Khaplu Palace regionally called as Yabgo Khar (meaning “The fort on the roof“), is an ancient fort and palace situated in the area of Khaplu, in the Baltistan region of Gilgit-Baltistan Province in Northern Pakistan. The palace, consider to took an architectural heritage and a tourist attraction, was constructed in the mid nineteenth century, replacing an earlier fort situated nearby. It facilitated as a royal residence for the Raja of Khaplu.
From the time period of 2005 to 2011 the palace, having earlier stood in susceptible conditions, underwent a restoration project implemented by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture under the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme. The palace now houses a hotel functioned by Serena and a museum expressing the background and culture of Baltistan
Location of Khaplu Palace
The town of Khaplu Palace is situated in the eastern side of Baltistan, at a height of 2,600 meters (8,500 feet) above sea level and is the administrative capital of the Ghanche District. River Shyok a tributary of River Indus, passes through the town, along which is the historical trade path route to Ladakh. Khaplu Palace is situated north of the Khaplu town and south of the Shyok river in front of the great mountains of Karakoram range. A trek behind the fort in a ravine leads to the small village of Pari in the area of Skardu District.
Khaplu Palace was constructed in the year 1840 by the Yabgo Raja Daulat Ali Khan of Khaplu Palace after the Dogra of Kashmir who grabbed the region decided to shift the seat of government from the ancient fort. The location of the palace was decided by rolling a large stone down from a nearby cliff; it prevented at the Doqsai village, and the palace was constructed there. The earlier fort was situated near the site of the present-day palace. Khaplu Palace replaced the previous fort as the royal residence after its completion. In accordance to Jane E. Duncan, the individuals of Khaplu utilized to live inside this fort and were not permitted to construct their homes outside its premises. This practice was altered after Maharaja of Kashmir took control of the place, resulting in a cessation of dispute among neighboring rulers.
The previous fort was apprehended by Murad Khan of Maqpon Dynasty, the ruler of Baltistan, in the Conquest of Khaplu in the time period of 1590s by cutting off the water and other supplies to the fort. The arms troops of Murad besieged the fort for 3 months, resulting in the surrender of Rahim Khan, the 62nd Yabgo dynasty ruler of Khaplu. The fort again fell to invaders in the year of 1660s and 1674.
The Yabgo descendants sustained to live there even after their kingdom was abolished and ruined in the year 1972. The last Raja of Khaplu who lived in the house was Raja Fatah Ali Khan, who breathed last in the year 1983.
Khaplu Palace was built with the assistance of Kashmiri and Balti craftsmen. Being on the border of various regions, the design of the palace has Tibetan, Kashmiri, Ladakhi, Balti, and Central Asian influences.
Khaplu Palace building contains 4 floors constructed with timber, mud bricks, clay, and soil mortar. A carved beautiful wooden gate that Yabgo Raja Hatim Khan took from a fort in the place of Skardu after invading most of the Baltistan was erected at the entrance of the palace. The passage beyond the primary gate, which previously housed a stable, leads to the front lawn of the palace, which was utilized by the musical band during festivities in the era of Yabgo Rajas. The wooden ceiling of the palace is structured with designs using chisel and paint, without the utilization of nail. A hall at the top floor that was utilized as a leisure room overlooks the Karakoram mountain range and the lawns around the fort. Other prominent rooms of the palace involve the Royal meeting room, Royal balcony, Princess dressing room, and Queen Room.
Following the renovation of the fort, a region of residential place is being utilized as a hotel, functioned by Serena Hotels and employing persons from 35 local residents. The hotel has 21 rooms, 6 of which are situated inside the palace building and utilize its 70% of income for the establishment of the Khaplu region, while another place serves as a museum.
Khaplu Palace is the 2nd palace in Baltistan to be renovated by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. Renovation began in the year 2005 and was completed in the year 2011. The project was funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs through its embassy in the city of Islamabad. USAID assisted fund an exhibition centre for Balti culture inside the fort. The exhibition centre takes up two-thirds of the location. The renovation was implemented with the assistance of people from 400 regional families employed as an initiative towards community complex. The survey encompassing the topographical characteristics of the renovation location started in the year 2005, utilized Electronic Distance Measurement (EDM) devices. The survey assisted in finding the original state of a number of decrepit sections of the palace. The renovation project was executed following the Venice Charter’s standards for restoration. The material procured for the renovation amounted to 30 million rupees, while the wages of the laborers aggregated to about 25 million rupees.
In the year 2014, Momina Duraid, senior producer of channel Hum TV and Haseeb Hassan one of famous TV directors decided the Khaplu Palace for shooting of their TV Series, “Dayar-e-Dil” the series was the hence 1st show to be shot in the area of Scardu and was shot in picturesque places of northern region. Shooting/filming was initiated in the late August 2014 and finished up in April 2015, It took approximately.8 months for shooting, Khaplu Palace offered a vast fame catch towards the series the show was seen by various viewers in the year 2015 and northern beauty offered series a higher rating.
The renovation work of the fort was commended by Virgin Holidays for having social and economic impacts on the regional people of Khaplu Palace. The palace achieved the Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Award as the best project in the “Poverty Reduction” sector in the year 2012. In the year 2013 the palace was granted the Award for Distinction by the UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Awards, along with Lal Chimney Compound in the state of India and The Great Serai in the country of Afghanistan.