed to the Pandus, who are said to have lived at Kitas during a portion of their twelve years’ wanderings. on examining the place carefully. One can find the remains of no less than twelve temples, which are clustered together in the north-east corner of the old fort. Their general style is similar to that of the Kashmir temples, of which the chief characteristics are dentils, trefoil arches, fluted pillars, and pointed roofs, all of which are found in the temples of Kitas and of other places in the Salt Range. Unfortunately these temples are so much ruined that it is impossible to make out their details with any accuracy; but enough is left to show that they belong to the later style of Kashmirian architecture which prevailed under the Karkota and Varmma dynasties, from A.D. 625 to 939; and as the Salt Range belonged to the kingdom of Kashmir during the greater part of this time. Two miles almost due east of Kitas is the village of Choa Saidan Shah, and from Coathe Gandhala valley extends in a south-westerly direction: the narrow bed of this valley is itself about 2,000 feet above sea-level, but the hills on the north, which divide it from Kitas, rise to a considerably greater height, in a succession of bold chiffs, while those to the south are lower and rise more gently. The whole forms, perhaps, the best example of hill scenery that the Range contains. Through the valley runs the Kitas stream, and on its bank is a mound from which, and from the level ground adjacent, an immense amount of sculptured stone has been obtained, as will be stated more particularly further on.

The interest of these two places centres round their identification with the city of Singapore and the adjoining Jaina temples described by Hiuen Tsiang, the Chinese pilgrim of the 7th Century. His own account of what he saw will first be given:

“The kingdom of Sang-ho-pu-lo is about 3,500 or 3,600 li in circuit. On the west it borders on the river Sin-tu (Indus). The capital is about 14 or 15 li in circuit; it borders on the mountains. The crags and precipices which surround it cause it to be naturally strong. The ground is not highly cultivated, but the produce is abundant. The climate is cold, people are fierce, and value highly the quality of courage; moreover, they are much given to deceit. The country has no king or rulers, but is in dependence on Kashmir. Not far to the south of the capital is a stupa built by Asoka-raja. The decorations its side is a sanghanima, which is deserted and without priests.

To the south-east of the city 40 or 50 li is a stone stupa, which was built by Asoka-raja; it is 200 feet or so in height. There are ten tanks, which are secretly connected together, and on the right and left are covered stones (balustrades) in different shapes and of strange character. The water of the tanks is clear, and the ripples are sometimes noisy and tumultuous. Dragons (serpents) and various fishes live in the clefts and caverns bordering the tanks, or hide themselves in the waters. Lotus flowers of the four colours cover the surface of the limpid water. A hundred kinds of fruits surround them and glisten with different shades, the trees are reflected deep down in the water, and altogether it is a lovely spot for wandering forth.”

Nandana Fort – The cradle of Hinduism

About fourteen miles due east of Choa Saidan Shah, between the villages of Baghanwala below and Ara above, the outer Salt Range makes a remarkable dip. The road over the hills winds up the face of a steep rocky hill, with perpendicular precipices at the sides. There seems to have been once a temple, a fort, and a large village, of which, however, little now remains. The temple is in ruins, but enough still stands to show that it was two-storeyed, with a flight of stairs leading to the upper storey; and that round the second storey there was a passage, also in the walls, leading into the upper room. The large restored temple at Kitas, by the way, has the same internal structure, and in this respect probably retains its original form. The Nandana temple is, like others in the Range, in the Kashmirian style, and stands on a platform apparently of very great age, much older probably than the temple itself. Of the fort, two semi-circular bastions are still standing on the south face of the hill, with steeply sloping walls, made of large well-cut blocks of sandstone.

The village was built as villages are now, the houses were of stone and mud, mortar being used in exceptional case only. In later times a mosque was added close to the temple, and this too is now in a ruinous state: in its courtyard is a fragment of an inscription of the same period, now too far gone to be legible. This fort of Nandana is mentioned in the histories of the invasions of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni, a fact which, some-what strangely, seems to have hitherto escaped notice: Ferishta tells us that in 404 H. (about 1008 A.D.) Mahmud came against Nandana in the mountains of Balnath, when Jaipal, son of Anandapal, was ruler of Lahore: the fort was surrendered to him, and leaving a man of his own in charge, Mahmud went off to Kashmir, in pursuit of Jaipal, who had fled there. In the Tabaqat-i-Akbari there is the same story, the place being called Nannana or Nandana, and it is stated that again in 410 H. Mahmud came against Raja Nanda and Raja Jaipal and defeated them at this place. The identity of name, combined with the agreement of the site amongst the mountains described in the histories, leaves no doubt that the fort above Baghanwala is the one referred to.

Historian Ferishta says that in 404 H. Mahmud laid siege to the fort of nandana in the mountain of Balnath, when the son of Anand Pal was ruler of Lahore. This ruler fled to Kashmir, and Mahmud followed after reducing the fort, and placing it in charge of a man of his own. He was again in this neighbourhood a few years later. On his return from the sack of Somnath in 1026 A.D., his army “almost perished in the waterless desert, from which it escaped only to fall into the hands of the predatory Jats of the Salt Range, who harassed the exhausted troops as they toiled homewards landen with spoils. It was to punish their temerity that before the year was over Mahmud led his army for the last time into India. The route from Somuath to Ghazni, however, can hardly have led through the Salt Range; and the latest opinion identifies the predatory Jats here referred to with the tribes of the lower Indus.

The first notice of the historical times of Nandana is met in 991 A.D. when the Raja of Lahore attempted an invasion from east and then in 999 A.D. when Haj or Chach of Lahore was anxious to capture it. In Hindu mythology Indra’s park is the abode of delight ‘Nandana’. Shiva is also regarded as the leader of ‘Delight’. This indicates that Nandana has also a very remote religious sanctity and history prior to mediaeval ages mostly connected with the cult of Indra and later in the Post Bedic period of Shive. Nandana is situated in the neighbourhood of Buddhist, Jain, Hindu sacred places, namely Ketas or Ketas Raj, where remains of a Buddhist stupa were seen by Hsuan Tsang (early 7th century) and stated to have been built by Asoka Raja. The pool at Ketas so sacred to Hindus is attributed to the tears of Shiva. The story goes that once somehow Shiva was separated from his consort Paravati. Shive roamed over the country in her search and not finding any clue he while passing over this beautiful valley burst into tears which fell at Ketas creating an eternal pool of limpid water.

Coins of all the Graeco-Bactrian and Indo-Scythic Kings, with the exception of Andragoras, Sophytes, and Diodotus, are found in the Jhelum Range: the commonest of all are those of Apollodotus, Menander, Hermaeus, Azes, “Soter Megas,” Kadphises I, Kadphises II, Kanishka, Huvishka, and Vasu Deva. Less common, but still fairly plentiful, are those of Eukratides, Antialkidas, Antimachus, Philoxenus, Maues, Azilises, Gondopharres, and Kadaphes. Seldom met with are the coins of Euthydemus I, Demetrius, Diomedes, Nikias, Vonones, Spalahores, Spalirises, Zeionises. In addition to the foregoing classes of coins, punch-marked pieces or “Puranas,” various Taxila coins, silver Parthian, coins of the Kedara ushans, of the Scythic-Sassanians, and the Ephthalites, or White Huns, are all found in large or small numbers. Also in large numbers the silver and copper coins of Samantha Deva, and others of the Brahman Kings of Kabul, and of the earlier Kashmir Kings. A number of unique coins obtained by Mr. Rawlins in this Range have been published in the Journal Asiatic Society, Bengal for 1897. It may be mentioned that coins are the most portable of antiquities, and their evidence is therefore seldom conclusive: many of those found in Jhelum may have been brought there from very distant places, at one time or another, by the pilgrims who every year come to Katas. Coins found at mounds and disused sites show that the currency of the place at the time when the site was occupied.

It may be mentioned that Al-Beruni (973-1053 AD), the celebrated traveler, historian, philosopher, mathematician, astronomer and scientist, came to the subcontinent in the period of Mehmood of Ghazni during 11th century. It was at Nandana, that he measured the circumference of the earth.

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Category: Pakistan