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Swat

 

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Introduction: Swat is the most historically interesting valley in Pakistan. It is also one of the most beautiful - certainly much greener and more fertile than the valleys further north because it lies within the monsoon belt. In Lower Swat, the valley is wide, the fields on either side of the river are full of wheat and Lucerne, and the villages are prosperous and surrounded by fruit trees. In Upper Swat, the river tumbles through pine forests hemmed in by snow-capped mountains. For the historical and amateur archaeologist, Swat offers several hundred archaeological sites spanning 5,000 years of history. In 327 BC, Alexander the Great fought his way to Udegram and Barikot and stormed their battlemens. In Greek accounts these towns have been identified as Ora and Bazira. Around the 2nd century BC, the area was occupied by Buddhists, who were attracted by the peace and serenity of the land. There are many remains that testify to their skills as sculptors and architects. In the beginning of the 11th century AD Mahmud of Ghazni advanced through Dir and invaded Swat, defeating Gira, the local ruler, near Udegram. The "Udayana" (Golden) of the ancient Hindu epics; the land of enthralling beauty, where Alexander of Macedonia fought and won some of his major battles before crossing over the plans of Pakistan. This is the "valley of hanging chains" described by the famous Chinese pilgrim chronices, Huain Tsang and Fa-Hian in the fifth and sixth centuries. Swat was also the historical land where the Muslim conquerors, Mahmud Ghaznavi, Babar and Akbar fought their battles preparatory to conquest of South Asia. Headquaters of Swat valley, Saidu sharif houses the Swat Museum, which contains one of the finest collection of Ghadhara Art in the world. Mingorta, 3 Km, from Saiu Sharif, has yeilded magnificent pieces of Buddhist sculpture and the ruins of great stupas.The people of Swat are Muslim Pathans, Kohistanis and Gujars. Some have very distinct features and claim to be descendants of Alexander the Great.The Swat women wear colorful embroidered shirts and shalwars (baggy trousers). The men wear shalwar-gamiz and embroidered caps or silk turban.The valley of Swat sprawls over 10,360 sq. kms at an average elevation of 975 metres. The maximum temperature in July is 38 C and minimum (during January) is 1 C. The normal temperature is maximum 21 C and minimum 7 C.

Attractions: Beauty scenic spots worth visiting are Maraghzar, 13 Kms from Saidu Sharif, famous for its White Marble Palace of the former rule of the Swat; kabal, 16 Kms from Saidu Sharif with its excellent golf course, Madyan, 55 Kms, From Saidu Sharif, Bahrain, Miandam and Kalam. For the sportsman and trekker, it offers good fishing and hiking.Mingora:Mingora is the district headquarter and commercial centre of Swat. the Swat Museum, located between Mingora and Saidu, has a rich collection of Gandhara art which is worth viewing.Swat Museum:Swat Museum is on the east side of the street, halfway between Mingora and Saidu. Japanese aid has given a facelift to its seven galleries which now contain an excellent collection of Gandhara sculptures taken from some of the Buddhist sites in Swat, rearranged and labeled to illustrate the Buddha's life story. Terracotta figurines and utensils, beads, precious stones, coins, weapons and various metal objects illustrate daily life in Gandhara. The ethnographic section displays the finest examples of local embroidery, carved wood and tribal jewellery.Butkara (Butkada) Stupa:One of the most important Buddhist shrines in Swat, is near the museum. Take the dirt track on the left (north) side of the museum for one kilometer (about half a mile). The stupa is 400 meters (above a quarter of mile) across the fields to the left (north).The stupa, which dates from the second century BC, was possibly built by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka to house some of the ashes of the Buddha. In subsequent centuries, it was enlarged five times by encasing the existing structure in a new shell. Italian excavators working in 1955 exposed the successive layers of the stupa, each layer illustrating a stage in the evolution of building techniques.Upper Swat Valley:The Swat Valley becomes more beautiful the higher you go. In mid-winter it is sometimes blocked by snow above Bahrain, but in summer you can drive up beyond Kalam and from there trek north to either the Chitral Valley or the Gilgit Valley. From Khwazakhela, the road across the Shangla Pass to the Karakoram Highway is usually open only from April to December.Miandam:Miandam is a small summer resort ten kilometres (six miles) up a steep side valley and 56 kilometres (35 miles) from Saidu Sharif, making it an hour's drive. The metalled road passes small villages stacked up the hillside, the roofs of one row of houses forming the street for the row of houses above. Tiny terraced fields march up the hillside right to the top.Miandam is a good place for walkers. Paths follow the stream, past houses with beehives set into the walls and good-luck charms whitewashed around the doors. In the graveyards are carved wooden grave posts with floral designs, like those used by Buddhists 1,000 years ago.Bahrain :Bahrain is ten kilometres north of Madyan and only slightly higher, at about 1,400 meters (4,500 feet). It is another popular riverside tourist resort, with bazaars worth exploring for their handicrafts. Some of the houses have carved wooden doors, pillars and balconies. These show a remarkable variety of decorative motifs, including floral scrolls and bands of ornamental diaper patterns almost identical to those seen on Buddhist shrines and quite different from the usual Muslim designs.Kalam :Kalam, 29 kilometres (18 miles) from Bahrain and about 2,000 meters (6,800 feet) above sea level, the valley opens out, providing rooms for a small but fertile plateau above the river. In Kalam the Ushu and Utrot rivers join to form the Swat river. Here, the metalled road ends and shingle road leads to the Ushu and Utrot valleys. From Matiltan one gets a breath-taking view of the snow-capped Mount Falaksir 5918 meters (19,415 ft.), and another un-named peak 6096 meters (20,000 ft.) high. The valleys of Ushu, Utrot and Gabral beyond Kalam, constitute some of the most beautiful parts of Swat. There is good trout fishing around Utrot. The waters of the Swat River around Kalam and in the valleys of Ushu and Gabral abound in brown trout.

Accessibility: Swat is 4-5 hours drive from Islamabad and 4 hours drive from Peshawar.

 

Swat Fact Sheet

Physical Location:

Northeast in the N.W.F.P province of Pakistan
Geographical Location:
0
Total Area:
Population:
Activities:
Best Time: May to October
Altitude: 975 meters
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