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Buddhist Relics Of Swat Going Bamiyan Way

By M.M. Munshi

THE valley of Swat

In North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, once a centre of Buddhist culture, has many ancient relics including 1,300 year old seated Buddha carved into a cliff face above the town of Jahanabad.

The valley of Swat, known for its isolation and scenic beauty, has been described as a little paradise. The Buddhist called it Udyana, meaning a garden, and it is because of its remoteness, behind the barrier of Malakand that Buddhism survived here far longer than it did elsewhere in areas comprising today Pakistan and Afghanistan, not giving an early way to Islam. As a result many relics of Buddhist culture remain.

The most substantial of these are found just over a kilometer from Saidu Sharif, the administrative headquarters of Swat. The excavations carried out in late 1970s yielded a rich collection of carvings, statues, decorated columns and jewellery. The outlines of the central stupa and 200 smaller stupas surrounding it were clear till a decade back.

In the upper part of the valley Shringdar stupa also was in a better state of preservation. It is believed by many that Chinese traveller Hieun Tsang visited this stupa also during his travel in the subcontinent and mentioned that it was built by Uttarasena, an ancient king of Swat, as a shrine for some relic of Buddah that he had in his possession. But for the most imposing and beautiful monument Buddhists have left in Swat is a carving of Buddha in sitting posture on a rock cliff above the village of Jehanabad, about 16 kilometers from north of Saidu Sharif.

The carving though visible from the main road is approachable by a foot track which runs by the side of an unexcavated stupa. It is also believed that Buddha himself visited Swat and gave many sermons telling people the lessons he had learnt in earlier lives.

Before October 8, 2007

Since October 8, 2007

Rock carving of seated Buddhas at Swat in Pakistan.

The news that the head, shoulders and feet of the carving have already been destroyed by fundamentalists and they are planning to reduce it to rubble while the ruler of Pakistan is looking to the other side. He is either unable to check this vandalism though he did appeal to Mulla Omar to save the Buddha's statues of Bamiyan from destruction or he is busy with other priorities. The face of the matchless carving with a half smile and half closed eyes looking towards the setting sun over a peaceful valley and green terraced hillsides, with its calm untroubled gaze is probably lost for ever. 

Source: The Kashmir Times, Jammu, Sunday, December 2, 2007



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