Derawar and the Desert Forts of Cholistan

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The Cholistan desert, or Rohi, is the western part of the Thar desert of the sub-continent which lies in modern Pakistan. There is archaeological evidence that this area was once watered by the Hakra river and was home to an Indus Valley culture based on agriculture. This river, the bed of which can be seen clearly etched into the desert landscape, supported settlements from ca. 4000 BC until around 600 B.C. when the river changed its flow and subsequently vanished underground. Since then the Cholistan area has been a stark and inhospitable desert environment at the edge of empires.


The medieval forts of the Cholistan desert landscape are a group of up to a dozen structures, some standing and some deteriorated. Derawar fort is the best surviving example of this series of historic forts, some dating from pre-Mughal times, but all restored and expanded from the 16th to 18th century by powerful local clans. Other forts include (roughly from north to south) Meergarh, Jaangarh, Marotgarh, Maujgarh, Dingarh, Khangarh, Khairgarh, Bijnotgarh and Islamgarh.These structures form a network across the desert landscape. They served to protect and enable the desert caravan routes; mercantile routes from central Asia to the heartland of the sub-continent and pilgrimage routes between Mecca and India.


Derawar fort was built in the 9th c. by Rai Jajja Bhatti. a Rajput ruler of Bhatti clan. The fort was taken over by the Nawab of Bahawalpur, Sadeq Mohammad Khan I, in 1733 They in turn lost control of the fort in 1747 but took the stronghold back in 1804 and it remained as the desert abode of the Nawabs of Bahawalpur until the 1970s. The fort survived intact due to this constant occupation where many of the others built as part of the medieval desert defence have perished.



The fort is a massive and visually stunning square structure built of clay bricks. The walls have a length of 1500 meters and stand up to thirty meters high. There are forty circular bastions, ten on each side, which stand 30 m high and are visible across the desert for many miles. Each is decorated with intricate patterns in cut brick work. There are remains of structures inside the fort, may richly decorated with tile and fresco work; the Moti or Pearl Mosque stands nearby and the cemetery of the Nawabs of Bahawalpur filled with ornate and elaborate graves.


Derawar and the other forts illustrate the variety of the forms found from square brick structures with circular corner bastions, to square walls completely faced with semi-circular towers, to rectangular and even hexagonal shaped enclosures with angle bastions and square enclosures within an outer wall with multiple bastions. All of these varied forms date from the 16th to late 18th centuries, although many are renovations of previous buildings from as early as the 9th c. Despite this variation in form, all these forts are clustered within an area of only. 250 km N-S and 100 km E-W to the east of the historic cities of Bahawalpur and Yazman.


The explanation for this group of fortifications across the flat sands of the Rohi is presumed to be access to water, protection and control of these important water resources and their relationship to the caravan routes across the desert. Derawar, for example, is located at a critical point in the desert where it is possible to access deep water deposits which are all that remains of the ancient Hakra River. As a result, for many centuries Derawar has been an essential stopping and watering point for all caravans entering the great desert on route to trading entrepots to the east.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The medieval forts of the Cholistan desert form a remarkable and dense concentration of defensive structures in a relatively small area and an inhospitable landscape of sand and stone. Although the precise extent and nature of this network is still being explored, it is clear that it is intimately linked to the routes that were crossed for centuries by desert caravans. This region formed what the ICOMOS thematic study of the Silk Roads (Williams 2014) refers to as a “corridor of movement and impact”.

The forts of the Cholistan desert can be categorized as Category 1 Infrastructure according to the thematic study; “facilitating trade and transportation” and functioning as both forts and way-stations.

The ICOMOS thematic study (Williams 2014) points out that “a fundamental issue has always been access to water” (p. 15.) Derawar Fort and the group of medieval forts of Cholistan are an outstanding representation of the role of water in the play of power in the vast desert region. They bear testimony to the many conflicting princely clans seeking control over water and the taxes and privileges of power associated with control of the lucrative trade and pilgrimage routes which crossed here from Central Asia to northern India.

This small but potentially data-rich part of the desert network meets the priority for nomination put forward by the Silk Roads study as the need to capture the desert routes and the broadly eastwest cub-continent routes of Afghanistan-Pakistan-India. “These types of sites reflect specific regional political and social responses to the organisation and infrastructure of the routes, and as such are an important component of capturing the complexity and diversity of the Silk Roads.”

Criterion (iii): Derawar and the other forts of the Cholistan desert are a unique utilitarian response to the challenges of enabling movement of people and goods across a hostile environment. They form a valuable example of “infrastructure” designed to meet these environmental challenges in the context of changing and often conflict-ridden local circumstances. As such, they bear exceptional testimony to a vanished cultural tradition in this transition zone between Central and South Asia and a valuable component of the complexity and diversity of the Silk Roads.

Criterion (v): The Forts of Cholistan are an outstanding example of human interaction with a harsh desert environment and the resulting efforts to control, safeguard and benefit from scarce water resources which were essential to caravan movement through this corridor.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The desert forts vary in their condition and state of preservation; some such as Marotgarh have deteriorated while other such as Derawar, Bijnotgarh and Meergarh are in better condition. They all, however, share a high degree of authenticity of materials, design and craftsmanship and retain attributes that reflect the changes in ownership over time.

The Operational Guidelines (137) state that serial nominations should not just be a catalogue of sites, but should be an ensemble of sites with specific cultural, social or functional links over time, in which each site contributes substantially to the Outstanding Universal Value of the serial property as a whole. Each of the forts of Cholistan shares a cultural and historical context and a special relationship with the desert landscape Together they display all the variables of the proposed OUV for the property and convey its significance. There are no adverse effects of development however neglect is an issue at several of the forts.

Comparison with other similar properties

The Hill Forts of Rajasthan, India were inscribed on the World Heritage list in 2013 as a serial site of six majestic forts that “bears testimony to the power of the Rajput princely states that flourished in the region from the 8th to 18th centuries”. Although these forts are located on the other side of the same desert as Derawar and the other Cholistan forts, they represent an entirely different tradition of “forts”. The Rajasthan properties very large and elaborate, enclosing urban centres and palaces with associated courtly culture and arts. It is this interchange of princely Rajput ideologies and patronage in the arts which form their OUV.

Another World Heritage site based on a trade route is the Incense Route – Desert Cities in the Negev, Israel (2005). This property comprises four Nabatean towns with associated fortresses and agricultural landscapes which provide a very complete picture of the Nabatean desert civilisation strung along a trade route.

These properties are both in stark contrast to the Cholistan forts which are structurally impressive but not ornate or extravagant, nor do they have urban development within their walls or nearby. Also lacking are the courtly associations and agricultural landscapes; instead their values lie in their bold functionality related to maintaining the desert caravan routes.

More meaningful comparison can be found in the group of isolated 19th c. forts built by the American Army in Texas to protect the western frontier, or the Roman fortifications in the Eastern Desert of Egypt designed to protect the caravan trade from the Red Sea to the Nile.

The thematic study on Silk Roads found that in 2014 there were 221 relevant sites on Tentative Lists reflecting a broad range of site types and landscapes, but with a strong emphasis on the “outcomes” of the Silk Roads, and far less on the “infrastructure” associated with ancient trade routes. This is a gap which the Desert Forts of Cholistan will help to fill.

No comparable property can be found which matches the attributes of the Desert Forts of Cholistan. This is a group of utilitarian and yet varied fortifications closely spaced across a relatively small area of desert, all either built or renovated over a period of a few centuries to protect water sources and the caravan trade in an area of South Asia which has not yet been adequately explored or documented as an important link in the vast network of the Silk Roads.

Shehzad Roy wants to promote education in Shangla

The singer visited the first international standard college built in Barkana village with the help of Malala fund


Singer and founder of Zindagi Trust Shehzad Roy says he wants to promote education in the remote areas of Shangla district, where an estimated 100,000 children are out of school.

He stated this during a visit to a private college accompanied by deputy commissioner Tashfeen Haider, assistant commissioner Alpuri Tariq, district education officers (male and female), Mohammad Ameen and Parven Rehman and others.

The first international standard private college has been built with the financial support of Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai in her ancestral Barkana village.

The delegation also comprising Zindagi Trust teachers met the schoolteachers and students and told them about the importance of education.

A District education official briefs Shahzad Roy during his visit to a girls college constructed in Barkana area of Shangla with the help of Malala Fund. — Dawn
A District education official briefs Shahzad Roy during his visit to a girls college constructed in Barkana area of Shangla with the help of Malala Fund. — Dawn

Later, while addressing local elders, Mr Roy said education was key to success and that he wanted to work in the district to promote education and create awareness among the public about the importance of education.

He said that his team would work enthusiastically in the district with a best curriculum, while he was striving to bring more educational groups in the district for improvement in the sector.

The elders suggested renaming the school in Malala’s name as she was the pride of entire Pakistan, especially of Shangla. They said she built the college because there was no girls college in the district.

The locals said they were thankful to Malala Yousafzai for building such an international standard school and college in the district where thousands of students would get education.

Deputy commissioner Tashfeen Haider thanked the local people for showing positive response for the cause of education.

He said development of education and health sectors were on his priority.

The deputy commissioner said Shangla people were fortunate that Malala had built a standard school and college in the remote area for their children, but now it was parents’ responsibility to send their children to the school.

Nobel Foundation says literature prize may be delayed again

This year’s literature prize, already postponed until 2019 due to a sexual assault scandal, may be delayed further


The Nobel Foundation on Friday said this year’s literature prize, already postponed until 2019 due to a sexual assault scandal, may be delayed further.

Lars Heikensten, executive director of the foundation said the 2018 prize would be “awarded when the Swedish Academy has regained confidence or is in the process of doing so to a sufficient extent”.

“This means that there is no 2019 deadline,” he told the public Swedish Radio.

The body has been in turmoil since November when Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter — in the wake of the global #MeToo campaign — published the testimonies of 18 women who claimed to have been raped, sexually assaulted or harassed by an influential figure with long-standing ties to the Academy.

Disagreements within the prestigious institution on how to deal with the issue sowed deep discord among its 18 members and prompted six to quit, including the first woman permanent secretary Sara Danius.

The journey of Fatima Jinnah’s cars from decay to brand new

dear Readers !

couple of days before i published 1 article regarding of Fatima Jinnah’s cars which has been repaired and its looks like a brand new cars.In this article i will show you some more information and pictures of  upgraded cars.

it has been 21 months of hard work for the classic car afficianado Mohsin Ikram, founder and president of the Vintage and Classic Car Club of Pakistan and Motorheads Pakistan. He is the one who first discovered the two cars at Mohatta Palace in 1992.

At the time, the cars were not in too bad a shape as they were parked in a garage. “Even the stickers on their engines were intact,” he says. But then the Sindh government took on the renovation of Mohatta Palace (before it was turned into the current museum) and both the heritage vehicles were pulled out from the garage and left outside under the open sky.

The labourers, who had no idea of their worth, would climb on them and sit on their bonnets to eat their meals. There was also nothing stopping thieves from stealing the cars’ parts.

Word of what had happened reached Ikram when another collector of classic cars was overheard boasting about how he had broken the dashboard of one of the cars to yank out its clock and other accessories. That’s when Ikram hurried to Mohatta Palace to see for himself what was going on there. He found the vintage cars in terrible condition. Both cars were missing their wheels and rims, along with several other parts.

“With their wheels gone, I found them standing on bricks. It was a painful sight. I wrote to the then governor of Sindh to kindly look into the matter,” he says.


Restoring and relocating Fatima Jinnah’s cars was a labour of love for a classic-car lover

Realising that the cars were a national asset, there was an order from the Governor House to remove the cars from Mohatta Palace immediately and for them to be taken into possession by the Sindh Archives Department.

“Of course, I was glad that someone took notice but then the people carrying out the orders literally dragged the cars, which were without wheels, mind you, to the Sindh Archives building causing them further damage,” Ikram says.

That was when he thought of letting people know about what was happening to Fatima Jinnah’s cars. He wrote a letter for Dawn’s ‘Letters to the Editor’ section, which prompted several more letters from other readers who were as shocked as himself over the treatment meted out to the cars. The government was embarrassed. It decided to restore the cars.

In a state of ruin | Photo Fahim Siddiqi/White Star
In a state of ruin | Photo Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

But who would do it? Being a classic-cars enthusiast and having restored over a hundred of them, Ikram felt confident enough to volunteer for the job. So passionate is he about classic cars that, at first, he even offered to do the work for free. But he was not alone, as the Sindh Archives Department was also receiving offers from other people.

Things stood at a standstill for a few more years until another well-meaning citizen of Karachi filed a petition in the Sindh High Court for the handover of the cars for restoration to a capable party.

The Cadillac at the National Museum garage with 90 percent work done | Photo VCCCP
The Cadillac at the National Museum garage with 90 percent work done | Photo VCCCP

The government then offered tenders and Ikram’s offer seemed the most reliable, which got him and his team the job of consultants.

“I must thank Sharmila Farooqui for giving the initial approval for restoration of the cars after seeing my application. I would also like to thank the current Minister for Culture Syed Sardar Ali Shah for his help. And a very special thanks goes to Director of Sindh Archives Roshan Ali Kanasro, who remained extremely helpful to me throughout, till the cars were complete,” he says.

Taking the car apart | Photo Fahim Siddiqi/White Star
Taking the car apart | Photo Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

“The cars were transported to the National Museum where we started the renovation work on them,” says Ikram. It was not the cars alone which needed work. The two garages at the museum also needed electric wiring for lighting and power supply for the mechanical tools and machines to work.

The Mercedes halfway to gaining its old glory | Photo VCCCP
The Mercedes halfway to gaining its old glory | Photo VCCCP

That done, work on the cars started simultaneously. The body fittings, including the seats, mouldings, bumpers, lights, etc., were removed first, followed by the removing of the body panels such as fenders, doors and the bonnet. Next, they turned their attention to the body, the hull or chassis, which had to be restored first as they are like the foundations of a building.

Eighty percent restoration work done on the Mercedes | Photo Fahim Siddiqi/White Star
Eighty percent restoration work done on the Mercedes | Photo Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

The Cadillac was golden in colour when Ikram first saw it at Mohatta Palace. But working on it before the patchwork, he realised that was not its original colour, which happened to be a buttery cream shade. Restoring it, he gave it its original colour. The Mercedes was white originally and so it is now.

Mohsin Ikram’s team at work | Photo VCCCP
Mohsin Ikram’s team at work | Photo VCCCP

It took less than two years — 21 months precisely from August 8, 2016 to May 7, 2018 — for the work on the cars to be completed and for them to be brought to the Quaid-i-Azam House Museum, or Flagstaff House as it is known.

“The work could have been completed sooner had I taken the alternate route of getting other cars of the same models and simply taken pieces from them to replace with whatever was needed for the body in these classics,” Ikram says. “But then they wouldn’t have been Fatima Jinnah’s cars,” he smiles.

The Mercedes Benz in 2016 before it was taken in for restoration | Photo Fahim Siddiqi/White Star
The Mercedes Benz in 2016 before it was taken in for restoration | Photo Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

It was a proud moment for the classic-car lover to bring the cars to the Quaid-i-Azam House Museum, after restoration last week. “They arrived here on their own power. They are perfectly roadworthy,” he says.

The newly restored Mercedes Benz | Photo Fahim Siddiqi/White Star
The newly restored Mercedes Benz | Photo Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

“There had been some talk earlier, around 2006, for them to be restored and displayed at an army museum or at a park named after Miss Fatima Jinnah in F-9 Islamabad,” he shares. “But I always wanted them to be put on display here at the Quaid-i-Azam House Museum as this is where Fatima Jinnah also lived and the road on which it is built is also named Fatima Jinnah Road. Besides, these cars are a part of Karachi’s heritage. They should stay in this city,” he says.

Both the Mercedes and the Cadillac have now been put on display in a showcase-like glass garage at Flagstaff House. “I had the display garage built myself. It is based on the Quaid-i-Azam House Museum architecture,” says Ikram. “I made sure that the stone used for it, too, was the same as that used in the construction of the house,” he adds.

On being asked if the cars wouldn’t gather dust and be driven to ruin again just the way they did at Mohatta Palace, Ikram smiles and shakes his head. “I will make sure it doesn’t happen again. I will be in charge of their maintenance for as long as I live and, after me, I have taken care that others will look after them.”





In 1989, when Niaz Hussain’s son got married, his daughter-in-law requested a hindoro, a traditional cradle which is a large swing without a back rest. “I promptly bought her one and placed it in the veranda. Since then, it has been the centre of activity for the women of the house,” says the 65-year-old grandfather. “They sit on it to chat over a cup of tea, chop vegetables, shell peas or lie down for a nap. Babies are rocked to sleep and children are told stories on it. And when it needs a bit of repair, the women are on my case until I get it done quickly,” he laughs. “My granddaughter loves sitting in it so much that she once asked me if there is a hindoro in heaven,” he added with a huge smile.

“According to our elders, the craftsmanship of cradle-making is almost 300 years old,” says Iftekhar Vighio. Craftsmen who make these coveted swinging cots have attained the status of a caste in Sindh. They are known as Vighio or Vigha Mal. Interestingly, in Sindh, many castes are still identified by the profession that their families practised in the past or are still engaged in.

“My father Muhammad Salih Vigha Mal received the presidential award in 1980 for the craft of making hindoro,” says Nabi Bux, with a proud smile. He pauses the lakar, a device that consists of a long, curved piece of wood with a loose string joining its ends, used for rolling circular wooden pieces with the sway of a single hand. “This is an ancestral art; we have learnt its intricacies from our forefathers. No one can fit different pieces of a hindoro together except us as it requires an ingenious technique,” he explains

The traditional Sindhi swings and cots from Hala are the perfect choice to bring a touch of artistry to your home. But fewer and fewer craftsmen engage in this art

A cradle is suspended at the height of 1.5 feet from the ground by columns or legs that are 5.5 feet high, while the length of the cot is 3.5 feet, explains Shakir Ali Vigha Mal, a craftsman at Khanoth, a little village not far from old Hala.

“A few years ago, the cradle was manufactured as well as assembled at Khanoth,” says Pir Dino Vighio, an assembler at Bhit Shah. “But now, after several expert assemblers have passed on, its parts are brought to Bhit Shah where they are fixed and then carried back to retail outlets to be sold at exorbitant prices, the minimum being about 30,000 rupees.”

Being the main commercial town in the vicinity, Hala is famous for ‘jandi’ work, although initially, jandi was made in Khanoth.

Home-made gadgets are utilised for different tasks
Home-made gadgets are utilised for different tasks

The drawing of various designs and hues on wood is called ‘jandi’ in Sindhi. Because of the minute, coloured spots that resemble tiny beads, this jandi work is called ‘jahawardar jandi’. The colours used to make jandi are also manufactured by local women.

Jandi work is popular for a special feature. It is smooth visibly and also to the touch but there some sharp points on the surface here and which are meant to rip the skin of a snake if one happens to slither over the hindoro as reptiles are not uncommon in villages.

The hindoro is considered a status symbol in Sindh. In the past, homes with hindoro were considered well-off. Gradually, though, the swing made its way into the homes of the not so well-to-do as it became a cultural symbol.

An artisan makes designs on a piece of wood
An artisan makes designs on a piece of wood

A hindoro is not to be confused with a peengho, even though both are Sindhi words meaning ‘cradle’. The latter is made of square-shaped wooden pieces whereas the former is the product of circular woodwork of varying sizes.

Cradles with art and designs on them are generally preferred over ones that are plain. In order to preserve the colour and shine of the wood, they should be protected from water and direct sunlight.

To make intricate designs on a hindoro, the artisans use various handmade tools, such as pango (a piece cut from a frond for levelling colour on the wooden piece), rachi, palkar and khurchan (chisel). Jandi work is done not only on cradles but also on sofa sets, rollers, glasses, cots, chairs, ashtrays, etc.

A specific type of wood called bahan is fetched from Balochisan, Kandhkot and Shikarpur for making Sindhi cradles. Bahan wood is preferred because it is light, dry and repels woodworms. As it is dry, it absorbs and retains colour well.

Various pieces of wood waiting to be assembled into a swing
Various pieces of wood waiting to be assembled into a swing

It takes at least 15 days to make a hindoro. Once the bahan wood has dried, it is cut with a machine into standard-sized pieces with curves and curls. After being smoothened out, it is wrapped with pango to be rolled in order to apply seven colours and shine under heat emanating from coals set on a brick. The cot is woven up with string or rope. Finally, it is dispatched for final assembly.

Sadly, the beautiful craft does not bring substantial financial returns for the craftsmen. “We get 700 to 800 rupees for eight hours of work per day by the seths,” says Muhammad Musa Vighio, an expert at chiselling. Seths are the merchants who provide wood and other material to the artisans, collect various pieces of cradles from them, get them assembled and sell them for a large profit.

Along with financial difficulties, their health also suffers. “We can work at this craft till the age of 50,” complains Abdullah Vigha Mal “After this our eyesight tends to become weak as we are constantly looking at the wooden piece in our hands and rubbing colour on wood strains the eyes. Smoke from the coals also affects our lungs.”

A craftsman makes holes to join different pieces of the hindoro together
A craftsman makes holes to join different pieces of the hindoro together

Doubtful of the future of this awe-inspiring art, Shahid Ali Vighio says, “I will not encourage my children to pursue this profession as it has not provided a decent standard of life for me and my family.”

This art is now being transferred to the local Sheedis and the Bhutto caste. Since they are extremely poor, they have been learning this craft to make ends meet.

“The centuries-old art of cradle-making is unique and must be preserved by the government,” says Syed Majid Shah, a well-read resident of New Hala. “The craftsmen need modern workshops that have basic facilities. They could do with training in awareness about health and hygiene. If they could be educated for developing business ideas, their craft would grow into a successful business instead of being relegated as a dying art.”

Fatima Jinnah’s Cadillac and Mercedes Benz restored to their original condition

The cars will formally be handed over to the culture department of the Government of Sindh


Miss Fatima Jinnah’s 1955 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible and her 1965 Mercedes Benz 200, which had been driven to ruin over the years due to negligence by their caretakers, have been restored to their original condition with the heritage vehicles placed at the Quaid-i-Azam House, or Flagstaff House as it is also known, on Monday.

The cars will formally be handed over to the culture department of the Government of Sindh on Wednesday when they will also be opened for display to the public in their newly built glass garage.

“The cars will receive some minor cosmetic attention before then,” said a very happy Mohsin Ikram, founder and president of the Vintage and Classic Car Club of Pakistan and Motorheads Pakistan, who had been brought in as consultant with his team to take care of the entire restoration work.

The display garage for the cars is based on the Quaid-i-Azam House architecture..

“Even now, the Cadillac is 100 per cent ready but the Mercedes I will call 98 per cent complete as it is still missing its star at the front,” he said about the Benz logo.

He added that the display garage for the cars was based on the Quaid-i-Azam House architecture. “We also used the same stone in its construction,” he said.

Watching proudly as the shining heritage vehicles arrived at the Quaid-i-Azam House on their own power, the man who had helped restore them seemed to become a bit sentimental. “I struggled for 19 years to save these cars,” he said.

Mr Ikram had first discovered them in the garages of the Mohatta Palace from where they had been pulled out and left under the open sky when the palace was being restored. The labourers there used to eat their food on the cars’ bonnets. Many of their parts were also stolen then. After his raising alarm about this the cars, which by that time were even without wheels, were literally dragged to the Sindh Archives building causing them further damage. It was after his continuously writing letters to the editor in newspapers and sending applications to the government that he was handed over the cars for restoration.

It took less than two years, 21 months precisely, from Aug 8, 2016 to May 7, 2018, for the work on the cars to be completed.