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Swat-Valley (Switzerland Of The East)
SWAT is one of the most beautiful places on earth, which is also known as switzerland of the East. The lush-green valley, with its rushing torrents, icy-cold lakes, fruit-laden orchards and flower-decked slopes is just about perfect. The area has a rich historical past, too, and played a pivotal role in the development of Buddhism. Ruins of great Buddhist stupas, monasteries and statues are found all over Swat.
Saidu Sharif is the main city in Swat, the city houses the Swat Museum which contains one of the finest collections of Gandhara art in the world. Mingora is olny 3 km away, and has Buddhist sculpture and the ruins of great stupas.
Other beauty spots worth visiting are Marghzar, 12 km from Saidu Sharif, famous for its white marble palace; Kabal, 16 km with its excellent golf course.
Swat has been inhabited for over two thousand years and was known in ancient times as Udyana . The first inhabitants were settled in well-planned towns.The independent monarchs of this region came under Achaemenid influence, before reverting back to local control in the 4th century BC. In 327 BC, Alexander the Great fought his way to Udegram and Barikot . In Greek accounts these towns have been identified as Ora and Bazira. By 305 BC, the region became a part of the Mauryan Empire. Around the 2nd century BC, the area was occupied by Buddhists , the Indo-Greeks , and the Kushans who were attracted by the peace and serenity of the land. 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.
Buddhist Heritage of Swat
The Swat museum has the footprints of the Buddha , which were found in the Swat valley and can now be seen in the Swat museum. When the Buddha died, His relics (or ashes) were distributed to seven kings, who built stupas over them for veneration..
The Harmarajika stupa ( Taxila ) and Butkarha (Swat) stupa at Jamal Garha were among the earliest stupas of Gandhara . These had been erected on the orders of king Ashoka and contained the real relics of the Buddha.
The Gandhara school is probably credited with the first representation of the Buddha in human form, the portrayal of Buddha in his human shape, rather than shown as a symbol.
As Buddhist art developed and spread outside India, the styles developed here were imitated. For example, in China the Gandhara style was imitated in images made of bronze, with a gradual change in the features of these images. Swat, the land of romance and beauty, is celebrated throughout the world as the holy land of Buddhist learning and piety. Swat acquired fame as a place of Buddhist pilgrimage. Buddhist tradition holds that the Buddha himself came to Swat during his last reincarnation as the Guatama Buddha and preached to the people here.
It is said that the Swat was 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. There are now more than 400 Buddhist sites covering and area of 160 km in Swat valley only. Among the important Buddhist excavation in Swat an important one is Butkarha-I, containing the original relics of the Buddha
Advent of Islam
In the beginning of the 11th century AD, Mahmud of Ghazni advanced through Dir and invaded Swat, defeating Gira, the local ruler, near Udegram. Later, when the King of Kabul Mirza Ulagh Beg attempted to assassinate the dominant chiefs of the Yousafzais they took refuge under the umbrella of the Swati Kings of Swat and Bajour . The whole area was being dominated by the Swati / Jahangiri Sultans of Swat for centuries. According to H. G. Raverty , the Jahangiri Kings of Swat had ruled from Jalalabad to Jehlum . After more than two decades of guerilla war, they were dispossessed by the Yousafzais . The majority of the aboriginal inhabitants of Swat migrated to the Hazara region to the east, where Swatis predominate with their surname Swati, reflecting their link to the region.
The main language of the area is Pashto. The people of Swat are mainly Pashtuns , Kohistanis and Gujars . Some have very distinctive features and claim to be descendants of the army of Alexander the Great.
The people of the Kalam region in northern Swat are known as Kohistanis and speak the Torwali and Kalami languages. There are also some Khowar speakers in the Kalam region. This is because before Kalam came under the rule of Swat it was a region tributary to both Yasin and Chitral and after Yasin itself was assimilated into Chitral the Kalamis paid a tribute of mountain ponies to the Mehtar of Chitral every year.