An ancient temple, a pool made from the tears of a God, the worlds oldest salt mine, the site of an epic battle, all this and more lie within a days drive from Lahore, in the Salt Range region of Punjab, Pakistan. My buddy H was visiting from Karachi, as usual we planned a road trip, this time to visit some historic sites in the upper Punjab region of Pakistan.
H and I set out from Lahore early morning headed towards the city of Gujrat, where H’s elder brother was serving in the police at that time. Had a quick stop there for a bite, also found a local ‘G’, to guide us to the different historic sites in the area. The first stop was Chillianwala, the the site of an epic battle between the British and the Sikh Empire during the Second Anglo-Sikh war. The battle ended up as a defeat for the British, one of the few instances during their expansion into the subcontinent. Looking back the monument is a remembrance to the fallen soldiers on both sides and to my mind is a commentary on the futility of war.
Khewra Salt Mines:
An hours drive away are the Salt Mines at Khewra, this is an active mine producing Himalayan Rock Salt. A guide took us for an extended tour of the mines lasting about two hours. There are many interesting features both natural and non natural at various levels of the mine. Besides a mosque and a replica of the Minar e Pakistan there are several brine pools along with Stalactites and Stalagmites scattered all over. There is also a hospital for asthmatic patients as the salt laden air is supposed to provide relief in several respiratory diseases.
We were good and hungry by the time the tour of the Salt Mine was done and we stopped by a roadside cafe for some food. After some discussion with our guide it was decided to head towards the Ancient Temples at Katas.
Katas Raj Temples:
Katas Raj Mandirs are a series of connected Hindu temples, these surround a sacred pool which mythology holds was made with the tears of the God Shiv. Although the temples are supposed to have existed since prehistory, the archaeological evidence from the 3rd century BC have been found. We spent quite sometime roaming around the temples, there is something quite magical about the ancient buildings in their surrounds. The lack of upkeep that we witnessed is a sad commentary on attitude of the Government regarding our cultural heritage. We did see some minor restoration work going on at one of the temples.
Momument of Alexader the Great:
On the way back we made a final stop at a monument commemorating Alexander’s battles in the area. Legend has it that the nearby town of Jalalpur Sharif was founded by Alexander, in the memory of his horse ‘Bucephalus‘ that died after the famous Battle on the Jhelum River with Raja Porus. The monument itslef was built by the Greek government a few years back.
It was rather late and getting dark by the time we headed back to Gujrat. It seems that this part of Pakistan is still the Old Wild West, where life and property are not safe after dark. We crossed several police check posts on the way, which in Pakistan may or may not be reassuring!! We did make it back safe and sound and had a long and much needed rest before heading north to the mountains the next day…..