Cholistan desert of Pakistan is a strange desert as it is dotted with small, medium and large forts and fortresses after every few kilometers. These inter-woven chains of fortresses have existed for many centuries providing an excellent chain of mutually supported defense lines in the desert.
Derawar Fort is a large square fortress in Pakistan in Bahawalpur. The forty bastions of Derawar are visible for many miles in Cholistan Desert. The walls have a circumference of 1500 metres and stand up to thirty metres high. The first fort on the site was built by Hindu Rajput, Rai Jajja Bhati of Jaisalmer. It remained in the hands of the royal family of Jaisalmer until captured by the Nawabs of Bahawalpur in 1733
Derawar Fort (Qila Derawar) is in good condition, its walls are intact and still guarded by soldiers in fezes. Its age is unknown. The tombs of the Amirs of Bahawalpur are also at Derawar, decorated with attractive blue glazed tiles contrasting with the ochre landscape. Some of the cannons which were used times ago by the Army of Bahawalpur are also kept in this fort.
The Derawar Fort was first built in the 9th century under the kingship of Rai Jajja Bhati, a Hindu Rajput from Jaisalmir in India’s Rajasthan state.
The fort as it looks from the balcony of the mosque in its courtyard.
However, it was the Nawab of Bahawalpur, Sadeq Mohammad Khan I, who captured the fort in 1733 and had it rebuilt to how it looks today.
“The Derawar fort was also connected to other forts in Cholistan through a network of underground tunnels. On the ground floor, there were offices, a small prison, a gallows, a water pond and residential rooms,” he says.
Hussain says that every Thursday, nawab sahib visited the fort and held an open court with his attendants, passing judgement on different cases, including those on capital crimes.
He says three watchmen at the fort were still employed by the Nawab’s family as the fort is still in their possession.
The forty bastions of Derawar are visible for many miles in Cholistan Desert. The walls have a circumference of 1500 metres and stand up to thirty metres high. The first fort on the site was built by Hindu Rajput, Rai Jajja Bhati of Jaisalmer. It remained in the hands of the royal family of Jaisalmer until captured by the Nawabs of Bahawalpur in 1733. In 1747, the fort slipped from the hands of the Abbasis owing to Bahawal Khan’s preoccupations at Shikarpur. Nawab Mubarak Khan took the stronghold back in 1804. The nearby mosque was modelled after that in the Red Fort of Delhi. There is also a royal necropolis of the Abbasi family, which still owns the stronghold.