Baltit Fort

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Baltit Fort or Balti Fort is an ancient fort in the Hunza valley in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. Founded in the 1st CE, since 2004, it has been on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative list. The foundations of the fort date back to 700 years ago, with rebuilds and alterations over the centuries.

 

In the 16th century the local prince married a princess from Baltistan who brought master Balti craftsmen to renovate the building as part of her dowry. Home of many ancient forts, the Northern Areas of Pakistan lost some of its heritage around the 19th century as a result of attacks by the Maharaja of Kashmir.

 

However, one of the biggest changes in the structure of the Baltit Fort came with the invasion of the British in December 1891. Safdarali Khan, ruler of Hunza and his wazir Dadu fled to befriended Kashgar (China) to seek ‘political asylum’ with their fellows and families.

 

With the conquest of Hunza and Nager states the fortified wall and watch towers of the old Baltit village and watch towers of the Baltit Fort on its north-western end were demolished as required by the British.

 

They installed his younger brother, Sir Muhammad Nazim Khan K.C.I.E, as the ruler of Hunza state in September 1892. With no proper authority entrusted the Fort was exposed to the ravages of time and over the years its structure weakened and began to deteriorate.

 

His Highness Aga Khan IV initiated the restoration efforts for Baltit Fort in 1990, when Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan and his family generously transferred the Fort to the Baltit Heritage Trust, a public charity formed for the explicit purpose of owning and maintaining the Fort.

 

The restoration undertaken by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Geneva in association with the Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan (Pakistan), took six years to complete.

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The rich beauty of Baltit Fort can be traced to over seven hundred 700 years ago. Ayasho II, Tham / Mir of Hunza in the early 15th Century married Princess Shah Khatoon from Baltistan. As part of her dowry she brought with her architects and tradesman from Kashmir and Tibet.

 

At the time Baltistan (previously known as ‘Little Tibet’) had very strong cultural and ethnical relations with Ladakh in Northern India. The structure of Baltit Fort was therefore influenced by the Ladakhi or Tibetan architecture, resembling elements of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet.

 
With no proper authority entrusted to care for Baltit Fort, it was exposed to the ravages of time and over the years its structure weakened and began to deteriorate.

 

His Highness Aga Khan IV initiated the restoration efforts for Baltit Fort in 1990, when Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan the son of last ruler of Hunza, Tham orMir Muhammad Jamal Khan and his family generously donated the Fort to the Baltit Heritage Trust, a public charity formed for the explicit purpose of owning and maintaining the Fort.

 

The restoration undertaken by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Geneva in association with the Aga Khan Cultural Service Pakistan, took six years to complete. The project was supported by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture as the main donor through its Historic Cities Support Programme, as well as by the Getty Grant Program (USA), NORAD (Norway) and the French Government.