Bahawalpur is 889 km from Karachi. The founder of the state of Bahawalpur was Nawab Bahawal Khan Abbasi I. The Abbasi family ruled over the State for more than 200 years (1748 to 1954). during the rule of the last Nawab Sir Sadiq Muhammad Khan Abbasi V, Bahawalpur State was merged with Pakistan in 1954. Bahawalpur was formerly the capital of the state and now is the District and Divisional Headquarters of Bahawalpur Division.
Southern Punjab of Punjab province of Pakistan has many a historical places that narrate the history of Pakistan, much before it emerged as an independent country in 1947. Of these besides the historical city of Multan that is considered to be the oldest living city of the world, Bahawalpur is a major city in the southern Punjab, that existed as an independent state for some 200 years (since 1748). The state was founded by Nawab Muhammad Bahawal Khan Abbasi I. The state was spread over an area of 45,911 square kilometres (17,494 sq mi) and divided into three districts: Bahawalpur, Rahimyar Khan and Bahawalnagar. The state acceded to Pakistan on 7th October 1947 and was merged into the province of West Pakistan on 14th October 1955 by Nawab Sir Sadiq Muhammad Khan Abbasi V. There are a number of royal palaces reminding the glory of the rulers of the sate, the main palace “Noor Mehal” (above right) has now been converted into an officers’ mess for the Bahawalpur garrison. Being an independent state, the Nawabs of Bahawalpur maintained their own army and an efficient economy with a firm grip on the affairs of the state. The army consisted of two battalions; 1st Bahwalpur Infantry (raised 1827), 2nd Bahwalpur Light Infantry (raised 1827). The state ruler was known as the “Farman rawai mumlukat khudadad Bahawalpur” (Ruler of the God-Gifted Kingdom of Bahawalpur”. Pelican is the state mascot, which appears on its State arms seal and on all palaces. Bahawalpur used the postage stamps of British India until 1945. On 1st January 1945, it issued its own stamps. On 1st December 1947 the state issued its first regular stamp, a commemorative stamp for the 200th anniversary of the ruling family, depicting Mohammad Bahawal Khan I, and inscribed “BAHAWALPUR”. A series of 14 values appeared 1st April 1948, depicting various Nawabs and buildings. A handful of additional commemoratives ended with an October 1949 issue commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Universal Postal Union. After this the state adopted Pakistani stamps.
The city lies just south of the Sutlej River, and is the site of the Adam Wahan (Empress) Bridge, the only railway bridge over the Sutlej River in Pakistan. Today, Bahawalpur city is a thriving city of southern Punjab, famous for its white silver jewelry, embroidered shoes and the pottery. The surrounding area is mostly agricultural, and the city is a market town for mangoes, dates, wheat, sugarcane, and cotton. The city is connected to the rest of the country through rail, road and air link. Bahawalpur district covers an area of 24,830 square kilometres and comprises six tehsils (sub-districts) – Ahmadpur East, Bahawalpur, Hasilpur, Khairpur Tamewali and Yazman with a total population of about 2.5 million. Approximately two-thirds of the district is covered by the Cholistan desert, which extends into the Thar desert of India. The Bahawalpur was once also known as Baghdad-ul-Jadid (New Baghdad). Saraiki is the local language of the area, while Urdu, Punjabi and English are also spoken and understood by most of the people.
The city also has a Zoo which is one of its kind. it has a big population of lions, including Bengal tigers. Sometimes lions are bred here to be sent to other zoos of the country. The city is the seat of Islamia University (1975) and the Qa’id-e A’zam Medical College and is also an important agricultural training and educational centre.
Bahawalpur Museum is yet another place of interest for the visitors. This small museum has a collection of old coins, medals, postage stamps of former state of Bahawalpur, manuscripts, documents, inscriptions, wood carvings, camel skin paintings, historical models and stone carvings etc. of Islamic and pre-Islamic period. There is a complete set of medals of all classes issued by the ex state to its military officers civilians and to other important citizens of the ex state.
It is an important marketing centre for the surrounding areas and is located on the cross roads between Peshawar, Lahore, Quetta and Karachi. Saraiki is the local language of the area.
Urdu, Punjabi and English are also spoken and understood by most the people. There are three palaces, the main one Noor Mehal. Bahawalpur is also known for its distinctly embroidered slippers and shoes and the filigree pottery which is made here. It has a marble mosque in the Fawara Chowk and a few British buildings like the Science College. Bahawalpur has a modest museum having a fine collection of coins, medals, postage stamps of former State of Bahawalpur, manuscripts, documents, inscriptions, wood carvings, camel skin paintings, historical models and stone carving etc. of Islamic and pre-Islamic period.
The Cholistan Desert:
East of Bahawalpur is the Cholistan Desert which covers an area of about 15,000 square km and extends into the Thar Desert of India. The region was once watered by the Hakra River, known as the Saravati in Vedic times. At one time there were 400 forts in the area and archaeological finds around the Darawar Fort, the only place with a perennial waterhole, indicate that it was contemporaneous with the Indus Valley Civilization.
The average annual rainfall is only 12 cm, and the little cultivation there is, is made possible by underground wells, drawn up by the camels. The water is stored in troughs, built by the tribes, between sand hills and din waterholes called tobas.The people are racially similar to those in Rajasthan – tall, with sharp features. They live in large, round, mud and grass huts, usually built on the top of sand hills.
On the whole, they are pastoral and nomadic. The main tribes are the Chachar, Mehr, Lar, Paryar, Channar, Chandani and Bohar. The forts here were built at 29 km intervals, which probably served as guard posts for the camel caravan routes. There were three rows of these forts. the first line of forts began from Phulra and ended in Lera, the second from Rukhanpur to Islamgarh, and the third from Bilcaner to Kapoo. They are all in ruins now, and you can see that they were built with double walls of gypsum blocks and mud. Some of them date back to 1000 BC, and were destroyed and rebuilt many times.
Lal Suhanra National Park:
The best attraction is the lion safari to see the lions in their natural habitat from close quarters. One lion with four lionesses roam freely and one can go as close as the photograph above. But one is not advisable to get out of the vehicle since these lions are wild and can devour on anything live and close.Black Buck and Nilgai are being bred in this Park. There are around 400 black bucks in the park
This park is ideal for recreation, education or research but shooting is forbidden. This park, 36 km to the east of Bahawalpur is a combination of a natural lake and forest on 77480 acres of land and spread over on the both sides of Bahawalpur canal. It has watch-towers, catching ground, tourist huts, rest house, camping grounds, TDCP Resort with 6 A/C Bed Rooms and treks for the visitors and lovers of nature. Hog deer, ravine deer, black buck and nilgai are common. Fox, jackals, hares, porcupines, mongoose, larks, owls and hawks are also found. Wild boars are in large number in the forest areas. Lal Suhanra National Park which is actually a wildlife sanctuary worth a visit.
Derawar Fort :
This fort is on Bahawalpur-Rahim Yar Khan road. On left side from Ahmedpur East,32 km inside the desert, there is a suplended Derawar fort with iths glorifying Mosque built of white marble.Today the remains of Drawar Fort still remind the glory of old times. The chain of forts was built at 32 km intervals in three rows. The first line of forts began from Phulra and ended in Lera, the second from Rukhanpur to Islamgarh, and the third from Bilcaner to Kapoo. Ruins of some of these can still be found today. The local pastoral and nomadic populace is somewhat similar to those in Indian Rajasthan.