Traveling requires stories, and the best ones are those about the places you are from.

One day, I thought I wouldn’t be doing my birthplace justice if I didn’t visit the monument that commemorates it. So, I paid a visit to Peshawar’s Caravanserai, Gor Khuttree.

Opening its arms with wide gigantic Mughal gateways on either side, this unpretentious building has a large courtyard, over 200 meters square. The right side is excavated, while the other side has a museum, and rooms for travelers, which, once, surrounded all four sides of the building. Gor Khutree, which literally means “a warrior’s grave”, has been many other things over its lifetime. Every crack and gouge in the crooked, aging walls of this old, and beaten-up building reflects all the ingrained events. The patina of the age it has acquired reveals its inertness for resistance against time. Dating back to the 4th and 5th Century BC, excavated remains of Mauryan Empire and Persian Empire from this site, make Peshawar the earliest city of the subcontinent. Excavated mud-brick structures, pottery, and coins show signs of the Sultanate Era (1206-1526), and the Ghaznavid Era (AD 998), in which Peshawar was the most prosperous city in terms of trade and politics. However, despite being in one of the capitals of Gandhara, Gor Khutree shows no signs of Buddhist relics. Mughals had a key role in this site. Although there are references of this place in Zahīrud-Dīn Muhammad Babur’s memoirs from 1526, the Caravanserai was built in 1641 by a Mughal Princess, the daughter of Emperor Shah Jahan, Jehan Ara Begum. The building, at that time, was nearly three hectares in extent, including a mosque, bathing facilities, and two wells surrounded by cells with an octagonal turret.

The mosque, however, was converted into a Hindu temple after the Sikh invasion by the Governor General Avitabile (1838-1842), as a sign of religious harmony between the Hindu, and the Muslim community.

There are basically two temples. The large temple belongs to the third of the three great gods of the Hindu religion, Shiva, while the smaller shrine to his bull, Nandi. Serving as a strong link between mythology and reality, the temple inspires the nearby storytellers to engage the visitors.

In 1912, Gor Khutree was converted into a fire brigade station. Two red antique fire engines from Merry Weather London Company are still parked under the former municipal shed. Deserted for a long time afterward, the building also served as a Tahsil or District Police Superintendent’s headquarter during the British era. Then, after a long time, KP Tourism and Archaeological Department blew some life in the building in 2013, adding further cells and decorating them with aluminum gates, with artisans inside them selling local handicrafts made at the spot. Inaugurated with the groundbreaking ceremony, and rejoiced for few days, the splendor was short-lived.

Finally, the abandonment came back, and now it’s just a passageway or an amusement park for those who rarely consider its rich heritage.

While leaving this building which seems to endure beyond all reason, I couldn’t stop myself from appreciating the work of the architects who built this monument.

It was clearly visible that they considered architecture as a performance rather than a product.

For them real creation was not the object itself, it was the cultural ritual of bringing a stone to life. And it was only this belief and enthusiasm, that gave them the ability to create something so resilient, that it could last for eternity.