Pakistan’s rich history is certainly visible by the many historical structures, civilizations, and ruins that lay across the country. This land has been ruled by the greatest of all warriors and tribes; the Mauryas, Kushans, Arabs, Afghans, Alexander the Great, Mughals and the British. Each one of them has left their footprints through architectural structures making our country tourist-centric.
The country has 53 forts and castles across four provinces. However, only a few are known because they have been significantly highlighted in the media limiting tourist awareness. Today, I will break this piece of information down to all the ancient marvels situated in each province for you to enjoy reading; and explore over the summer holidays.
Starting with Sindh, where there is nothing more like exploring the vast open fields of land that are often undiscovered.
1. Qasim Fort
Or better known as Manora Fort is sadly buried in the naval base, but the lighthouse is the only reminder of the British era, who built it in 1889 to assist vessels harbouring at the Karachi Port. The Qasim Fort was constructed in 1814 by the Talpur Dynasty to celebrate the victory of the British over Napolean Bonapart in the war of Waterloo. Surprisingly the history of Karachi begins with this fort on February 1, 1939, when a British ship anchored off the island of Manora. By February 3, the fort at Kolachi (as previously known) surrendered and since then Karachi’s history has been turned forever.
2. Pacco Qilla
Moving a little further north from Karachi, once you enter Hyderabad city, technically the second largest city of Sindh you will only come across a labyrinth of narrow streets and bazaars selling everything under the sun from plastic bangles, gold and silver jewelry to Sindhi embroideries. The Shahi Bazaar leads to a hill where the main gate of Hyderabad Fort is located, locally known as Pucco/a Qilla (Brick Fort).
The fort was built by Ghulam Shah Kalhora in 1768, while the Kalhoras ruled Sindh until the Talpurs took over in 1787. Though now the entire city is constructed around the fort. However, the little of 15 metre (50 foot) high brick wall, the main gate that is still visible with a round corner tower, a room in the harem with faded frescos on the walls and a red lacquered ceiling is bound to be lavish. There is a small museum inside the fort displaying the Mirs weapons and portraits as well.
3. Kucha (Mud) Fort
To the west of the Pucca Qilla, is the Kucha (Mud) Fort, built by Ghulam Shah Kalhora in 1772 to defend the main fort from the west. The walls of the Kucha Qilla have washed out to quite an extent. But the only entrance to the fort is up a steep set of steps through the Shrine of Maki Shah Baba inside the walls of the fort itself.
4. Umerkot Fort
If you drive eastwards from Hyderabad to about 160 km (100 miles), a 3-hour non-stop drive from Hyderabad; you will come across the city of Umerkot. It is an old town that will give you a Hindu/Rajasthan feeling, probably because some 200 kilometers of just sand/desert borders around India deep into Rajasthan. The Umerkot fort was built in 1746 and is almost 250 meters (275 yards) square shaped 12 metre (40 foot) high walls of unbaked bricks. Its round towers of baked bricks stand at each corner and on either side of the main gate. Inside the fort lies a small museum, with Mughal arms, coins, miniatures, and history books with a map of Humayun’s (Mughal emperor) travels.
A watchtower oversees the countryside; A bronze canon with dragon handle bulges through a hole in the parapet. Another fort of Momal-ji-Mari already in ruins lies about 5 km (three miles) out of Umarkot on the Karna road.
5. Naukot Fort
Further down from Umarkot, towards Nagar Parkar, to enter into the Thar Desert is through Naukot (meaning New Fort). The Naukot Fort is a few kilometers along the road of Mithi and was built by Mir Ali Murad Talpurin in 1814. The Fort is a majestic sight from the desert sands, its thick walls dominating the landscape. One can walk around the top of the wall overlooking the vast desert landscape. Some of the soldier quarters are still intact giving us historian enthusiasts a taste of life from the 1800’s. The massive elephant doors have been removed, and the main entrance has been bricked up in an attempt to make the fort suitable for defense in today’s era.
6. Ranikot Fort
Also known as the Great Wall of Sindh, is a mysterious piece of structure standing in the middle of nowhere, defending nothing as described by Isobel Shaw. It appears at the Sann crossroads, some 76 km (47 miles) from the Hyderabad turning and about three hours from Karachi. The fort does not overlook any trade route or marked territory or no traces of any city are found near the fort. It just appears to be there by a ruler showing his power and greatness. In fact, there was no mention of the fort in the history of Sindh until 1812, when the Talpur Mirs spent 1.2 Million in repairs of the fort. The northern side of the fort is protected by a natural limestone cliff, while the walls stand only 10 meters (33 foot) tall on three sides of the wall. The entrance is through the Sann Gate, after crossing a dry fertile bed of the Rani river. Some three km down one can witness the Miri Fort, which was the residence of the Talpur Mirs in the heart of Ranikot fort. The ruins of the court can be explored , a harem, guest-rooms and soldier quarters still stand tall. The best part is that one can easily camp at the Ranikot fort, or stay at the guest house under the protection of the Gabols, who live in the village area. From Miri, you look up to Shergarh Fort (Abode of the Lions), the fortified citadel. Shergarh gives a very clear view of all the four gates of the fort and the small villages of Sann, Shahpur, Amri, and Mohan almost a clear, steady view of 36 km across.
7. Kot Diji Fort
Kot Diji Fort lies 226 km (140 miles) from Hala on the National Highway. Kot Diji was one of the great strategic forts built under the Talpurs reign by Mir Suhrab Khan (1803-30). The fort was rediscovered and excavated in 1955, no wonder it appears to be the most well-preserved forts of Pakistan. The area of Kot Diji is a delight to historians as the people living here were the forerunners of the Indus Civilization.
8. Sehwan Fort
Sehwan Fort a small almost demolished structure (or Kafir Qila) is located at Sehwan in Sindh. The Fort is said to have been built by Alexander the Great. It has colossal brick-work like that of Kalankot Fort in Thatta. Sehwan is situated on the right bank of River Indus at a distance of 135 km from Hyderabad. It is an old town of the pre-Islamic period.
The ancient fort lies north of the town and is a massive burnt brick structure laid in mud mortar. At the top of the fortification ground area, there are modern structures built by Sindh Government. At the side of the Fort area, there are deep ditches dug by French Archaeological Mission in collaboration with Federal and Provincial Archaeology Department.
Hope you enjoyed discovering about the forts across Sindh. Do visit them during your holidays and tell us more about what you were able to find around the areas. In the meanwhile, there will be more updates on Forts of Pakistan – This time from the Baluchistan Region.