Skardu: A Jewel Amidst Snow-Clad Mountains

Skardu: A Jewel Amidst Snow-Clad Mountains

Introduction

The location of Skardu is no less than a wonder. Skardu looks like a bowl, as the city is surrounded by snow-clad mountains. The city looks like a jewel studded in silver; it presents an alluring sight. It has been the capital of Baltistan since ancient times. It is the largest city and commercial centre and is situated on the left bank of the Indus. It consists of a plain about 20 miles long with an average width of 6 miles from Gongma Thorgu to Kachura.


skardu valley


Agriculture and Settlement

Before 1960, most of the city consisted of deserts, but now a large part of it has been settled through various projects, and further settlement is still going on. Now all kinds of crops, fruits, and vegetables are produced in this region in huge quantities. From July to the end of September, local fruits are get-at-able in abundance, and dry fruits are available throughout the year. Apart from meeting the requirements of the local people, they are also exported in bulk quantities.

Population and Cultural Diversity

According to the 1998 census, the population of Skardu district consists of 2,19,209 people. Residents come from many parts of Pakistan, making it a multicultural and multilingual city.

Archaeological Treasures

Skardu valley has been the seat of the central government of Baltistan since the reign of the passionate Maqpoon rulers. The military forts Kharpocho and Khache-Sana, which were built during the Maqpoon era, are situated on a hill in the middle of the city. In addition to these, there are several historical sites in the city, including Buddhist inscriptions near Manthal, a Buddhist stupa, a Buddha image, the Gangopi Canal, the Thayoor Mosque, the tomb of Mir Ibrahim Gamba, the Shahi Mahal, and the tomb of Syed Mahmud Tusi. All of them are in good condition. Many ancient monuments are ruined at the present time, including the remains of two forts on the hill near Kharpocho: the Fort Khache-Sana and the Fort Rgialmo-Khar, Khanqah Noor-bakhshiya Gamba, Mindoq-Khar, Ghoti Halchangra, etc., and now only their traces can be seen.

kharpocho fort


Other archaeological sites
 include Sadpara Lake, the "Cheng Rdwa" rock at the Chunda site, the "Bardusnis" rock at the Shagari site, and the Shahi Polo Ground. These structures can be used to measure  culture, civilization, and the glory of history. This place has everything for those who are interested in the field of archaeology.

budha rock


It is said that the ancient inhabitants of Skardu were Shagari, Kharbo, Chunda, etc., while the rest arrived and settled later in this place. It is further said that the city was first lush and green before the glaciers in the Karakoram shifted and the mountains slid into the River Kachura, and when the water stopped flowing, the city was submerged. A large stone known as "Cheng Rdwa" in the current Chunda valley Skardu was once used for anchoring the boat of Skardu Ghat. The region has been known as "Chunda" ever since. The word "Skam-du," which literally means "barren and dry place," has its origins in this event and has been used for a long time to refer to Skardu. It refers to the area that was left when the river dried up. One can take pleasure not only in the incredible view of Gamba City but also Kawardu, Qumra, and Skardu Khas from Chunda. The arrival and departure of aeroplanes at Skardu Airport provide a phenomenal scene in front of it. Many travellers visit this beautiful spot for exploration and enjoyment.

 Sadpara Lake

Bukha, a ruler of the ancient Maqpun dynasty, founded modern-day Skardu, moving the base from Shagri right after the building of Kharphochu to accommodate more people. The Sadpara Lake was constructed by Ali Sher Khan Anchan, the famous ruler of the Maqpun dynasty, for irrigation, however, from time to time it burst. The last time it broke was in 1157 AH, drowning the people of town.

This lake is located 6 km south of Skardu, which has now been transformed into a mega project called Sadpara Dam. This multi-purpose project will soon bring energy to the region and serve as a way of repopulating the huge area's barren plains, which will eventually become the centre of town.The water from Lake Sadpara is an immense blessing from God to Skardu; it is used to and clean drinking water. It was a naturally occurring lake, but once it broke, there is no longer any trace of it. In 1157, the lake was damaged, although it was later repaired. Its new embankment was in place prior to the WAPDA dam's construction and was progressively closed each year in the autumn by opening a wall when irrigation started in the spring. By opening the canal, the water became accessible.

sadpara lake


The people, livestock, and farms of Skardu City are irrigated with its water for domestic use and offer international guests aesthetics and freshness. This big dam has passed through several depressions until the end and is offering the blessings of God in the finest way. This lake currently covers an area of around 4 square miles, and its position is both stunning and significant.

The "Sadpara Dam" has now been built on this lake as a massive construction project. As a result, it has been decided to build canals from Goma Thorgu on the right, over the river, and to Khuto Rana on the left in a fresh and contemporary manner. Because of the modifications, the project didn't get the desired results. To ensure that there is always an abundance of water available here, including not only a significant amount of hydroelectricity but also water from the canals built on both sides of the dam and the irrigation canals of the city that have existed since ancient times, it is necessary to divert one of Deosai Field's drains, "Shatong Nalla," and add this water to Sadpara Dam through a tunnel.


Kachora Lake

At a distance of 18 miles from the City, there is Kachora. There are two big lakes in Kachora.

shagrilla resort

  •  North-west of the town is where you'll find Kachora's large lake. Despite the size of this lake, there is no settlement nearby. Although there is no community nearby, this lake is likewise incredibly large. The land around it is bordered by gigantic rocks, yet on its eastern side there are communities and meadows.For tourism-related goals, this lake has also been designed to seem lovely and appealing. This lake has also been made beautiful and attractive for tourism purposes.


  • The second lake is close to Gilgit Road, where Brigadier Aslam Khan and his illustrious family organised the world-famous Shangri-La Resort, which is surrounded by buildings, gardens, woodland, and a zoo as well. There is now a restaurant and a luxury hotel where all sorts of cuisine and drinks are offered. The lake has become very popular due to its modern facilities for boating and fascinating artificial views. This lake is known as "Paradise on Earth" and is always filled with visitors throughout the year.


Katpana Lake

 

katpana lake

This lake is at Katpana, near the village of Sandus in Skardu City. It is a big lake and is situated near the Indus River. Heron and stork flocks travel to this area throughout the summer. As the summer draws to a close, they migrate down the Shyok River and the Shigar River, depending on the weather, and they reside in the glacier lakes of the Karakoram. Sometimes they go as far as Punjab and Sindh. If the weather is normal, they stay in the shelter of Katpana Lake. This lake is also very beautiful in terms of its size and location. The hunter pursues these defenseless, amusing birds.

katapana desert


Deosai/Ghabirsa

deosai


Deosai in Shina Language and "Ghabiyar Sa" in Balti, are very lovely and situated in areas of natural beauty, are located to the southwest of the town. Sheosar Lake, Kala Pani, and Bara Pani are three of its magnificent locations. The highest plateau in the world is this one. Additionally, it is well known for its ecosystem. It is the world's highest, biggest, and broadest plateau. The Deosai Plateau is found close to the edge of town. Long and, on average, 30 miles wide. It is 2400 square miles in size and is typically 30 miles broad, or 80X30; however, owing to its high altitude, no crops are grown there. Herbs, local grasses, and vibrant flowers abound all over the place. There are 108 native and migratory bird species, 432 plant and floral species, 18 animal species, and more. There are also lakes that are teeming with fish. A well-known thinker from Azad Kashmir named Syed Bashir Hussain Jafari called this plateau "the eighth wonder of the world," and it still remains today.

sheosar lake


Sarfa Ranga cold desert

Chomik is the centre of town, while across the river Indus from Chomik to Thorgo Pari, which is fifteen miles long and three to four miles wide, is the highest and widest desert plain, which is called Sarfa Ranga. In the calm, magnificent, and culturally rich District of Shigar, the extreme sporting event known as the Sarfaranga Desert Rally is conducted annually. There is a huge adventure schedule planned, and adventure drivers from all across the nation and many international visitors take part.

 

sarfaranga

The valley was previously made up of the Lak Wa Daq dynamic desert, which stretched from Hotu to Gangopi Kohl and from Chomik to Thorgo Padi, with the exception of a small area in Khep Chou (now Hussainabad), Gunma, and Gamba Thorgo, and consisted of active desert dunes and barren plains. The active desert dunes between Hotu and town have now disappeared due to the construction of the airport, the Pakistan Air Force's Qadri Airbase, and various societies, while the desert across the river from Chomik to Thorgopadi is still intact. The Cold Desert Jeep Rally has been a fantastic adventure event for the past few years.

Marsur Rock

marsur


On Hussainabad Mountain, close to the town, a rock known as Marsur Rock has just been discovered. This rock was no less than a wonder for the local people from the beginning. Nonetheless, when the locals learned about the well-known rock in Italy and saw the way the Italians used promotion to attract visitors from abroad, the people of Baltistan also began advertising Marsur Rock Hussainabad because of its uniqueness. It is visited by local, national, and foreign adventurers throughout the year.

In addition, last year, the mountain trekking party of the University of Baltistan discovered a huge marble Christian cross in Kwardu. This is no less than a miracle. It represents an attachment to and interest in culture. I have no idea how many hidden gems exist in this region that humanity as a whole, and the Balti people in particular, may be justly proud of.

marsur

 

Modern facilities

Modern Skardu is equipped with a wide range of facilities, including political organisations, academic and literary associations, commercial hubs, centres for health and education, and other organisations engaged in development and building. various five-, four-, and three-star hotels, a radio station, a TV centre, a school, a college, a university, a municipal library, and a rest home.

The Tibetan Arts Council, Bizm-e-Elm-Wa-Fan, Bhar-e-Adab, and Halkhai-e-Elm-Adab are among the many academic, literary, political, religious, and cultural organisations that have been established here. Their activities go on all year, and significant dates and occasions are marked with much fanfare. In the city, Parishan Chowk is a famous square.The Iqbal Centre, a big structure next to the square, hosts several academic and literary activities all year. They show commitment to studying and reading by focusing on one section at a time.On December 21, Jashnay May Fang Day is celebrated. This seven-day event is magnificently organised.

The city currently has a number of parks where people may go to have fun, with CityPark being the largest. The city of Hussainabad is home to the first privately owned park in Gilgit-Baltistan, known as Jinnah Park. This recreational area also includes the Balti Museum, which was founded by the renowned historian, administrator, and scholar Muhammad Yusuf Hussainabad.

Between Shahi Mahal, Shahi Polo Ground, and Sports Complex, there is a magnificent building of the Municipal Library, which is important in terms of book wealth and contains almost all the books published on the subject of Gilgit-Baltistan. Books donated by Syed Abbas Kazmi, a famous writer, historian, and lover of the culture of Baltistan, are of special importance in this regard.

The resort and the most up-to-date internet connection system are both accessible. For foodies, all types of restaurants have developed, offering regional delicacies in addition to Pakistani, European, and Chinese cuisine.

Transportation System

With cabs, waggons, buses, and jeeps constantly available for both intra-city and inter-city travel, an effective transportation system is in place. The city and Rawalpindi are permanently connected by air and land. The Baltistan Highway is reachable all year. The valley is connected to Gilgit and Rawalpindi by buses, coasters, waggons, and other vehicles that travel day and night. A daily flight from City to Rawalpindi is also made by a Boeing aircraft, if the weather is not too bad. There are extra flights from Peshawar, Faisalabad, Sialkot, Lahore, and Karachi in addition to the weekly flights from Quetta and Multan. In addition to PIA, Airblue also has flights here. The Airport is 9 kilometres away from town along the Skardu-Gilgit route.

Shahi Polo Ground

The Shahi Polo Ground occasionally hosts polo matches, especially on important holidays like Noruz Day in March, Jashan Baharan in May, and Independence Day in August. In the sports complex, events for cricket and football are organised. On the aforementioned dates, unique tournaments are held in addition to the ongoing game, in which players enthusiastically take part. Insane crowds attend polo matches.

shahi pologround


Breathtaking Places

The following places are worth seeing in Skardu and must be visited by local and non-local tourists:

  1. Kharpocho
  2. Nang Zhuq
  3. Maqpoon Shagharan
  4. Municipal Library
  5. Sadpara Lake
  6. Budha Rock Manthal
  7. Olding Daab
  8. Chunda Valley
  9. Upper Kachora Lake
  10. Lower Kachora Lake
  11. Katpanah Lake
  12. Jinnah Park, Hussainabad
  13. Marsun Rock Hussainabad
  14. Balti Museum, Hussainabad
  15. Sarfaranga Cold desert
  16. Basho valley Skardu

 

Gateway to Baltistan

Since ancient times, the valley has had significance akin to that of a railway junction. The caravans from Ladakh, China, Gilgit, and Kashmir have been travelling through here at times. It is not possible, however, to travel through the few places mentioned above due to the geographical and territorial restrictions. The valley serves as a gateway to Baltistan and is the starting point for routes to Kashmir through the Khaplu, Kharmang, Shigar, Gultari, Rondu, and Astore valleys. Both the air route with Boeing aircraft operated by Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and other airlines, as well as the land route via the Karakoram Highway, are open all year.

Conclusion

The valley's enchanting landscapes, rich archaeological heritage, thriving agricultural projects, and multicultural population make it a truly remarkable destination. The city's transformation from deserts to settled agricultural land showcases the resilience and determination of its inhabitants. With its fascinating history, cultural diversity, and accessibility as a gateway to Baltistan, Skardu continues to captivate the hearts and minds of visitors, offering an extraordinary blend of natural beauty, ancient wonders, and modern development.

skardu


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