HISTORY OF SKARDU
Baltistan, of which Skardu is an important part is also called Tibet-e-Khurd or Little Tibet. It is situated in the heart of the great Himalaya and Karakoram ranges and is the source of mighty Indus River that fall into Arabian Sea. Baltistan is located 724 Kms(45 minutes by air) from Islamabad. Situated at a height of 2347m and spread over 26000 Square kilometers, Baltistan is surrounded by Gilgit and Hunza Valleys in the West, Kargil, Ladakh and Kashmir regions in the East/South East, the Chinese province of Xinkiang in the North. Baltistan consists of 6 (six) major valleys Skardu, Khaplu, Shigar, Kharmang, Roundu, Gultari. It is a magical blend of beauty, adventure and thrill, the land of wonders and legends and a place with utmost calm and tranquility offering a variety of attractions for all visitors. Administratively, Skardu is one of the important parts of the Northern Areas. It has remained the part of Ladakh in Indian Jamu and Kashmir before its partition in 1948 when it became part of the Federally Administered Northern Areas of Pakistan. Skardu town is the capital of District Skardu. Skardu is generally called the paradise of mountaineers and every year, a large number of climbers make their way to the wonderful Skardu valley. Skardu is situated at such a place where the Shigar River meets the gorgeous Indus River making its long way to the Arabian Sea in Sindh.
Culture: Baltistan has a rich culture which depicts in the living pattern and social life of people in the region. Skardu and Ghanche were part of Baltistan and now these two are separate districts. Skardu, being the headquarters of the region is home to a variety of people from different cultural backgrounds. The major language of Skardu is Balti with few exceptions of Shina and Brushaski. Baltistan is home to some of the historic places and remnants of old rulers of the area.
There are number of famous forts and other places giving a glimpse of the glorious past of this area which had a rich heritage and strong cultural background.
Music : The famous trio band music is played in this region as in most of the other regions. On the rhythm of this loud music, men love to dance in their typical way. There are some variations in lyrics from region to region. The famous dances include: Chogo Prasool, Ghashoopa, Mandoq thralmo, Foothongkar ,Snuopa Kar, Lam Kar,Nayuo Kar,Furfgoun Kar.
Traditional Foods: Local food specialties include:Marzan,Prapu, Khurba, Zaan, Strup Balay, Chro Balay, Squr Khor,Nass Balay, Chah Balay, kiseer,Azok, Kulak, Kulcha
Traditional Products,Handicrafts: Skardu is famous for its Pattu i.e. hand woven woolen cloth. Pattu Shawls, Jackets, Balti Caps, silver ornament, wooden lattices, carvings, Malts and clay pots are well known local products nationally and internationally.
People: People in Skardu are very friendly and peace loving. They are found to be of mild nature with fast minds which suffice to transfix one’s concentration. People are very hardworking and have strength of commitment and dedication. Skardu takes pride in having a large number of highly renowned poets and thinkers. This place is very rich in such people despite the fact that these people have been oriented to rest of the world at a latter stage of our history.
Religion: The entire district is inhibited by Muslims with few exceptions and those are not permanent members of the community. Majority of the population consists of Ithna-Ashari Shia Muslims.
Festivities: There are mainly two types of festivals i.e. religious and cultural. Religious festivals include: Eid-e-Ghadir, Edi-ul Fitr and Eid Miladunnabi (the birth anniversary of Prophet Muhammad-Peace Be Upon Him). There are some other important events related to the birth and date anniversaries of the Shia Imams. Those events are celebrated with great reverence and enthusiasm. Cultural events include: Navroz, Jashn-e-Baharan, Soon Bor, Sthrufla, Nor Faph, Losar, Mafang, and Shalain. These are greatest opportunities for people to get together and share their community strength, talents and skills.
Amidst towering snow clad peaks with heights varying form 1,000 to 8,000 meters, the picturesque & panoramic Baltistan speak volumes about its unmatched beauty. Out of 14 highest peaks in the world (over 8,000 meters high) 4 mighty peaks are found in the Baltistan’s Karakoram Range. These mighty guardians include K.2/ Mount Godowin Austin (8611m world’s second highest), Gashabrum-I (8,068m), Broad Peak (8,047m) and Gashebrum-II(8,035m). For the climbers and adventures it is a dream come true as all the great challenges are found at the top of the world. A large number of climbers have so far attempted, but quite a few have succeeded in scaling the mighty K.2. standing at 8,611m and being the second highest peak in the world. The traditional route to K.2 base camp goes from Skardu via Shigar-Dassu-Askole up to Concordia over the Baltoro glacier a trek of 6 days. It is a wonderful trek that provides an awesome journey through the mighty riggers, peaks and glaciers leading to the base camp at K.2. Whether you want to trek to the base camp or attempt to subdue the amazing monster it is and experience worth remembering. For Trekking, Baltistan provides the most scenic and longest treks in the world. It offers a unique opportunity to get close to the longest glaciers outside Polar region,Siachan (72km),Biafo (60km),Baltoro (60km),and Batura (64km).Walking in fresh air during the day and lying under the stars at night makes trekking in Baltistan an unforgettable experience
Deosai Plain: Located at a distance of 32 kms from Skardu, Deosai is one of the highest plateaus in the world standing at 4100m and is spread over 3000sq.km. The spectacular scenery that Deosai offers from mid June to mid September is highlighted by some 342 species of vegetation. The landscape is covered with wild flowers that make Deosai radiant with bright colors through the summer. The diverse vegetation supports wildlife and an ecosystem that is a unique example of adaptation to high altitude. In addition to the Himalayan brown Bear, Deosai and the surrounding valleys are home to the Himalayan Ibex, red Fox, golden Marmot, Wolf, the snow leopard & over 125 resident and migratory birds. This area is a place of attraction for those who are interested in Trophy Hunting.
Skardu is the heaven of archeological sites. One of the most famous sites is the Kharpocho Fort built by Maqpon Bugha (1490-1515 AD). But Moghal historians are of the view that the great fort was built by Ali Sher Khan Anchan( 1560-1625 AD). The fort stands above the mighty Indus river. The whole of Skardu can be seen from the fort. At night the fort is illuminated and story of great battles come to life. Shigar Fort is at distance of 32 Km form Skardu. This meticulously restored 400 years old fort is an outstanding example of the wealth of architectural and cultural heritage in Baltistan. One may stay in the restored suites and experience what kings and queens experienced 400 years ago. The entire Northern Areas of Pakistan have greater influence of Buddha as indicated by various inscriptions and remnants in various regions.
In spring, its banks are adorned by a multitude of colorful flowers, while the trees are laden with peach, apricot & apple blossoms. The lake offers great opportunities for trout fishing. Naqposo and Jarbaso are some well known lakes of the region. The legend of Shangri-La is alive in Skardu, located just 35 minutes from Skardu. The resort is built on a beautiful lake and is surrounded by the most spectacular scenery. One may spend a night or a day, take a boat ride or trek the legendary location which provide opportunity for all to enjoy the best in Skardu. The nature has blessed Baltistan, with invaluable deposits of the quality minerals and over 25-30 types of precious and semi- precious gemstones alluring world wide attentions of the beauty queens. These include: Emerald, Ruby, Aquamarine, Tourmaline, Quartz, Topaz, Kunzite, Granite, Jade, Fluoride, and Peridot etc. Baltistan enjoys the lion’s share in the mineral deposits of the Northern Pakistan. These minerals and gemstones are being produced in the legendary mountain ranges of Karakoram, Himalayas, and Hindukush and have a fair demand in national and international markets.
Like some other parts in Northern Areas, Skardu is best for Trophy Hunting. This region provides a unique opportunity for those willing to brave the terrain and wait for the perfect kill. In different valleys of Skardu like Basho, Shagarthang, Kachura,Skoyo, Karabathang, and Basingo are found Himalayan Ibex (Capra Ibex sibirica) and Astor Markhor (Capra falconen).
For centuries trophy hunting in the valleys of Baltistan has been the past time of kings and now the same thrill and excitement is provided to the adventurous visitors who have the license for this game. In Baltistan some of the watersheds have great potential for sports Angling. Some renowned species like: exotic brown trout( salmo trutta fario)& rainbow trout (saimo linneaus) are common in Kachura, Sadpara,Basho & other rivers of Kharmang Nullahs. The local carp (caprinos) & shchizothraz species are found in different areas of Baltistan particularly in Deosai Plain & in Indus River. So if you wish to enjoy fishing in these beautiful valleys, just lay back on the bank of the great rivers of Baltistan & wait for the fantastic catch.
Baltistan is said to be the birth center of “Polo”. “The game of kings and the king of games” is played here even today in its original form. This royal sport is indigenous to the Karakoram Range. It was Ali Sher Khan Anchan the Maqpon ruler of Baltistan who introduced this game to other valleys upon his conquests that stretched beyond Gilgit and Chitral. If you are genuinely interested in adventurism, just come and witness the mighty sport or even you may learn to play the game from the grand masters of Polo.