Skardu is the name of city and district too. Sometimes whole Baltistan division is called Skardu. It is the central district of Gilgit Baltistan. Skardu district starts from Shengus Rondu valley to Sermik. It is bordered by Gilgit district in North West, Shigar district in south, Ghanche district in east, Kharmang district in south east and Astore district in south. The capital of Baltistan division is also Skardu city. The city is the largest city in Gilgit Baltistan in terms of both area and population.
Geography of Skardu
The valley is located in between the great mountain ranges of Karakoram and Himalayas. The geography of district is very interesting. You can see snow covered peaks, lush green valleys and deserts at a time. Most of its south western part is lush green and forested. Basho valley and upper parts of Rondu valley are forested by junipers, birch and pine trees. Similarly in south lush green Deosai plateau is located which covers an area of 3000 Sq Km. The central parts of the valley consists of sand dunes and agricultural fields alongside the Indus River. These sand dunes are sometimes called cold desert. Besides these there are numerous natural water springs and wetlands. The famous among them is Katpnana. Katpana is located next to airport.
History of Skardu
The history of Skardu dates back to Alexander the great era. Some historians suggest that the city was founded by Sikander (Alexander ) and it was called Sikandaria. But there is no solid evidence of this theory. The name Skardu may be derived from two Balti words “Skar” and “Rdou” means Star Stone. The original settlers were Tibetan Nomads who traveled from western Tibet to Karakoram while grazing their herds. Then gradually Dards , Kashmiris , Sadat (Arabs) and Sufis(Iranian) came here and settled. Due to admixture of these different ethnic groups a new civilization came into existence which is called Balti.
Maqpoun of Skardu
Skardu was ruled by Shakar and Maqon royal family. There is no detailed information about Shakar family, only some ruined forts can be seen in Shagari Gamba. Maqpon dynasty is famous in Gilgit Baltistan. Maqpon dynasty was founded by Ibrahim Shah. The history of Ibrahim is interesting. It is said that Ibrahim Shah was either Greek or Kashmiri. He got married to princess of Shakar raja. In Balti language groom is called maqpa. Later he became the ruler and the name stuck. This family was later called Maqpon.
During the era of Ali Sher Khan Anchan Maqpon kingdom extended from western Tibet to Chitral. Ali Sher Khan Anchan annexed Ladakh, western Tibet, Gilgit, Hunza, Nagar, Puniyal and Chitral in 16th century AD. He had friendly relation with Mughal Empire after Mughal’s failed to conquer his kingdom. He is mentioned as Ali Rai in Mughal history. In Mughal history books like “Tarikh e Hindustan” Ali Sher Khan is mentioned as Ail Rai and Baltistan as Little Tibet. Many failed attempts to conquer Maqpon kingdom has been mentioned in this historical book.
Places to visit in Skardu
- Kachura Lakes and Shangrila Resort
- Deosai National Park.
- Katpana Lake and Cold Desert
- Basho Valley
- Stak Valley
- Sadpara Lake
- Shila Valley
- Kharphocho Fort