Peshawar ( The Northern Frontier City )

Chowk Yadgar, Peshawar Old City, Pakistan

Chowk Yadgar (Old City) - Photo Courtesy friend faraway (back home)

peshawar pakistanPeshawar - the capital of NWFP is not new to the historians and tourists. It is an old - rather so old that its origins are lost in antiquity. Some believe that it was founded over 2,000 years ago by the Kushan Kings of Gandhara. Alexander's legions were held up here in 327 B.C. for forty days at a fort excavated recently, some 30 kilometres north-east of Peshawar at Pushkalavati (lotus city) near Charsada. Peshawar then declined into an obscurity not broken until the 16th century. Mughal emperor Babar came to Peshawar, he found a city called Begam and rebuilt the fort there, in 1530. His grandson, Akbar, formally gave the name Peshawar which means "The Place at the Frontier". Historians also derive Peshawar from a Sanskrit word "Pushpapura", meaning the city of flowers, or even the "City of Grain". In the days of the Kushan King it was called the "Lotus Land". Peshawar was once the centre of Buddhist Gandhara civilization but as Buddhism declined, Peshawar also fell away from timeline. When Marco Polo visited Peshawar in about 1275 AD, he attributed its people as "having peculiar language, who worship idols and have an evil disposition". May be for an outsider the locals displayed an inhospitable attitude since they had been subjected to so many invasions in the past - but today anyone who visits Peshawar knows Pathans to be just the opposite - warm hearted, extremely hospitable and friendly.

After the Kushan era, Peshawar declined into an obscurity not broken until the 16th century, following the Mughal emperor Babar's decision to rebuild the fort here in 1530. Sher Shah Suri, has successor, turned Peshawar's renaissance into a boom when he ran his Delhi-to-Kabul Shahi Road through the Khyber Pass. The Mughal turned Peshawar into a 'city of flowers' by planting lot of shady trees and building gardens. In 1818, the Sikh ruler Ranjit Singh captured Peshawar and like what he did in Lahore and Multan, burnt a large part of the city and felled the trees shading its many gardens for firewood. In the ensuing 30 years of Sikh rule, Peshawar saw the destruction of Shalimar Gardens and of Baba's magnificent fort, not to mention the dwindling of the city's population by almost half.  In 1849, came the British but were hated as much as were the Sikhs and thus commenced a long drawn continuous warfare between the British and the Pathans, due to which a number of garrisons and forts sprang up. When the British built a paved road through the Khyber Pass, they needed to build numerous forts and pickets to guard it. These pickets can still be seen along the road to Torkham, the Pakistan-Afghanistan border town.

  wodden balconies of peshawar

While in Peshawar, and specially the inner city, one is obsessed with the aroma of roasted meat and tobacco smoke. Until mid-fifties, like Lahore and Multan, the city was enclosed within a city wall and sixteen gates. Of the old city gates the most famous was the Kabuli Gate but only the name remains now. Peshawar is also rich in heritage of old buildings, built mostly of unbaked bricks set in wooden frames to guard against earthquakes and beautifully carved ornamental wooden balconies, doorways and windows. Some still survive despite the quest for demolishing old buildings and replacing these with towering shopping malls and business canters. The dress code of Peshawar, or for that matter the entire frontier province is rather free and easy in loosely stitched trousers and shirts with turbans as head gear. North and south of Peshawar spreads the vast tribal area where the biggest tribal society in the world has its abode. Pathans are very religious and are faithful Muslims - this fine blend of martial and religious character is due to heroes like Khushhal Khan Khattak, the warrior poet and Rehman Baba, also a poet of Pashto language.

Left (1,2,3):Vendors in Peshawar Old Bazaar - Right: Innovative Public Service (courtesy Dawn)

Without mention of Qissa Khawani Bazaar (located in the heart of city) description of Peshawar remains incomplete.  In olden days, this was the site of camping ground for caravans and military adventures, where professional story-tellers recited ballads and tales of war and love to throngs of traders and soldiers. Although the traditional story-tellers are thing of the past, but still people from everywhere throng the crowded street. It has what an old city must have, warmth and traditional green tea over which terms of business are settled. Shops here abound in eastern delicacies and one may find many colourful fruit shops and famous "Chapli Kabab" shops - a delicacy of Peshawar. Leather goods vendors proudly sell typical footwear, the Peshawari "Chappals" or sandals, belts, holsters and bandoliers etcetera.

masjid mahabat khan masjid mahabat khan

Another landmark of Peshawar city is the mosque Mahabat Khan - built by two times Mughal governor of Peshawar Mahabat Khan in 1670 AD. The mosque is a fine specimen of Mughal architecture of Emperor Shah Jahan's period. The interior of the prayer chamber has been beautifully decorated with floral work and calligraphy. The mosque was nearly destroyed by fire in 1898 AD but an extensive renovation of the mosque gave back its glory.

Peshawar Cantonment is the best part of the city, with wide open two way roads, lined with age old trees with large canopies, providing shade to the passersby in the scorching summers. The main market or called the "Saddar Bazar" is throng with ladies to buy cloth which is available in abundance. Many a building of the British era still stand here adding majestic vestige look to the beauty of the city.

Bala Hisar Fort is located at the north-western edge of the city was built in 1519 AD during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Babar.  The words are Persian,  the name was given by the Afghan King Taimur Shah Durrani (1773-1793), meaning, “elevated or high fort”.   The area covered by the inner wall of the fort is about 10 acres and the outer wall is about 15 acres. The height of the fort is about 90 feet above ground level. One cannot miss it when entering Peshawar city if coming from Islamabad. It is a massive structure with huge battlements and ramparts. The fort was rebuilt in its present form by the Sikh Governor of Peshawar, Hari Singh Nalva, in the 1830's. The Sikhs during rein of Ranjit Singh named it Samir Garh in 1834 but the name did not become popular. Presently the fort houses government offices.

islamia college peshawarIslamia College Peshawar is a famous and historical educational institution. Many a notables from the city and even the province are graduates from this college. above in black and white is a shot of the college in early 1900s while the coloured snap shows as it stands today.


16 kilometres from Peshawar, on the Khyber Road, an old battle-ship attracts the eye: this is Jamrud Fort (right). It is built on a high spot on a 100 yds square ground half a mile from the Jamrud railway station. The fort also houses the grave of its builder, the famous Sikh General Hari Singh Nalwa, who died here in action against the forces of the Amir of Kabul in 1837 AD.

Bab-e-Khyber (left) or the Gate of Khyber is a beautiful arched gate was constructed near Jamrud in 1963 to enhance the grandeur, dignity and beauty of the famous Khyber Pass. The gate not only acts as an entrance to the Khyber Pass but is also the centre of attraction of tourists. The gate was inaugurated on 11th of June 1963 by Field Marshal Muhammad Ayub Khan, the then president of Pakistan. Ever since, it has served as a symbolic postcard picture epitomizing the strength and grace of Khyber, and appears on the insignia of the NWFP Government. Tour de Pakistan race originates at this point.

Related Links: | Peshawar | Images of Peshawar |


Click for Peshawar, Pakistan Forecast

This page was created on 1 January 2005 / 3 February 2009

Copyright©JalalsPages - 2005 - 2009