Tag Archives: Heritage

Embracing identity

Embracing identity
Dawn Editorial
Monday, 12 Apr, 2010

Letting our roots wither at the altar of commercialisation is as dangerous as the idea of ignoring them due to their pre-Islamic origin. –Online

From DAWN:
Identity is what distinguishes heritage from history. We can ignore, if not redo and delete, portions of our history that we choose not to like but we cannot avoid our heritage. It is, after all, what makes us what we are. Continue reading


Filed under Pakistan

Book: The Romance of Raja Rasalu and Other Tales

By Raza Rumi
Story telling has been a primordial urge, never quite expressed in its fullest measure, but always lingering and floating like life. There was a sub-continent before the colonial interaction that brought in its wake an aesthetic hardened by the industrial revolution and its uniformity of life and space. This was a world rich with myriad identities, of whispers and tales all interlaced in a peculiarly complex kaleidoscope. Since the 19th century that particular aspect of folk story telling and transfer of generational accounts gave way to what is now known as education and knowledge – instruments and reflections of power and a linear world view set elsewhere but adapted awkwardly to the local context.
This is why Simorgh Women’s Resource and Publication Centre in Lahore, under the leadership of Neelum Hussain, have undertaken the challenging task of reclaiming the rich heritage that lies in our folklore especially that of the Punjab. “The Romance of Raja Rasalu and Other Tales” is a stunning compilation of the romance of Punjab’s legendary hero, Raja Rasalu and, while it draws heavily on the colonial storytellers, the book twists the narrative in a manner that brings us closer to the origins of our cultural sensibilities. The tales are sheer magic. The romance, the intrigue, the bravery and the integrated nature of human existence where it finds communication even with birds and trees comes to a full life throughout the narrative.
It is one thing to produce an admirable compendium but it is another matter to ensure that the purpose and spirit of the tales are adequately reflected in the illustrations. This particular touch of originality is provided by the eminent artist Laila Rehman whose breathtakingly attractive illustrations add a new layer of meaning and sensibility to the folk stories. It is, therefore, as has been rightly stated in the introduction, a book for pleasure: a pleasure that moves beyond the immediate and the momentary and merges into the real or imagined pleasure of living. Laila’s paintings and sketches are evocative enough to generate a parallel story within the larger narrative. It is as if the reader is traversing into several worlds. One minute Continue reading


Filed under Art, Books, culture, translations

The music of Baltistan is dying

By Aoun Sahi (for the NEWS)

Wazir Himayat Hussain hails from the family of Wazirs of Khaplu, a district of northern areas of Pakistan. He has served in Radio Pakistan for 27 long years. These days he lives in Skardu, headquarter of Baltistan region. He remained associated with Balti language programmes much of the time during his service with Radio. His love for Balti music, started in 1976 when he visited his home city Khaplu as radio producer and recorded classical Balti music during a musical event. In 1980s he got an opportunity to work with renowned German researcher Dr Renate Sohenen on Balti Music. Later he also worked with some Japanese music researchers who visited the area to study Batli music. These days he is writing a book on classical Balti Music which, he fears, is on the verge of disappearing due to various factors. Excerpts of an interview with him in Skardu

The News on Sunday: Tell us about the background and details of Balti music?

Wazir Himayat Hussain: Music in Baltistan region also known as Tibet-e-Khurd (little Tibet) was introduced by the follower of Buddhism before 700 AD. They were believed to be the first who settled in this region permanently around the same period (before 700 AD) and music being an essential component of their religion (Buddhism) was also brought by them in Baltistan region. After the advent of Islam in this area, through Persian and Central Asian Muslim preachers’ in the 14th century, the local music also derived a great influence from Persian as well as Central Asian music. The ragas of Balti music are known as Hareeb which has been derived from a Persian word “harb” meaning war. Most of these Hareebs contain Persian and Turkish titles such as Yagah, Dogah, Segah, Chahargah, Panjgah, Zikri, Nobat, Duldul Saqila, Daur mala, Maghloob, Ozal and Shamduri and many others. Similarly musical instruments like Karnai, Surnai or Shehnai were also introduced in Baltistan by Persians and people from Central Asia. Continue reading


Filed under Art, Music, Northern Areas

Islamabad: Shah Allah Ditta caves need immediate preservation

From the NEWS

Shah Allah Ditta caves are located on the route leading towards Khanpur. These caves are next to the shrine and tomb of a Mughal period ‘dervish,’ Shah Allah Ditta. Once you start travelling on Golra Sharif Road, a sharp turn comes for a village named after the saint — Shah Allah Ditta. The narrow road leads towards Margalla Hills on the base of which these caves are located. Old Banyan trees at the roadside marks the entrance to the caves. Continue reading


Filed under Architecture, Conservation, culture, Heritage, Islamabad, Pakistan

Disputed heritage in Nowshera

Taj Building in Nowshera is a case of weak and seriously flawed heritage legislation in NWFP

By Dr Ali Jan

Taj Building is an architectural jewel on the main Grand Trunk Road in Nowshera, NWFP. Built in 1920s, this imposing structure has endured the ravages of time despite lack of any concerted attempts in the past to preserve it. The facade of the three-storey building is highly decorated with floral and vine patterns in intricate stucco. The sweeping round arches and numerous embellished columns represent a charming architectural blend of Roman, Gothic and Oriental. An arched gateway on the side of the building with beautiful jharoka-styled (elevated window balcony) features leads into the main compound. The wooden balconies at the back are also very attractive.

The building was constructed by Khan Bahadur Taj Muhammad Khan OBE MLC of Badrashi Village, Nowshera. He was a famous colonial-era contractor and landlord whose father KB Abdul Hamid Khan had been in the service of the British Empire as well. He was a wealthy man and was particularly fond of racehorses. He used to travel extensively in India and had built several grand mansions for his own comfort. The present National Defence College building in New Delhi, India was also his personal mansion. (See: http://www.ndc.nic.in/history10.asp) Besides this he had also built a residence in Lahore (‘Rose Palace’) which was recently pulled down. His other garden palace at Village Badrashi in Nowshera spreads over several acres.

Khan Bahadur sahib’s son Taj ul Mulk who is a businessman by profession was previously settled in Lahore. He got the custody of the Taj Building and has recently moved to Nowshera. In his absence a court case with the shopkeepers lingered on for many decades which was finally decided in his favour a couple of years ago. Continue reading


Filed under Conservation, Heritage, North-West Frontier Province, Pakistan

Glimpses into Islamabad’s Soul

Book Review by Fiona Torrens-Spence

Author: Fauzia Minallah

In the past travel writers have been dismissive of Islamabad, passing it off as ‘sterile’ and ‘dull’; somewhere to be got through before visiting the real Pakistan. And the local joke ‘Islamabad, twenty minutes from Pakistan’ also belittles the country’s capital city by implying it is essentially foreign to the rest of Pakistan; a soulless, high rise city full of diplomats and other feather bedded foreigners.

As Fauzia Minallah writes, Islamabad and its surrounding villages have both a soul and an immensely long and fascinating story. It is sometimes hard to locate historic sites and harder still to find information about them so I wish that I had been able to read Fauzia Minallah’s book before living in Islamabad as I know I have seen many sites around Islamabad, such as the prehistoric shelter which can be seen from the Kashmir Highway, and entirely missed the story behind them.

I would recommend any visitor to Islamabad to invest in a copy of her book, particularly if they will be living in Islamabad for long enough to get out and about and explore. The book has the best map of Islamabad and surrounding areas which I have yet seen. The map explains the city’s grid system and how it extends beyond the currently developed areas and shows the location of the places she describes in such a way that it would be comparatively easy to find them on one’s own. (Maps of the surrounding areas of Islamabad were non-existent when we lived in Islamabad which filled me with sadness as I am a very visual person.) Her book also has a very good timeline which puts the sites she describes into a historical framework.

Fauzia Minallah’s book has beautiful photos of Islamabad and reproductions of the paintings of the well-known Islamabad artist, Gulam Rasul illustrating the exceptional beauty of “the garden city” and its surrounding villages. The photography and arrangement of the art work is a tribute to Fauzia Minallah, who is a well known artist in her own right successfully exhibiting throughout Pakistan and Europe. Continue reading

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Filed under Architecture, Books, Environment, Heritage, Islamabad, Nature, Pakistan, public policy

Endangered heritage buildings of Abbottabad

text and photo by Environmentalist

We mourn slow death of that Abbottabad, which was once, an unforgettable experience for heads of states, commander in chiefs, poets, statesmen, writers, and thousands of nature loving souls.

I quote following words of Captain Thomas, in which he describes the magic of Himalayan hill stations, he writes:

” From March, when the sleet and snow may have passed away, to the middle of July, the climate is heavenly. There is nothing like it on earth. Nothing! Nothing in Italy! Nothing in France! Nothing anywhere that I know off. Recall the finest day, nay hour, of sunshine you have ever known in English spring, and conceive the beauty and gladness of that sunshine, brightened by continuing without a storm, and deck the fruit trees and bushes in a Thousand English blossoms;and spread violets and daises and berry blossoms and wild roses over the bright close emerald turf; over crags amid the pine roots, and far away down amid the ferns and you may fancy some thing….”
One of the gazetteer mentioned that places like Abbottabad, Srinagar, Murree and Shimla were pieces of Heaven on this earth and there were times of the year when these towns offered the world best climate.
Are we completely helpless?? will some sons or daughters of Pakistan come forward to claim this heritage and ask government to protect leftovers of these assets for the appreciation of future generations ??..

In collusion with self imposed , contractors hiding as so called political and religious parties, Army sponsored Mayors (nazims) …Government Engineers are going to demolish these buildings.

They have already demolished various master pieces of stone masonry and chopped down dozens of mature old trees due to following reasons..

1- They get expensive seasoned timber , heavy gauge roof sheets , chieseled stones and antique building items for their private bungalows..

2- They make huge money from kick backs, bribes, commissions, shares etc..from sham contractors during reconstruction phase..

3- They remove neatly built buildings, so that eventually Pakistanis won’t be able to compare ugly and ill designed buildings with well proportioned, symmetrical and environmentally friendly buildings left for us by Britishers..

Please note the land scape and grace of these buildings and it is so damaging to know that instead of retrofitting them..they will be demolishing such buildings of Abbottabad and other districts of Hazara…??

Abbottabad, NWFP, Pakistan , height above sea level, 4100 feet was founded in 1853 AD by Major ( later, General, Sir) James Abbott of Blackheath London, who became first deputy commissioner of Hazara,.. and Hazara gazetteer of 1883 AD declared Abbottabad as the most beautiful hilly town of sub continent..trees from UK and Kashmir were brought to this unmatchable town and avenues and landscapes of Abbottabad had trees of horse chestnuts, Elms, Ash, Pistacia, Chinar (Kashmir maple), himalayan pine, Cedars of Lebanon, fragrant camphors of England, etc…and shrubs and flowers of all kinds including fragrant gardenias etc..were present

Major James Abbott fell in love with the rolling hills and awe inspiring views of Himalayan peaks of this thickly forested little England of East and he wrote following mystical lyrical Love poem in the praise of nature and Abbottabad

Poem “Town Abbottabad” by Major (later General, Sir) James Abbott

I remember the day when I first came here
And smelt the sweet Abbottabad air
The trees and ground covered with snow
Gave us indeed a brilliant white glow
To me place seemed like a dream
And far ran a lonesome stream
The wind hissed as if welcoming us
The pine swayed creating a lot of fuss
And the tiny cuckoo sang it away
A song very melodious and gay
I adored the place from the first sight
And was happy that my coming here was right
And eight good years here passed very soon
And we leave our perhaps on a sunny day
Oh! Abbottabad we are leaving you now
To your natural beauty do I bow
Perhaps your wind’s sound will never reach my ear
My gift for you is a tear
I bid you farewell with a heavy heart
Never from my mind will you memories thwart


Filed under Architecture, Heritage, History, Pakistan