By: Hamid Ali Gadhi
[The writer is an M Phil student of Asian Civilizations Taxila Institute of Asian Civilizations Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad.]
The amazing region of Swat is very rich in history and is commonly known as the Switzerland of Pakistan. There is an abundance of cultural and traditional artifacts and has been a very popular tourist destination for decades. Last week, I had the opportunity to visit this stunning location with the intent to visit historical sites in Swat and this was made possible by the Taxila Institute of Asian Civilization Quaid -i-Azam University, Islamabad. We stayed a couple of days and during our local visits, we were surprised to find huge sites consisting of Ghandhara regional stupas in regards to the Buddhist communities. We were informed regarding activities and daily lifestyles of the people who lived in this region around 2nd century C.E. Each site reflects its own identification and place in history, and no doubt that the immense greenery, tall mountains and rivers add a unique aura to the surroundings. Swat is included as one of the Ghandhara regional sites in South Asia, which remained the civilization of Buddhism, and many stupas of the Kushans period are located in various parts of the Swat valley. This includes the Amlukdara stupa, Shingardar Stupa, Buthkra I /II, Nemogram monastery and stupas on rocks that depicted the art of Buddha’s mediations pause.
The structures created have their own unique cultural styles that reflect pasts of an ancient dynasty. It was refreshing to see these sites been given attention of local authorities – who have maintained an environment where tourists can enjoy the beauty of Swat along with exploring wonderful historical locations. Far to reach sites have been made accessible through pathways made of stone stairs that take us to particular structures.
Since all the students that who made the journey are pursuing a specialization in Asian civilizations – we were more inclined towards visiting the Amulkdara stupa which represents the Kushan dynasty’s period, now located in the Amluk Dara village. The cylindrical drum like shape and huge in stature is the mark of the stupa and there is a brick stairways that leads to this majestic site which lies in the lap of lush green mountain.
Moving forward, on our way to Minghora, we encountered the Shingardar stupa which is located three kilometer from Barikot town. The stupa was discovered by Colonel Deane and S.A Stein, and the Shingardar stupa is considered to be the largest stupa in the Indian subcontinent.
On reaching the town of Minghora, we visited the Swat Museum that has a large collection of Ghandhara art which includes sculptures, coins, pottery and jewelry. It was a great opportunity to witness galleries of art according to the associated time periods. Our class acknowledged efforts of the museum administration /staff for maintaining a global and professional standard.
Visiting Swat gave us a chance to visit some amazing sites and learn more about the historical relevance of this very important region. Just like the initiative of our institute – educational centers can play a big role in helping students towards exposure of the northern region of Pakistan. We all can learn from these treasures that unravel hundreds of years of history.