The Architectural Heritage of Bahawalpur

Posted on November 7, 2006
Filed Under >Roshan Malik, Architecture, Culture & Heritage, Travel
Total Views: 141053

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.

95 responses to “The Architectural Heritage of Bahawalpur”

  1. Owais Mughal says:

    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

  2. Owais Mughal says:

    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?

  3. Pervaiz Munir Alvi says:

    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.

  4. Owais Mughal says:

    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.

  5. aliraza says:

    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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *