forts of pakistan

Written by Daniyal Ali 11:47 am Pakistan Unveiled

The Magnificent Forts of Pakistan

Pakistan has a large number of massive historical forts including the Rohtas Fort, the Lahore Fort and the Skardu Fort, with each fort showcasing the remarkable architecture of the past. The author, Daniyal Ali, features 8 breathtaking forts laid out all over Pakistan.
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Mr. Daniyal Ali is currently pursuing a Master's in Media Studies from Beaconhouse National University.

With mighty mountains, pleasant views, massive glaciers, volcanoes, and whatnot, Pakistan is blessed with immeasurable beauty. There are several shades of beauty to be seen in every corner of the country. Most visitors restrict themselves to the breathtakingly beautiful northern areas of Pakistan, but there is much more to be seen, especially the country’s amazing forts.

Rohtas Fort

Rohtas Fort is one of the most famous forts of Pakistan, if not the most famous. This formidable fortress stands tall in the city of Dina in District Jhelum. It was built in 1545 and is about 4 kilometers in circumference. The Rohtas Fort was built on a hillock, where a small river meets a tiny rainy stream called the Parnal Khas and goes towards the Tilla Jogian Range.

forts of pakistan: rohtas fort
“Rohtas Fort” by J.zaib is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The labyrinth-like structure and the perplexity of the mighty fort are what make it special. It was built with ashlar stones and bricks. The fortress has 12 gates and 68 bastion towers. The mighty Rohtas Fort was built after the historic Battle of Chausa by Sher Shah Suri.

The purpose of the fort was to block the forces of Mughal emperor Humayun, who was exiled to Persia. The fortress is capable of holding up to 30,000 people. The structure of the fort is still intact; it is considered the epitome of Muslim military architecture in Pakistan, and for the same reason, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

Derawar Fort

Derawar Fort is a square fortress in the Cholistan Desert that dates back to the 9th century. The spectacular landmark still stands, despite having existed for about 12 centuries. The red-bricked fort is visible for miles in the Cholistan Desert. The structure is surrounded by bastions of 30 meters that span over 1.5 kilometers.

Most of the archaeological sites around the fort can be dated back to the Indus Valley Civilization. The locals of the Cholistan Desert claim that the fort has special pathways underground that lead to a railway tunnel, heading all the way to Sadiq Garh Palace in Bahawalpur.

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The majestic fort was constructed by a Hindu ruler from Rajasthan. It was a tribute to the sovereign king of Jaisalmer and Bahawalpur, Rawal Deoraj Bhatti. It was then reconstructed by the Nawab of Bahawalpur Sadeq Mohammad Khan in 1733. However, some locals say that it was given to King Rawal Deoraj Bhatti after its construction. Thus, it remained the residence of the Royal Family of Bahawalpur for a long time.

Baltit Fort

The ancient Tibetan architecture mainly influenced the Baltit Fort. The fort dates back to around the 16th century, with many reconstructions and renovations throughout the years. The impressive structure located at a hilltop in Gilgit-Baltistan now consists of many rooms and amenities, most of which were added after the fort’s construction.

Baltit fort
“Baltit Fort” by Shaun D Metcalfe is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Baltit Fort remained functional for a long time. In fact, it was the primary residence of the Mirs of Hunza until 1945. The Baltit Fort was decaying rapidly in 1945, but with the help of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Historic Cities Support Program and the Royal Geographical Society of London, it was renovated after 1945.

forts of pakistan: baltit fort
“Baltit fort” by Shaun D Metcalfe is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The restoration program was completed in 1996, after which the majestic fort was converted into a heritage museum. Today, the ancient wooden and stone structures are to be seen with old brickwork. The handmade cooking utensils of the Royals of Baltistan are also displayed, which adds to the beauty of the captivating Baltit Fort.

Ranikot Fort

Commonly known as the Great Wall of Sindh, the Ranikot Fort is located in the Jamshoro district. Stretching for about 32 kilometers, the Ranikot Fort is known to be the largest fort in the world. It was built at the beginning of the 19th century and has many gates, most of which are still intact. Since 1993, the Ranikot Fort has been on the tentative list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Connecting several bleak hills of the Kirthar Hills, the Ranikot Fort has many bastions, including semi-circle bastions. In addition, there is another small fort nearby called the Miri Fort. Although the original architects and the purpose of the fort is still unknown, it is believed that some of the features of the Ranikot Fort were rebuilt in 1812 at the time of the Talpur Dynasty.

However, many archaeologists believe that the original inception of the Ranikot Fort dates back to the Sassanians, the Parthians, the Scythians, or the Bactrian Greeks. In addition, radiocarbon tests have proved that many structures of the Ranikot fort, including the Sann Gate, were renovated in the Talpur Dynasty.

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Lahore Fort

Located in the heart of Lahore, the Lahore Fort beautifully signifies the brilliance in construction and intricacy of the Mughal Empire. The Lahore Fort is also known as the Shahi Qilla and is considered one of the important historical sites of Pakistan. The architectural style is a shocking amalgam of the Islamic and Hindu motifs, which is nowhere to be seen in the entire world.

The Shahi Qilla spreads for more than 400 Kanal and is one of the most iconic structures from the Mughal era. The foundation of the Shahi Qilla was laid in 1566 AD, in the reign of Akbar. However, historians believe that there was a fortified structure already standing for more than 500 years at the time of Akbar. Even Al-Biruni had mentioned the structure in his writings.

The qilla has been through many devastating wreckages because of wars, and King Akbar renovated the modern structure that we see today. However, later on, many modifications were made part of the modern fort that we see today. In 1981, the Lahore Fort was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Bala Hissar Fort

The Bala Hissar Fort is a 7th-century fort in Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The historical fortress stands on a high mound in the northwestern corner of the “City of Flowers” Peshawar. The fort was built sometime in the 7th century and had remained as a residence for the royals in the Durrani Empire since December 1747, after Ahmad Shah Durrani conquered Peshawar.

Bala Hisar Fort
Bala Hisar Fort” by NoahOmarY is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

After that, it was captured by the Maratha Empire, then the British East India Company. The fort today remains to be a headquarter for the Frontier Corps of Pakistan. The Bala Hissar Fort was mentioned for the first time by a Chinese traveler Xuanzang. The higher area of the fort was known to be the citadel and is the present Bala Hissar.

During the times of Babur, the Bala Hissar Fort was called the Bagram Fort. After being captured by the Durranis, it was used as the Royal residence of the Afghan Kings. In the Battle of Peshawar, the Marathas took over the fort.

Skardu Fort

The Skardu Fort is located in the city of Skardu in Gilgit-Baltistan. It is more commonly known as Kharpocho, which means “The King of Forts.” The fort’s construction took place at the end of the sixteenth century by King Ali Sher Khan. During the construction, the general of the Dogra Rajput clan, which was working under the king, realized the potential of the fort’s location and occupied it from the king.

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Afterward, several kings tried to occupy the fort, including Aurangzeb. The Skardu Fort was of military significance during the First Kashmir War, as the State Forces of Jammu and Kashmir were deployed inside the Skardu Fort.

It is truly a military structure that held the forces for many wars in the past, and thousands have been bewitched by the captivating architecture of the one-of-a-kind Skardu Fort. In their book “K2, The Savage Mountain: The Classic True Story Of Disaster And Survival..” Charles Houston and Robert Bates, two American mountaineers, said they were “lavishly entertained” when they visited the Skardu Fort.

Sangni Fort

One of the many fortifications around the Potohar Plateau is the Sangni Fort, located in Gujar Khan, Kallar Syedan District, Rawalpindi, and was built sometime around the 18th-19th century. It was primarily used as a fortress to hold prisoners in and keep watch of the empire’s borders. The fort stands right at the top of a small hill, providing a scenic view of its villages.

forts of pakistan: sangni fort
Sangni Fort” by Khalid Mahmood is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

A shallow gorge protects the fort from all three sides, and a perennial stream runs through it. There are four bastions on all sides. The Sangni fort is one of the most well-preserved forts of Pakistan, with even the sentry posts still functional to this day.  It was abandoned after the British colonialization but was later on used for spiritual purposes.

A saint known as Sufi Abdul Hakim resided in the nearby village. He had gathered quite a following in the nearby town, and fifty years after his death, some of his followers claimed that they saw the saint in their dreams, who ordered them to shift his grave to the fort. To this day, the shrine of Sufi Abdul Hakin stands right in the middle of the Sangni fort, now known as “Sangni Sharif.”

Pakistan is blessed with fascinating cultural and religious heritage, from mosques, churches, temples, and gurdwaras to archaeological sites, monuments, tombs, forts, and stupas. There is a rich history and ancient culture to be seen in every corner of Pakistan. In reality, wherever you stand in Pakistan, it was once a place where history was made.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article/paper are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Paradigm Shift.

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