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The Pothohar Plateau (also spelled Pothwar, Potwar or Potohar) (Urdu: سطح مرتفع پوٹھوہار) is a plateau in the province of Punjabmarker, Pakistanmarker. The area was the home of the Soanian Culture, which is evidenced by the discovery of fossils, tools, coins, and remains of ancient archaeological sites. The local people speak Pothwari a language in its own right.

Geography

Tilla Jogian, 2nd highest peak in Pothohar
Potohar Plateau is bounded on the east by the Jhelum Rivermarker, on the west by the Indus Rivermarker, on the north by the Kala Chitta Range and the Margalla Hillsmarker, and on the south by the Salt Rangemarker. The terrain is undulating. The Kala Chitta Range rises to an average height of 450- and extends for about . The Swaan River starts from nearby Murreemarker and ends near Kalabagh in the Indus river. Sakesarmarker is the highest mountain of this region.

The diverse wildlife like urial, chinkara, chukar, hare, porcupine, mongoose, wild boar, and Yellow-throated Marten add color to the beauty of the area. Sadly, due to low rain fall, extensive deforestation, coal mining, oil and gas exploration, the Valley is becoming devoid of vegetation. The under water areas of lakes (Uchali, Khabeki and Jhallar - internationally recognized Ramsar site, and scenic Kallar Kahar) have reduced to much smaller areas than in the past. Experts say that the lake has been here for at least 400 years.

The modern day cities of Islamabadmarker and Rawalpindimarker sit on the plateau. Locals tell about a strange phenomenon that was observed over Uchhali Lakemarker in 1982. A very broad and distinct rainbow appeared over the horizon of Uchhali and was seen continuously for 15 days. No scientific explanation of this has been given so far, but the locals think that the rainbow appeared because of a volcano hidden under the lakes.

History

Rohtas Fort gate
Existence of the Soanian culture finds its home on the plateau. The Indus Valleymarker civilization is known to have flourished in the same region between the 23rd and 18th centuries BC. Some of the earliest Stone Age artifacts in the world have been found on the plateau, dating from 500,000 to 100,000 years. The crude stone recovered from the terraces of the Soan carry the account of human grind and endeavors in this part of the world from the inter-glacial period.

The Stone Age people produced their equipment in a sufficiently homogenous way to justify their grouping. Around 3000 BC, small village communities developed in the area, which led to the early roots of civilization.

The plateau, is the country of the war-like Gakhar clan, later confirmed by the first Mughal Emperor Babur; "Sultan Sarang was now of age, and finding that he could not oust his cousin (Hati Khan) by force of arms, he procured his death by poison and became the clan chief in 1525. He and his brother made their submission to Babur, and Adam Khan, with a Gakhar force, attended him to Delhimarker, and for this the Pothohar (also known as Potwar) country was confirmed to them by the Emperor. " Rawalpindimarker Gazetteer 1894 (see also Baburnama). This clan now live all over the region and famous villages are Samote, Sagri, Manyanda, Sakrana, Bishandoot etc

The ruins of the Shahi destroyed by Mahmud of Ghazni in 11th Century and of ancient Gandhara destroyed in the 6th Century by the Hunas (Indo-Hephthalites) litter the countyside.

Taxilamarker is an ancient UNESCOmarker World Heritage Site located on the plateau. Taxila (then called taksh-shila) was Hindu and Buddhist seat of learning, connected across the Khunjerab pass to the Silk Road, attracting students from all over the world. Ancient Takshashila was renowned all over the world as home to a great university. It came under the control of the first Persian known then as the Achaemenid Empire followed by Alexander the Great and then the Sassanians (see Indo-Sassanian). As a city in Gandhara it flourished during the first-fifth centuries AD. It was finally destroyed in c.450-c.565 by the Hunas.

The material remains found on the site of the city of Rawalpindi prove the existence of a Gandhara Buddhist establishment contemporary to Taxila but less celebrated than its neighbor. It appears that the ancient city also went into oblivion as a result of the same Hunas devastation. The Gakhar chief Jhanda Khan restored it and gave it the name of Rawalpindi after the village Rawal in 1493 AD. Today it is the twin city of the capital of Pakistan, Islamabad which was built next to it.
Rohtas Fortmarker located in the Potwar is another UNESCO World Heritage site, built by Sher Shah Suri in 1541 to control the Gakhars who remained loyal to the deposed Mughal Emperor Humayun.

Rawat Fort is located east of Rawalpindi, on the Grand Trunk (G.T) Road leading to Lahore. The grave of a Gakhar Chief, Sultan Sarang Khan is located inside the fort. He died in 1546 AD fighting against the forces of Sher Shah Suri. If one dares to climb the broken steps inside the tomb, one may get a panoramic view of the plateau and the Mankiala Stupamarker. The remains of this Buddhist Stupa lie about 32 km south east of [Rawalpindi in Mankiala village. Apparently, this Gandhara stupa was built in the reign of Kanishka (128-151 AD). According to legend, Buddha had sacrificed parts of his body here, to feed seven hungry tiger-cubs. In 1930, several gold, silver and copper coins (660 - 730 AD) and a bronze casket having Kharoṣṭhī inscriptions, were discovered from this stupa.

Pharwala Fort is about from Rawalpindi beyond Lehtrar road. The Gakhar ruler, Sultan Kai Gohar built it in 15th century on the ruins of a 10th century Hindu Shahi Fort. Emperor Babur attacked the fort in 1519 AD before Hati Khan had acknowledged him.

The Salt Range is dotted with Hindu temples, of which the most notable is the Katasraj temple. Located from Chakwalmarker, Katasraj is notable in many ways. The temple was not abandoned by local Hindu's when they migrated to East Punjab in 1947. Many legends sacred to the Hindu's are associated with it, some of them involving Shiva himself. It has always been the site of holy pilgrimage. Even nowadays, through an agreement between India and Pakistan, Hindu worshippers perform a pilgrimage to the temple every year and bathe in the sacred pool around which Katasraj is built. Legend says that the five Pandava brothers, heroes of the Sanskrit epic Mahābhārata, stayed here for four out of the 14 years that they spent in exile. While Katas Raj has not received much publicity, the two semi-ruined temples of the Hindu shahi period (650-950 AD) have been frequently photographed by newspapers and history journals.

A joint project with Professors Abdur Rehman, past Chairman of the Department of Archaeology, University of Peshawar, and Farid Khan, founder of the Pakistan Heritage Society, has begun to analyse and document these important monuments in the history of South Asian temple architecture with funding from the University of Pennsylvaniamarker. Two seasons of excavation have been carried out at the site of North Kafirkot.

See also



References

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