The original Shigar Fort Palace (known as Fong-Khar, which in the local Balti language means, “Palace on the Rock”), was built by Hassan Khan, the 20th ruler of the Amacha Dynasty, in the early 17th century. The Amacha family claims to have ruled Shigar for thirty-three generations, with origins in the “Hamacha” tribe of Ganish, Hunza. When the Hamacha tribe was massacred in Hunza, a few of its members managed to flee to Shigar across the Hispar glacial pass, where they gained power and were recognized as the Amacha Dynasty in the 13th century.
Fong-Khar is the last remaining structure associated with the ruling Amacha family. The oldest of them was Khar-e-Dong, the fort whose ruins can still be seen high up on the cliffs overlooking the present site. It is thought that Khar-e-Dong was captured and destroyed by Mughal forces sent by Shah Jehan, in aid of Hassan Khan to regain his throne which was lost to marauding invaders. In all probability, the destruction of Khar-e-Dong necessitated the construction of the present Fong-Khar.
Hassan Khan brought a variety of artisans, gold smiths, carpenters, stone carvers, and textile weavers from Kashmir to Shigar to build his Fort-Palace. This resulted in a blend of Kashmiri-influenced carving and details with local Balti architecture, one of the unique features which make Fong-Khar a significant historical and architectural treasure.
The Fort-Palace is situated in a powerful natural setting, full of dramatic contrasts. The raw natural quality of this scenery, softened by human settlement that began at least two millennia ago, offers strong contrasts between rocky cliffs and cultivated terraces, as well as between the continuous thunder of the rushing river and the quiet spaces within the garden-site and buildings themselves. The steep rocky escarpment forming the background of the palace, the stream passing in front of the complex, and many of the irrigation channels meandering through a well-preserved and authentic settlement, all account for the unique charm of the site.