The Department of Archeology and Museums, is the Government body responsible for protection and preservation of Pakistan’s heritage –the immovable sites and monuments and the movable antiquities and works of art. For more details on the department please click here.

Archeological sites in Pakistan date back to the Lower Paleolithic period. The oldest site found in Pakistan is located in the Soan Valley, and is in effect called the Soanian Culture. For more details please read this article which presents a fresh look in the Soanian culture.

During the bronze age cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro came into prominence. They form the most well-known cities of the Indus Valley Civilization. To read more about the archeological efforts in Harappa and surrounding areas, please visit the website of The Harappa Archaeological Research Project :

The Age of Gandhara: During the Classical age Gandhara was a trade crossroads and cultural meeting place between India, Central Asia, and the Middle East. It was ruled by the Mauryan dynasty of India, after the Alexander the Greats conquest, under whom it became a centre for the spread of Buddhism to Afghanistan and Central Asia. Gandhara was then successively ruled by Indo-Greeks, Shakas, Parthians, and Kushans.

Taxila, Swat and Charsaddah were the important cultural centres. From the 1st century BCE to the 6th–7th century CE, Gandhara was the home of a distinctive art style that was a mixture of Indian Buddhist and Greco-Roman influences. The zenith of Gandhara Art is the statue of the  “Fasting Buddha”.

Picture Source: National Finds for Cultural Heritage Pakistan
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To read more about Gandhara Art please click here.

To read more about the Gandhara Civilization please click here.

In 2012, about 224 artifacts dating as far back as the fifth century have been discovered from a 25-foot high mound in Sangalwala Tibia village, 12km from Kamalia in Toba Tek Singh district. For further details please click here.

For more information on the Archeological site in Nimogram please click here.

Heritage Sites

Pakistan sits at the cultural crossroads of the ancient world, and the heritage sites in the country is a testament to it. Heavily influenced by Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam, it showcases its heritage through its preserved heritage sites. Currently, there are 5 properties that are listed as World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO. These include:

Buddhist Ruins of Takht-i-Bahi and Neighboring City remains at Sahr-i-Bahlol: This is the remains of a famous Buddhist monastery and a fortified city. The monastery dates back to the 1st century CE. The complex consists of numerous stupas.

Rohtas Fort: This fort near Jhelum is an exceptional example of the Muslim military architecture of central and South Asia. The fort has such a presence because it successfully blends architectural and artistic traditions from Turkey and South Asia to create the model for Mughal architecture. It was built in 1541 CE and survives intact till today.

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Historic Monuments of Malki, Thatta: Built in the 14th century, the remains of the city and its necropolis provide a unique view of civilization in Sind. While the palaces have disappeared a rich collection of tombs continues to survive. For details please click here

Fort and Shalamar Gardens: Located towards the east of Lahore, the Fort is a trapezoidal composition spread over 20 hectares. The existing base structure was built during the reign of Mughal emperor Akbar (1556-1605), and was regularly upgraded by subsequent rulers. Among the various monuments within the fort, the highlights are: the Moti Masjid, Naulaka pavilion, Alamgiri Gate, and Sheesh Mahal.

The Shalimar Gardens are located 8 kilometers (5 miles) east of Lahore. They were commissioned by Shah Jahan in 1637. The form of the garden is inspired by the gardens of the same name, in Kashmir, and would later be copied in the Shalimar Gardens of Delhi. The Shalimar Gardens are among the best preserved Mughal gardens. For further details please click here

Mohenja daro: The Archaeological Ruins at Moenjodaro (or Mohenjo-daro) are the remains of one of the largest settlements of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization. The city was built around 2600 BC, and was abandoned around 1700 BC. It was rediscovered in 1922. Moenjodaro was the most advanced city of its time, with remarkably sophisticated civil engineering and urban planning. The site was divided into two sections: the acropolis with the major structures, and the lower town with private houses and commercial buildings.

For further information please click here

Taxilla: Taxila is an archaeological site containing the ruins of the Gandhâran city of Takshashila, an important Vedic/Hindu and Buddhist centre of learning from the 6th century BCE to the 5th century CE. Historically, Taxila lay at the crossroads of three major trade routes: the royal highway from Pâṭaliputra; the north-western route through Bactria, Kâpiúa, and Puṣkalâvatî (Peshawar); and the route from Kashmir and Central Asia. Situated on the Indus, various invaders from Greece, Persia, and Central Asia left a mark on the city and its style over the ages.

Kim’s Gun or Zamzama

“He sat in defiance of municipal orders, astride the gun Zam-Zammeh, on her old platform, opposite the old Ajaibgher, the Wonder House, as the natives called the Lahore Museum. Who hold Zam-Zammah, that ‘fire-breathing dragon’, hold the Punjab, for the great green-bronze piece is always first of the conqueror’s loot.


According to Ethnologue, there are 72 individual languages in Pakistan, all of which are living. Of these, 13 are institutional, 11 are developing, 38 are vigorous, 8 are in trouble, and 2 are dying. (Ethnologue, 2013)

The national language of Pakistan is Urdu, while English is the official language. Urdu, meaning ‘language of the army camp’ is a hybrid language which developed in the 14th century. It is predominantly a mixture of Turkish, Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit and other South Asian languages.

Besides Urdu, there are six major spoken the major provinces of Pakistan. These include: Punjabi, spoken by about 50% of the population; Sindhi, the second most common language in Pakistan; Pashto, spoken in Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa; Baluchi, spoken in Balochistan; Saraiki, and Hindko. There are also over fifty regional languages.

Languages in Pakistan

Photo Source: M. Izady, 2007-2013, URL Link:

For further details on the languages of Pakistan please click here.

To learn some basic Urdu phases please click here.


Ethnologue. (2013). Pakistan. Retrieved July 23, 2013, from***EDITION***


Traditions & Rituals

The social interactions of everyday are guided by a age old traditions. People and tradition differ to the community or ethnicity one belongs. These social customs help create and maintain the sense of community.

Among the Punjabis in Pakistan during the wedding, the choora (red bangles) worn by brides has to necessarily come as a gift from her maternal uncles, while the Khat (bridal gift) has to come from the maternal grandparents.

The Baloch welcome the birth of a child –especially boy child –with much song and dance. Women attend the mother for seven nights and sing the sipatt (songs of praise), as food and sweets are prepared and distributed. The Baloch may also practice the custom of Mangirwhereby there is a mass marriage of several couples in the community.

The tradition of Badal (revenge) among the Pukhtoon is often heard about. The obligation to take revenge falls not only on the individual but the entire tribe. Feuds over Zar, Zan, Zamin (money, women, land) have been going on since centuries. However, sometimes feuds are terminated when the weaker party seeks forgiveness through the nanawati system where blood money may be accepted in lieu of revenge. Another well-known aspect of the Paktunwali (code of conduct for the Pustoons) is the Melmastia where one extends hospitality and assurance of safety to a guest or enemy if he seeks it.

To visit the customs and Tradition page of The Ministry of Heritage and National Integration please click here.

For information on the marriage tradition of Pakistan please click here.

Cultural Festivals & Events

Festivals are integral part of the culture of Pakistan. Festivals are welcomed with music, dance and food. Fire-works, exchange of sweets, prayers are usual ways of celebration. Festivals in Pakistan include both Islamic and secular festivals.  Some of the festivals include:

Shab-e-Barat: This is a religious festival celebrated on 14th of Shaaban, the 8th Islamic month. It is day marked by prayers, fire-works, exchange of sweet dishes and visits. Because it’s a night festival all houses in Pakistan are decorated with candles, lamps and lights. Kids and adults equally participate in firing crackers and intricate fireworks. The night of Shab- E- Barat, symbolizes a night of forgiveness. The night of Shab- E- Barat immortalizes the entry of Prophet Mohammad to the holy city of Mecca.

Eid-ul-Fitr: Is the one the most important days for the Muslims. Eid and fitr are Arabic words.  The day celebrates end of fasting month on 1st of Shawwal, the 10th month of Islamic Calendar. After the holy month of Ramadan people return to the normal routine of life after completing the siam. Special prayer after sun-rise, exchange of sweet dishes, visits to love ones. The day is marked with wearing of new clothes & is celebrated throughout Pakistan. This festival is very special for ladies who wear bright clothes and decorate their hands & feet with hina and bangels. The celebration goes on for three days in a row.

Eid-E-Melad-Un-Nabi:This day is celebrates to commemorate the birthday of The Holy Prophet Mohammed. Processions of beautifully decorated carts, animals, vehicles are seen on the streets. Religious songs are sung and free food is given to the poor all over the country.

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Bassant: With the coming of spring Basant Festival is celebrated with pomp and show in mid-February every year in Lahore. This spring festival is traditionally celebrated by flying kites. Lahore, Kasoor, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi, Gujrat, Faisalabad and other major cities of Punjab become the hub of activities with sky full of kites of different styles, sizes and colors. This festival starts at mid-night when the white kites flying in the sky are lit with millions of flood lights from every roof top.

Mela Chiraghan: The festival of lights that marks the birth of Sufi saint Hazrat Shah Hussain, began on Friday night. Nearly half a million people from around the country are expected to attend the three-day event.

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Eid ul Azha is celebrated on 10th day of the Zil Hajj (the 12th Islamic month). This day is celebrated in the memory of the sacrifice made by the prophet Abraham (Abraham) wherein he offered the life of his son Prophet Ismail to fulfill the decree of the Allah. On this day, all people who can afford sacrifice a sheep or a goat in the name of Allah as was done by prophet Abraham. Here too the poor are not forgotten. The meat of the sacrificed goat/sheep/lamb is divided into three parts; one for distribution among the poor, second for the relatives and third for self and own family. This festival is known as the ‘Festival of Sacrifice’ or ‘Sacrifice Feast’ is mainly an event to give and to sacrifice.

Sibi Mela: This is the most colourful show of the year. Here traditional sports, exhibition of dresses, jewelry; horse show, cattle show, camel & horse races, camel & horse dances, tent pegging, concerts and colorful stalls in industrial Exhibition all take place.

Chilimjusht/Joshi: Joshi is marked with singing, dancing & feasting. Kafirs claim decendence of Alexander’s army who came into this region in 327 B.C. Ever since, these people have never stepped out of these valleys & still leading life based on matriarchal society. Their rituals, habits & customs are quite different from that of most Pakistan.

Other popular festivals include: Sindh Horse and Cattle Show, the National Horse and Cattle Show, and Shandur Polo Festival. For more information please click here.

To learn more about the festivals in Pakistan please click here.

Cultural Identities

Pakistan is a proud nation. It is one of the few nations created not out by an accident of history but with a purposeful ideology. Since 1947 Pakistan has tried to create for itself a cultural identity that its people can feel a part of. It has looked towards West Asia, Central Asia and South Asia to find a sense of identity. The question of Pakistan’s identity is a much debated topic. Perhaps it is this flexibility of identity that is the fate of the Pakistan. Harboring both the most liberal as well as the most orthodox of ideology Pakistan tries to locate itself in the myriad ethnicity, and centuries of history that has played out with its geographical territory. Rich is literature, poetry, history, art and music Pakistan boasts the ability to mix and match, construct and deconstruct tradition and heritages.

About 97 percent of all Pakistani’s are Muslims. Of which Sunni Muslims are at a majority and constitute 77 percent of the population, while the Shia Muslims constitute an additional 20 percent. Religious minorities including Christian and Hindus make up for 1 percent. Sufism is practiced widely in Pakistan, and has much more flexible religiosity than the more extreme form of Islam. Shrines of Data Ganj Baksh and Shahbaz Qalander in Sehwan are visited by million in a year.

Pakistan is home to over 170 Million people. There are a number of ethnic groups within Pakistan. See map below. Broadly, they comprise four main ethnic groups Pashtuns (15%), Baluchis (3%), Punjabis (40%) and Sindhis (14%), and numerous smaller groups (28%) like Brahui, Seraiki, Balti, Mohajirs, Chitrali or Kalash.


Photo Source: M.Izady, 2007-2013,
URL Link:

To read more about the Cultural Heritage of Pakistan please click here.

To see the list of National Symbols in Pakistan please click here.

Photo Source: Iqbal Academy Pakistan
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Allama Iqbal is a towering figure in the cultural, social and political landscape of Pakistan. He was a poet, a philosopher, a social reformer and much more. He provided the ideological guidance that lead to the creation of the state of Pakistan. His works are recited till today and form the backbone for the Pakistani national identity.
To read about Allama Iqbal in detail please visit this website dedicated to his life and life-work.

To read some of Iqbal’s poetry please click here.