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Hunza : Baltit Fort

In the history of the subcontinent, it often happens that kings and princes build magnificent castles and palaces for their girlfriends. From the Taj Mahal to the Noor Mahal, it seems that every king was willing to go to any lengths to prove his love.

But there is also an ancient fort in the middle of the Karakoram mountain range in northern Pakistan, which a ruler chose for his daughter and built as a dowry for the princess's father-in-law.

Although the opinion of historians regarding the construction of this fort is still divided, it is certain that when the fourth Crown Prince of the Ayashu dynasty of Hunza, Prince Ayasu II, married Shah Khatun, the daughter of Raja Abdal, the ruler of Baltistan. The same fort was chosen for his residence.

After the marriage of his daughter, King Raja Abdal sent a team of skilled artisans from his kingdom to the Hunza Valley with a dowry who took part in the construction or expansion of Qila Baltat.

Many stories about the construction of Baltat Fort have been going on for centuries and even today the locals tell the same stories to the tourists who come to this fort.

The fort is generally believed to be about 700 years old and construction began in the 14th century. However, carbon dating research in recent years has shown that there was a fort at this place even before that.

Tibetan architecture

Fort Baltat also regularly reflects Tibetan architecture. In the 1990s, it was handed over to the Aga Khan Trust by the Mir family of Hunza, who completed the restoration work and turned it into a museum, which is now managed by the Baltat Heritage Trust. It was also inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2004.

Fort Baltat is the closest to Tibetan architecture in terms of color, architecture and location

Baltistan is on the other side of the Indus from Hunza. Although in modern times this whole region is known as the province of Gilgit-Baltistan in Pakistan, but historically the history of different parts of it is connected with different cultures.

Baltistan has historically been closely associated with Tibet, and several hundred years ago it was part of Tibet, including Ladakh. Locally, the area is still considered 'Little Tibet'.

Potala Palace in Lhasa, once the residence of the Dalai Lama. Like Baltat, it is built at a height above the city

Experts see similarities between the Baltic Fort and the construction of the Potala Palace, the former residence of the Dalai Lama in Lhasa, Tibet. Although the Potala Palace was built in the 16th century, the two royal residences not only have the same style of construction, but both are built on a high peak at the foot of a high mountain, making it difficult for the enemy to reach it.

The modern history of the fort
Karimabad was once the capital of the Hunza Valley state.

Rani of Hunza Atiqa Ghazanfar, wife of Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan of Hunza, says that this fort was used as the residence of the ruling family of Hunza Valley for several hundred years. He said that Mir Jamal Khan, the last ruler of Hunza state, was also born in this fort.

In 1945, he built a separate residence for himself in the Hunza Valley and moved to it, but Qila Baltat is still used for special occasions.

According to Rani Atiqa Ghazanfar, after the annexation of the state to Pakistan, the protection and restoration of the fort was not the responsibility of her or the government of Pakistan, so the fort was restored and maintained at no cost to the Aga Khan Trust. Was handed over.

A visit to the fort

It is clear that this three-story fort was not built together and was enlarged over time. It is said to have had only one floor at the time of construction. Queen Atiqa Ghazanfar also agrees.

The fort has a total of 62 gates and 53 rooms. In addition to the stone in the construction of this fort, the traditional work of precious wood has been done to strengthen the walls. Large windows, windows, porch pillars and galleries with embossed wooden carvings offer a masterpiece of architectural art.

The first floor is open from all sides, while the second floor houses the guest house and the royal court, where the Hunza rulers ruled for many years. The place where the rulers used to hold court is still preserved here and tourists are not allowed to sit in this place.

The third floor is said to have been the residence of the Hunza rulers. In the room of the Mir of Hunza is found an oven-like pit where the king's wine was kept.

There is still a hole at the bottom of the common meeting place. It is said that when a citizen came to the king with a cry, he offered the first offering that was put into the hole. It was usually in the form of wheat, barley, apricots or other commodities.

The ground floor consists mainly of warehouses and rooms where food items were stored.

Castle Museum

Today, the fortress and artifacts reflecting the region's history and daily life are kept here. It is said that when the British army invaded the Hunza Valley in the 18th century, the rulers were fed up with a Russian spy who offered them a modern gun and a bullet.

However, when the British troops arrived to conquer the fort with their guns, the guns were not used and Hunza's bodyguards, armed with old and conventional weapons, could not fight them.

The gun is still preserved in its original condition in this three-story building of the fort.

There are also royal robes of the Hunza ruler and queen, but it is not stated in which period they were used. There is also a locally made carpet on the wall. According to tradition, the basement was used as a prison where criminals were also punished.

In addition to Hunza's local and traditional music, local food still attracts tourists. The castle also houses old-fashioned musical instruments. Locally in Hunza, the same musical instruments that are seen in the fort are still used for weddings or celebrations.

The castle's kitchen also houses iron cooking utensils. Traditional food can still be enjoyed at the royal diner on the fourteenth day of the month for a fee.

According to the tourists visiting the fort, if one visits the fort during the moonlit night, apart from the beautiful view of the Hunza Valley, one can see the high mountain raka pushi in front which captures everyone.

Was Baltat Fort built as a dowry for the princess?

There is very little concrete evidence of how, why and when Baltat Fort was built. According to folklore, Princess Shah Khatun wanted a clear glimpse of her Mecca in her residence. As a result, Baltat Fortress was regularly built in Tibetan style.

Queen Atiqa Azanfar said that there is no doubt that the story of the princess of Baltistan is connected with the construction of this palace, but she says that this palace existed before the marriage of the princess and the princess came to this palace after getting married.

"It is possible that after her transfer, the princess, with the help of Baltistan experts, made the necessary changes to the palace," she said. This fort has undergone construction and changes in every era.

Sherbaz Kaleem is a former fort manager and also a historian. Sherbaz Kaleem said that the construction of Baltat Fort is attributed to Princess Shah Khatun which is still in need of research. He claimed that scientific research has shown that the history of Baltat Fort is about nine hundred years old.

He says, "Now the matter may be that the palaces of the royal family of Hunza would have been built in the form of small or small buildings on the same site before Shah Khatun, which was largely built by Tibetan artisans as a large fort." I must have shielded. '

He said that Shah Khatun later became the queen of Hunza. He made many changes for the beauty of Baltat Fort. In addition to preaching Islam during his time, Ismaili preachers from Central Asia also came to the region. There is no doubt that skilled craftsmen also came from 'Little Tibet' in his time.

According to folklore, the architects from Baltistan wanted to build a comfortable and magnificent palace for their princess in any case. For which he worked day and night and surprised everyone by building a palace for his princess in record time.

 


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