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The Architectural Heritage of Bahawalpur

Posted on November 7, 2006
Filed Under >Roshan Malik, Architecture, Culture & Heritage, Travel
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Roshan Malik

Bahawalpur State (1833-1955) has a unique architecture blended with Italian style. It was comprised of three districts (Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar and Rahim Yar Khan). The last ruler Nawab Sir Sadiq Muhammad Khan Abbasi V ruled the State (1907-55) before it merged into the unitary province of Pakistan. The State reached the zenith of its glory under his rule, as he transformed Bahawalpur into an excellence of learning and centre of architecture. Various schools, colleges, palaces, mosques, hospitals and a library and university were built during his time.

Since ATP readers have already been talking about Bahawalpur architecture through the Photo Quiz on Noor Mahal and then again on the Baghdad-ul-Jadeed Railway station, it makes sense to talk about this scope and history of this architectural heritage at greater length.

Sadiqgarh Palace (Sleeping Beauty Castle) is situated at Dera Nawab Sahib (Ahmedpur East), about 30 miles away from Bahawalpur, was the headquarters of the State. More than 1000 employees were deployed for the maintenance and beautification of the Palace and its lush green lawns. Nearly 100 rooms were decorated with crystal chandeliers, drapes, paintings and carpets.

After Nawab’s death, the Palace had been sealed by the government for many decades due to a dispute among heirs. Many antiques had been stolen from the Sadiqgarh Palace and were sold in cities like Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad. The building of that glory now gives a deserted and shabby look surrounded by wild shrubs. The palace desperately needs maintenance and repair for the restoration of its grandeur.

Noor Mahal and Gulzar Mahal are the most elegant buildings in Bahawalpur built in the Italian style. Both the buildings are now under the control of Army. However, the army purchased the Noor Mahal some years back by paying Rs. 120 million to the heirs. It is unique in its architecture and is splendid with beautiful lawns and driveways.

The late Nawab established various educational institutes in the State such as Islamia University Bahawalpur, Sadiq Public School Bahawalpur, Sadiq Egerton College Bahawalpur, Sadiq Dane High School Bahawalpur, Jamia Masjid al Sadiq Bahawalpur. The Central Library Bahawalpur is another landmark of Bahawalpur architecture which was built in 1924. This is the second largest library in Punjab having various manuscripts and rare books.

The famous Fort Derawar was once the capital of Bahawalpur State. It was built in thirteenth century by the Rajputs of Jaiselmer. The Nawabs of Bahawalpur conquered it in eighteenth century. It was a birth place of many Nawabs. The rulers of Bahawalpur give great importance to Derawar as their royal cemetery is near Derawar.

Derawar is about 65 miles away from Bahawalpur in Cholistan desert. The historic Derawar Fort, enormous and impressive structure in the heart of Cholistan desert, is rapidly crumbling and if the immediate preventative measures are not taken, the edifice will be destroyed and the historians, researchers and sightseers deprived of the view of the legacy of the bygone era.

The legacy of Bahawalpur state has been in ruins like many other historical places of the country. These building have potential to attract a great deal of tourists. But what the heirs and the government need is a good planning and political will. Otherwise it will turn into sands like many other forts in Cholistan like Maujgarh, Dingarh, Islamgarh and Marot.

The cluster of 6 pictures, above, includes: (1) One of the still-intact but crumbling walls of Fort Derawar, (2) Aerial view of the fort, (3) Mosque Derawar, (4) Entrance to Fort Derawar with potholes, (5) Services Club Multan, was once Rest House of Nawab of Bahawalpur, (6) Sadiq Public School, Bahawalpur.

Roshan Malik is a development practitioner from the Bahawalpur region.

99 Comments on “The Architectural Heritage of Bahawalpur”

  1. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    November 7th, 2006 12:12 pm

    “a unique architecture blended with Italian style.”

    “Noor Mahal and Gulzar Mahal are the most elegant buildings in Bahawalpur built in the Italian style.”

    Thank you Roshan Malik for treating us with this beautiful posting. More needs to be said about Bahawalpur and its history. These buildings are good examples of ‘British Period Architecture in Pakistan’. One could find structures similar to these in Imperial France of seventeen and eighteen century. French palaces in Versailles, Paris, and even many structures in Victorian England were inspired by these styles. I for one would be interested in learning names of the architects behind these structures. I have feeling they were British in their origin. These, like other British period structures in Pakistan are architecturally ‘hybrid’ and there fore hard to pin down as Italian, or French, or British for say. But that is what is interesting about them anyway. These are Pakistani structures and should be viewed as such. It is sad that we Pakistanis are unable to save our fabulous heritage. Sad indeed.

  2. Daktar says:
    November 7th, 2006 12:26 pm

    Nice posts and great selection of pictures. Ashamed to say I have never been to Bahawalpur and never thought of going there. Now certainly will. Any information on the architects of these buildings.

  3. zamanov says:
    November 7th, 2006 12:58 pm

    “Noor Mahal and Gulzar Mahal are the most elegant buildings in Bahawalpur built in the Italian style. Both the buildings are now under the control of Army. However, the army purchased the Noor Mahal some years back by paying Rs. 120 million to the heirs.”

    What role does the army have in preserving the historical heritage of the country? Which fund did the Rs. 120 million, to pay the heirs of the Noor Mahal, come out of? Is there no other organization or government entity left in Pakistan to purchase, maintain and upkeep these priceless architectural masterpieces? Will the military owners now allow the public to visit and enjoy our own cultural heritage for a nominal fee?

    Mr Malik thank you for writing about this amazing piece of history in our own backyard.

  4. November 7th, 2006 1:03 pm

    Fascinating. Never been to Bahawalpur but am amazed at the pictures. They look stunning.
    Given that the government is not exactly up to the task of maintaining these architectural masterpieces, is there another way of approaching this problem? Could corporations be involved in such an undertaking? Could schools of architecture be motivated to take scholarly interest in not just the history but preservation of such heritage?

  5. Roshan Malik says:
    November 7th, 2006 1:19 pm

    @Pervaiz Munir Alvi
    There are a number of books in Central Library Bahawalpur about the history and architecture of the State. No doubt we need to have more research on its architects and architecture of these buildings.

    The army is in the possession of Gulzar Mahal where the Nawab used to live during his visit to Bahawalpur as it is adjacent to Darbar Mahal where he used to hold his court. Now there is no public access to both Gulzar Mahal and Darbar Mahal.
    Regarding Noor Mahal, I think recently it has been transformed into an army mess so no public access again. Regarding Services Club Multan (Pic 5) used to be Nawab’s rest house in Multan is now a Club of civilians and army elite similar to Islamabad club or Lahore gymkhana club.

    I wish that the public should have access to our cultural heritage and it would have been a great attraction for the tourists to visit Bahawalpur.

  6. aliraza says:
    November 7th, 2006 3:03 pm

    Roshan, thanks for this informative piece. I have fond childhood memories of Bahawalpur, and Ahmedpur Sharqia. Lived there during two postings while my father served in the Army.

  7. Owais Mughal says:
    November 7th, 2006 3:15 pm

    There are quite a few buildings which are out of bound for civilians despite their tourism value. Attock fort and qila Bala-hisar of Peshawar come to mind right away.

  8. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    November 7th, 2006 3:33 pm

    Gulzar Mahal—Nawab’s residence in Bahawalpur. Now in army control. No public access.
    Darbar Mahal-Nawab’s court in Bahawalpur. No public access.
    Noor Mahal–Now in Army control. No public access.
    Nawab’s Multan Residence—Services Club House. No public access.
    Sadiq Garh Palace—-???
    Fort Dera War—-???

    In developed countries like England the old palaces are maintained either by the original or the new owners and then opened up to the public. In Pakistan army keeps it for its brass. Damn the public. We hope Roshan Malik takes us further and keeps up informed about the fate and conditions of our national heritage in the former Bahawalpur State.

  9. Owais Mughal says:
    November 7th, 2006 3:45 pm

    Roshan. great post. Although not on architecture but an important piece of Bahawalpur’s heritage was the presence of colorful cycle rickshaws. These rickshaws were; in my opinion rightly; banned by Nawaz Sharif govt (early 90s) b/c they symbolized demeaning of human labor. They were replaced by Nawaz Sharif’s yellow cab scheme but what is interesting is that most of these rickshaws from Bahawalpur ended up on the streets of Dhaka Bangladesh where they remained in high demand until last year. Looks like economics defines demeaning labor in one country as a livelihood in other.

    I’ve read that a few of these cycle rickshaws have been preserved in Bahawalpur museum. Can someone confirm?

  10. Owais Mughal says:
    November 7th, 2006 3:58 pm

    guys, the topic is so interesting that i keep coming back again and again with comments :) I’ve noticed that ‘domed’ architecture is a very uunique feature of old Bahawalpur state and not found in any other area of Pakistan. E.g. are the railway station buildings of Dera Nawab Sahib and Samasata. I’ll try to share photos of these buildings in a bit

  11. Umera says:
    November 7th, 2006 7:34 pm

    This is a really interesting post. As many of the other readers, I have never been to Bahawalpur and it has never been on my itinerary of places to visit in Pakistan. However, your post has changed my perspective and I hope to visit the place soon.

  12. Humaira says:
    November 7th, 2006 10:55 pm

    I am sorry this is off topic. But anyone seeing GEO TV special coverage on US elections. Adil Najam is on the coverage. He was host for a conversation with Carl Inderfuth and others and I guess will be on again. I thought he was kool.

  13. nayyar says:
    November 7th, 2006 11:47 pm

    great post
    l love to show pakistani architecture to all my american i have added bhawalpur in my list

  14. Shahid says:
    November 8th, 2006 2:08 am

    A really good piece! Being a native of Bahawalpur and old student of Sadiq Public School, i was amazed to see the nice article along with pictures on the web.

    Bahawalpur is a small and peaceful city but has developed a lot in recent times. Many people may not know that it was a province of Pakistan until One Unit was created. Later it was amalgamated in Punjab to make it bigger than other 3 provinces.

    Someone asked about visiting Fort Dera war. Fort Dera war is not opened for general public however, one can get permission to visit the fort. The permission is granted by the heir of nawab who resides in Ahmad pur (east) also called Dera Nawab Sahib(50 Km from Bahawalpur). Normally, large groups or students from universities are granted permission to visit the fort.

  15. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:
    November 8th, 2006 10:41 am

    Roshan Malik & Shahid: Visiting Bahawalpur and Ahmadpur East, what are the best places to stay. I mean for those who do not Army and Civil officer’s connections.

  16. Roshan Malik says:
    November 8th, 2006 12:04 pm

    Alvi Sb
    Erum Hotel, Abaseen Hotel, and some guest houses. There is a nice TDCP resort at National Park Lal Sohara about 35 km away from Bahawalpur.
    You can also pull up information about Bahawalpur from TDCP webiste

  17. Khalid says:
    November 8th, 2006 12:45 pm

    Thanks Roshan for putting a great post.Pakistan should develop domestic tourism I am sure if this article and pictures would have been published in local newspaper and public would have access to visit those places,a lot of people from within Pakistan will travel to Bahawalpur.


  18. Owais Mughal says:
    November 9th, 2006 5:18 pm

    Shahid sahib
    Is it true that Dera Nawab sahib and Ahmedpur East are the same cities?

  19. November 17th, 2006 10:04 pm

    Here is a photo of Samasata Railway Station.

    Note the domed architecture which is prevalent in old Bahawalpur state buildings.

  20. Hakie Sddiqi says:
    January 7th, 2007 9:39 am

    Delighted to see these beautiful snaps of Bahawalpur’s buildings. I was born in Bahawalpur and spent some of my children leaving in the neighbourhood of Sadiq Garh Palace has left me with great memories. Roshan Sahib do you have these pictures on a website where One can download these. Kind regards.

  21. February 22nd, 2007 11:49 pm

    [...] – Lahore, Lahore Aye – The Story of Karachi – The Architecture of Bahawalpur – Karachi’s Empress Market – Travelling on the N5 – Chillianwala Chase – KhojakTunnel – Chappar Rift – Khyber Pass – Bolan Pass – Gateways of Multan – When Kabul Comes to Attock – The Lights of Quetta – The Petals of Pattoki – Kelash Culture – Mishri Morr Buss Adda – Panja Sahab at Hasan Abdal – The Temples of Katas Raj – Manora Island THE CAPS OF PAKISTAN THE TURBANS OF PAKISTAN THE CHURCHES OF PAKISTAN THE BRIDGES OF PAKISTAN THE STAMPS OF PAKISTAN THE COINS OF PAKISTAN [...]

  22. Saad Farooqi says:
    February 24th, 2007 2:19 pm

    Dear Owais Mughal

    Cycle Rickshaws have again started plying on the roads of Ahmedpur East and other adjacent towns on the orders of Lahore High Court Bahawalpur Bench. Because it is a source of income for poverty stricken and unemployed youth of the area.


  23. Owais Mughal says:
    February 24th, 2007 9:47 pm

    Saad thanks for the info. on cycle rickshaws. I didn’t know that

  24. Saad Farooqi says:
    February 25th, 2007 9:47 am

    Owais Sb.
    I would like to answer one more query made by you. Ahmedpur East and Dera Nawab Sahib are twin towns separated by cantonment. But Ahmedpur East is much lager than Dera Nawab Sahib. The railway station is named as Dera Nawab Sahib although it is situated within municipal limits of Ahmedpur East.

  25. mughaljee says:
    February 28th, 2007 11:33 am

    chonkeh khud artist hoon so art say wabasta har cheez achi lagti hay.aik bar bahawalpur anay ka ittfaq hoa hay magar koe b tarekhi amarat na dikh saka.bayshuk bhawalpur sara he khubsorat hay.i love pakistan.pakistan zindabad.

  26. Umar says:
    March 6th, 2007 11:48 pm

    Such a nice feature over the State, I got a proper way for my thesis work, actually I’m doing Master in Interior Design from NCA, Lahore and doing my Thesis on the Sleeping Beauty Castle as a PALACE HOTEL.
    I need help regarding site analysis like Plans, Photographs and other detail related to its history and its grandure.
    Please help me if you can guide me.
    Thanks alot.

  27. Ijlal says:
    March 10th, 2007 4:34 pm

    Salam i ve seen such a nice thing for the first time. can u plz send me some more pictures of Bahawalpur, specially schools colleges and Mahals and i need some more details on Sleeping Beauty Castle. i ll be grateful if u reply me on my email ijlalhaider86 its at

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