Rawalpindi is located on the Pothohar Plateau, known for its ancient Buddhist heritage, especially in the neighbouring town of Taxila – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city was destroyed during the invasion of Mahmud of Ghazni before being taken over by Gakhars in 1493. In 1765, the ruling Gakhars were defeated as the city came under Sikh rule, and eventually became a major city within the Sikh Empire based in Lahore. The city was conquered by the British Raj in 1849, and in 1851 became the largest garrison town of the British Indian Army. Following the partition of British India in 1947, the city became home to the headquarters of the Pakistan Army hence retaining its status as a major military city.
. . .
Rawalpindi flourished as a commercial centre, though the city remained largely devoid of an industrial base during the British era. A large portion of Kashmir’s external trade passing through the city; in 1885, 14% of Kashmir’s exports, and 27% of its imports passed through the city. . . .Rawalpindi’s cantonment became a major center of military power of the Raj after an arsenal was established in 1883. Britain’s army elevated the city from a small town, to the third largest city in Punjab by 1921. . . .In 1901, Rawalpindi was made the winter headquarters of the Northern Command and of the Rawalpindi military division.
In the beginning of the present [19th] century the city became for a time the refuge of Shah Shujah, the exiled Amir of Kabul, and his brother, Shah Zaman, who built a house once used as a Kotwali. The present native Infantry lines mark the site of a battle fought by the Gakhars under their famous chief, Sultan Muqarrab Khan; and it was at Rawalpindi that on 14th March 1849 the Sikh army under Ohattar Singh and Slier Singh finally laid down their arms after the battle of Gujrat. . . . On the introduction of British rule it became a cantonment of considerable size, and shortly afterwards head-quarters of a division, while its connection with the Imperial railway system by the extension of the Punjab Northern State Railway, now the North-Western Railway, has immensely developed both its size and its commercial importance.
The cantonments were first occupied by troops in 1849, at the close of the Sikh rebellion, Her Majesty^s 53rd Regiment being the first quartered there. The final decision to occupy the station permanently with troops was arrived at by the Marquis of Dalliousie, when on tour in the Punjab in 1851. Since then Rawalpindi has uniformly maintained a high reputation for salubrity, and, owing to this and to its proximity to the hills, it is a favorite station for quartering troops on their first arrival from England.
. . .
The principal buildings of the town of Rawalpindi are the tahsil building. Police thana. Municipal Hall and City Hospital, which are situated at the point .where the, road from Cantonments, an extension of the sadr bazar enters the city. At the same point are situated the large and ample sarai, the Presbyterian Mission Church, and the Mission School,
“Gazetteer Of The Rawalpindi District 1893-94”, F A Robertson, 1895