”The King’s Road” Traveling to the end of Grand Trunk Road

When driving from the capital city of Islamabad to Peshawar, you might be asked “Will you take the motorway? Or the GT Road?”

This GT Road refers to the “Grand Trunk Road” the main road of the ancient Mughal Empire or “The King’s Road” Of course, it looks just like any other modern asphalt road, but it has a deep history.

In the first place, “The King’s Road” = Grand Trunk Road is an extensive network created by the Afghan dynasty Sher Shah Suri who, in the 16th Century, took power after the Mughal Empire and set about improving the roads. During the brief reign of the Suri Empire, the road from Agra to his hometown Bihar (India) was first completed. Then eastward to what is now Bangladesh, the road to Sonargaon was made. And westward to Multan, which is now Pakistan. The Mughal Empire returned and the whole Empire was expanded from the current port of Chittagong (or Chattogram), Bangladesh to the east, across the Khyber Pass to Kabul, Afghanistan, and developed into a vast Mughal Empire.

This “King’s Road” was rebuilt during the British India era. The British launched three invasion towards Afghanistan but failed to colonize it. This section from Calcutta to Peshwar, ending just before Afghanistan, was given the name “Grand Trunk Road” and it remains so to this day.
There are still remnants of the glory days of the prospering “Grand Trunk Road” that have been retained in small pockets.

Mughal Era Cobblestone Road

On the outskirts of Islamabad, there remains a cobblestone road from the Mughal Empire’s Grand Trunk Road. It can be found just beside the more modern GT Roads. The cobblestone road has the traces of wear by carriage wheels that travelled over it for so many years.

Lahore Fort (a UNESCO World Heritage Site)

The ancient capital of the Mughal Empire, Lahore. Since then, many buildings have been built on top of the original castle that remains since the Mughal era. This is a photo of the main gate at night, Alamgiri Gate. The Shah Jahan period was when the gorgeous additions were made with the famous Sheesh Mahal “Palace of Mirrors” reminiscent of the prosperous times of the Mughal Empire.

Rohtas Fort (a UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Built by Sher Shah Suri, sitting above the Grand Trunk Road. The Rohtas Fort was built by Sher Shah Suri to protect the strategic road from Peshawar to Lahore.

Caravan Serai

In the old bazaar of Peshawar, remains the caravan serai  which was a place for travelers to rest from their long journey. It was during the old days, that many merchants traveled through here and supported the vast Mughal Empire, and afterwards in colonial times as well. The Peshawar would have been a thriving place with products from all over Central Asia and India.

Khyber Gate

When traveling from Peshawar to Khyber Pass this is the monument and gate that stands at the entrance. On one side of the road is Jamrud Fort, a fort built by Sikhs who invaded an old fort and rebuilt it in 1823. In front of Khyber Pass, which connects between Central and South Asia, you can see the history of the battles that took place between various ethnic groups. After you cross the Khyber Pass, the Torkham boarder and the Grand Trunk Road continues into Afghanistan to the west.

Babur’s Tomb

The first Emperor of the Mughal Empire was Babur. Originally from Central Asia, he set up his first base of operations in Kabul, and from there, set up the Punjab Plain, and conquered India, then in 1526 he founded the Mughal Empire as the emperor, in Agra. Just 4 years later, he died in Agra. He wished to have his tomb in his beloved Kabul, so after a war and some years later his family built a tomb in Kabul. (This photo was taken during restorations of Babur Gardens, so now it is even more beautiful to visit and see the elaborate Mughal Empire’s tomb.)

After the war in Afghanistan, the tomb of Barbur was in horrible disrepair, reflective of the destruction of the great Mughal Empire’s war history. The Afghanistan’s Urban Heritage Project to develop the city and revive its cultural identity with Bagh-e Babur, Babur’s Garden. It overlooks the same city that started and ended the Grand Trunk Road.

Winter in Kabul, from the Babur Gardens with the tomb of Babur.

 

Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA

※Photos of Kabul are from 2006 and the scenery may have changed since then.
※This article is an updated version of the blog posted in “Salaam Pakistan” in June 2011.

 

Category : - Grand Trunk Road > - Monument / Heritage of Punjab > ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > ◆ Punjab > - Lahore > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan
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Shimshal Pamir: Will you try the Kuch? I did!

Shimshal Pamir’s summer KUCH, a Summer migration
If you know anything about summer in Shimshal, then you know there is a big part of life the “Pamir.” This is the tradition of  KUCH, where the villagers move their livestock from Shimshal Village at the end of May. They first go to the summer village of Shuizherav and then at the end of June, make their way to the second summer village of Shuwerth.

 

Will you try the kuch? I will kuch!
It happened one day in June 2009. I walked along the Yak road to Shuizherav. My slow pace meant that I was overtaken by the Shimshal villagers. Everyone who passed uttered “Kuch” again and again. In order to help out with this great migration, everyone from men to the youth return from the city and gathered in the Shuizherav village. The exhausted goats and sheep had already started to gather in large numbers by the time we reached Shuizherav. As we all waited for the day of kuch, amongest the flocks of sheep and goats all surrounding my tent, day and night, I could participate in milking the sheep and goats. This was an amazing chance to experience summertime in the Shimshal life.

 

Heading towards the Pamir
It was decided last night, as I was told “Tomorrow is the kuch.”

Securing the household goods to the male yak, the house was cleaned up, and by 9 am the first group of yaks depart. Then the yak’s enclosure was opened and everyone started heading towards Pamir. The sheep and goats walk a little slower and arrive a little later. On the plateau, at the foot of Minglik Sar, you will pass the beautiful lake Lup Zoi, then eventually you will cross Shimshal Pass.

 

The yaks carry the load of household goods and pass in front of the 6,000m (19,685 ft) peak of Minglik Sar, in Shimshal. The yak carries a stove that has inside a baby goat that cannot walk.

 

Looking back from here, there is a panoramic scene of the yaks moving in. Forgetting that we are at an altitude of 4,900m (16,076ft), we are happily walking with the yaks to the summer village of Shuwerth in Pamir.

 

The herd of female yaks and the children as they cross Shimshal Pass.

 

The special ceremony to celebrate the kuch and summer life.

Start of the Summer for Shuwerth
The villager women of Shimshal live in Shuwerth for three months, grazing the animals and making dairy products. As soon as the kuch is over, a ceremony is held to pray for the safety of the villagers and a good harvest for the summer. People prepare their homes and take care of the livestock. In the evening, the usual practice of milking the animals takes place.

 

The paddock of Shuwerth. The scene of milking the animals every morning and evening.

I was so sad to say goodbye to the people who took care of me while I was there in Shuwerth, and as I left, I kept looking back at the view many times, as not to forget.

 

Photos & Text: Mairko SAWADA

Visit: June 2009, Shimshal Pamir, Shimshal, Gilgit-Baltistan

※This article is updated and based on the blog “Salaam Pakistan” first uploaded in March 2011. The Shimshal Kuch tradition is rapidly waning. I have heard that since my visit, you can no longer see the women from the villages in 2018 & 2019.

 

Category : ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Shimshal
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Where is Shimshal Pamir?

I have been travelling to Shimshal Pamir, located beyond Shimshal village, since 2009. It is not at all easily accessible and the lodging is located at altitudes exceeding 4,700m (15,420 ft). The mountain scenery and expansive natural vista is amazing but also, the traditional life of the Wakhi  people is fascinating as well. Shimshal is well known for their KUCH, the great migrations with their cattle, which you can also experience when you go to this special place.

 

Where is Shimshal Village?

Shimshal village was only recently connected by jeep road in 2003, in the upper Hunza valley. Located just near the boarder between Pakistan and China, it is just east of the Khunjerab Pass. If you take the Karakoram Highway north, passing through the heart of Hunza, Kalimabad, then you take the Attabad Lake tunnel, and on to Passu Village through 60 kilometers of dirt road…then you reach Shimshal Village. Prior to 2003, you would have had to walk the long trek, but now you can access this road with 4WD vehicle. Nonetheless, this road was once a trekking route with very steep canyons and great views of the Mulungutti Glacier, which extends out from Shimshal Village.

 

Shimshal Village

The village is located in a valley at an altitude of 3,000m (9843 ft). Until 1973 the Mir of Hunza were taxing dairy products and livestock in this area. It became part of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in 1973 and part of the Shimshal land was designated Khunjerab National Park. In 2003, a road was connected to the area and life became a little easier but sadly, the youth have started migrating out to the city. Several guest houses in the village and a small hydroelectric facility provides power, although not very reliably. In recent years, there are an increasing tourist population attracted usually to the opportunities for mountain trekking.

 

Heading to Shimshal Pamir

Following the long, snow-covered winter, the villagers will start to graze their animals in late May. Livestock is the most important thing for making their livelihood. They take their yaks, goats and sheep graze in the summer pastures. This traditional big migration is called the Kuch, when they travel long distances to the ‘Pamir’ or summer pastures.

 

During the summer months, the women of the village are usually responsible for caring for the livestock and making the dairy products. Unfortunately, this tradition is rapidly being lost in modern times. Men may take various work either taking cattle to even more remote locations, working in towns or as porters and mountain guides.

 

Travelling on the Karakoram Highway from Islamabad, it is way beyond Kalimabad and Passu far into the mountain passes. Even deeper into the mountains past Shimshal village, you will walk into Shimshal Pamir.

It may take some time to get there, but it is a place where you can get a real feel of mountain life and their traditional way of life dependent on their animals.

 

Photos & text: Mariko SAWADA

※Photos were taken between 2009 and 2012 at Shimshal Village & Shimshal Pamir

※This is updated based on an article first uploaded in March 2011 for the Blog “Salaam Pakistan.”

 

Category : ◆ Gilgit-Baltistan > - Shimshal
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Priest King of Mohenjodaro (National Museum of Pakistan, Karachi)

The great excavation of the Mohenjodaro mainly took place between 1922 – 1931. Many of Pakistan’s national treasures that were excavated before Pakistan’s independence in 1947, are stored in museums in Britain and India, but there are some valuable pieces still located in Pakistan.

One of the masterpieces that is housed at the National Museum of Pakistan is the “Priest King” of Mohenjodaro.

Mohenjodaro is the largest city of central Pakistan’s Indus Valley Civilization, which flourished between 2500 BC to 1800 BC. This Indus Valley Civilization was the oldest found in South Asia that eventually developed into the northwestern Indian subcontinent around the Indus River Basin. Archeologists from around the world are slowly revealing the significance of the life of the Indus Valley, but many mysteries remain unrevealed.

Despite the three other languages of ancient civilizations (Egyptian hieroglyphs, Mesopotamian and Chinese texts) already having been deciphered, the characters of the Indus language have not been deciphered yet. It shrouds the origins of their religion and history in mystery, but perhaps the biggest riddle is what caused their decline.

This statue of the Priest, housed in the National Museum of Pakistan in Karachi, is said to be a key in revealing the past relationship of the Indus Valley Civilization’s connection with Mesopotamia, based on the shape of the statue.

“Priest King” – Mohenjodaro :   Made from white soapstone, the modest size measures 17.5 cm high and 11 cm wide. During the excavation in 1927, it was unearthed from what was probably a noble’s house, a large building from the DK area.

 

The statue is adorned with a headband with a three-leaf pattern and was given the auspicious name of “Priest King.”

In fact, it is unclear if that is on display at Karachi’s National Museum is real or a replica. According to one theory, the real one is stored in a special vault for preservation, but when you ask the museum guard, they will tell you it is the original ‘real’ thing. So even this is wrapped in the mystery of the Indus Valley Civilization.

 

Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA
Visit: Feb 2020, Karachi, Sindh

※Photography inside the Museum is generally restricted. Large bags are also not allowed to be brought inside.

※This article was originally published as part of an article in “Salaam Pakistan” uploaded in September 2015.

 

Category : - Karachi > ◆ Sindh > ◇ Museum of Pakistan
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