Sunday, 1 April 2012

'Desperate' glory of Pakistani heritage

By: Haroon Baloch
April 1, 2012 



Statue of Priest from Mohenjo Daro
Nations who remember their past have survived – heritage ensures the survival of cultures and those less likely bother about their heritage are crippled in ensuring their survival.

The land where Pakistanis dwell has witnessed the footprints of eminent warriors like Nadir Shah, Mehmud Ghaznavi, Halaku Khan, and rules of great emperors like Moguls Shahansha Akbar, Aurangzeb, Shah Jahan, etc. Incredible to this adds when archeologists find thousands of years old Budha civilizations in early 20th century at Taxila, Mohenjodaro and Harappa.


Similarly another type of heritage belongs to shrines like Chanan Pir, Bahauddin Zakariya, Shah Rukn-e-Alam, Shah Shams Tabrez, Pak Pattan, etc. The marvels of centuries old forts in Southern Punjab, Sindh, Gilgit-Baltistan, and parts of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa are also part of our rich cultural heritage. These incredible forts include but are not limited to Qila Derawar, Qila Kot Diji, Hunza Fort, Baltit Fort, Rohtas Fort, etc.


Ancient Buddha sculpture at Taxila:  Photo by Derek Brown. 
Mainly Pakistani heritage is spread over five periods:

  • Indus Civilization.
  • Gandhara Civilization.
  • Islamic Civilization.
  • Sikh Rule.
  • British Rule.
Indus Civilization
Around 8000 years B.C. being among the most ancient civilizations on earth, Indus Civilization captures the huge global attraction. Moenjodaro, Harappa, Mehargarh, Kot Diji and Rehman Dheri belong to this civilization which the Pakistani archaeologists along with the French excavated during 1980s.

City of Mohenjo Daro - one of the ancient Indus Civilization site:
Photo by Arving Garg
 The ornaments found in the dug outs of Moenjodaro and Mehargarh tell the history of the advancement of the Indus civilization. Moenjodaro, also considered the most ancient planned city in the world, helps us in finding ancient roots of the invention of wheel.

Gandhara Civilization

Relics of ancient Gandhara Civilization at Taxila: 
Photo by Derek Brown
During the 2nd century B.C., state declared the Buddhism as the official religion. It flourished in this region by the next 1000 years till 10th A.D. Taxila hardly a 20 miles (32 Km) northwest from the federal capital Islamabad remained the center of Gandhara Civilization whereas other than Taxila, Charsaddah and Swat were also two other places that had the cultural, trade and educational importance.

After the invasion of Macedonian warrior, Alexander the great in 326 B.C. Greek culture also established its blend on the existing culture and hundreds of Stupas and monasteries tell the story of their zenith.

Disappearing glimpses of Buddhists civilization at Taxila:  Photo by Derek Brown 
Islamic Civilization
The latest glorifying civilization of this land, Islamic period begins with the invasion of Muhammad bin Qasim in 712 A.D. This civilization's stamps are more evident in parts of this region in the form of Mogul architectures like Badshahi Masjid (Lahore), Shahi Qila (Lahore), Shalimar Bagh (Lahore), Hiran Minaret (Lahore), tomb of Shah Jahan (Lahore), etc.

Magnificent view of Badshahi Masjid, Lahore:  Photo by Derek Brown.

Fading carvings on the walls of Lahore Fort: Photo by Derek Brown
Following the Arabic invasion, many other Muslim rulers from the far western Asian states (now Turkey, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan) also intervened in the daily rules of business, brought Arabic and Persian languages too as their means of communication and hence a new language Urdu was introduced.

Lahore Fort Entrance with Bara Dari in its footsteps:  Photo by Derek Brown

A piece of Muslim architect, Bara Dari, Lahore:  Photo by Derek Brown
Urdu was initially known as the language of Lashkar, the invading army's language and afterwards at the time of Pakistan's independence in 1947, this was declared the official language of the country.


Remnants of a Hindu temple in Pothohar region: Photo by Derek Brown
Gurdwara Hasanabdal: Photo by Nadeem Qaiser
Sikh Rule
Roots of Sikhism are buried in Punjab and are associated with Guru Nanak Dev (1469-1538 A.D.). Mogul emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir's death destabilized the Muslim empire in the India and Charat Singh in 1763 established the first stronghold in Punjab

The Sikh Rule was later on succeeded by Mahan Singh and the famous Maharaja Ranjit Singh who during his 40 years of rule expanded his reign from Jamuna to Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa and Multan to Azad Kashmir.

British Rule
Before Pakistan's came into being as an independent and sovereign state, the Great Britain ruled it for 90 years. They captured the golden sparrow of sub-continent in 1857 in the name of East India Company and brought their political, educational, social systems along with their religion and language. They not only gifted their modern lifestyle to people of this region, but also established their institutions.

Karachi Metropolitan Corporation building: Photo by Haroon Baloch
As of British Empire during 19th and 20th centuries, enormous modern development took place in this part of the continent. They also channelized the distant areas with extensive railways routes.

Old Presidency in Rawalpindi, Ziarat rest house, Karachi Empress Market, KMC building Karachi, old campus of Punjab University, Gordon College Rawalpindi, Islamia College Peshawar, and Cathedrals in Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Peshawar are just few examples of the British construction.

Preserve to Learn from Experiences
To my personal experience in my travel across the country, our heritage is in deterioration – except some of the places have got the prominence in terms of preservation – unfortunately limited to a few miles in the encirclement of provincial capitals, which is a sad story.

US Dty. chief of Mission Rich Hoagland visiting
Badshahi Masjid:  Photo by Derek Brown
Role of international organizations and external governments in preserving the Pakistani heritage is more impressive than of Pakistani government. UNESCO, United States and German funds in this regard are considerable. United States especially is committed to helping preserve the richness of Pakistani archeological sites through the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation, which has provided more than $1.8 million towards 17 different cultural and archeological projects in Pakistan over the past decade.

Preserving our cultural heritage is significant because it tells us thousands of stories from our past, exposes us to our weaknesses and wrong experiences, and enlightens us to the future path.

This soil has absorbed hundreds of thousands golden of years where human life has evolved to the phase it is today. No doubt this land owned both golden as well as dark phases in the history, but if lessons from the history remained unlearnt, we might not be able to grab a place in the history.

(With special thanks to US Photographer Derek Brown.) 

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