|Peshawar derives its name from a Sanskrit word "Pushpapura"
meaning the city of flowers. Peshawar's flowers were mentioned
even in Mughal Emperor Babar's memories.
Alexander's legions and the southern wing of his army were
held up here in 327 B.C. for forty days at a fort excavated
recently, 27 1/2 kms north-east of Peshawar at Pushkalavati
(lotus city) near Charsada.
|The great Babar marched through historic Khyber Pass to
conquer South Asia in 1526 and set up the Moghal Empire in
the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent.
The Khyber Pass and the valley have resounded to the tramp
of marching feet as successive armies hurtled down the
crossroad of history, pathway of commerce, migration and
invasion by Aryans, Scythians. Persians, Greeks, Bactrians,
Kushans, Huns, Turks' Mongols and Moghals.
||Pathans are faithful Muslims. Their typical martial and
religious character has been molded by their heroes, like
Khushhal Khan Khattak, the warrior poet and Rehman Baba, a
preacher and also a poet of Pushto language.
Today, they themselves guard the Pakistan-Afghanistan
border along the great passes of the Khyber, the Tochi,
the Gomal and others on Pakistan's territory, but before
independence they successfully defied mighty empires, like
the British and the Moghal and other before them, keeping
the border simmering with commotion, and the flame of
freedom proudly burning.
Peshawar is the great Pathan city. And what a city! Hoary with
age and the passage of twenty-five centuries, redolent with
the smell of luscious fruit and roasted meat and tobacco
smoke, placid and relaxed but pulsating with the rhythmic
sound of craftsmen's hammers and horses' hooves, unhurried in
its pedestrian pace and horse-carriage traffic, darkened with
tall houses, narrow lanes and overhanging balconies, intimate,
with its freely intermingling crowd of townsmen, tribal,
traders and tourists - this is old Peshawar, the journey's end
or at least a long halt, for those traveling up north or
coming down from the Middle East or Central Asia, now as
centuries before when caravans unloaded in the many caravan
series now lying deserted outside the dismantled city walls or
used as garages by the modern caravans of far-ranging buses.
THE OLD CITY:
Until the mid-fifties Peshawar 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. It leads out to
the Khyber and on to Kabul.
You come across two-and -three story houses built mostly of
unbaked bricks set in wooden frames to guard against
earthquakes, Many old houses have beautifully carved heavy
wooden doors and almost all have highly ornamental wooden
balconies. There is a tall and broad structure whose lofty
portal look down upon the street. This historical building
houses the police offices and the site was occupied centuries
ago by a Buddhist stupa, then by a Hindu temple and then by a
Moghal sarai. It was, in Sikh days, the seat of General
Avitable, an Italian soldier of fortune in the service of
QISSA KHAWANI BAZAAR:
|Here perhaps visiting travelers or the relaxing townsmen
were regaled with stories by professional story tellers,
in the evening, in the many teashops that still adorn the
bazaar front with their large brass samovars and numerous
hanging teapots and teacups.
As in most eastern bazaars, the shops of delicacies
predominate, and here too you will find many colorful
fruit shops displaying the glorious harvest of Peshawar's
unrivaled bread and justly celebrated "Kababs" and "Tikkas"
meat sizzling on hot coals, in the many wayside cafes.
Leather goods shops are the next most numerous, selling
that wonderful footwear, the Peshawari "Chappals" or
sandals, belts, holsters and bandoliers and a special
variety of light but sturdy suitcase called "Yakhdaan".
As you move up, the Qissa Khawani Bazaar turns left and here
begins the bazaar of coppersmiths whose jewel-like engraved
and embossed jars, bowls, ewers and plates are piled up in
shops like glistening treasure trove. Other famous bazaars of
Peshawar are the Khyber Bazaar. Bird Bazaar and Meena Bazaar,
Jewellery Bazaar and Mochilara (Shoe Makers' Bazaar).
fact, the variety of craft in which Peshawar excels even today
is amazing and this is a part of the city's character often
eclipsed by its martial tradition. Remember that it was in
this valley of Peshawar that there flourished that remarkable
school of Ghandhara sculpture, which is one of the glories of
Soon you reach the central square called chowk Yadgaar the
traditional site of political rallies. The two routes from the
old city meet here. Parking of cars can safely be done only at
this place in the old city.
MOSQUE OF MOHABAT KHAN:
The only significant remaining Moghal mosque in Peshawar was
built by Mohabat khan in 1670 A.D. when he was twice Governor
of Peshawar under Moghal Emperors Shah Jehan and Aurangzeb.
The mosque was nearly destroyed by fire in 1898 A.D. and was
only saved by the unremitting efforts of the faithful. The
extensive renovation of the mosque was done by the traditional
craftsman. The mosque is a fine specimen of Moghal
architecture of Emperor Shah Jehan's period. The interior of
the prayer chamber has been lavishly decorated with floral
work and calligraphy.
BALA HISAAR FORT:
The mighty Bala Hisaar Fort lies on both eastern approaches to
Peshawar city. It meets the eye when coming from Rawalpindi or
from the Khyber. It is a massive frowning structure as its
name implies, and the newcomer passing under the shadow of its
huge battlements and ramparts cannot fail to be impressed.
Originally built by Babar, the first of the Moghals in
1526-30, it was rebuilt in its present form by the Sikh
Governor of Peshawar, Hari Singh Nalva, in the 1830's under
the guidance of French engineers. It houses government offices
Peshawar Museum is housed in an imposing building of the
British days. It was formerly the Victoria Memorial Hall
built in 1905. The large hall, side galleries and the
raised platform which were used for ball dances now
display in chronological order finest specimens of
Gandhara sculptures, tribal life, the Muslim period and
These houses are situated in Mohallah Sethian and can be
approached from Chowk yadgaar. These are highly decorated
style of building with carved wooden doors, partitions,
balconies, mirrored and painted rooms. The Sehtis are the
traditional business community of Peshawar. The main house was
built in 1882 AD. by Haji Ahmed Gul who migrated from Chamkani
(a near village) almost 6 generations ago.
Across the railway line was built the new modern Peshawar, the
Cantonment, like the ones which the British built near every
major city for their administrative offices, military
barracks, residences, parks, churches and shops.
The Peshawar "Sadder" (Cantonment) is a spaciously laid out
neat and clean township with avenues of tall trees, wide
tarred roads, large single storied houses with lawns and a
pervading scent of rare shrubs and flowers that is Peshawar's
The heart of the sadder is the Khalid bin Walid (Company) Bagh
which is an old Moghal Garden. Its huge ancient trees and
gorgeous big roses are a sight to remember. Two other splendid
old gardens are the Shahi Bagh in the north-east and the Wazir
Bagh in the south-east, all of which give the character of a
garden city to Peshawar.
In Sadder, there are the splendid modern state bank building,
Governor's house, hotels, old missionary Edwards collage
,archly stocked museum, fine shopping area and right in the
middle is the tourist Information center at Dean's hotel
The Peshawar of the hoary past is the old city, the Peshawar
of the British period (1849 to 1947) is the Cantonment but the
Peshawar of independent Pakistan is the vast extension of the
city west and east.
Westward, on the road to the Khyber, where in the days gone
by, no one was safe from tribal raids, today stretches a long
line of educational and research institutions, such as the
Academy of rural development, the teachers training college,
the north regional laboratories of the council of scientific
and industrial research and many others.
But the pride of Peshawar today is its university, a vast
sprawling garden town of red brick buildings and velvet lawns,
which comprises a dozen departments and colleges of law,
medicine, engineering and forestry. Special mention must be
made of the Islamia college, which was the pioneer national
institution that ignited the torch of enlightenment in this
region,67 years ago.
The road stretching out east towards Rawalpindi is lined for
miles upon miles with factories producing a variety of goods
and also orchard producing some of the world's finest plums,
and peaches. Rice, sugar-cane and tobacco are the rich
cash-crops of the well-watered Peshawar valley through which
flows the Kabul River and at the end of which the mighty Indus
forms the district boundary for 48 1/2 Kms (30miles),the two
joining near the historic Attock fort.