Exploring Swat’s historical Uddiyana Kingdom on foot

A bird’s eye view of the 3rd century Kushan era Buddhist complex at Abba Sahib Cheena in Najigram, Swat. — Dawn

Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2017

MINGORA: The natural beauty and rich cultural heritage of Najigram valley mesmerised the members of a women trekking team, who visited Buddhist complex at Abba Sahib Cheena.

The members of the team said that they felt the serenity and taste of cultural heritage for the first time and would continue to explore and enjoy past of the Uddiyana Kingdom by peeping into the vast archaeological ruins mainly located in deep dales on mountains and along the gushing streams.

The women trekkers visited the ancient Bazira city of Alexander the Great and then the third century Kushan period Buddhist complex.

Rehmania Aman, a lecturer in Swat University and a member of the trekking team, said that her inner self filled with curiosity when she entered Abba Sahib Cheena. “When I entered the ancient Buddhist complex, I felt its impacts on our current civilisation,” she told this scribe.

Ms Aman said that natural beauty embodied with rich culture heritage and serenity of the valley was something, which she had not seen anywhere else. She added that architectural features and designs of the Buddhist monuments proved that architects of that time were talented people.

The Buddhist complex is one of the best naturally preserved archaeological sites comprising stupas, viharas and monastic cells, surrounded by residential structures. The land of the site has been acquired by provincial archaeology department and excavation of the site is expected soon.

The women trekkers said that they did not know about the rich cultural heritage of Swat. They said that the visit opened new ways of learning to them.

“I learnt something new and astonishing about the archaeological ruins here in Swat about which our course books and government have not proper information. The archaeological remains are the actual heritage of the land. The education, tourism and archaeology departments must organise trips for students to these places so that our young generation can learn about it,” Sahista Hakim, a journalist, told this scribe.

Another member of the trekking group was Shehla Anjum, a writer and frequent visitor to Swat. “The hike up the narrow vale, an offshoot of the larger Najigram valley, is remarkable because it is less untrammeled than other places in Swat,” she said.

Ms Anjum said that few people lived along the way and hikers quickly found tranquility and peace that was only punctuated by chirping birds. “I found the hike memorable because I experienced nature at its best. But the big reward at the end of this hike was the magnificent and well-preserved ruins of a Buddhist monastery. I was not sure excepting anything as spectacular as those ancient structures that date back to 3rd or 4th BCE,” she added.

Ms Anjum said that beyond the hike and the ruins, she was also delighted at the presence of four young Swati women in the hike.


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