Rawalpindi: Past and Present

Posted on April 29, 2007
Filed Under >S.A.J. Shirazi, History, Travel
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By S.A.J Shirazi

The bustling city of Rawalpindi has a lot more to offer than a traffic mess, broken roads and haze-filled atmosphere. The city’s history spreads over several millennia. Archaeologists believe that a distinct culture flourished on this plateau even 3,000 years ago.

.. Photo to the left is a shot of the Mall, Rawalpindi ..

The archaeological remains found here prove the existence of a Buddhist community contemporary to Taxila, but less celebrated than its neighbour. Historians believe that the ancient city fell victim to the devastation caused by the Huns. The first Muslim invader, Mahmud of Ghazni (979-1030AD), gifted the ruined city to a Gakkhar chief, Kai Gohar. The Gakkhars were a fiercly independent tribe of the Potowar Plateau. The town, however, being in the route of invaders, could not prosper and remained deserted until Jhanda Khan, another Gakkhar chief, restored it and named it Rawalpindi after the village Rawal in 1493.

Rawalpindi remained under the rule of the Gakkhars till Muqarrab Khan, the last Gakkhar ruler, was defeated by the Sikhs in 1765.

.. Photo to the right shows Hotel Shalimar, Rawalpindi ..

The Sikhs invited traders from other places to settle here, which brought the city into the limelight.

Following the British victory over the Sikhs and occupation of Rawalpindi in 1849, the city became a permanent garrison of the British army in 1851. In the 1880s, a railway line to Rawalpindi was laid, and a train service started on January 1, 1886. The need for a railway link arose after Lord Dalhousie made Rawalpindi the headquarters of the Northern Command and the city became the largest military garrison in British India.

In 1951, Rawalpindi saw the murder of the first elected prime minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan, in Company Bagh, later named after him. Today, Rawalpindi is the headquarters of the Pakistan Army and the Pakistan Air Force.

The modern city has everything that one can desire – good eateries, playgrounds and shopping centres. Though many shopping centres have opened all over the city, two main bazaars, Raja Bazaar in the old city and Saddar, which developed as the cantonment bazaar between the old city and the Mall, continue to attract a large number of visitors every day.

For a traditional Lahori breakfast, Banni or Purana Qila offers the best siri paiyay, nihari and chanay.

Commercial Market, off main Murree Road, is fast becoming the hub of business activity in the city and besides some good restaurants, one can shop here for quality clothes.

.. Photo to the left shows a merry fruit selles on a Rawalpindi street ..

The crowded alleys of the old city like Purana Qila, Bhabra Bazaar, Lal Kurti, Banni and inner areas of Saddar, are home to many attractions, including ancient Hindu and Sikh temples.

Some of the old houses in these areas, though dilapidated, are a tribute to the master artisans and masons of yesteryears. The beautiful construction and woodwork survive even today, despite the passage of over a century and the fact that no effort has been made by their current owners to preserve these buildings.

Ayub National Park is located beyond the old Presidency on Jhelum Road, covering about 2,300 acres or 9.3 square kilometres, and has a lake with boating facility, an aquarium, a garden-restaurant and the Play Land.

.. Photo to the right shows an ancient building in the city called Qutub House ..

Rawalpindi Public Park, located on Murree Road near Shamsabad, was opened to public in 1991. It consists of the Play Land, grassy lawns, a jogging track, fountains and flowerbeds.

The cricket stadium, built in 1992 opposite the public park, has seen some of the world’s top cricket teams play one-dayers and test matches here.

There are many forts and other places of tourist attraction a few kilometres outside the city limits.Rawat Fort is located 17 km east of Rawalpindi, on the Grand Trunk (GT) Road leading to Lahore. Gakkhars built the fort, in the early 16th century.

.. Photo to the left is the facade of Rawalpindi Railway Station ..

The grave of Gakkhar chief Sultan Sarang Khan is located inside the fort. He died in 1546 AD in a battle against the forces of Sher Shah Suri. Up from the broken steps inside the tomb, is a panoramic view of the plateau and the Mankiala Stupa.

Pharwala Fort is about 40 km from Rawalpindi beyond Lehtrar Road. It is also a Gakkhar fort built in the 15th century on the ruins of a 10th century fort.Mughal emperor Babur conquered the fort in 1519 AD.

.. Photo to the right is the National Institute of Heart Diseases, Rawalpindi ..

In 1825, the Sikhs took over the fort. Though crumbling away, it is still an attraction for castle lovers and the artistic.

Rohtas Fort, a UNESCO world heritage site, is 109 km from Rawalpindi. It is located about 6 km southwest of Dina.The fort is one of the most impressive historical monuments in Pakistan. It was built by Afghan ruler Sher Shah Suri between 1540 and 1547 AD. It served as Suri’s fortified base for military operations against the Gakkhars.

.. Photo to the left is a sunset view on Peshawar Road, Rawalpindi ..

It was later used by Mughal emperor Akbar and the Sikhs. Within the huge terraced rampart walls with robust bastions and twelve gates, is located another fortress, palaces and ancillary buildings.

Rawalpindi also served as the interim capital after Islamabad was declared the nation’s new capital in the 1960s and was still being constructed. So the infrastructure was shifted to Rawalpindi from Karachi, the previous capital of Pakistan, and then was moved to Islamabad.

.. Photo to the right is the Mall, Rawalpindi, look east ..

PHOTO CREDITS: Photos for this article have been taken from flickr.com from an album set here. Clicking at individual photos in the article above will also take you to their source website and larger image sizes.

31 Comments on “Rawalpindi: Past and Present”

  1. jayjay says:
    April 29th, 2007 2:45 am

    SAJ Shirazi – Informative but it would have been better if you had credited Wikipedia for lifting certain portions from their database for this post. At least intellectual honesty warrants it.

  2. Moeen Bhatti says:
    April 29th, 2007 3:04 am

    I agree with jayjay. Infact, its not ‘certain portions’, I would say most of the portions. We all do research, we mostly do it on the internet these days but atleast we should acknowledge the ref. No hard feelings, no doubt a nice & informative post!

  3. Pindiwalla says:
    April 29th, 2007 3:19 am

    Brought back memories.

    Rawalpindi is actually a lovely town but being next to Islamabad means it is always in the shadow of Islamabad.

  4. younas says:
    April 29th, 2007 5:01 am

    I am translating Balraj sahni’s Biography(parts of it relating to his childhood in rawalpindi 1913-1947)
    the famous bollywood director/producer/writer was born and bred pindiwal ,his biography provides valuable insight into life of rawalpindi in early part of last century.

    coming to Cricket World Cup ,i Had the honour of attending

    1996- world cup match (Holland Vs South Africa)- Rawalpindi-Pakistan

    1999-World Cup Match (Pakistan Vs Australia) -Headinley Leeds -UK

    both my Home Grounds

  5. IRFAN says:
    April 30th, 2007 4:14 am

    Yes, Pindi always gets under-rated because it is in the shadow of Islamabad so good to see the history of the city highlighted here. Living in Pindi I always feel like people think it is not a cool place, but it is.

  6. younas says:
    April 29th, 2007 5:20 am
  7. younas says:
    April 30th, 2007 4:34 am

    strangly enough when Balraj died in 1973,he was contemplation moving back to Punjab, he was supposed to fly back one week to the day he had fatal heart attack(quote from bisham sahni his brother & biographer)
    he wrote a world famous Travelouge of Pakistan
    “Mera Pakistani safar” (my Pakistani Journey) when he stayed in pakistan in 1961 despite hectic schedule of films in bombay

  8. desidude says:
    May 2nd, 2007 6:53 am

    what are the 3rd and 4th picture in the article. The text didnt mention.

  9. Owais Mughal says:
    May 2nd, 2007 12:27 pm

    3rd photo is a street corner on the Mall. It shows old and new buildings contrast.

    4th photo is of a hospital at the Mall.

  10. Peter Morgan says:
    August 28th, 2007 12:15 pm

    As an English child up to age 11 I lived in Chaklala near the airfield; I do remember well the city and visits to Murree. I left in July 1947 days only before partition. I will be one of the last remaining to remember the old Rawalpindi of Greater India and going to school there etc……..

  11. Owais Mughal says:
    August 28th, 2007 10:35 pm

    Dear Peter. thanks for visiting these pages and feel free to share more memories of yours from Rawalpindi

  12. muneeb ahmad says:
    November 21st, 2007 5:13 am

    your site is full of information and knowledge

  13. February 6th, 2008 3:06 am

    Very good and informative post about Rawalpindi. Rawalpindi is a beatutiful city and surrounded by Islamabad and Islamabad. You have told about the business places of Rawalpindi but forget Said Pur Raod, famous for hardware, paint and tember products.
    The famous breakfast of Rawalpinid is Paye and Chanay especially of Lal Havelli. Also Refreshment Center at Commerical,. Food street at Double Road (Stadium Road) and Banni Chowk are famous eatry palces.

  14. Zeeshan Hyder says:
    February 6th, 2008 4:15 am

    Right! Brought back memories.
    I love my city though I miss it badly. Living in the crowded downtown, traveling through the city on Tangas, Suzuki and buses was a fun.

  15. February 25th, 2008 8:36 am

    Assalamoalikum Pakistan and my City Rawalpindi
    I am living AlamAbad,Dhoke Hassu, Rawalpindi.I love my city Rawalpindi.Rawalpindi city is very beautifull and the peopels of Rawalpindi are very loving.First Cinepax of Pakistan is in Rawalpindi.East and West Rawalpindi is the Best.
    Love u Rawalpindi,Thank u.
    Raja Nauman,
    AlamAbad,Dhoke Hassu, Rawalpindi,Pakistan.

  16. Hassan says:
    March 10th, 2008 4:09 pm

    Spend a lot of time outside in the world . . .
    but actually the world people say for lahore is for Rawalpindi

    pindi pindi ay ! ! !

    Love tht place . awsome place than any in the whole world
    Allah apni aman main rakhain hamary mulk ko !

  17. Ahmad R. Shahid says:
    March 10th, 2008 5:22 pm

    Living in Rawalpindi/Islamabad for long, I always had the impression that it was an old city, yet never had the slightest of hint that it could be millenia old, to the times of the Buddhist traditions in this region. An information article yet one fails to understand why it couldn’t carry on the traditions of the past to the modern age? Was it because it never was too big a city like Lahore or was it because it never was the capital of any major empire?

  18. mohammed j nawid says:
    March 24th, 2008 10:16 am

    I had a bout of nostalgia and that was when I started to see things I had almost forgotten. Rawalpindi was perhaps not in the fore-front of my loves but certainly there and thereabouts. On the subject of changing facets of the city I somewhere else complained that it refused to recognised me about half a century on. It may be the case. Perhaps it was not the city who refused to recognise me, it was I who refused to recognise the city. Rawalpindi will always be there like the army of Alexander the Grreat which passed through Rawal. I am sure I read this on a plaque during one of my visit to Rawal river or to be exact Rawal water fall (man made). No I don’t call it playing truant. We now consider it a lesson in history.

  19. Asif Aleem says:
    April 22nd, 2008 7:29 am

    No matter where I am, a part of me is always in Rawalpindi. This is where I was born and this is where I would like to be laid to rest.
    Its been a while since I went back home, but the pictures on the web site definately took me back as these photographs, most of them, are from the are where I lived till our home was canivingly taken away from us by the corrupt Ex Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry. May he rot in hell for what he put me and my family through, specially my old father.
    He is already paying for his evil deeds and Insha Allah he will always never get back that seat again.

    I am sorry I got carried away but you can not imagine how it feels when something that is yours is taken away from you on the basis of forged documents and in the presence of evidence. I am glad I am out of Pakistan, a land with no justice and where judges and lawyers can be bought and sold easily.
    But the fact remians, I love Rawalpindi and I always will.

  20. zeeshan ali says:
    May 24th, 2008 3:47 pm

    i m shani from jhelum
    can u friendship me
    my mobile number i s03455738714

  21. Faysal says:
    June 8th, 2008 11:53 pm

    I am Faysal from Sialkot, I like very much Rawal Pindi city, because my beloved and loveable cousin living in this city, however i realy realy like and love of this city,… my specialy place in rawal pindi ( Bani Chowk ) when i will be come pindi firstly i will be go ( Bani Chowk )………… my beloved cousin always Smile….my prayers with you and with your city,,,,

    Contact No:

  22. fawad khan says:
    June 24th, 2008 11:38 am

    i like too rawalpindi.i went to the pindi ist time 4 police traning.all the city is so beautiful.i live in lahore but love pindi

  23. syed waqar shah hamdani says:
    July 30th, 2008 6:48 am

    syed waqar shah hamdani
    i was born in pindi ,i love pindi,its my home ,now i am settle in australia but i miss pindi every single day ,the best place in entire world ,its heaven for me.
    syed waqar shah hamdani
    fone no#+61411673059

  24. muddassir says:
    July 31st, 2008 5:12 pm

    dis is muddassir…my parrents moved to pindi 1987 from karachi….i’ve spent 18 years in pindi in other word i raised in pindi..now i moved to canada but i miss ma pindi i know each n single cornor of pindi….i love my pindi..am in canada for past 3 years now but i can’t forget the wonderful time i had in pindi through all these years……………..PINDI IN MINE…………….

  25. Atif Irshad says:
    August 1st, 2008 2:43 am

    As Salam Elikum

    Pindi is the heart beat of pakistan. my born is at murree nearst place to pindi for refreshment. my parents came here since there youth and shifted here in last two decades, Pindi spread its arms for all the country fellows, Public Parks, Schools, Stadium and a bundle of refreshing points, specifically its nearst place to islamabad, the heart of pakistan.

  26. M Danish says:
    August 5th, 2008 5:07 am


  27. subhash says:
    May 29th, 2009 12:03 pm

    i was born in village sanjot, tehsil gujar khan. another village nearby used to be sukkho where a high school was located. mandra was the nearest railhead, some miles away from sanjot. i would like fellow readers particularly from the places mentioned above to let me know more about sanjot, if it still exists, and what developments have taken place in and around the village. if you can post some pictures also i would be grateful.

  28. July 8th, 2010 6:31 am

    This article provides great information about Rawalpindi, Rawalpindi: Past and Present is a really informative article i like it very much i love Rawalpindi!!

  29. Asad says:
    August 25th, 2010 11:22 am

    hi @Subhash …. what do u want to know about Sanjot? where do u live now?

  30. suira says:
    December 14th, 2010 4:58 am

    can you please post information about asghar mall road and some pictures, too?

  31. March 16th, 2011 4:47 pm

    Dear I live on Asghar Mall road, you can ask me about the current situation and images of Asghar mall road. rawalpindi

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