Sindh
Posted in Sindh Tourism Blogs

Sindh Province of Pakistan

Sindh is the third largest provinces of Pakistan with Karachi being the capital city. Locally known as Mehran, the region covers an area of 54,407 square miles (140,914 square km) inhibiting some 47,886,051 (as per 2017 census) people following a unique culture with 52.02% urban population.

 Geography

Geographically Sindh is located to the southeast of the country making up the lower Indus Basin. The entire landscape of Sindh province is flat except the Kirthar range making the western border with Balochistan province. Punjab is located to the northeast, the Indian state of Rajhistan and Gujrat to the east, and the Arabian Sea bordering the entire south.

 Major Cities

The province of Sindh has 29 districts including 5 in Karachi. Major cities of Sindh are Karachi, Thatta, Hyderabad, and Sukkur, where most of the tourist attractions are located.

 History

The name “Sindh” has been derived from a Sanskrit word “Sindhu” which essentially means “ocean, river or stream” referring primarily to “Indus River”.  The term “Sindhu” was phonetically transformed into Hindu in old Persian and with a slight further modification, it was then called Indu by the Greek who conquered Sindh under the command of Alexander the great. The word Indu was further extended to the word Indus to feature a broader concept, basically a name given by the British to an entire region of South Asia and called it India.

The land making up today’s Sindh has been a cradle of successive civilizations. The first known village settlements to the human on this land dates as far back as to 7000 BCE when the Mehrgarh settlements of Baluchistan expanded westward to Sindh. It then gave rise to the Indus valley civilization which was known as a highly developed society ever existed in the region from about 3000 BC to 1500 BCE.

Sindh was conquered by the Persian Achaemenid Empire in the sixth century BC before Alexander the Great conquered the region in 326 and 325 BC. Following his death, Sindh came under the dominance of the ancient Greek Seleucids Empire for a brief period and then Mauryan Empire lead by Chandragupta. The Mauryan emperor Ashoka spread the Buddhist religion in Sindh during his rule and later it was replaced by Hinduism which introduced the caste system. The 17 years old Arab conqueror Mohammad Bin Qasim invaded Sindh in 711 AD to spread Islam which is still deep-rooted in the region.

Form 9th to 19th century the province hosted seven successive dynasties named as Sumras, Sammahs, Arghuns, Tarkhan, Mughals, Kalhoras, and Talpurs.

In 1524 the Mughal Empire was welcomed into Sindh and the empire became more powerful in the region gradually. During the reign, Mughals produced various scholars but after the death of Aurangzeb, the Mughal Empire and its institutions began to decline. The British came through East India Company in the 19th century and divided it into districts and assigned the Wadera system to collect taxes. The British ruled the area for a century before it became part of Pakistan in 1947.

Cultural Heritage

Clothing

Sindhis are the most colorfully dressed people. The women in the cities wear the Shalwar kameez or the sari and those in the rural deserts dress in long red skirts and bright tie-died shawls. The men in the urban wear the traditional shalwar kameez or the kurta with pajama and typical Sindhi colorfully cap embroidered with glittered tiny mirrors. In the rural areas, the men wear traditional long-tailed shirts over Lungis and embroidered slippers with upturned pointed toes.

 Religious affiliation

Sindh is also known as “Bab ul Islam” meaning “the gateway to Islam”. Most of the rural Sindhi cultural life revolves around the Shrines of Sufi saints where devotional songs and religious music makes up the major part of religious ceremonies.

Arts and crafts

The tradition of Sindhi craftwork has roots dating back to 5000 years of invaders and settlers. The graceful floral and geometrical patterns that can be observed in everyday objects from clay to fabric and from wood & stone to metal traces the Muslim influence in the region.

Culture

Sindh is world renowned for its arts and handicrafts. The province was historically a large producer of traditional indigo and cotton cloth and the produce was sold in ancient markets of Damascus, Baghdad, Basra, Istanbul, Cairo, and Samarkand. Sindhi blue shade Ajrak has existed in Sindh since the birth of its civilization and is a mark of respect when it is given to an honored guest or friend.

Languages

The Sindhi language is the major provincial language and the identity of the province yet there are other regional languages like Kutchi, Lari, and Saraiki are also spoken in the different parts of the province. Karachi, the provincial capital, is a melting pot of diverse cultures and languages where Urdu is spoken as a major source of communication while English is the official language in the entire province.

Attractions  

Sindh, one of the ancient cities of the world, has a number of tourist attractions ranging from historic ruined cities to contemporary edifices. Mohenjo Daro, Sukkur bridge, The Talpur-era Kot Diji Fort, Noor Mahal Palace in Khairpur, the gigantic Ranikot Fort, Shah Jahan Mosque, Makli Necropolises, Heliji Lake, Keenijhar Lake, Sindh Museum, Karachi port, and tourist attractions in Karachi are the places make Sindh a destination of choice.

Sindh also has a rich legacy of traditional handicrafts evolved over the centuries. Its tradition of Lacquered woodwork; paintings on woods, tiles and pottery; and hand-woven textiles and Ajraks is a tradition alive today and is a source of living for many hardworking Sindhis.

 Economy

The economy of Sindh is largely agriculture-based and depends entirely on Indus River as a prime water source. Major produces include cotton, rice, wheat, and sugarcane besides the production of dates, bananas, and mangoes which are sold in the international markets. The province also has a reputation for producing polished ornaments including pottery, leatherwork, textiles, carpets etc. and the craftsmanship of Sindhi people since the Indus Valley Civilization.

Climate

Sindh lies in the tropical and subtropical regions of Pakistan; the climate of Sindh, therefore, ranks among the hottest during summers (30 to 50 degrees) and mild during winter (10-30 degrees). The northern territories are mostly hot and humid being mostly desert plains while the southern regions annexing the Arabian sea enjoy cool breezes in the evenings and nights.

Best time to visit

November to March is the best time to visit Sindh as summers are hard to travel particularly in the interior parts of the province.

 Things to do

Sindh has a rich cultural, architectural, and natural heritage. Its several thousand years old ancient ruins, holy shrines, Palaces, Forts, British era Gothic-style buildings, Lakes, and its rich wildlife heritage in the Kirthar national park provides with a range of options to choose from. Karachi is base, one can enjoy tourist attractions in Karachi and day excursions from Karachi.

Access

Sindh is accessible both by air and by road. Jinnah international airport in Karachi is the major international airport besides several domestic airports at major cities. One can also fly from Islamabad International airport and Lahore International airport by making a domestic connection with an international flight. By road, Sindh is accessible from other major cities of Pakistan either by train or by private buses.

Islamabad
Posted in Islamabad Tourism Blogs

Islamabad

Islamabad is the modern capital city of Pakistan located in the north of Potohar Plateau, at the foothill of the Margalla Hills, at an elevation of 507 m above the sea level. Geographically the capital city is located 185 km (115 mi) east of Peshawar, 295 km (183 mi) North and Northeast of Lahore, 120 km (75 mi) South and Southwest of Muzaffarabad, and 300 km(190 mi) West and Southwest of Srinagar, the capital of Indian Kashmir.

History of Islamabad

Historically the city is known to have been one of the ancient human settlements in Asia. Some of the earliest Stone Age artefacts found on the plateau date back to 100,000 to 500,000 years. Excavations have also revealed the existence of a pre-historic culture settled on the banks of Soan River where relics and human skulls found were dating back to 5000 BC. Moreover, the region has historically been crossroads of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with the Margalla pass acting as a gateway.

Islamabad Capital City

After the partition of the subcontinent, when Pakistan was established in 1947, Karachi was the first capital. Soon it was realized that Karachi as capital was not suitable technically as it was located at one end of the country, making it vulnerable to attacks from the Arabian Sea. A capital, preferably in the centre with a moderate climate, which could easily be accessed from all parts of the country and logistically viable, was therefore needed. The commission that was specially constituted for the selection of the capital city in 1958 chose the land making up current-day Islamabad as the location of Islamabad was closer to army headquarters in Rawalpindi and the disputed territory of Kashmir in the North.

Development

In 1960, Islamabad was constructed as a forward capital for several reasons. Originally nestled against the Margalla hills, Islamabad was planned by a Greek firm of architects, called Konstantinos Apostolos Doxiadis, based on grid scheme and triangular in shape with apex towards the Hills. The capital territory is divided into eight zones designated Administrative Zone, Commercial District, Educational Sector, Industrial Sector, Diplomatic Enclave, Residential Areas, Rural Areas and Green Area. Islamabad city is divided into five major zones: Zone I, Zone II, Zone III, Zone IV, and Zone V. The sectors are lettered from A to I, and each sector is further divided into four numbered sub-sectors 1, 2, 3 and 4. Each sub-sector is accessed by streets and Galis and any address can easily be accessed.

The city is broadly spread having well paved and wide tree-lined streets, elegant public buildings and larges houses; each sector has its own well – organized residences, shops, and parks. Because of its easy-to-navigate sectors & zones and other characteristics Islamabad is ranked as Gamma-world city. The capital was not moved directly from Karachi to Islamabad, it was first shifted temporarily to Rawalpindi and then to Islamabad when the development was completed.

Climate

Islamabad features a strange climate with hot summers accompanied by a monsoon season and then follows wet winters. Usually, its micro-climate is regulated by three artificial reservoirs; Rawal Lake in Islamabad, Simli Dam, and Khanpur Dam. Summers from May to July are the hottest months with an average temperature of 40 degrees; the highest temperature recorded was 45 °C (113.0 °F) on June 23, 2005. Monsoon season spans from July through September with heavy rainfalls and thunderstorms where the highest monthly rainfall recorded in July 1995 was 743.3 millimetres (29.26 in). Winters, however, are from October to March with temperature varies subject to location. The lowest ever temperature was recorded was −6 °C (21.2 °F) on January 17, 1967.

Things to Do:

Islamabad is a beautiful city for sightseeing. There are a number of exciting things to do in Islamabad including fishing in Rawal Lake, Paragliding on the Margalla Hills, Cycling along various designated routes in Islamabad, walking on the specially designed trails named as Trail 1, Trail 2, Trail 3, Trail 4, Trail 5, Trail 6, Saidpur Trail, and Bari Imam Trail, exploring museums and tourist places and visiting surrounding attractions in Rawalpindi, and Murree Hills as day excursion.

Shopping

Islamabad is well-planned city and each sector in Islamabad has a central shopping mall. One can hope to find all types of local and international brands at a reasonable cost. The popular markets are the F6 Markaz (aka Supermarket) F7 Markaz (aka Jinnah Super Market), F8 Markaz (aka Ayub Market), G6 Markaz (aka Melody Park), and G9 Markaz (aka Karachi Company). Each Markaz (Center) has its own uniqueness and each one is worth visiting. Besides, the Blue Area in Islamabad also has a variety of shops from tech shops to backers to garments and what not.

Super Market and Jinnah Super Market have a large collection of western food products, handicrafts, rugs and carpets, Pashmina shawls, Jewelry, souvenirs, gift items, furniture, bookstores and whatever tourists like to buy at reasonable prices.

Where to Eat:

Islamabad has almost all the tastes of food. From the Restaurants of star hotels to international chain restaurants to local food chains, and from Chinese to Thai to Italian to local cuisines, the food variety is diverse. Major restaurants are located in

How to reach Islamabad

By Air:

Islamabad has an international airport called Benazir Bhutto International Airport (IATA: ISB).  Flights from a variety of international destinations, including Dubai, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, London, Thailand, Sri Lanka, China.

By Bus:

Local transport companies including Skyways, Faisal Movers, Niazi express, and Daewoo Sammi are some of the international standard long-haul operators. It is possible to travel directly from major cities of Pakistan including Karachi, Multan, Bahawalpur, Faisalabad, Lahore, Peshawar etc. Almost all major transport stations are located outside twin cities and they have alternate arrangements to get passengers to the offices located within cities.

By Train:

There is train service to Rawalpindi from all major cities and it is possible to make it by train to Islamabad.

 

Basic components of tourism product
Posted in Tourism Blogs

Basic Components of Tourism Product

Tourism is a complex and multidisciplinary field constitutes a diverse amalgam of sectors and each sector is made up of a variety of products and services visitors/tourists choose according to their own taste and budget. Following are the basic components of tourism that can have an impact on overall tourism of a particular destination.

 

ATTRACTIONS

The primary motivation and preconditions of travel are the attractions of all kinds in a destination which are the major reason for providing pleasure to tourists. These attractions are classified as natural, manmade, and cultural which make up the major tourism product. Following are the details.

Natural Attractions

Natural attractions in a destination are the combination of public utilities including natural beauty, physical features, and the climatic features of the area. These attractions may include scenic places ranging from deep oceans, beaches, lakes, rivers, creeks to the mountains, landscapes, national parks, wildlife, flora & fauna, and diverse seasons.

Any destination abundant in natural beauty can also fall prey to threats and challenges of managing and preserving the resources. There are many instances of destinations lost their prominence because of the impact of tourists.

Manmade Attractions:

Manmade attractions include the built environment by the human. E.g. historical buildings, religious monuments, leisure parks, Disney lands, museums, aquariums, zoos, and orphanages etc. Tourism can be sustained to manmade attractions if the attractions are well preserved with respect to time.

Cultural Attractions:

These attractions usually hold aesthetic beauty in a society including the way of life of the indigenous community in a typical natural setting which obviously has spared itself from modernization, national events and festivals, customs, dress, art, handicraft, rituals, folklore, languages and local cuisines. In a developed city cultural attraction include discotheques, live or recorded music, clubs, social events, trade fairs, exhibitions, sports competitions etc.

Due to urban sprawl and modernization, indigenous communities gradually switching and adapting to modern life which results in a gradual fading of cultural beauty.

 

ACCESSIBILITY

Accessibility is a major tourism product/service and a key factor in the development of tourism. It comprises means (ports, airports, roads, highways, trails etc.) and mode (aerial, surface, and water) of transportation infrastructure which helps tourists reach their desired destinations and attractions.  Accessibility determines the tourists’ experience based on qualities including reliability, affordability, convenience, comfort, and variety. Tourism developments are dependent on the ease of access and types of transportation available. Destinations with sound accessibility features attract a lot of tourists and have longer tourist seasons which help stakeholders earn healthy livings. Three major types of transportation are:

Air Transportation: 

This type of transportation includes all types of airways (commercial plans, jets, helicopters, etc.) to travel long distances. This type of means of transportation helps people travel quickly and are a source of time saving and development.

Surface Transportation:

It is a type of transportation through roadways or railways and is considered the cheapest means of transportation. Trains, buses, cars, carts, and all types of animal transportation feature surface transportation.

Water Transportation:

It is a 19th-century revolution and made an important contribution to travel after the innovation of shipping technology. Ships, ferry’s, yachts, boats, etc. make up this type of transportation.

 

ACCOMMODATION

Accommodation is a service sector and is subdivided into further categories as shown below:

Service Accommodation:

It refers to the important services provided by the various bodies as mentioned below.

Lodging:

From 5-star resorts to guest houses and from cruise ships to camping, there are various forms lodging comprises and these are categorized as star hotels, apartments, lodges, inns, villas, resorts, huts, tree houses, guest houses, RVs, camping villages etc.

Food & Beverage:

Food & Beverage is a vital component of the overall tourism industry. The sector includes high-end restaurants, conventional restaurants, fast food operators, functional catering, and vending outlets etc.

Resident attitude:

The attitude and overall behaviour of residents of a destination are significant determinants of tourism. Moreover, the way of treating tourists and their general safety in a destination make or mar the flow of tourism to a great extent. The amicable interaction between tourists and residents leaves a good impression on the fate of the destination.

Supplementary Accommodation:

Supplementary Accommodation or Self-Catering Accommodation refers to the premises which offer only accommodation but not the services of a typical hotel that provides food & accommodation in return of cash per day. Examples of such type of accommodation are Youth Hostels and Tourist holiday villages etc.

 

AMENITIES

There are two types of amenities:

Natural: 

These include seashores, sea bath, fishing, rock climbing, trekking, sightseeing, river, sunrise etc.

Man-made:

These amenities are human designed and include Dance, Music, Drama, Cinema, Swimming Pool, Fair & Festivals, and Internet etc.

 

Impact of tourism
Posted in Tourism Blogs

Impacts of Tourism

Tourism has strong direct, indirect and induced impacts on local communities either positive or negative in aspect. The scale of impacts of tourism can often vary from country to country based on the structure of the tourism sector and how well tourism activities are linked with the local economy. The positive and negative impacts of Tourism industry can be classified into three major areas called the socio-cultural impact, economic impact, and environmental impact. Below are the details.

 

SOCIO-CULTURAL IMPACT

Tourism may have diverse impacts on the socio-cultural aspects of life in a particular region depending on the strengths of the region. The impacts can be both positive and negative in nature. The socio-cultural impacts are the social changes in the lives of local residents, improvements and development of infrastructure, interactions between peoples and culture background, attitudes and behaviours, and their relationships to material goods. The introduction of tourists to sensitive areas can be damaging, cause a loss of culture, and may contribute to the preservation of culture and cultural sites through increased resources.

Positive Impacts of Tourism on Society

  • Infrastructure development benefitting the local population.
  • Awareness of the superfluous customs prevailing in the region.
  • Helps eradicate poverty by promoting the local arts and crafts produced by the local people.
  • Fosters a sense of pride among locals.
  • Helps strengthen bonds among communities.
  • Helps establish peace and security through understanding and helps release stress
  • Prevent urban centralization
  • Helps conserve culture and tradition
  • Restrains migration because of business/employment opportunities locally.
  • Helps maintain part-time activities due to the creation of multiple opportunities.
  • Promote safety as institutions feel it important to safeguard tourists and stakeholders.

 Negative Impacts of Tourism on Society

  • Hinders cultural freedom.
  • Deters the life of the local population because of congestion, noise, and pollution.
  • Promotes social evils like alcoholism, drug addiction, and prostitution in the local society.
  • Displacement of locals to create new accommodation and recreation facilities.
  • Cause of spread of contagious diseases.
  • Distortion of community structure, family relationships, collective traditional lifestyles.
  • Devaluation of unique artefacts
  • Increased child labour due to growth

 

ECONOMIC IMPACT

The economic impact can be measured in terms of monetary benefits and the overall economic development of the society. Economic impacts are usually observed as positive because of its contribution to employment, better services, and social stability. At the same time, these impacts can also contribute to high living costs within the community leading to rising costs for locals and push local business out of the areas.

Positive Impacts of Tourism on Economy

  • Tourism (inbound and domestic) helps to generate revenue from foreign shores.
  • Create job opportunities.
  • Stimulate the development of infrastructure.
  • Generates opportunities for small-scale local businesses.
  • Contributes to exchange earning
  • Helps increase government revenues through tax

Negative Impacts of Tourism on Economy

  • Tourism (outbound) creates economic leakage.
  • Create a sense of dependency on the customer or economic recession.
  • Promote parallel economies.
  • Expenses for development
  • Import of particular food items
  • International investor intervention

 

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT

Besides its impact on national and local economies, the tourism sector has a strong environmental aspect that must be considered. Tourism’s environmental impact refers to its impact on nature and surrounding areas which collectively make up tourism attractions in a particular destination. Environmental impacts basically affect the overall carrying capacity of a destination, natural cycle, flora and fauna, vegetation, air quality, water bodies and the water tables.

Positive Impacts of Tourism on Environment

  • Promotes investment in the conservation of natural habitats and the ecosystem.
  • Contributes to the stability of the ecosystem.
  • Discourages deforestation and over-fishing in water bodies in developing countries.
  • Contributes to creating awareness of the value of the environment for humans.
  • Helps produce an alternative to natural resources
  • Helps lead a better quality of life

Negative Impacts of Tourism on Environment

  • Promotes vandalism, littering and littering.
  • Makes way for the destruction of wildlife and vegetation.
  • Invites air, and water pollution and disturbs animal and marine life.
  • Creates a large carbon footprint.
  • Creates a sense of dependency on natural resources.
  • Causes depletion of natural resources
  • Disturbs natural habitat of wildlife

 

 

 

Tourism
Posted in Tourism Blogs

Tourism

TOURISM – A BRIEF OVERVIEW

“Tourism” is a concept coined lately as compared to “Travel” which has roots deeply penetrated into the human history. Travel has fascinated man from the very beginning. In fact, from the ancient times, travel has been an important social activity of human. People traveled on foot to hunt, to explore or perform religious obligations. Moreover, food, shelter, and trade were some of the major drives to make people travel.

Human endeavor to explore bounties of the lord was somewhat limited in ancient times. Gradually, human desire to explore new places within the respective realm or beyond the borders, to seek nature’s bounties and pleasure of life, to experience the diversity and the desire to be educated became the essential part of life.

With the steady development in communication and technology over the years, a phenomenal increase in the volume of travel and human interest to explore alien places has further developed. The idea of sailing, the invention of the wheel, the creation of engine, the beginning of commercial airlines, development of infrastructure and the advancement in technology have all brought about phenomenal changes in the travel industry. Likewise, along with scientific discoveries, the socio-economic progress of humans in different societies has also further improved.

The term “tourism” was coined only in recent years and the status of the industry was given to the field after its rapid growth and contribution observed towards human wellbeing. During the last two centuries, the evolutions and fast development of communication and technology helped tourism take new heights. Thus, in the long journey from a dramatic start to quick development patron tourism was defined from diverse perspectives. Before going any further, let’s first differentiate the two basic notions Travel and Tourism.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN TRAVEL AND TOURISM

The terms “Travel” and “Tourism” are often used interchangeably but Tourism as a subject is a wider concept than Travel. Tourism encompasses a lot more than Travel alone though Travel is an older notion and remained a strong basis for Tourism to evolve.

Tourism is the journey to and the stay at a destination outside one’s usual place of residence as well as the activities undertaken for leisure and recreation whereas Travel infers journeys undertaken from one place to another for any purpose including work, leisure and/or residence. This implies all tourism includes some travel, but not all travel is tourism.

WHAT IS TOURISM?

Many of us at some point in our lives must have been tourists yet defining it can still be slightly difficult. Despite its growing importance, there is still no harmony on a single definition of tourism because of its multidisciplinary nature.  Tourism is a dynamic and ever-developing industry giving birth to new niches and requiring the ability to adapt constantly with respect to change in time, technology, the behavior of tourists/consumers, and a variety of other factors that directly or indirectly impact tourism.

Although tourism is defined in different ways by each institution, yet the essence can be explained in a crux as:

“Tourism is a collection of activities, services, and industries which deliver a travel experience comprising transportation, accommodation, eating and drinking establishments, retail shops, entertainment businesses and other hospitality services provided for individuals or groups traveling away from home”

Likewise, leading and conventional institutions have defined tourism in their own perspective. However, to prevent the disagreement, UNWTO defined tourism as:

“Tourism comprises the activities of persons traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business, and other purposes”.

 

WHY IS TOURISM IMPORTANT?

Tourism is a hope. It has become one of the fastest growing industries in the world, even surpasses oil, food, and automobile industries. It has a strong impact on the development accounting for 10 percent of the global GDP and contributing towards the generation of every 11th job. It is now a significant source of income generation, poverty alleviation, foreign exchange earnings, and promotion of cross-border cooperation, and cross-cultural understanding.

Tourism is an extensive subject and has multidimensional impacts. Its contribution to economic well-being depends on the quality of its offers and revenues generated through offers. The course of tourism activities and operations are linked with and have a strong impact on three major areas including economic, socio-cultural, and environmental which have both positive and negative impact.

 

 

A journey through history of Pakistan
Posted in Tourism Blogs

A Journey through history of Pakistan

Modern day Pakistan is a land enormously blessed with a rich history like no other country in the world. A journey through the history of Pakistan outlines the significance and richness of this land. It is a land hosting ancient civilizations of the world and housing most significant archaeological sites recognized worldwide. These sites and cities, dating back to thousands of years, are simply a testimony to the existence of ancient civilization in human history on this land. The legacy has passed through different empires and each empire has left a mark that made the history of this country alluring. A brief account of historic events this land has hosted is highlighted below.

Ancient History of Pakistan – A journey through the ages

Soanian Culture: From the lower Paleolithic era

The edged pebble tools discovered during an excavation on the bend of the Soan River near the twin cities (Rawalpindi/Islamabad) is perhaps the oldest sign of life in the heart of Pakistan. Thus, long before the emergence of the great Indus Valley Civilization (IVC) on the banks of River Indus, about some 5,000 years ago, the earliest known humans to make present-day Pakistan their abode were a hunter-gatherer society who lived some 50,000 years ago called the Soanians. They are called Soanians because of the site called the Soan Valley where Stone Age relics are found in the form of tools and pottery. The Soan valley is a rich archaeological and natural heritage site along the Soan Riverbank. Today, the river has been reduced to nothing more than a sewer and a dump site, unfortunately.

Mehrgarh: the world’s oldest village culture

Mehrgarh is one of the most significant Neolithic (7000 B.C.E. to 3200 B.C.E.) sites located in Balochistan province of Pakistan, on the Kachhi plain near the Bolan Pass, between the cities of Quetta (Kalat) and Sibi. The 9000 years old settlement encompassing an area of about 200 hectares was discovered in 1974 by an archaeological team directed by French archaeologist Jean-François Jarrige.

The earliest settlement unearthed was a small farming village dated between 7000 B.C.E.–5500 B.C.E. from early food-producing era called Pre-Harappan phase. Evidence founded from the excavation at Mehrgarh unfolded an exceptional insight to life before and during the first stages of the Indus Valley civilization, one of the earliest sites of human civilization existed in today’s Sindh province of Pakistan.

Archaeologists divide the occupation at the site into several periods. The first period (7000 B.C.E.–5500 B.C.E.) called the Neolithic and aceramic (without the use of pottery). Early Mehrgarh inhabitants lived in mud brick houses, used to store their grain in granaries, created tools fashioned with local copper ore, and lined their large container with bitumen. The progress continued through several hundred years until 2600 BCE when the region largely became arid and was abandoned in favour of Indus Valley Civilization.

Indus Valley civilization (3300 BC to 1800 AD): An advanced  society of the ancient time 

The Indus valley civilization (also known as the Harappan Civilization) was a Bronze Age riverine civilization that flourished along the Indus River Valley around 3300-1800 BCE. The IVC is known to have consisted of two major cities called Harappa in Punjab and Moenjodaro in Sindh excavated in 1921 and 1922 respectively.

The more than 5000 old Indus Valley Civilization is divided into three major phases and eras: the Early Harappans from 3300 to 2600 BCE (Regionalization era), the Mature Harappans from 2600 to 1900 BCE (Integration era), and the Late Harappans from 1900 to 1300 BCE (Localization era).

The people of Indus Valley Civilization were said to be very advanced in the use of technology. Their tools and system for measurement, their uniform size moisture-resistant fire-backed bricks, their buildings and sewage system all suggest the features of a highly advanced society at a time when America was the land of Red Indians and people in Europe dressed in animal hide. By around 1800 BCE, about five million inhabitants of Indus Valley Civilization cities had been abandoned and the reason was the climate change which disrupted the rivers system and they could not produce food anymore.

Gandhara (1st Century BC to 11th century AD): the cradle of Buddhism   

The ancient kingdom of Gandhara comprised of the major cities in Northwest Pakistan, the Potohar plateau, and Jalalabad in Kabul. Its main cities were Pushpapura (current day Peshawar), Pushkalavati (Current day Charsada), Mardan, Swat, Dir, Malakand, Bajaur agencies, Takshashila (modern Taxila ) in Punjab and Varmayana (Bamiyan in Jalalabad) in Afghanistan. The kingdom was the cradle of Gandhara civilization and spread to rest of the Buddhist world as far away as Japan and Korea.

Buddhism was adopted as state culture and lasted here for over 1000 years. The famed archaeological sites spread over Taxila, Swat and other cities of KP, as well as rock carvings and petroglyphs along the Karakoram Highway (ancient Silk Route), are a great reminder of the Gandhara Civilization. The Kingdome of Gandhara lasted from 6th century BC to 11th century AD. It attained its height under Kushan Kings from 1st to 5th century AD and was disappeared when it was conquered by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1021 AD.

 Alexander (326 BC): The Great Conqueror

Alexander the great (famous as Sikandar-e-Azam in Urdu) of Macedonia, a wise philosopher and a fearless conqueror, entered Punjab in Pakistan from the northern route at Swat in 326 BC. He received a glorious welcome from Ombhi, the then ruler of Taxila, and was offered an alliance against the King Porus who was a source of agitation for Taxila and annexing regions. Alexander stayed at Taxila for some time and held the discussion with the learned people of the time. He left for south via the Indus River and crossed over to the region what is called Balochistan today.

Alexander wandered major parts of today’s Pakistan and left a sizeable population of his armies in every region he conquered including Gandhara.  When he died in June 323 AD, most of his armies returned home but he left his mark in the form of the Greek centre and people. The Kalash tribe in the north are said to be descendants of Alexander’s men. There are relics of Alexander and his armies all over Pakistan, such as old coins commemorating his battles and victories and the Jandial Temple in Taxila.

 The Maurya Empire (322 BCE – 185 BCE): an iron grip of Kings

The departure of Alexander the Great created a void which was filled by Chandragupta Maurya. He recruited an army and killed the king of tyrannical Magadha kingdom and ascended the throne and founded the Mauryan dynasty. Chandragupta used different techniques to expand his kingdom and expanded from eastern Iran to Burmese hills including the subcontinent. After 25 years of rule, he passed on the throne to his son, Bindusara, and became a Jain monk while he was Hindu. Bindusara further expanded the realm. After the death of Bindusara, Ashoka (son of Bindusara and grandson of Chandragupta), whom the world has ever known the greatest ruler, became the king of Mauryan dynasty. The empire Ashoka inherited was even larger than what his predecessors seized. He gave up violence and actively patronized Buddhism.

Ashoka (273 BC-232 BC), like his grandfather, started his career from Taxila as a governor.  He himself collected the ashes of Buddha and distributed among major cities of his empires and he constructed grand stupas and renovated older ones. Dharmarajika stupa in Taxila and the Butkara stupa in Swat are two of them. Mauryan control over northern areas is confirmed from the Rock Edicts left by Ashoka, such as at Shahbaz Garhi, Mardan.

Chandragupta, the founder of Mauryan Empire was Hindu but converted to Jain and became a monk in his later life, while Ashoka promoted Buddhism but it was not clear whether he formally converted or not. The stronghold of Mauryan Empire shrank 50 years after the death of Ashoka when the king was assassinated by his own general.

 The Mughal Empire (1526-1707): Where the splendid art and architecture boomed         

Babar was the first Mughal ruler and founder of the Mughal Empire in the subcontinent.  The dominance of the six Great Mughal Emperors lasted from 1526 to 1707 (Babur (1526-1530) Humayun (1530-1540, 1555-1556), Akbar (1556-1605), Jahangir (1605-1627), Shah Jahan (1627-1658), and Aurangzeb (1658-1707). During this period, the Mughals experienced ups and downs yet founded and built remarkable buildings with unique architecture, even boasting today, such as the Badshahi Mosque, the Shalimar Gardens, the Lahore Fort, Wazir Khan Mosque, Hiran Minar, and many more monuments in Punjab.

The Mughal way of architecture features decorating with stone carvings, glazed tile decorations, and beautiful decorative designs in precious stones set in marble. A vivid testimony is an exquisite work done inside the buildings in Lahore Fort, Badshahi Mosque, and Makli Tombs in Thatta (the largest necropolis in the world and home to the resting place of Sindh’s people, between the 14th and 18th centuries, with many belonging to kings, Queens, and saints).

The British Raj (1858 to 1947): A dominant realm in the subcontinent 

The British came in the guise of East India Company, ruled the Subcontinent from 1858 to 1947 and divided the subcontinent into Pakistan and India after almost 90 years presence in the region. However, much was done by the British for the administration of the country, infrastructure, and institutions. The glorious monuments like Aitchison College Lahore, Clock Tower in Peshawar, the clock tower in Faisalabad, Frere Hall Tower in Karachi are some of the remarkable pieces of architecture left by the British.