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Humshehri: Thinking Pakistan's History

Thinking Pakistan's History

Skardu Forts

Urdu Version

Kharpocho Fort, unlike those in Hunza, is built entirely for defensive purposes, whereas Shigar Fort is built more along the lines of Kashmiri Palaces.

Last Updated: 19 Nov. 2013

Kharphocho Fort

Kharpocho Fort
(Norbakshi world)

Kharphocho Fort (also known as Skardu Fort) is located in Skardu Valley of Gilgit-Baltistan. It is constructed on the eastern side of the Khardong Hill, about 12 meters above Skardu city. As Khardong Hill is centered in the middle of Skardu city, the view from Kharphocho fort captures the entire valley, the Indus River and the mountains around the city.

One view holds that Makpon Bugha, a legendary king of Skardu, founded the city, which he made his capital, and built Kharphocho Fort somewhere between 1490 and 1515. However, Mughal historians attribute the construction to Ali Sher Khan Anchan, the great-grandson of Makpon Bugha.

Shigar Fort

Norbakshi world
Shigar Fort
(Norbakshi world)

The Shigar Fort is located in Shigar Valley of Skardu District, Gilgit-Baltistan. As it is constructed on top of a huge boulder and partially surrounds a large cone-shaped rock, Shigar Fort is also known as Fong-Khar in the Balti language, meaning Palace on the Rock.

It was built in the early 17th century by Hassan Khan who was the 20th ruler of the Amacha Dynasty. It is believed that an earlier fort, by the name of Khar-e-Dong, was destroyed by a Mughal army sent to help Hassan Khan against invaders. The ruins of Khar-e-Dong can still be seen. For the construction of the Shigar Fort, Hassan Khan invited Kashmiri artisans, gold smiths, carpenters, stone carvers and textile weavers to help build his palace. Thus the local Balti architecture is overlaid with Kashmiri details, giving this fort a unique outlook.

The Shigar Fort Palace appears to be one continuous structure but in fact it comprises of three separate buildings. The oldest structure is approximately 400 years old and comprises of an entrance hall, kitchen, grand audience hall and living quarters for the ruler. The second structure was constructed 100 years later and the third structure another 150 year after that and they both comprise of residential rooms.

In 1999, Raja Sahib Mohammad Ali Shah Saba of Shigar bequeathed the fort-palace to the people of Baltistan and entrusted the restoration to the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. The entire project cost 1.4 million USD and took five years to complete. In 2006 it received the UNESCO Award of Excellence. It is now operated by Serena Hotels as a heritage guesthouse.

Find out more

Books & Articles

Dani, Ahmad Hasan. History of Northern Areas of Pakistan (upto 2000 AD). Lahore: Sang-e-Meel Publ., 2001.

Khan, Masood. “Restoring and Adapting Shigar Fort/Palace.” Karakoram: Hidden Treasures in the Northern Areas of Pakistan. Ed. Bianca Stefano. 2nd ed. Turin: Umberto Allemandi & Company, 2007. Archnet.

Mujtaba, Salman. “Kharpocho Fort”. Baltistan. 20 Nov. 2009.

“Shigar Fort and Palace Restoration.” Archnet. 22 Apr. 2005.

“Shigar Fort.” Aga Khan Trust for Culture. Aga Khan Development Network, 2007.

“Skardu Fort.” Archnet.