South Punjab –a treasure trove of culture, heritage

MULTAN   -   Standing out as a land of fine quality cotton, aromatic and tasty mangoes, exquisite monuments and craftsmanship, the South Punjab region also enjoys rich cultural heritage that the people cherish and keep close to their hearts.

cultural and historic heritage in Pakistan, South Punjab had been the cradle of Indus Valley Civilisation and a home to remains of ancient Buddhist site at Mound Dillu Roy in Dera Ghazi Khan. Under the influence of Islamic empires, Islamic architecture and the way of life, the monuments depicting Islamic architecture were aplenty in this area.

Remaining off the human eye for a long time, remains of Indus Valley Civilisation in Cholistan desert of Bahawalpur at Ganweriwala were discovered by country’s eminent archaeologist Dr Rafiq Mughal during a survey spanning over four years from 1974 to 1977.

According to archaeologist and Director (Retd) Punjab Archaeology Department Saleem ul Haq, the site is being excavated these days by a team led by Dr Rafiq Mughal and comprising Saleem-ul-Haq and other experts.

Excavations at Ganweriwala resumed in March 2024 after a gap of four decades since its discovery as archaeologists attribute this delay to unavailability of water, lack of funding, road access and manpower at Ganweriwala to dig out remains of settlements - believed to be the third largest of Indus Valley Civilisation between Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, belonging to an era of 2600 BC.

“Dr Rafiq Mughal had discovered 414 sites including Ganweriwala during survey conducted in 1976 on 400-450 kilometer area from Fort Abbas to Sindh boundary along the bed of now dried-up ancient Hakra river,” informed Saleem-ul-Haq.  

He said some remains of ancient civilizations exist around 200-300 kilometer from each other while another site at Kundwala was at least 100 kilometres away from Ganweriwala, having ruins from mature and late Harappan periods. “Remains from two sites denote mature Harappan period and early Harappan period.”

The archaeologist said that Mature Harappan period was an era when the civilisation was at the zenith of its evolutionary development in 2600 BC, some 4600 years ago that later started declining - a process that culminated in 1950 BC and is described as late Harappan period.  

“The surface finds from Ganweriwala in 1975 showed it was a mature Harappan site and we cannot rule out possibility of finding remains of early period in case of deeper excavation,”  Saleem-ul-Haq said and hoped the report on excavation at Ganweriwala would be finalized by the end June 2024.

Mound Dillu Roy, another site excavated at the boundary of Rajanpur and Dera Ghazi Khan districts by Director Archaeology South Muhammad Hassan a few years back revealed that it was Buddhists site and among 1370 small artifacts was a masterpiece of typical Gandharan style small figure of lion, a clay female statue and seals with one having a Hellenistic figure embossed on it.

“Excavation at Mound Dillu Roy site added valuable information about Hindu-Shahi, Gupta, Sassaian  and Kushan dynasties,” Muhammad Hassan said. “The diggings produced material evidence that helped to link missing gaps of Gupta, Sassaian and Kushan period.”  

Besides underground treasures of ancient civilisations, South Punjab landscape was also decorated with numerous monuments like Derawar Fort, one of the most beautiful and strategic edifice depicting a unique architecture.

“There were countless monuments in South Punjab but all of them were not declared protected - a status archaeology department assigns to monuments for their restoration and preservation,” said Malik Ghulam Muhammad, a retired conservation expert.

Credited with restoration and conservation of around 50 monuments in South Punjab during his service, Ghulam Muhammad said reports on unprotected monuments are prepared routinely to take steps for preservation of historic sites to promote tourism. “Most of these monuments are located in Dera Ghazi Khan with some in Muzaffargarh, Vehari and Lodhran.”

Among protected monuments, he listed the mausoleums of Hazrat Bahauddin Zakariya Multani, Hazrat Shah Rukn-e-Alam atop the historic Qasim Fort mound in main Multan city, Darbar Hazrat Ali Akbar at Suraj Miani, mausoleum of Hazrat Khawaja Ghulam Fareed at Kot Mithan, Hazrat Bibi Pak Daman, Hazrat Bibi Jawindi, Sawi Masjid, Hazrat Musa Pak Shaheed, Multan Clock Tower, Harand Fort and others.   

Dr Naseem Akhtar, Director Seraiki Area Study Centre, Bahauddin Zakariya University stated that Indus Valley was among the oldest civilisations survived in South Punjab. “The uniqueness of Seraiki culture is evident from folk literature, Aphorisms and all its cultural elements that give it a special place in the multicultural spectrum.”

Former Director Seraiki Study Centre Khalid Iqbal has also cited that people of South Punjab attach great value to their history, culture and customs and their contribution to country’s agro-economy. “This all sums up into a lively and dynamic society where people try to adapt to modern trends - the same time maintaining strong affiliation to their roots and civilisation.”

He stressed the need for protecting and preserving South Punjab heritage along with all its cultural colors to promote tourism in South Punjab, boost economic activities and also making it instrumental in broadening the vision of younger generation.