The erstwhile state of Bahawalpur is the expanse of plains and desert, bounded by Sutlej, Chenab and Indus rivers towards the north and the west. The territory enclosed the Cholistan desert spread over 27,000 square kilometers.
This state used to be a fertile region nourished by the Hakra river in the antiquity and the civilization of this region has a history dating back to almost 4000 BC.
The region is spotted with remains of three rows of forts. A line began from Phulra and ended in Lera, another line from Rukhanpur to Islamgarh, and the third from Bikaner to Kapoo. Mostly in ruins now, some of them date back to 3000 years and have been destroyed and rebuilt many times.
The region is steeped in ancient history resonating in the folklore, poetry, handicrafts, dances and myths. The built assets include the archeological sites, forts and settlements.
The region has been the cradle of many a glorious empires including the Abbasid State - one of the richest and benign princely states of the subcontinent.
In 14th century, Sultan Ahmad Abbasi son of Abbasid Caliph Muzammil moved from Cairo to Sind via Kech/ Makran. Accompanied by Arab loyalists already settled in Sind, he confronted Raja Rai Dhorang. He wrestled territory from the Raja and established a dominion in Bankar/ Bhangira/ Kot Kanji and Qila Parkar.
Six generations later, a highly competent leader, Channi Khan Abbasi was appointed Panj Hazari by Prince Murad son of Mughal Emperor Akbar. He was given control of territory from Ubaru to Lahri Bandar.
Many generations later, during the years 1723-46, Nawab Sadiq Khan Abbasi I moved to Khanpur, DG Khan and Uch, capturing Qila Dad Machi enroute. In 1727, he laid foundations of the state of Bahawalpur. He also annexed Shehr Farid and wrested Derawar Fort from the ruler of Jaisalmer.
The state evolved and stretched 200 miles including Din Garh, Mauj Garh, Wullar, Hasilpur, Fort Abbas, Lodhran, Mailsi, Multan, Muzaffar Garh, Mubarakpur and Minthar.
From 1746-50, Nawab Bahawal Khan Abbasi I abandoned Shikarpur and totally focused on the state in Bahawalpur region. In 1747, he established Baghdad-ul-Jadid/ Bahawalpur and shifted the state capital.
From 1750-72, Nawab Mubarak Khan Abbasi II, expanded territory to include Derawar, Rahimyar Khan, Khairpur, Marot, Qaimpur, Islam Garh/ Bheem Garh, Kot Sabzal, Mubarakpur, Garhi Shad Khan, Ahmedpur Lamha, Minthar, Mailsi, Lodhran, Muzaffar Garh.
From 1772-1809, Nawab Bahawal Khan Abbasi II annexed Uch and started the mint with approval from Afghan King Mahmud Shah. In 1780, Mughal Emperor Shah Alam-II conferred titles of Rukn-ud-Doula, Nusrat Jung and Hafiz-ul-Mulk to the Nawab Ameer while in 1802, title of Mukhlis-ud-Daula was conferred by the King of Kabul.
From 1809-25, Nawab Sadiq Khan Abbasi II and from 1825-52 Nawab Bahawal Khan Abbasi III faced the challenge of Ranjit Singh from north, however, sustained the state while shaping an alliance with the British. The boundary of Bahawalpur State was defined by Sutlej, Chenab and Sind rivers.
From 1852-53, Nawab Sadiq Khan Abbasi III, from 1853-58, Nawab Fateh Khan Abbasi, from 1858-66, Nawab Bahawal Khan Abbasi IV, from 1866-99, Nawab Sadiq Khan Abbasi IV succeeded the throne. Nawab Sadiq Khan Abbasi IV ordered construction of Noor Mahal. He also inaugurated Bahawal Victoria Hospital and Sadiq Egerton College.
From 1899-1907, Nawab Bahawal Khan Abbasi V ruled the state. In 1902, he founded the orphanage and in 1904, he ordered construction of Darbar Mahal, Farrukh Mahal, Nishat Mahal and Gulzar Mahal.
Bahawalpur State survived the test of times as perilous as the expeditions of Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali, disintegration of Mughal Empire, pressure from bordering Sikh state and the British expansion- courtesy to the acumen and statesmanship of nawabs.
By the end of 19th century, Bahawalpur State comprised an area larger than Denmark or Belgium. Its eastern border was 300 miles, the western border was River Indus, the northern border was River Sutlej and its southern border was shared with Sindh. The ruler also enjoyed special protocol conferred by the British since 1866 as he was accorded 17 canons salute and had special access to the Viceroy of British India.