Riding the Minecart Train Through the Khewra Salt Mine

The Khewra Salt Mine is the world’s second largest rock salt mine, where it is commonly sold as “pink salt” or “Himalayan rock salt.”

This rock salt mine on the Potohar Plateau in the Salt Range of the Punjab Region, which was discovered back in the time of King Alexander the Great. The salt was said to be discovered in 326 BC when the horse of Alexander the Great was licking the ground, during his expedition to India. The commercial mining began during the Mughal Empire, and the main tunnel was excavated in 1872, during the British Indian Empire, when the large-scale mining began.

Articles about pink salt and Himalayan rock salt:Salt Range- The salt range that produces the Himalayan rock salt

Visitors can see the operations inside the Khewra Rock Salt Mines. In 1930, the British Indian Empire started a 600mm minecart train for tourists to be able to go inside the mines.

We entered the mine using this minecart train. The Salt mine has a section for tourists, and a section that is still actively being mined.

Once your train reaches Chandni Chowk, you will get off the train and start walking into the mine with a guide. The passengers of the minecart train are divided into groups, with tour guides who speak Urdu for the Pakistani tourists and English, for the foreigners.

On both sides of the passage, there are traces of mining dating back to the Mughal era.

There are pools where the rainwater collects in the old quarry, and this saturated saline solution is connected by a hose and sent to the factory outside to be sold.

As you walk down the tunnel, there will appear a mosque made of the colorful salt blocks. The red colored blocks are high in iron, and the pink colored salt is high in magnesium.

This “Rock Salt Mosque” is based on the motif of Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, and according to the guide it was built more than 50 years ago.

Then, we reached a space that was like a large hall. There were salt icicles and stalactite formations. The cannons that were used in old mining operations were also on display. And in the back, there was a famous monument, called the “Minar-e-Pakistan”。

These two monuments, the Minar-e-Pakistan and the Badshahi Mosque are often mentioned in the advertisements for the Salt Mine. They were probably built around the same time.

The original Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore was built in 1940, where the All-Indian Muslim Alliance passed the Lahore Resolution (later called the Pakistani Resolution). It was the first official statement calling for the independence of a Muslim homeland in British India and is a symbol of the birth of Pakistan.

Then just a short distance down the main path, is the Crystal Palace.

There is a light that shines on the tunnel walls that changes from Green, to red, then blue; so it was too bad that we couldn’t see the original color of the walls. But the surface of the walls were shining with salt crystals; which had various shapes like small dice, and columns.

This area called Sheesh Mahal (Hall of Mirrors), with the transparent wall of shiny pink salt.

Towards the back of Sheesh Mahal, the surface of the salty water reflected the crystal-encrusted walls like a mirror.

With this, we made the round-trip back to the minecart train and came out the same way we went in.

The Khewra Salt Mine is an easy day trip from Islamabad and Lahore. Not only is this the magnificent place where the continents of India and Eurasia collided, it is also where Alexander the Great’s war horse discovered the rock salt, and where you can experience the mines as they were opened in the Mughal era…the visit is an adventurous and historic trip back in time.

 

Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA
Visit: Jan 2022, Khewra Salt Mine, Punjab

Category : ◆ Punjab > - Salt Range / Soon Valley
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Katas Raj Temple, the Hindu Temple of Pakistan

Surprisingly, in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, there are still some Hindu pilgrimage sites. Nani Mandir of Balochistan and the Chandragup Mud Volcano, which I have introduced in earlier blogs, are examples of these remaining pilgrimage sites. Until 1947, when India and Pakistan separated and became independent (from the British Indian Empire), many Hindus lived in Pakistan at the time.

The Katas Raj Temple is a Hindu temple complex located on the Potohar Plateau in the Salt Range of the Punjab Province. Several temples are surround a sacred pond called Amrit Kund. The beautiful waters of Amrit Kund are found in the stories of Indian mythology. The story goes that the lake was made from the tears shed from the Lord Shiva after his first wife, Sati, died and he was inconsolable.

In 2005, the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani visited the Temple, and noting the decaying appearance of it at that time, the Pakistani Government started cleaning up the holy pond and repairing the buildings in 2006. However, even though the lake had been cleaned up by 2012, the water levels suddenly dropped. There was a big lawsuit against a nearby cement company which was found to be the cause in the drop in water levels. Although water levels have recovered a little, it has not returned to its original state since.

The ceiling of the Baradari (Pavillion) near Amrit Kund was in the process of being restored. The pattens of plants have been redrawn, with a notable influence of Islamic design.

Near the holy pond, a special Shiva Temple enshrines the Lord Shiva. The priest told us, “Although the COVID-19 Pandemic has decreased the number of pilgrims, we expect more people from Pakistan to come during the next Maha Shivaratri Festival.”

This is inside one of the rooms of the Hanuman Temple, part of the complex. Some of the old murals remain intact.

From one of the Hindu mythological stories, taken from “Ramayana” seems to be represented in this mural. It looks like an army of monkeys was engraved here. It seems that the faces have been scraped off.

The image of Ganesha is painted on a wall of the Hanuman Temple.

The Shree Rama Chandra Temple was restored on the outside. However, the interior was still in need of restoration.

This is one of the mural paintings on the second floor of the Shree Rama Chandra Temple. It has a very typical Indian look.

The Hindu Temple Complex was also the home (haveli) of Hari Singh. He was the last monarch of the Princely State of Kashmir and Jammu, who decided to assign Jammu and Kashmir to India on October 26, 1947, with the separation of India and Pakistan. At that time, the ruling class in Jammu and Kashmir was Hindu, but most of the residents were Muslims, so it was a very difficult decision to make for Hari Singh. However, there was an invasion of Pakistani troops for which he needed the support to fight them, so he decided to ally with India.

The courtyard and outside of the building are fairly simple, and were in the process of being restored.

At the top of the Complex hill is the Sat Ghara Temple. It is a thick stone building.

Just downhill from the Sat Ghara Temple, are the remains of a stupa. It was hard for me to believe it when I heard it, but an investigation was conducted by the British archeologist Alexander Cunningham, which concluded that the pagoda was made during the time of King Ashoka in the 3rd century BC. Once the Gandhara culture declined, the Hindu Temples of Katas Raj were build during the prosperous Hindu culture in between the years of 7th – 10th centuries.

You can stroll around the temples yourself, but if you request a guide at the entrance, you can also see inside the temples that are normally locked, so I recommend you take the tour with the guide!

 

Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA
Visit: Jan 2022, Chakwal, Punjab

Category : - Monument / Heritage of Punjab > ◆ Punjab > - Salt Range / Soon Valley > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan
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(Video) The Pakistan Railway Journey : From Peshwar to Rawal Pindi!

Taken from the train, going from Peshwar to Rawal Pindi, this video summaries the scenery during our journey on the Pakistan Railway.
Previously, I posted a blog about the highlights of the “Crossing the Indus River by Pakistan’s Tain,” but this time I could make video, summarized into 2 minutes and 43 seconds, starting from the town of Peshwar to the arrival of Rawal Pindi, including the tunnel along the way.

The Pakistan Railway was built as part of the colonial management during the British Empire’s colonization of the Indian Empire, with 7,791 kilometers of track that runs from Torkham, on Afghanistan’s boarder, to Karachi. From the time of independence to the present day, the nostalgic feeling of the colonial era buildings and operations are maintained for a good Railway journey in which we can still enjoy “The Pakistan Railway.”

 

The Pakistan Railway Journey, From Peshawal to Rawal Pindi

 

Videography: Mariko SAWADA
Boarded on: Feb 2020, the Pakistan Railway between Peshawar (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) to Rohri (Sindh)

Category : = Video Clip KPK > = Video Clip Punjab > ◆ Video Breathtaking Views of Pakistan > - Monument / Heritage of Punjab > - Peshawar / Khyber Pass > ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > ◆ Punjab > ◇ Pakistan Railways
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Salt Range: Himalayan Rock Salt Mine’s Mountain Range

Most of the rock salt distributed in the world as “Himalayan Rock Salt” and “Pink Salt” is produced in the salt mines of Pakistan. Among them, the Khewra Salt Mine is famous, as it is also known as a tourist destination where people can see inside the mine and see the underground mosque that is carved into the pink rock salt.

For this visit, we did not go there to see the popular tourist destination, but instead, to have the opportunity for searching for the Punjab Urial, wildlife which lives in the “Salt Range” the mountainous range near the salt mines.

The Salt Range is the southern tip of the Himalayas in Pakistan’s Punjab area, between the Pothohar Plateau in the south, to the Jhelum River in the north.

Himalayan rock salt is produced from a thick evaporite layer, dating back from the Ediacaran period to the early Cambrian (600-540 million years ago) in the fold and thrust belt of the salt range. The layers of the Cambrian and Eocene sedimentary rocks that were pushed up onto the newer age sedimentary rocks and eroded away, revealing the salt range.

The fossils of the ancient seas were unearthed as a result of the collision between the Indian continent and Eurasian continent, showing us how magnificent and historically significant these area is.

This is one of the many rock salt mines found on the Pothohar Plateau.

There is a particular story about the salt range that captures the imagination. Legend has it that Alexander the Great’s army discovered this salt range. During his expedition in India, in 326 BC, it is said that Alexander the Great’s war horse was licking the ground and that was how they realized the salt was there. In fact, the Battle of Hydaspes, which was a battle between Alexander the Great’s army and the Indian King, is on the banks of the Jhelum River (the Ancient Greeks called it Hydespas) and they had to have passed this salt range.

The surface around the entrance to one of the salt mines is encrusted with salt crystals.

The truck enters the quarry. According to the truck driver, the mining site is more than 2 kilometers away, so it needs to be carried out by truck.

This is one of the trucks that came out, loaded with salt. It must be a considerable weight, so it needs to go slowly on these unpaved roads.

The history of the rock salt mines began around 1200 AD, and the rock salt trade was active during the Mughal Empire. In 1872, under the British colony, the main tunnel of the Khewra Rock Salt Mine was built and made into a full-scale operation.

We walked into just one of the many mines of the salt range.

This is Himalayan rock salt that has been crushed into small pieces and commercialized for rock salt mills. In the past, there were no fancy hand-held mills, so rock salt was commonly sold as a powder or rock blocks, but now it is commonly sold as a set with smaller crushed salt and a mill in a fashionable package. It is a popular souvenir for foreign tourists because it is cheap and used in their daily lives. However, be careful because it is heavy for traveling.

This is the traditional use of Himalayan rock salt in northern Hunza. The chai is served salted instead of sweetened with sugar, in the Hunza region. The block of rock salt is used to stir it into the cup of hot chai.

This piece of salt was carried all the way from the Punjab salt range, to the villages of the Karakoram mountains, and the rock salt is indispensable for daily use in their hot chai.

 

Image & text: Mariko SAWADA
Visit: Dec 2020, Potohar, Punjab

Category : ◆ Punjab > - Salt Range / Soon Valley
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Pheasant-Tailed Jacana on a Lotus Pond

I had an invitation to visit where I could see “A Pheasant-tailed Jacana building a nest on the a lotus pond.”

We went to Head Baloki, a village located along the Navi River, 75 km southwest of Lahore. This village had waterways and ponds drawn from the river, where the water birds had gathered.

The Punjab region has five rivers, and the Ravi is one of them. The word Punjab originates from Persian, “Panj -ab” meaning “Five rivers,” and it is a rich land where the Indus River and its four tributaries emanate from. However, since the split between of India and Pakistan in 1947, the rivers have long been a source of conflict over water rights. This Ravi river as well, which originates in Himachal Pradesh, is no exception.

 

This is the striking Pheasant-tailed Jacana. The tail feathers are very long, with the head, throat and wings a white color but the body is a contrasting dark brown. The back of the neck is gold with black along the edge.

 

The long toes and claws on its feet allow it to walk on the lotus leaves, as they distribute the weight of the bird over a large area.

 

This is a Jacana with its chicks. The friend who invited me here, had told me the Jacana was still only nest-building, but it seems the eggs had already hatched. The chick looked so stable already. Pheasant-tailed Jacana chicks must grow up in a harsh watery environment, so they are able to be on the move as soon as they hatch.

 

Jacanas are a “paternal bird” where the fathers raise the chicks, so this is the father.

 

To protect the chicks, the brave father screeches loudly and drives away an approaching Indian pond heron.

 

This is a pair of Jacana spreading their wings out in a display…but I wonder what they are trying to communicate?

 

An early morning scene on a lotus pond in Punjab, with a beautiful Pheasant-tailed Jacana.

 

Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA

Observation : Aug 2017, Head Baloki, Punjab, Pakistan

Special Thanks : The late Mr. Zahoor Salmi(Photographer)

Category : ◆ Punjab > ◇ Birds of Pakistan
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(Video)The Wazir Khan Mosque

One of the 17th Century Mughal Heritage Sites in Lahore’s Old Town is the Wazir Khan Mosque.

Built during the reign of Emperor Shah Jahan, the intricate faience tile decoration of the courtyard façade, called “Kashi-Kari,” incorporates the Persian architecture of the time. Frescoes fill the interior of the mosque’s main prayer hall.

Since 2009, this mosque has been one of the tourist highlights of Lahore, due to extensive restoration work done funded by the Punjab Government and the Aga Khan Cultural Fund.

 

Wazir Khan Mosque LAHORE

 

Videograhy : Mariko SAWADA

Visit : Feb 2020 , Lahore, Punjab

Category : = Video Clip Punjab > ◆ Video Breathtaking Views of Pakistan > - Monument / Heritage of Punjab > ◆ Punjab > - Lahore
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Lahore’s Old City Walk

Lahore Walled City Bazaar

 

Our friends from Switzerland and Mexico went for a stroll through the Old City of Lahore.

The Old City of Lahore, also known as the “Walled City of Lahore,” was established about 1000 years ago as a fortified town surrounded by mudbrick walls and gates. During the Mughal Empire, it prospered as the capital city.

Currently, only a part of the city walls remains. However, since 2012, developments have transformed the Old City into a tourist destination, with the cooperation of the Norwegian and US governments. From the Delhi Gate to the Wazir Khan Mosque, tourists can now enjoy the exciting “Old City Walk”!

 

Video & text: Mariko SAWADA

Visit: Mar 2020, Lahore, Punjab

Category : = Video Clip Punjab > ◆ Video Breathtaking Views of Pakistan > - Monument / Heritage of Punjab > ◆ Punjab > - Lahore
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(video) Lahore Fort – History by Night

History by Night at Lahore Fort on the weekend evening.

Although held in Urdu for the general public in Pakistan, this is the only way to enter the illuminated treasure of Lahore Fort, Sheesh Mahal.

 

Video & text : Mariko SAWADA

Visit : Mar 2019, Lahore, Punjab

Category : ◆ Video Breathtaking Views of Pakistan > = Video Clip Punjab > ◆ Punjab > - Lahore > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan
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(Video) Crossing the Indus river by Pakistan Railways

Pakistan’s railways are less developed compared to India’s. However, it retained the original railway system and station buildings, as they were, created by the British during the colonial period.

Especially near Attock, this railway crosses over the Indus river!
 
Pakitan Railway Crossing the Indus, Attock

 

It is a great heritage trip where you can see not only the railway bridge and stations of the British Indian Empire era, but also the Mughal Empire’s Attock Fort, all from the train windows.

 

Video & text: Mariko SAWADA
(Video is from a trip in Feb 2020)

Category : = Video Clip Punjab > ◆ Video Breathtaking Views of Pakistan > - Monument / Heritage of Punjab > ◆ Punjab > ◇ Pakistan Railways
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(Drone Footage) Sirkap City Ruins, Taxila

This is the aerial view of the Taxila City Ruins Sirkap.
You can see the whole Ruins by aerial photography, where the city plan and roads are organized in a grid plan.

For more information about Sirkap Ruins, see here

Drone footage Sirkap, Taxila

 

 

Video & text : Mariko SAWADA

(Video is from a trip in Feb 2020)

Location : Sirkap, Taxila, Punjab

Category : = Video Clip Punjab > ◆ Video Breathtaking Views of Pakistan > - Monument / Heritage of Punjab > - Gandhara > - Taxila > ◆ Punjab > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan
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