"KHEWRA" is a small city situated in the Jehlum district of the Punjab, Pakistan. It is well known for being the main center of mining in the world’s largest Salt Range. Salt from these mines is not only supplied all over the country, and also worldwide. A trip to Khewra mines proves to be highly fascinating for the tourists of every age and temperament. The reason is that it not only fulfils the requirements of an attractive recreational place, but also carries tremendous pale ontological heritage for educational purposes. moreover, there are many places of historical and archeological interests in all around the area.
The history of Khewra Mines dates back to the days of Alexander The Great. The Salt Range seems to have formed part of a powerful Hindu Kingdom of Kashmir in 10th century AD. Most of the forts and temples around in the area belong to that era. Salt Mining has been the only business and the sole source of income for the locals before 60s. Afterwards, the introduction of new developmental projects and launching of a few companies allowed people to develop the economy in several other ways. As far as the mining in concerned, it still is the major business for the locals. From the arrival of electricity in the area, till 90s, electrical locomotives were used to transport salt from the mines to the depots. Now trolleys and tractors have taken its place.
The reason for the development in mining techniques is the launching of Pakistan Mineral Development Corporation, which was established in 1974. The objectives of PMDC are to explore, plan, develop and operate mining ventures in Pakistan. PMDC has developed a modern tourist resort at these mines for the general public and has provided all sorts of facilities for the visitors. Small resorts have also been established. PMDC collaborates with both national and international, public and private agencies in the field of exploration and mining activities in the country. Mining PMDC is operating four salt mines and it shares the country’s ten percent of the coal, and 50 percent of the salt market.
The tour of these mines is not only recreational, but also fascinating and educational. It takes only one and a half an hour in touring and visiting the various level and buildings of the mines. Guides from the tourists department are always available to show, inform and help you through the mines.
As soon as one enters the mines, the temperature change surprises you pleasantly. If it is extremely hot outside, the mines are naturally found cool enough to make you forget the outside heat altogether. If you come here in winters, the mines feel as if well heated. Though the electric tubes are fixed at the interval of every few feet, but still a feeling of darkness envelops the scene. The floor of the mines is made of bricks, but is not smooth enough to allow you to walk without looking down at every other step. Moreover the rail-tracks made for the easy movement of the trolleys make the path a bit complicated. It is advised to use canvas or easy shoes for the walking purpose while touring the mines.
God created Beauty, and his men dug it out. The mines from inside are a great combination of God’s creativity and his creation’s artifice. One is left open-mouthed at the stunning beauty, shapes, colors, and textures found inside the mines. Innumerable colors and shades of red, white and black, make one wonder about God’s palette. The textures, forms and shapes of naturally formed salt make the mines a wonderland, full of fascination, glamour, and beauty.
There are a lot of buildings carved by the local artists inside the mine. The world’s one and only Salt-Mosque is built here. It is made with salt bricks of different colors, its transparency allowing the light to penetrate through and spread thousands of beautiful shades of salt around when lit. The sight is simply stunning.
A few ponds full of salt brine are horrible but great specimens of artisan of men. One of the pools is named after “Jheel Saif-ul-Mulook”.
A few buildings named at the different places in Pakistan, like Assembly Hall", "Sheesh Mahal”, “Meenar-e-Pakistan”, “Chandni Chowk” are also worth viewing.
These buildings with the combinations of light and dark, shapes and textures, colors and shades, provide remarkable and unforgettable sights.
There is a wall called to be the tester of fate, and is meant to be licked by the lovers. In fact, the salt rock, and the dripping salt water in most of the areas of the mine is not taste-worthy, and causes irritation when taste or touched.
There are two small hills named "Bungalow Pahari" and 'Choona Pahari" as old sites of Custom and Khewra populace respectively.
There are a few portraits of national heroes carved near the end of the mine. And to reach them, one has to cross a few pools via some swinging wooden bridges. It is the test of one’s bravery how one manages to walk through them seeing one’s swinging reflection in the dark scary pools meters down one’s feet.
PMDC administration also manages a " fire work" program in the Darbar Hall on request. Darbar Hall is a building made after the Mughal building structure.
Khewra gorge provides excellent exposures of rocks from Pre-Cambrian to Tertiary rocks rich with all types fossils. The gorge is well known as Open Geological Museum among geologists. Otherwise there is no formal museum in the city.
A tour to Khewra proves to be a marvelous and an unforgettable experience --- The experience that can never be captured by a camera or expressed in words. So visiting the place in person and having a first-hand experience is the only option for the tourists and all the Nature lovers.
Geologists put the age of rock-salt found in Khewra at about 600 million years. In geological timescale this time period is called Precambrian. It is said that discovery of rock salt in Khewra area dates back to as early as circa 326 BC. According to a legend, the army of Alexander the great was resting in Khewra area after a battle with Raja Porus. Some horses of Alexander's army were then seen licking rock salt in the area. Somebody from Alexander's army noted down the incident and we came to know that salt was discovered.
It is said that the chiefs of "Janjua-Raja" tribe were the first to initiate the standard mining practices here in the 13th Century. However, a chronology of the Mughal Rule in the Sub-Continent says that when the Mughals emerged supreme in the Punjab, they took over the mine from local tribal chiefs and, thereafter, started to work on it until Punjab came under the Sikhs. Under Sikh rule the mine came up to be known as 'Khewra Salt Mine'. The British ousted the Sikhs and annexed Punjab in 1849 and renamed the mine as the 'May Mine' in 1870.
In 1872, Dr. H. Warth, a renowned British Mining Engineer, laid out the main tunnel at ground level. He proposed that only 50% of salt be excavated from the working seam while the remaining 50% is left as pillars. 155 years later this same method logy called the 'room and pillar' method is still being used in Khewra mining operation.
To make salt from Khewra mines accessible to rest of India, British laid a railway line which was opened as a meter-gauge on January 1, 1883. It was later converted to a siding and a broad gauge line was laid which is operational to date.