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Location & History of Swat Valley


Swat is situated in the North-Western part of Pakistan, is the name of a charming valley endowed with glittering water rushing forth from the snow capped mountains and abounded with flowery landscape and fruits laden gardens. It is a beautiful region of splendid past and has a significant place in the annals of history.

The most significant chapter in the history of Swat was the spread of Buddhism to the area, which is evident from the Asoka Edicts found in its neighborhood at Shahbaz Ghari. The noble purpose of this treatise on morals inscribed on rocks was to popularize Buddhism among the people and to inspire them to follow the Law of piety in their actions and deeds.

There were several Buddhism remains all over the South-Asia sub-continent, but Swat has a special attraction for the pilgrims because some of its rulers were believed having their lineage with the Sakyas, the family to which Buddha himself belonged. One such ruler of Swat was Uttarasena who, according to the local traditions recorded by the Chines pilgrim, Hieun Tsang in the 7th century AD, enshrined his share of the relics of Buddha in a stupa which still gracefully exists near the village of Shingerdar.


The mountainous region of Swat, the ancient Buddhist land of Uddiyana (an old name of Swat), lies in the north of Pakistan, between lat. 34o 40o and 35o 40o north and long 72o  73o east. It is bound to the north of the high mountainous range of Himalayas where some mountains have an height of about 5600 meters. On the west is the region of Dir district - the land of Panjkora River. On the souuth is the mountainous ridge of Malakand Pass, and on the East is the Kohistan area bordering the mighty Indus River.


The Swat River arises amidst snow-covered mountains, a geographical extension of the main Himalayan Chain (2000 m above sea level) to the west of the Indus, near the village of Kalam. The two rivers namely the Ushu from the northeast and the Gabral from the northwest meets at Kalam and other other small rivers also join it, making it the Swat River at Behrain, which flows southward passes an altitude of 12000-16000 ft lead from Upper Swat to Panjkora Valley in the west and finally joins the Kabul River.


The Swat valley has a severe cold winter with snow and dry summer except in the Monsoon period when rains are occasionally seen. There are two wet seasons, the winter rains, with snowfall between November – March and the summer Monsoon season in July and August. The annual temperature varies from 19C (Saidu Sharif, 900m -above sea level) to 11C (Kalam, 2000m – above sea level); and the annual total rainfall has varied from 878 to 1011 mm respectively.


The vegetation can be divided in two different kinds according to different zones of the Swat valley.
1. Dry bush and oak are the main natural vegetation of the lower valley. Poplars, mulberry and wold olive trees, pine, cedars are found upto 1700 – 2000m on the hills.
2. The high mountains of the Upper valley – 4500 – 5000m covered with grass, flowers and some pine trees.

Climatic condition naturally produces a large number of vegetables and fruits are famous around the country and abroad. A research station at the North of Mingora City have great efforts and the researchers are busy to find modern way to develop the area into a fruit giving land of the north Pakistan. The research is a co-program of the University of Agriculture – Peshawar and a project supported by the Swiss government have good reputations in the area by providing quality fruit trees and other vegetables.


The main crops of the Swat valley - maize, wheat, sugarcane, lentils and mustards & world class rice. A great variety of fruits and vegetables are also grown. The lower and middle Swat has two-harvest season while only one harvest is possible in the upper Swat valley.

The aforsaid agricultural research station at the North of Mingora City is doing their best to develop modern ways for promoting fuits & vegetables. Their recent achievements are the introduction and development of Strawberry in this area. The agriculture section of the research station is giving fruitful advice to the local people. Swat is now producing a large number of quality fruit for export.


The north western region of Pakistan has been a cradle of civilization and a center of cultural diffusion. Some stirring human dramas were enacted at the down of history. It witnessed the invasion of formidable armies, the rise and fall of empires and intensive cultural activities. The innumerable ancient remains scattered all over the area bear testimony to its east and west relations and provide great opportunities to scholars and historians for study of its art and archaeology. It is in this famous valley with fertile soil that a large number of ancient sites and monuments in the form of stupas and monasteries, viharas, forts and structures of different buildings scattered in plains and stretched along with slopes were discovered through phased excavations. These historical and cultural remains provide evidence of human activities covering a very large span of time.

Swat, the ancient Uddiyana, probably saw the invasions of the Achaemenians from the Iran until Alexander the Great of Macedonia overthrew them. Name of Alexander the Great, who arrived in Swat in 327 B.C, is still closely associated with this valley. It is a name that has acquired a certain symbolic significance, representing a link between classical eastern Iran and Indian culture.

It is probable that at Nakia (a place not identified yet) in the valley of Kabul, Alexander the Great divided his army into two parts. One division of the army was sent to Pushkalaviti (modern Charsadda) and the second commanded by Alexander the Great himself advanced to the towns of Ora, (present Udigram), and Bazira (Barikot) in Swat and the area surrounding the Indus Basin which as eventually invaded.

After the fail of Greek stronghold in 32 B.C, the Swat and Peshawar valleys were annexed by Chandragupta in the Maurya empire, Asoka, the grandson of Chandragupta patronized Buddhism and its monks. It was under the great Buddhist monarch that the inhabitants of Gandhara and the adjacent hill tracts of Swat, Buner were converted to the new faith.

The Kushan dynasty had ruled for about 98 years, and according to Fa-Hien, Swat had already been overrun by the white Huns, who had destroyed every thing that came in their way and they leveled to ground most of the Buddhist establishments. Swat was ruled by Hindu Shahs and in the beginning of the 11th century AD, Sultan Mehmood of Ghana invaded Swat when he advanced through the region of Dir and defeated Raja Gira, the local ruler at Udigram. The county was then taken over by the Dilazak and Swati Pathans who in turn were deprived of the land by the present Yousafzai tribe.


Swat attracted many pilgrims to its holy shrines throughout the ages. The Chines pilgrims, Fahien visited Swat in 400 AD, who mentioned a number of Buddhist monuments in Swat valley. He was followed by Suing Hun in 600 AD who spoke about 6000 gold images he saw in the monastery at Talo (probably Butkara, near Mingora). This was confirmed by a multitude of sculptures some with gold wash which are found in the excavation at Burkara–I site.

 Another famous Chines pilgrim, Hsuen Tsang, visited swat in the 7th century AD who told that there were 14000 Buddhist monasteries in Swat. He also visited the biggest Buddhist monastery near Mingora, probably Butkara and Tirat near Madyan (old Chur Rai) where he found the footprints of the Buddha (now on display in Swat museum). He also saw the Buddha carved on a rock Jahanabad (old Shakhurai) some 15 kilometers northeast of Mingora.

Hsuen Tsang further said that in the stupa of Shingardar situated on the left side of the main road from Mingora to Peshawar, near the village of Ghaligai, were enshrined the relics of the Buddha brought on elephant-back from India. He stated that the relics of the Buddha were brought for Uttarasena, the king of Swat who also belonged to the Sakayas tribe to which the Buddha himself belonged.

Swat was always attractive to foreigners. They came from all the surrounding areas, but the interest taken by Tibetans in the religious and cultural life of this ancient place stands prominent.

Most of the ruins excavated and statues found are on display at Swat museum. Most of the excavated buildings, stupas, graveyards and other remains can be seen almost every where in the valley, spread from plain to mountainous areas of the upper and lower part of the valley on about 26 place which are:


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