The arrival of Buddhism in Pakistan introduced Buddha to the local people. It was a one-of-a-kind occurrence that occurred approximately 2,300 years ago. It brought about revolutionary changes in the region, which included modern-day Pakistan and India. The mentor of transporting Buddhism to his kingdom was Mauryan King “Asoka” (literally, the greatest of all Emperors). Buddhism remained a prominent religion in this region for a much longer period of time, perhaps hundreds of years.
The Buddhist ruins from the golden era are clear evidence of the Buddha Regime’s past glory. These sites continue to draw a large number of tourists from all over the world.
Swat is one of those valleys that has always drawn attention due to its ties to the Buddha Dynasty. From Bacteria (the Greek Kingdom) to the Kushan Empire, the valley saw many reigns. Among the powerful rules are the Mauryan Empire (Asoka), the rule of the great Punjab, the Indus River Basin Civilization, and so on.
Historical Importance of Buddha
The great Buddhist scholar Padma-Sambhava is said to have been born in Chak Dara whi is a village in Lower Dir. It was once a part of the Vastu Uddiyana State. In Tibet, Padma-Sambhava was a mentor Rinpoche. He was the same person who introduced the “Vajrayana” school of Buddhism to Tibet, China.
In the fifth century A.D., Fa-Hein arrived in Swat Valley. He wrote about 6000 monasteries, all of which are in the valley. In the sixth century A.D., Sung-Yun visited the valley. He pointed out approximately 6000 images found only in the sacred Monastery of Ta-loo, Butkara. Hiuen-Tsang, a Chinese pilgrim who came to the Swat valley in the 7th century A.D., wrote about 1400 Monasteries in the Swat valley, but there is no clear indication of the remains of the Buddhist monuments. Even today, we can find the ruins of nearly 400 Buddhist stupas and monasteries in Swat.
It is our own ancient cultural heritage that requires renovation, protection, and preservation in order to show to the future generations.
The Gumbat of Balo-Kale or Balao Gumbat is a Swat cultural heritage that dates back to the Buddha Dynasty. It is located in Swat’s Kandak valley, south-west of Barikot village. It is approximately 7 to 8 kilometres (4.97 miles) from Barikot. During a visit there in 1926, a prominent archaeologist, Sir Aurel Stein, emphasised its great archaeological, cultural, and historical significance. The monument is a one-of-a-kind double-dome typical Buddhist shrine. Despite the fact that the Gumbat’s condition is deteriorating due to damage over time. Balo-Kale is one of the most well-preserved Buddha Regime monuments in the Swat.
Butkara was Buddha’s most sacred site in Swat. The Monastery’s ruins can still be found in the valley of Ta-Loo in Butkara. It is the same monument that Sung Yun, who visited the area in 520 A.D., wrote about in his chronicles. Buddhist pilgrims from China described its significance in the fifth, sixth, and seventh centuries A.D. It is located to the east of Mingora, the ancient Udyana State’s capital. The main Stupa stands tall in the centre, surrounded by other Stupas, Viharas, and Columns on all sides. The main building is located to the north of the main Stupa, but the inhabited area is located to the north and west.
From the third century B.C. to the tenth century A.D. The Great Stupa was renovated and expanded several times.
Nemogram Stupa and Monastery
Nemogram is another archaeologically significant site in Shamozai, sun-valley of Swat. It is about 45 kilometres west of Saidu Sharif and 22 kilometres east of Birkot, on the right bank of the Swat River. In 1966, the Stupa was discovered. It is made up of three main stupas that run from north to south. In addition to the main Stupas in the west, there is a courtyard with 56 consecrated Stupas and a Monastery.
The Elephant Paw
The Elephant Paw can be found near the Shahkot Pass. It is located precisely between the Mura Pass in the east and the Malakand Pass in the west. In the north-east of the beautiful valley, there are vast plains and the small hamlet of Shahkot Banda. The most famous Hathi Dara, or Elephant Paw, is located in the valley’s southwest, near the village of Zalam Kot in Swat. It is nearly ten miles from the village of Thanra.
Hathi Dara is 20 feet wide and 6 miles long, connecting both sides of the Pass. It is the same route that Kushan Emperor elephant caravans once took.
Throne of the Queen
The Throne of the Queen is another location near the Elephant Paw, which is on a nearby hill-top.
Statue of Buddha Ghalegay
The massive seated Buddha statue stands tall near the village of Ghalegay. It is located 18 kilometres from Mingora, Swat. A main road leads to Mardan from its left side. The Buddha statue is about a kilometre away from the left bank of the Swat River.
Gumbatuna (plural of Gumbat) is the Pashto word for a Dome. It is located on the right bank of the Swat River, west of Barikot village. It is 6 kilometres from Barikot, and a metal road leads to the Nemogram valley.
Amluk Dara Stupa
Amluk Dara is a lovely little valley near Buner in Swat. Stupa is a few kilometres away from the valley, to the north of Nawagai village in Swat.
Tokar Dara (Najigram) Stupa
Tokar Dara is located near Karakat Pass and about 5 kilometres south of Barikot. It is located about a kilometre from the village of Najigram and is well-known for its Buddhist monuments. There is the Buddha’s most popular Stupa. The Monastery is connected to the Assembly Hall Quarters and the Aqueduct Cave. The location has strong ties to the ancient Buddhist era.
Seated-Buddha of Jehanabad
This is a tall rock carving that depicts the image of a seated Buddha sitting on a reddish-brown mountain cliff. It rises along the hillside in the Shakhorai village on the south-western outskirts of Jehanabad. It is nearly five kilometres from Manglawar. Tourists can see this massive Buddha illustration far from the road to Malam Jabba, Swat.
All of these archaeological sites are in Swat, cover an area of 1500 metres from north to south and 1000 metres from east to west. Swat’s Shamozai Range is also located here.
Precious article by Fehmeeda Farid Khan