Derawar Fort or Qila Derawar is a gigantic citadel in Bahawalpur district, on the edge of Cholistan Desert, in southern Punjab, Pakistan. Square in shape and towering over the wide stretch of surrounding semi-desert, the massive fort can easily be seen from miles. It looks glowing gold particularly when the early morning rays hit the fort and during evening sunset on the fort. Derawar Fort is considered as one of the most impressive structures in the area that dwarfs other Nawab Palaces in architecture. As a must explore landmark it makes an exciting trip from the city center.
Historically the fort was built in the 9th century under the kingship of Rai Jajja Bhati, a Hindu Rajput from Jaisalmer in the Rajasthan state India. It was captured by the Abbasi Nawab of Bahawalpur, Sir Sadeq Mohammad Khan I, in 1733. The fort was said to have rebuilt by the Nawab to its present looks. The fort was once lost owing to Bahawal Khan’s preoccupation at Shikarpur but was regained by Nawab Mubarak Khan in 1804.
The Cholistan desert covers 26,000 sq km (10,000 sq miles) and extends into the Thar Desert to India. The desert surrounding the fort was once well watered by Hakra, the then Ghaggar River known as the Sarasvati in Vedic times. Until 1960 when the Sutlej was diverted, Derawar was still watered by a canal but afterward, it was deserted and dried out. The fort has already lost most of the features and is in a state of turmoil. Along the 500km of the dried up river, there are almost 400 archaeological sites and most of the sites date back to Indus Valley Civilization.
The red brick edifice has been fortified by a 5 foot thick and 30 meters high walls with a series of bastions on each side. Most of the bastions present geometric design made by burnt bricks. Running 1500 m in circumference with each side measuring 204.8m in length, the square fort is the most robust and glorious stronghold.
Inside of the fort, there are several buildings including quarters of the royal family and quarters for Nawab’s army. However, the entire building is deserted and turning to dust. In the dusty courtyard of the fort, there are two old vintage guns mounted on pedestals. There are small underground cells on the western side now infested with bats and wood being eaten by termite. It still looks more impressive from outside than from inside.
The impressive Derawar mosque is situated nearby which is the exact replica of Moti Mosque at the Red Fort in Delhi and was built in 1844 AD. Moreover adjacent to the fort is the magnificent site of the burial ground of Nawabs family. Visiting the burial site requires prior permission. Moreover, there are some shops nearby but it is recommended that all visitors arrange prior arrangements for food/drinks, etc.
Derawar Fort is located about 45 kilometers from Ahmed Pur East (Dera Nawab Sahib) and about 95 km from the city of Bahawalpur taking roughly 3 hrs to reach. A 4WD is preferred for this trip. The gate of fortress located on the southern side is reached by a winding ramp. Prior permission from the present Amir of Bahawalpur to get into the premises of the fort and royal graveyard is required.