SWAT VALLEY

HISTORY

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The besieged Swat museum, which houses pre-Islamic heritage, mainly Buddhist artifacts and Buddha statues of the Gandhara era. It is said to have the footprints of Buddha which were found in the Swat Valley.

 

stupa

When Buddha died, his relics (or ashes) were distributed to seven kings, who built stupas over them for veneration.This is the Butkarha stupa in Swat, built on order of King Asoka.

 

 

 

 

 

Swat Valley has a rich history that dates back over two thousand years. The Valley, called Udyana in ancient times came under Achaemenid influence for a short while before the former  independent rulers regained control over it. The towns Udegram and Barikot, called Ora and Bazira in Greek accounts, were captured by Alexander in 327 BC. By 305 BC, the region became a part of the Mauryan Empire. Finally the Kushan dynasty absorbed Swat and this was time when the Gandhara civilization flourished. The Kushans were overthrown by the White Huns somewhere around the 5th century CE. From the 8th century CE onwards, the Arabs started to exert pressure from the west in the Persian-Afghan region where the Hindu Shahi Dynasty still ruled. The Muslim era in Swat began with the Mahmud of Ghazni from Afghanistan, who in 1001 CE, conquering Swat amongst other areas as he pushed into India. People from different Pukhtun tribes settled in Swat and came to be known Swati Pukhtuns. Practically, they remained independent and out of the sphere of the neighbouring Muslims rulers of Afghanistan and India throughout their occupation. The Islamic State of Swat was established in 1849 under Sayyid Akbar Shah with Islamic Shariah law in force but the state was in abeyance from 1863 to 1915. The British recognized the state as a princely state in 1926. Following the Partition of India in 1947, the ruler acceded the state to Pakistan.

Buddhism

Swat is thought to be the probable birthplace of Vajrayana Buddhism. There are many archaeological sites in the district and Buddhist relics are common testimony to their skills as sculptors and architects. It is said that Swat was once filled with fourteen hundred imposing and beautiful stupas and monasteries, which housed as many as 6,000 gold images of the Buddhist pantheon for worship and education.

The Taliban effect

There were more than 400 Buddhist sites covering an area of 160 km in Swat Valley before the Taliban's rise to power, but these historical heritages are being systematically targeted by the Taliban and it is feared that their intolerance will not allow for the survival of any traces of Buddhism in Swat

 

 

 

 

 

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The Jehanabad Buddha (7-meter high) was considered the second most important Gandhara monument after the Buddhas in Bamiyan, Afghanistan. In November 2007, the Taliban tried to blow up the statue and were successful in defacing it, as shown below.

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