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.
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)
great Babar marched through historic Khyber Pass to conquer
South Asia in 1526 and set up the Moghal Empire in the Indo-Pakistan
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
is now, as always, very much a frontier town. The formalities
of dress and manner give way here to a free and easy style,
as men encounter men with a firm hand-clasp and a straight but
friendly look. Hefty handsome men in baggy trousers and long,
loose shirts, wear bullet studded bandoliers across their chests
or pistols at their sides as a normal part of their dress.
is just that little touch of excitement and drama in the air
that makes for a frontier land. An occasional salvo of gun fire,
no, not a tribal raid or a skirmish in the streets but a lively
part of wedding celebrations.
we are in the land of the Pathans - a completely male-dominated
society. North and south of Peshawar spreads the vast tribal
area where lives the biggest tribal society in the world, and
the most well known, though much misrepresented.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 Ranjit Singh.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 at present.
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 ethnography.
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.
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 own.
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
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 (Phone:279781).
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
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.