Sunday, March 6, 2011

Turbat – the city of Punnu and dates

Balochistan province of Pakistan is generally arid with vast tracts of barren lands. The population centres are thus located near water sources for life sustenance. Like all deserts, the only favourable agriculture produce is dates. And when we talk of dates, the name of small place called Turbat stands tall and loud. Situated on the left bank of Kech stream, a tributary to the Dasht River which flows from Iran and south of the Makran Range, the small city of Turbat is well known for its high quality of dates which compare well with Basra dates. A date processing factory has been set up at Turbat. However, the abundance of dates in the area has given rise to ocular injuries in Turbat.  

Why the place is called Turbat, there have been many explanations. As per one popular exploitation, Turbat in Urdu means "Grave". It is said that when Alexander, the Great after having fought with the Hindu rulers of the north and Multan, made his exiting journey from coastal area of Balochistan. When he reached with his army at what is the present day Turbat, his army fell victim to a deadly plague and thousands of his men succumbed to the disease. The dead Greek soldiers were buried in this coastal area. And these countless graves gave the name to the place: Turbat. Alexander left Balochistan from here and proceeded to Babylon. However, I have not found any mention of graves or seen pictures of these anywhere.

Punnu's Fort (left) - Mirani Dam (right)

Turbat is also famous for being the stage of the folklore of Sassi Punnu. Punnu, the Hoth prince belonged to Turbat. The remains of the Punnu’s Fort, still survive surrounded with the date trees. The fort is located on a high ground and is visible from far distance. It is thought that Punnu fort could date back to 6000-8000 BC. There is a shrine on nearby Koh-e-Murad mountains, which is a religious place for the Zikris faith. The followers of Zikri sect gather here at the night of 27th Ramadan for a ritual visit to this shrine.

Turbat has been ruled by the Gichki Tribes of Makran and had been the headquarters of the Makran state. The palace of the Nizam of Makran and the Nizam’s mosque are two landmarks of Turbat, besides the Punnu’s Fort. Turbat is one of the district headquarters of the Balochistan province.

Majority of dwellers in Turbat live in huts made of thatch as it allows free flow of air but prevents the inmates from dust and sun. Few years back, Mirani Dam in Kech area of Makran district with a catchments area of 12,000 square kilometres was built about 30 miles west of Turbat on Dasht River to improve the life of the people of Turbat and surrounding areas. Turbat has a small airport which offers direct flights to Gwadar and Karachi. Turbat is connected to Panjgur and Kalat to the northwest and Pasni to the southeast and to Karachi in the East. 

Related reading: Pakistanpaedia (Turbat - te Dates city)