Bahawalpur is said to be the 12th largest city of Pakistan and is situated in Punjab. It was recognized as the capital of a princely state after the decline of Durrani Empire. This princely state was founded by Nawab Muhammad Bahawal Khan-II in the early nineteenth century. Later on, Bahawalpur was also given the status of a province. Historically Bahawalpur city has been used as the hometown and hub of various different nawabs and rulers of their times. In the United India, Bahawalpur was called the Rajputana State which is now Rajhistan in India.
The city is renowned for its many famous palaces which include the likes of Noor Mahal, Darbar Mahal, Sadiq Ghar Palace, as well as an ancient fort, Fort of Derawar located in the Cholistan Desert and bordering India. The city’s location itself has historical significance as it is situated near the historical and ancient city of Uch as well as close to Harappa, both of which used to be a stronghold of the Delhi Sultanate and Indus Valley Civilization respectively. The Bahawalpur city also boasts of one of the very few natural safari parks that exist in Pakistan, the Lal Suhanra National Park.
As already mentioned, Bahawalpur has been home to most of the kings and nawabs so it is an important attraction for tourists, historians and archaeologists. The kings built palaces for themselves which are now a major attraction for the tourists.
Above ninety percent of the population are locals from the Punjab province. Urdu is widely spoken and understood by a significant number of people whereas English is understood by the educated lot. These people have different punjabi dialects, Siraiki being one of them. The city has a mixture of people from different cultures of Great Bahawalpur State, Cholistan and Punjab. Other majorly spoken languages include Riyasti, Majhi, Bagri and Haryanvi. These languages are spoken according to different districts and are a mix of many other punjabi dialects. For example, in desert area a significant population speaks a Punjabi Rajhistani mix, which constitutes 9 percent of the total population. Also Balochi is spoken by a small number of people.
As a part of Punjab, the people of Bahawalpur resemble Punjabis of Rajhastan. Their built is tall and muscular with sharp features. The local inhabitants live in large round shaped huts made up of mud and grass. These huts are mostly constructed on the peak of sand hills. There living patterns is nomadic; they travel from place to place depending upon the weather conditions and food and water availability. Their living style bear a resemblance to rural people. The main clans are the Chachar, Lar, Channar, Mehr, Chandani and Bohar.
Bahawalpur is famous for its carpets, embroidery and pottery. The Punjab government has given notice to such amazing hand work and has set up a Craft Development Centre from where handicrafts can be purchased. These handicrafts are mostly manufactured in the Cholistan area. Following is the list of some of mementos manufactured in this city:
- Flassi: It is made up of camel hair and can be used as a carpet or wall hanging
- Gindi: A colourful combination of cotton cloth with delicate needle work. It can be used a blankets, carpets or bed covers
- Changaries: Made up of palm leaves. They can be used as a decorative wall hanging or can be used to store chappatis/ wheat bread
- Khalti: A kind of purse with multi coloured threadwork
- Artwork: Special traditional embroidery done on kurta, chaddar/shawl etc
A number of shopping centers are being built in Bahawalpur considering the amount of tourism it attracts and also for the development of the city. Shahi Bazaar, Machli Bazaar, Farid Gate and The Mall are the main shopping areas. These markets resemble the old markets of Lahore such as Anarkali Bazaar etc. Shopping has become an important part of today's lifestyle. These markets are attractive spots for traders and craftsmen. These craftsmen sell all sorts of art and handwork to the travelers and the tourists for a handsome amount.
Considering the popularity of malls in a number of other major cities, Bahawalpur’s malls also provide for all kinds of customer demands. The main shopping malls include Bobby Plaza, Takbeer Shopping Mall, Time and Prince.
A major portion of Bahawalpur comprises of the Cholistan Desert i.e. around 15000 kms. It is located on the east of the city and extends into the Indian Thar Desert. There was a time when this area consisted of around four hundred forts. The Derawar Fort was the only fort with a permanent waterhole which indicates that it is from the time period of the Indus Valley Civilization. Due to less rainfall at that time, underground wells were made in order to maximize cultivation in the area. The water was drawn up by camels. And to protect these camel routes, three rows of forts were built starting from Phulra to Lera, from Rukhanpur to Islamgarh and from Bilcaner to Kapoo. Some of these forts were built in 1000 BC with walls of gypsum blocks and mud and have been destroyed and rebuilt many times.
Other historical places include a fort named as Munde Shahid which is located at a distance of 50 km from Bahawalpur and Marot Fort. Marot Fort is famous for a place outside it named as ‘Baithak Mola Ali’.
Furthermore there are a number of palaces in the city, which are locally termed as Mahals. Some of the famous include Noor Mahal, Gulzar Mahal, Shimla Khoti and Darbar Mahal. One of the oldest gates called Farid Gate also remains intact and is now situated in the middle of a very busy market. This gate was the only way through which its rulers entered the city.
Also the Bahawalpur Museum and Bahawalpur Library are home to a wide compilation of medals, postage stamps, coins of the former state. They also include manuscripts, wood carvings, camel skin paintings and stone carvings from Islamic and pre-Islamic eras.
Some of the most prominent leaders are buried in this very city and mausoleums are built to honour them. The tombs of Channen Peer, Tomb Yazman and Mausoleums of Haugha Sahib are the some of the most important ones.