Islamabad: Nandana Fort, the scene of many epic battles and which holds echoes of centuries-old civilizations, will soon be opened for tourists after major conservation.
The remains of the fort, located on a hilltop overlooking the Salt Range in Pakistan’s Punjab province, would be conserved by the tourism and archaeology department of Punjab to convert it into an international tourist attraction site.
“We have decided to preserve the site [Nandana Fort] and build infrastructure so it becomes accessible to tourists” Prime Minister Imran Khan said as he launched the heritage trail project at Al Biruni point in Baghan Wala village at Nandana Fort on Sunday.
The trail in Pind Dadan Khan in the Jhelum district would be the gateway to seven archaeological sites, including Nandana Fort, Shiva Temple, Tilla Joggian, Khewra Salt Mines, Mallot Fort and Takht-i-Babri.
The site of Nandana Fort hold archaeological as well as scientific significance as it was at Nandana that the Muslim scientist Al Biruni measured the circumference of the earth in 11th century.
“It is a very special place as it was here at the Nandana Fort that Al Biruni had measured the radius of the Earth with precision for the first time”, the premier said, adding that the mathematical genius made this site part of the world’s heritage for all times to come.
The renovation of the fort would shine a light on Pakistan’s rich archaeological heritage and draw tourists from all over the world, he said. The restoration project is aimed at exploring and preserving Pakistan’s heritage sites and restoring the ancient sites to their former glory.
The transformation of the region into an international heritage and tourism hub would also create employment opportunities for the local people.
The government has also announced loans and other incentives for the local population to establish hotels and other tourist facilities. An estimated Rs120 million had been allocated for the preservation project, according to local media.
Significance of Nandana Fort
On the hilltop near Baghan Wala village are the remains of the time immemorial fortress that was once a seat of learning, culture and religion. The crumbling remains echo the legacy of Hindu Shahi dynasty, which was defeated by the army of Mahmud of Ghazni in a great battle fought at Nandana in 1014, according to experts. Nandana was also the site of another fierce battle between Khwarazmshah’s empire and the Mongols. But the victory of Mongols was short-lived.
“Where the Muslim army had failed, harsh climate succeeded. Within weeks the heat of the Punjabi summer had defeated the Mongols and forced them to flee to the comfort of the Hindu Kush Mountains near Kabul” writes travel writer Salman Rashid.
Often called the “cradle of civilisation,” ancient Pakistan was home to centuries-old civilisations like Mehrgarh (6500 to 2500BC), Indus Valley (2500 and 1700BC) and the Gandhara (530BC to 1021AD), making it a revered destination for the followers of three major religions, Buddhism, Sikhism and Hinduism. Pakistan’s government has focused its efforts on preserving the country’s diverse cultural and religious heritage to attract tourists and create more jobs.