Chiniot is one of the oldest historical towns of Punjab, on the banks of river Chenab, the second largest river of Pakistan also famous for the folk tales of Sohni-Mahiwal and Hir-Ranjha. In ancient times it was considered among the important cities on the trade route form Khyber Pass to Delhi. Alexander the Great had entered the subcontinent through the same route.
A local legend says that the town a named after Chandan, a king’s daughter who was accustomed to hunting in a man’s attire. One day she came to the banks of the Chenab and was so impressed by the beauty of the spot that she ordered a town to be built here, which was called ‘CHANDNIOT’ in her honor. The town is celebrated for its wood carving and masonry. The artisans of Chiniot have been renowned for the excellence of their work since the Mughal period. Masons from Chiniot were employed in the building of Taj Mahal in Agra and Wazir Khan Mosque in Lahore. The main architect of Golden Temple at Amritsar was also from Chiniot, as were the craftsmen who built the more recent Minar-e-Pakistan. The area was once famous for boat-building, but no such industry is seen now-a-days. The town is still known for arts and crafts specially door carving, brass work, inlays and furniture. The skills are passed down from father to son.
Chiniot has ancient origins, with some scholars linking it to a town mentioned in Rig Veda. A town called ‘Channiwat’ is also mentioned in the ‘Ramayana’ and subsequently by Al-Beruni in his ‘Kitab-ul-Hind’. The first Mughal Emperor Babur has also mentioned this historical place in “Tuzk-e-Babri”. A Chinese Historian, Heun Tasang, has also mentioned the town as the Chinese traders used the Chenab and Jehlam river routes for trade purposes. The town housed one of the three ancient universities of the Punjab (the other two being at Ajodhan and Taxila). The area of Chiniot and the waves of Chenab have seen ages and civilizations. The ancient mounds and ruins in the
Surroundings of Chiniot suggest the oldest settlement of Aryans, Buddhists, Greeks, and the Hindu-Muslim periods spread over hundreds of years. Greek Age (326 BC) objects like figurines, toys, broken earthenware, domestic use utensils and coins were also discovered in 1999 from the hills near Chiniot. A pictographic writing found carved on these hills has close resemblance with the pictographic-writing found from Harappa or Moen-jo-daro sites. Many a time, the city was built and ruined by various invaders and warriors. The first authentic source of history dates back to 326 BC when Alexander’s army conquered the region of Chiniot which was taken over by Chandar Gupt Maurya two years later who ruled over the place till 30 BC. The others who ruled Chiniot were Raja Chach (712 AD). Sultan Mehmood Ghaznavi (1010 AD). Mehmood Ghauri (1206 AD), Slave Dynasty (1218 AD), Zaheer-u-Din Babar (1528-1540 AD), Sher Shah Suri and Jahangir (1605 -1627 AD). This city was also conquered by Gandha Singh, and eventually Ranjit Singh took over Chiniot in 1805, and thereafter in 1849 the British captured the city. Muhammad Bin Qasim was the first one who raised the flag of Islam in this area in 712 A.D. However, the most prosperous days of Chiniot were during the reign of Emperor Shah Jahan, and the elegant Shahi Mosque was built during this period.
When to Go
This area can be visited throughout the year.
How to Reach
Located 156 km west of Lahore, Chiniot is well-connected by road and rail with the rest of country.
Where to Stay
Accommodation facilities in the form of hotels are here which facilitates with all the basic necessities.
What to Eat
Chiniot is noted for its food dishes, especially Kunna (goat meat cooked in a pot)
Chiniot is known all over the world for its fine wood-carving which can still be seen on the doors, windows and balconies of the houses in the central part of the old town. Wood carving is found here mainly in two forms - furniture and handicrafts. Furniture of Chiniot is better in finishing and quality standard than that of other areas of the country. This industry is totally based on local material like wood, hardboard, yin-board, etc. All forms of furniture are made here, but the most popular forms are of carving and brass inlay. More than 80% demand of Pakistani market is met by the Chinioti furniture. Internationally, Chiniot alone is competing with the modern furniture industry of Italy which has monopoly all over the world. The carving style of Italy and Chiniot is the same but the furniture made here is more durable and
beautiful than that of Italy. ‘Sheesham’ wood is mostly used the furniture which
better in quality and strength than rose wood and
considered similar to ‘Palizendar’ wood found in Brazil. The furniture made of Sheesham wood has become an important part of almost every house. Chiniot furniture industry is 150-200 years old, with 3000 to 4000 furniture workshops operative at the moment. Approximately, 40,000 to 50,000 people are linked with the furniture and handicraft business in Chiniot, The artisans in a workshop work like family members which is their heritage.
Furniture available here is mostly without polish, white a major portion of exports is in the form of wooden handicrafts which include objects tike table lamps, jewellery boxes, trolleys, table sets, models of animals and historical buildings, mirror frames,
Mughal style screen partitions, etc. Two famous places for gaffing
the best specimens of furniture and woodcraft in the city are:
Mohalla ‘Tarkhanan’ (masons’ area) and on the Shahra-e-Quaide-Azam.
What to See
Monuments of Chiniot
A number of historical buildings in Chiniot tell the tales of its glorious past. One of them, Umar Hayat Palace (also called “Gulzar Manzil”), is a masterpiece of indigenous art and
architecture, located the centre o the city. If architecture is frozen music then Gulzar Manzil in Chiniot is the creativity of human spirit, with its breathtaking beautiful Jharokas (balconies) and exquisitely engraved arches. It has a great attraction for local and foreign tourists for its beauty. Umar Hayat was a successful trader like other members of Sheikh Family. He decided to construct a wonderful place in 1923 and the construction work was completed by hundreds of workers who worked round-the-clock for 14 years and this masterpiece of art and masonry was named as Gulzar Manzil in the name of his son, Gulzar.
This beautiful four-storeyed palace is adorned with unique art work and is one of the most artistic buildings in the architectural history of the subcontinent. But Umar Hayat could not see and enjoy his masterpiece as he died in 1935 just before its completion. Gulzar Manzil showcases beautiful architectural patterns which have become a rarity. In 1990, the building was taken over by the government. A room of the building was converted into a museum with antiques belonging to Chiniot. A library has also been established there with thousands of books. By converting an historical building into folk heritage and library for book reading, it indeed earns a distinctive position in the world of letters.
Shahi Masjid of Chiniot
This elegant mosque was built by Nawab Saad Ullah Khan (1595- 1655), the Prime Minister of Indo-Pak Subcontinent during Emperor Shah Jehan’s reign. Built during 1646 to 1655 AD, this mosque is one of the major sights of the town. It is an exceedingly handsome edifice of hewn stone obtained from the hills near Chiniot. Like Masjid Wazir Khan, Badshahi Mosque Lahore and Jamia Mosque Delhi, almost all salient features of Muslim architectures are fully reflective in the construction of Shahi Mosque, which because of its artistic skill, beauty and exquisiteness seems a graceful version of Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque) Agra or vice versa. The arches of the façade of the praying chamber of the Royal Mosque have only one foil which is perhaps the only instance in the whole history of architecture. With its majestic entrance, the courtyard inside is squarish in plan and has an ablution tank in the centre. The whole mosque is built on a 15-feet high platform. The constructed area of the mosque is 108 x 97 feet.
The traces of an ancient fort have also been found in the city of Chiniot. It is said that the ancient fort was destroyed during Alexander’s campaign to Punjab, and was rebuilt on the debris of invasions. On the same ruins, the fort and the city were rebuilt by Nawab Wazir Khan during Shah Jahans rule and the fort was named as “Qila Rekhtee’. A portion of old, dilapidated wall still exists facing the Umer Hayyat Palace.
Haveli of Sardar hussain Shah
Situaled in the suburbs (Rajoa Sadaat) of Chiniot, this haveli is also worth seeing. It is an elegant manifestation of Chinioti craftsmanship and wood carving. It was completed in 1886 A.D.
Prominent Personalities of Chiniot
The ancient land of Chiniot has produced many talented
personalities, some of them are:
Nawab Wazir Khan
(Shah Jehen’s Governor of Punjab)
His name was Hakeem Ilm-ud-Din Ansari who started his career as a Hakeem (Physician) in Chiniot, in the days of Jahangir. An opportunity lifted Hakeem Ilm-ud-Din to great heights when he succeeded in relieving Noor Jahan, Jahangir’s favorite Queen, of the agony brought upon her by a pimple or boil on the sole of her foot. When Noor Jahan recovered after convalescence, the occasion was marked by a befitting ceremony, where emperor Jahangir acknowledged Hakeem Ilm-ud-Din’s skill by gifting him robes of honor, worth one hundred thousand rupees, and sum of seven hundred thousand rupees. Noor Jahan gave him as a present all the jewellery that she was wearing at that time. Hakeem Ilm-ud-Din was also awarded with the title of ‘Nawab Wazir Khan’.
Nawab Wazir spent major portion of his riches for good cause and public welfare. He also constructed the world famous Wazir Khan Mosque, a source of inspiration to calligraphers and lovers of art from all over the world. Besides, he also built the ‘Bara Dan’ of Wazir Khan, a Shifa Khana (indigenous hospital) adjacent to his family house in Chiniot.
Nawab Saad-ullah Khan
(Prime Minister of Shah Jahan)
First appointed as the Royal Librarian, Saad-Ullah Khan rose to Nawab Saad Ullah and then the Prime Minister during the days of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. He constructed many buildings in different parts of Indo-Pak subcontinent but three are most famous: Mausoleum of Hazrat Shah Burhan and Shahi Mosque in Chiniot, and Saad-Ullah Khan Haveli in Lahore.
Pandit Kautiliya Chankya
(Prime Minister of Chandargupta)
A famous scholar, politician, writer, philosopher and nationalist Chiniot-born Pandit Kautiliya, also known as Chanakya, has played a key role in Alexander’s retreat and establishment of Maurya Empire. He was appointed as the Prime Minister of Chandaragupta Maurya, in the 4th century B.C.
(‘Chief Justice’ of Shah Jahan)
He was the Qazi-ul-Quzzat (Chief Justice) of Emperor Shah Jahan and was said to be the founding father of the Qazis of Chiniot. Qazi Yousaf was a man of character, a great Islamic jurist, having deep knowledge of Shariah (Islamic way of life) and Fiqah (Islamic law).
Popular Saints & Shrines
Rich in archeology and history, Chiniot has a-lot to offer but more than anything, it is the mosques, mausoleums and other monuments of muslin origin which has given the region a glory of its own. Apart from many places of historical importance, two mausoleums, one of Hazrat Shah Burhan and second of Hazrat Shah Ismael are the best specimens for their excellent masonry and workmanship.
Hazrat Shah Burhan-u-Din Bukhari (981 1061 A.H)
The greatest saint of Lahore.
The classic example of Shah Jahan’s period’s eye-catching art and glazed decoration is the Shrine of Shah Burhan, a descendent from Uch Sharif and a contemporary of Hazrat Mian Mir, one of the greatest saints of Lahore. Considered one of the most beautiful shrines of Punjab, it is said to be built by Nawab Saadullah Khan, the Prime Minister of Shah Jahan. This holy man brought a large number of unbelievers into the fold of Islam and infused in them the qualities of high character.
Hazrat Shah Ismael Bukhari (762-850 A.H.)
Born in Uch Sharif, district Bahawalpur, Shah Bukhari was the descendent of Shah Jilal Bukhari who came to Jhang area to preach Islam. The tomb, completed in 1950, is a replica of Taj Mahal. It is built on round-octagon plane, some 90 feet in diameter with walls, which are some 400 feet high. It is the best model of Chiniot masonry art. Along with the beautiful tomb and four small minarets, there is a mosque, and also a ‘Baradari’ for guests which was constructed in 1933.
Hazrat Sheik Behlol Qadri (921-1039 A.H.)
Famous as Shah Behlol’, this saint of Chenab Valley has s unique credit of being the grandfather of two great heroes of Indo-Pak Subcontinent i.e. Sultan Haider Ali and his son Sultan Fateh Ali Tipu, ‘the Lion of Meysour’. Shah Behlol, a great scholar and preacher of the Mughal era, lived for 118 years and saw the period of three Mughal Emperors; Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan.
Sheikh Bu Ali Qalundar (605-724 A.H.)
Hazrat Shah Sharaf ud Din known as Bu Ali Qalundar was born at Pani Pat. He was a great religious scholar of his time. He left Delhi and came to the bank of River Chenab at Chiniot where he stood on one leg for 12 years offering prayers and reciting Holy Quran. People came on boats to meet this great mystic to quench their spiritual thirst. After his Chills (40 days meditation), he came to be known as Bu Ali Qalundar. His ‘Chilla Gah is situated at the Chenab River and is a popular attraction for visitors.
Saen Sukh 91915-1987 A.D.
(An Apostle of Peace & Happiness)
Sheikh Ahmed Mahi, known as ‘Saen Sukh”, gave a new thought to his devotees about the teaching of Islam. He taught his devotees not to harm people but provide happiness to them. He started constructing his tomb in 1949 in his life. Along with the tomb of his wife, both the burial-places are worth-seeing, and are called as the ‘Shish Mahal of Chiniot’.
Other Specialties of Chiniot
Chiniot is peerless in ‘Tazia” making. ‘Tazia’, a model replica of the tomb of Hazart Imam Huasain (R.A.), is carried in processions during Moharram, the first month of Islamic Calendar. There are many evidences of Tazia processions during the reign of emperors Humayun, Akbar and Jahangir. Chiniot is famous for its nine unique Tazias which describe the best example of Chinioti carving. These Tazias have four storeys (called ‘sages’), which when lit up and lined up, have their own grandeur. Four bamboos are fitted under the foundation of Tezia and 36 to 40 people lift one Tazis on their shoulders. Height of each of these Tazias is from 30 feet to 44 feet. The procession of Moharram 10 in Chiniot is unique of its kind in the world.