Rawalpindi lies on the Grand Trunk Road 177 from Peshawar and 275 kms from north-west from Lahore. The twin city of Rawalpindi/Islamabad lies against the backdrop of Margalla Hills on the Potwar Plateau. On the basis of archaeological discoveries, archaeologists believe that a distinct culture flourished on this plateau as far back as 3000 years. The material remains found on the sight of the city of Rawalpindi prove the existence of Buddhist establishment contemporary to Taxila but less celebrated than its neighbours.
It appears that the ancient city went into oblivion as a result of the Hun devastation. the first Muslim invader, Mahmood of Ghazni (979-1030 AD), gifted the ruined city to a Gakkhar Chief, Kai Gohar. the town, however, being on invaders' route, could not prosper and remained deserted until Jhanda Khan, another Gakkhar Chief, restored it and gave the name of Rawalpindi after the village Rawal in 1493 AD. Rawalpindi remained under the rule of Gakkhars till Muqarrab Khan, the last Gakkhar ruler, was defeated by Sikhs in 1765 AD. Sikhs invited traders from other places to settle here. This brought the city into prominence. Sikhs lost the city to British in 1849 AD. It then became the General Headquarters of British Army and they established a cantonment south of the old city. In 1879, the Punjab Northern Railway was extended to Rawalpindi but the train service was formally inaugurated on January 1, 1886.
Over the years, Rawalpindi has retained to traditional flavour. However, some modern residential areas and buildings have come up all over the town since the creation of Pakistan. Pakistan's new capital, Islamabad being the twin city of Rawalpindi, equally shares the same archaeological and historical background.
Old City and Bazaars
The best way to see Rawalpindi is by wending through its bazaars, but you should orient yourself before setting out. The city has two main roads: the Grand Trunk Road runs roughly from east to west and is known as The Mall as it passes through the cantonment; Murree Road breaks north from The Mall, crosses the railway and brushes the east end of the old city on its way to Islamabad. the two main bazaar areas are Raja Bazaar in the old city and Saddar Bazaar, which developed as the cantonment bazaar between the old city and the Mall.
The cantonment evokes the British Raj, with its Christian churches and cemetery, spacious bungalows, club, cricket ground, mall and the colonial-style Flashman's Hotel. Behind Flashman's is Saddar Bazaar, the centre not only for shopping but also for hotels, banks, airlines and travel agents. The heart of the bazaar is along Kashmir Road and Massey Gate.
The Army Museum, near the Pearl Continental Hotel, houses a fine collection of weapons, uniforms and paintings depicting Pakistan's military history. Hours are 9 am to 3 pm in winter, 8 am to noon and 5.30 pm to 7 pm in summer.
Ayub National Park is located beyond the old Presidency on Jhelum Road. It covers an area of about 2, 300 acres and has a play-land, lake with boating facility, an aquarium and a garden-restaurant. Rawalpindi Public Park is located on Murree Road near Shamsabad. The Park was opened for public in 1991. It has a playland for children, grassy lawns, fountains and flower beds. A cricket stadium was built in 1992 just opposite the Public Park. The stadium is equipped with all modern facilities.
Rawalpindi Golf Course
Situated near Ayub National Park, Rawalpindi Golf Course was completed in 1926 by Rawalpindi Golf Club, one of the oldest gold clubs of Pakistan, founded on 2nd November 1885. the facility was initially developed as a nine-hole course. after several phases of development, it is now converted into a 27 hole course.
Places Around Rawalpindi & Islamabad
The small pass is located 26 km west of Islamabad on G.T. Road. Margalla is mentioned by historians and emperors like Alberuni, Ferishta and Jehangir. Today, it is a pass between the ancient capital of Gandhara, that is, Taxila, and the modern capital of Pakistan, i.e. Islamabad. There is an obelisk right on the top of the Pass, built in 1890 in memory of Brig. Gen. John Nicholson (died on 23 September 1857) of British army, by his colleagues. A small part of the ancient Shahi (Royal) Road can be seen just across the pass, left of G.T. Road. This road was first built by the Persians in 516 BC and later developed by the Afghan King Sher Shah Suri in 1540s. An inscription on the western side of this stone pavement shows that it was again repaired in 1672 AD.
Once a major campsite of Mughal rulers, Wah Gardens are located 12 km west of Taxila on G.T. Road. The gardens were developed with magnificent trees and weather channels by successive Mughal emperors. Tapering cypress trees, loved by the Mughals, line the canals through which cool waters once, Flowed between elegant romantic and cascading into large reflecting basins. The gardens are being restored to their original beauty, by the Department of Archaeology, Government of Pakistan.
Hasan Abdal is 48
km from Rawalpindi. It is a beautiful, quiet place and a convenient halting
point of G.T. Road enroute to Peshawar or Abbottabad. This town has a
particular association with Mughals and Sikhs. It was mentioned by Emperor
Jehangir in his memoirs and frequently visited by successive Mughal Kings,
on their way to Kashmir. It remained a holy place for various religious
groups through the ages. It has a Sikh Gurdwara (temple) known as Panja
Sahib having a sacred rock with the hand print of their religious leader,
Guru Nanak. Twice a year, Sikh pilgrims visit this Gurdwara from all over
the world. Two other historical buildings of Mughal era (Muqbara Hakeeman
and so-called tomb of Lala Rukh) are located just opposite the Gurdwara.
Some 35 km north-west of Rawalpindi, on the way to Peshawar, lies Taxila, world famous for its archaeological sites, dating back to the 5th century BC. The city flourished for a thousand years and was famous as a centre of Gandhara art, architecture and sculpture, education and religion in the days of Buddhist glory. At Taxila you come face to face with the great Buddha. He looms over you larger than life. His serene eyes gaze at you till you find yourself gripped by a feeling of awe. You meet others also at Taxila. Alexander of Macedonia, for one. And Asoka, the famous Buddhist king. And the Emperor Kanishka, perhaps the greatest of them all. Their imprints are everywhere. As you, the space-age visitors, step into Taxila you are suddenly 2,500 years younger. for that is when one of the world's least known but most interesting civilizations took root and flourished in Taxila that ancient city south of River Indus. Once a province of the powerful Achaemenian Empire, Taxila was conquered by Alexander in 327 BC. It later came under the Mauryan dynasty and reached a remarkable mature level of development under the great Asoka. Then appeared the Indo-Greek descendants of Alexander's warriors and finally came the most creative period of Gandhara. The great Kushan dynasty was established about 50 AD. During the next 200 years Taxila became a renowned centre of learning, philosophy and art. Pilgrims and travelers were attracted to it from as far away as China and Greece. The end came in the fifth century AD when the White Huns snuffed out the last of the successive civilizations that had held unbroken sway in this region for several centuries. Exploring Taxila is a multi-dimensional experience. You are attracted by the richness and variety of the famed Gandhara sculpture. There are endless images of Buddha, in stone and stucco, and numerous panels depicting all the important stages of the great sage's life. Exquisitely sculpted friezes and statues of all sizes awoke the life and times of one of the world's most impressive men of peace: Gautama Buddha.
Each carved bit of sculpture, from the colossal to the miniature and there are literally thousands of them is a collector's item. Even if you aren't exactly a devotee of the sculpture of the first century AD, you will find it a challenge to trace similarities between the Gandhara masterpieces and their Graeco-Roman Counterparts.
Incidentally, it is these stone men and women of Gandhara who greet you so graciously in Taxila, or rather their craftsmen, who first gave visual expression to Bhudda and his era.
And then there are the excavated ruins. Three distinct cities stretch before you in a surprisingly good state of preservation. With your imagination aided by the carved people who inhabit these cities, you will have little difficulty in picturing crowds on the well laid out streets, facilities in the spacious houses, priests in the towering stupas and royalty in the great palaces.
The earliest city, Bhir Mound, dates back to the sixth century BC. Its irregular streets, cramped houses and mediocre public buildings indicate its primitive origins.
Sirkap, on the opposite side of the Tamara Stream, is much newer, having been built in the second century BC. You will find Sirkap as well-planned city.
And as you stroll down its wide streets you can call at the houses of the affluent and go slumming as it were, in the more crowded sections where dwelt the common man of the dim and misty past. Note the fortification wall, the long, straight and impressive main street, the Royal Place, an Apsidal Temple and the Shrine of the Double-Headed Eagle.
The third city, Sirsukh, is modern by comparison. It was apparently built by the Kushan kings in the first century AD. It has not been fully excavated as yet it is clearly a well fortified, well laid out city, patterned after Central Asain cities land is complete with a suburb.
In addition to these three major cities, many important monasteries, stupas and palaces have been excavated all along the Taxila valley. Many more, surely, still lie buried awaiting discovery. If you can't manage all, you must at least explore the remarkable Dharmarajika Stupa, two miles east of the Taxila Museum. It comprises a main building, a monastery area where the monks lived and a series of small chapels. Sacred relics of Buddha and a silver scroll commemorating the relics were found in one of the chapels. A wealth of gold and silver coins, gems, jewellery, and other antiques were discovered at Dharmarajika. These are all housed in the Taxila Museums. There is also Jaulian, another impressive complex of chapels, stupas, quadrangles, and monastery with assembly hall, store rooms, refectory, kitchen and bathrooms. At five small stupas you will see beautiful stucco reliefs of Buddha and Buddhisatvas supported by rows of stone elephants and lions. Three kilometers from Jaulain is another well-preserved monastery at Mohra Moradu. In one of the monk's cells here was found a small stupa with almost all the details imageless temple in the classic Greek style, with columns and cornices. For the climber three is the Glen of Giri, about five kilometers from Dharmarajika Stupa. Atop the highest peak of a range of hills are two stupas and a fortress built in a cleft near a spring of pure, sweet water. The stucco decorations of the stupas are well worth the climb. No amount of description can do justice to the Taxila ruins. To feel and understand their full important you simply have to go there. Even today, Taxila is a place of peace. Its pastoral landscape is almost as inviting as its living past. Early man know what he was doing when 2,500 years ago he choose to site his cities in this delightful hill-edged valley.
Taxila valley consisted of three cities.
This was the earliest of the other two cities. Settlements here date from 6th century B.C. The city does not seem to be pre-planned as compared to other urban sites, but there is evidence of considerable sophistication.
The eastern part of the city so far excavated appears to have been chiefly a residential area. The western part of the site, by contrast, appears to have had ceremonial importance. Crucial to this interpretation is the so-called Pillared Hall and its structure suggests that here on Bhir Mound may have been the earliest Hindu shrine yet discovered.
The city of Sirkap, or "Severed Head", chronologically the second major city of Taxila, is to be found spreading down the Hathial Spur and onto the plains of the Taxila Valley. It is bound by the Tamra rivulet and to the north and south by the Gau rivulet which today has been almost completely obliterated by a modern road and water channel. The present layout of the city was established by the Bactrian Greeks sometime around 180 B.C. and takes the form of a wide and open grid system. In general, the city presents a better planned architecture than Bhir Mound. The city is encompassed by an almighty wall over five kilometers long and up to six meters thick. There may well have been an entrance on all four sides originally, but today the only one evident is the northern wall and it is through here that today's visitors would normally enter the city. A number of temples and monasteries can be found here such as Apsidal Temple, Sun Temple, Shrine of the Double Headed Eagle, Kunala Monastery and Ghai Monastery.
Major attraction in this city is the Great Stupa, one of the largest and most impressive throughout Pakistan and is located just two kilometers east of Bhir Mound and Sirkap. The chapels and chambers around the Great Stupa were built at various times from the 1st century B.C. to the post Kushan period. These structures display a wide range of designs and quite probably they were donated by pilgrims and possibly represent various schools of Buddhism.
Other sites of interest include the city of Sirsukh which is believed to belong to the Kushan period. To the north of Sirkap are four temples, all standing on earlier mounds and overlooking the city. They are all in the style of Greek temples. The best to visit is probably the one at Jandial, 1.5 kilometers north of Sirkap. There are several more Buddhist monasteries which are worth a visit too.
The archaeological museum at Taxila is a real treasure house. Its collection of coins, jewellery, relics, and gold and silver caskets alone are worth a King's ransom. But its real glory comes from stone and stucco that exquisite young. Its impressive collection will help you get to know gautama, the Lord Buddha, better.
ivy-covered, Gothic-style museum is set in a picturesque garden.
There is in the central hall a plaster cast of the stupa topped with seven
umbrellas found in Mohra Moradu. A relief map of the valley pinpoints
the location for the different excavated sites.
Rawat Fort is located 17 km east of Rawalpindi, on the Grand Trunk (G.T. Road) leading to Lahore. The fort was built by Gakkhars, a fiercely independent tribe of the Potohar Plateau, in early 16th century. The grave of a Gakkhar Chief, Sultan Sarang Khan is located inside the fort. He died in 1546 AD fighting against the forces of Sher Shah Suri. If one dares to climb the broken steps inside the tomb, one may get a panoramic view of the plateau and the Mankiala Stupa.
This fort is about 40 km from Rawalpindi beyond Lehtrar road. It was built 15th century by a Gakkhar ruler, Sultan Kai Gohar, on the ruins of a 10th century Hindi Shahi Fort. Emperor Babar conquered the fort in 1519 AD. Later, in 1825, Gakkars were expelled by Sikhs from this fort. Though the fort is in a crumbling state, it is still an attraction for castle lovers. The fort being situated in prohibited area, is only open for Pakistani visitors.
Rohtas FortRohtas Fort is 109 km from Rawalpindi. It is located about 6 km south-west of Dina Town. Going from Rawalpindi/Islamabad, you have to turn right from G.T. Road to a narrow road just before Dina Police Station and then go left until you find the city bed of Kahan River. The fort is visible from this point. However, you have to cross the river to reach it. During rainy season, you need a four-wheel-drive to cross the river. The fort is one of the most impressive historical monument in Pakistan. It was built by Afghan ruler Sher Shah Suri, between 1540 and 1547 AD. It served as a huge fortified base for military operations against Gakkhars by Sher Shah Suri. It was later used by Mughal emperor Akbar and Sikhs. Within the huge terraced rampart walls with robust bastions and twelve gates, are located a fortress, palaces and ancillary buildings.
The glen of Giri is located 8 km north-east of Taxila, at the foot of Margalla. It is approached through a rough torrent bed near two villages named Khurram Gujar and Khurram Paracha, there are remains of two monasteries and stupas, one on the top of the hill and other below it. The ramains of Giri fort are perched on the hill top, with spring water falling within it. The fort was built in 5th century by the Buddhist monks. Later, it was used by Sultan Masud, son of Sultan Mahmud of Gazni.
Misriot dam is located 12 km south-west of Rawalpindi. This small dam has an artificial lake with boating and fishing facilities. Fishing permit may be obtained from fishing guard at Misriot. It has a pleasant landscape and walkways beyond the lake among eruptions of black rocks.
This beautiful lake/dam is 48 km from Islamabad on Taxila-Haripur Road. It is an ideal place for day trip/picnic, boating, angling and watching migratory birds during winter.