Town & Places - Alexander Burnes

By the time Alexander Burnes visited Peshawar during 1836-1838:
The Sikhs had changed everything: many of the fine gardens round the town had been converted into cantonments; trees had been cut down; and the whole
heighbourhood was one vast camp...

The Bala Hisar, a square of 200m, was strengthened by round towers at each corner and two rows of encircling fortifications were erected. The inner wall of the fort is 50 ft high, nearly twice as high as the outer one. The overall height of the fort walls is 92 ft. The area of the fort inside the outer parapet
is about 15.4 acres or 4,400 sq, yards (220x200 yards) and that of the inner parapet is 10 acres.A plaque above the inner gateway was installed by Sikhs to commemorate their occupation of the bastion. Under the British it was strengthened with baked brick. On top of the north-western and north-eastern corners two British-made 24-pounder guns were positioned. One gun bears the date 1785. The headquarters for the Frontier Corps, created in 1907, was shifted here in 1949. Now manned by the Pakistan Frontier Force, it continues to dominate the Peshawar skyline.

The Sikh Army General Avitabile who built a mud-wall around the city, was known for cruelty. Shahamat AIi, the Persian Secretary with the mission of Lt. Colonel Sir C.M Wade to Peshawar in 1839 was an eye-witness to it. He writes: "Both in approachingand leaving the city we observed a row of four or five
gibbets on a height to the right, with corpses hanging from them."Then he goes on to give a graphic description of putrefying bodies.

During the British Raj, Peshawar became an important border town and prosperous as a centre of trade. People from diverse nations, speaking many languages, clad in an array of colourful garments thronged the bazaars. Houses, three or more storeys high were built of unbaked brick and wooden frames. Some of these can still be seen in the old quarters of the city. By the 1920's the city was surrounded by high walls with several massive gates which were closed at night.

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Copyright 2011 Alexander Burnes - Page 18.
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