Directorate General of Archaeology, Government of the Punjab
The built heritage of Pakistan symbolizes our past glory and it is an integral part of our sense of identity. It may not only serves as a source of inspiration but also heightens the national pride with consequential effect of providing incentives for fulfilling our future inspirations. Archaeology often provides the only means to learn of the existence and behaviors of people of the past.
The history of archaeology has been one of increasing professionalization, and the use of an increasing range of techniques, to obtain as much data on the cultural heritage as possible. Excavations of ancient sites monuments and the collection of antiquities have been taking place for hundreds of years, but these were mostly for the extraction of valuable or aesthetically pleasing artifacts.
The province of Punjab is rich in archaeology where a complete cultural profile from the early Stone Age to the Islamic period has been established which is highlighted by archaeological sites, historical monuments, ethnic traditions and folklores.
Before establishment of Directorate General of Archaeology Punjab the onus of maintenance of entire cultural wealth of Pakistan was on Federal Department of Archaeology & Museums.
After having realized that the only Federal Department of Archaeology & Museums cannot alone protect and preserve cultural assets of the country, it was decided by Federal Government to involve provinces by establishing their own Archaeology Departments for the Purpose. Punjab Government took a lead and established its own Directorate of Archaeology on December 1, 1987 under the Information, Culture and Youth affairs Department. Previously a small conservation cell was working in Auqaf Department since 1971. In October 2011 Directorate General of Archaeology was attached new department, “Youth Affairs, Archaeology, Sports and Tourism. “Punjab Special Premised Preservation Ordinance 1985” was the legislative support and mandate of this Directorate. There are 256 historical monuments protected under the said ordinance.
In August 2004, Federal Government transferred Lahore Fort and Shalamar Gardens, the World heritage monuments to Punjab Government, and this step brought the Directorate General of Archaeology, Punjab to limelight but on the other hand its responsibilities were increased. In April 2011, after 18th constitutional amendment Federal Government again transferred 149 monuments and sites protected under Antiquity act 1975, to Directorate General of Archaeology, Government of the Punjab. Some important monuments transferred are Taxila museum and remains, Rohtas Fort, Jahangir,s Tomb Harappa Museum & Remains, Hiran Minar etc.
After devolution of historical monuments to Punjab Government, it is now the responsibility of the Directorate General of Archaeology to conduct research on these monuments & sites and to conserve and preserve them in accordance with the International charters concerning preservation of heritage to augment cultural awareness among general public and promote tourism.
Punjab is one of the richest Province in terms of archaeological and historical heritage in Pakistan. The history of this Province started from the Palaeolithic period in Rawalpindi district about two millions year back and continued through different phases and reached to the colonial period of pre-partition time. The region has been invaded and ruled by many different empires and races including the Aryans, Persians, Greeks, Egyptians, Afghans, and Mongols.
The population of Punjab had been pre-dominantly Hindu with large Buddhist minorities before it was conquered by Muhammad bin Qasim in 712 AD. He was the first to bring the message of Islam to the region. It was later spread through the teachings of various Sufi saints. The Mughals controlled the region from 1524-1739. It was their reign that saw the construction of the great architectural wonders such as the Badshahi Mosque and the Shalimar Gardens.
Following the decline and subsequent fall of the Mughal Empire, Maharaja Ranjeet Singh was the most prominent ruler of the Punjab. He established the Sikh Empire that lasted from 1799-1849. During his time a lot of importance was given to the landed aristocracy and he relied upon their loyal support to retain power. However, after his death, political chaos ensued and two of his successor maharajas were assassinated in the succession struggle. The British Empire took control and annexed Punjab in 1849 after two Anglo Sikh Wars.
By virtue of its geo-political position, Punjab was one of Great Britain’s most important assets in colonial India allowing it to execute control over the numerous princely states that made up the country. The British rule saw a series of measures being introduced including the introduction of western education, a new revenue system and the establishment of a new administrative system. However, the increasing resentment of the people towards their colonial masters brought Punjab at the center of the rising rebellion. The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre of 1919 took place in Amritsar and following the Pakistan Resolution of 1940, Punjab was at the heart of the independence struggle of modern day Pakistan. During the partition of India in 1947, most of the Muslim dominated areas went on to form the present day province of Punjab while the Sikh and Hindu dominated regions formed the Indian states of Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh.
In 1955 due to the rising tensions between East and West Pakistan, Punjab lost it province status. In 1972 however, following the secession of East Pakistan and formation of Bangladesh, it regained its standing. In 1965 and 1971, Punjab witnessed the two wars between India and Pakistan.
Today, Punjab remains the heartbeat of the nation and is at the center of all political and economic progress. It has been the cradle of civilization since time immemorial. The ruins of Harappa show an advanced urban culture that flourished over 5000 years ago. Taxila, another historic landmark also stands out as a proof of the achievements of the area in learning, arts and crafts in bygone ages.The forts, palaces, gardens, mosques, mausoleums, are eloquent reminders of the great tradition in Muslim architecture.