Described by John Keay as “the hub, the crow’s-nest, the fulcrum of Asia” (the Gilgit Game, 1979), Gilgit is key junction in the north for travel to all points of the compass. The town has large and varied history, but each event reflects Gilgit’s strategic location. From the numerous territorial disputes between rival petty kingdom is the surrounding valleys, through the imperial rivalry of the ear of the ‘Great Game’, up until the partition war between Pakistan and India and the continuing antagonism between the two states, Gilgit has held its place at the centre of local history.
Gilgit District arguably the most important of the five administrative division that comprise the Northern Areas and the seat of the regional capital at Gilgit town. It does in fact stretch all way up to international border with China. Though for the sake if ease of use, its upper division such as Hunza, Nagar and Gojal all have their sections within the Karakorum Highway and Northern Areas. For those traveling along the KKH are now accessible, whilst the towns and villages on highway itself are more geared up for tourism than their counterparts further the south in Hazara and Kohistan.
Gilgit district began life as the ‘Gilgit Agency’, an administrative division created by the British in 1877 in an attempt to increase their influence in a region seen as being vulnerable to Russian incursion.
Ancient and Medieval history: the record for the early and medieval history of Gilgit is rather incomplete largely because the oral tradition, as oppose to written form, has been the primary source of transmitting on the period. The oral tradition has left us with some amusing titbits, however such as the story of last Buddhist ruler of Gilgit, Sri Badad. It is suggested that such was his taste for the flesh of young children, that ate nothing els!
The Tarakans were the dominant dynasty during Gilgit’s medieval period, ruling for eight distinct phases from some time in the 8th century until 1840. It is from the Tarakhan line that the rival ruling families of Hunza and Nagar have evolved.
Modern History: towards the end of Tarakhans dynasty, both Sikhs and British influence was growing in the region. In 1842 a Sikh army from Kashmir, at the request of the beleaguered ruler of Gilgit, succeeded in driving the murderous Gohar Aman back to his stronghold in Yasin. Gohar Aman continued to harass the town and the Sikh Garrison, and eventually succeeded in recapturing Gilgit in 1852. He ruled three unopposed until his death in 1860, by which time he is alleged to have sold half of the local population into slavery.
In the meantime, following the decisive victory in the first Anglo-Sikh war of 1846, the British had ‘sold’ Kashmir to the Dogra Raja of Jammu Gulab Singh after he had footed the bill for the Sikh’s war preparation. Following Gohar Aman’s death, the Dogras returned to Gilgit under the direction of Gulab Singh’s successor Ranbir Singh. Thus, for the first time since the ruler of Sri Badad some 11 centuries earlier, Gilgit found itself under the yoke of a non-Muslim ruler.
It was around this time that the British were beginning to penetrate the region. Vigne and Moorcroft had reached close to Gilgit in the late 1830s, and in 1866 the amazing Leitner had brought back the first written account of the town, albeit after a stay of 24 hours. British concern growing over the perceived threat of Russian invasion through the unmapped passes to the North, and the vulnerability of the Kashmir frontier became a major issue.
The British response was to appoint a series of ‘political agents’ to Gilgit, perhaps the most influential of whom was Colonel Algernon Durand. Although in theory just a representative of the British Government on the frontier. Durand was the de facto Military commander of the region, and as such was the key policy maker. A system evolved by which the political agent was responsible for the area of the agency, reporting to the British resident in Kashmir, whilst the maharaja’s representative was only answerable for the Kashmir state territories, which at this stage included the district of Gilgit.
The System of Dual control’ was soon deemed unworkable, and in 1935 the then Maharaja of Kashmir, Raja Hari Singh, was encourage to sign a document leasing the Gilgit Wazarat to Britain for 60 years. This is how the position of Gilgit stood at the partition of sub-continent in 1974, and the creation of the state of Pakistan.
European Commentary: On Khazana Road, to the west of town, is the commentary in which the British explorer George Hayward is buried. The graveyard is also final resting place of Captain in the Sikh Pioneers who “accidentally drowned in the Indus near Bunji in 1929, some members of the 1959 Batura and Muztagh Expedition, and a young British school teacher who died in a fall near Sust in 1989.
Polo Matches: Gilgit has number of polo teams with the version played here being far less genteel than the version Prince Charles enjoys. Important matches are held at the Aga Khan Polo Ground. Many tournaments are organizing in every month especially in the evening.
Jutial Nala: A popular walk, giving good view of the ‘bowl’ in which Gilgit sits, involves a stroll along the Jutial Nala above Gilgit to the south. You can extend the walk by counting along the Jutial water channel, even continuing to the Kargha Buddha. The gorge up to 6kms up to the pine forests and green pastures, with great view back north to Rakaposhi. Walk along the water channel of Gilgit you reached to a village called Barmas, from here you can drop down to Gilgit.
Kargha Buddha: Thought to date to the 17th or 18th century, and showing marked similarities to Tibetan carving founded in Baltistan, this large image of standing Buddha is found on the cliff face at Kargha, several kms west of Gilgit.
Naltar Valley: Lying to the north and northwest of Gilgit is the beautiful Naltar Valley. An area of glacial lakes, pine forest and the alpine meadows pinned in by snow covered peaks, this is ideal camping country. There are number of hikes that can be made from here, in addition to two short treks (Daintar Pass trek & Naltar Pakora Pass trek).
Rock Carving at Rahimabad Village: Rahimabad is a village 40kms on the way to Hunza. Place of Rock Carving locates on the eastern uphill side near China Bridge in the middle Rahimabad. It takes an hour hike uphill where you will see many rock inscriptions in the old Sanskrit on huge stones. Beside this newly introduced site, you have an ample time to a close view of Ismaili ( A progressive sect of Islam) devotional symbol (Taj), writing (Welcome Our distinguished Guest) and panoramas of twin villages Rahimabad & Nomal with winding up & down hill Karakorum Highway (KKH). Although this site is been not explored before by any single visitor, this is what an achievement of professional team of Active Tours Pakistan who found in 2006
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