Literal escapism: Shah Allah Ditta caves — a window into the past

Published: August 8, 2016
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The majesty of the place is, however, compromised by the fact that the road to Shah Allah Ditta village is filled with potholes. photo: MUHAMMAD JAVAID/EXPRESS

The majesty of the place is, however, compromised by the fact that the road to Shah Allah Ditta village is filled with potholes. photo: MUHAMMAD JAVAID/EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: Shah Allah Ditta, a village located in the outskirts of the federal capital, is named after a Mughal-era dervish and is renowned as much for its rich history, as it is for its natural beauty.

The village, which is believed to be more than 700 years old, was used as a route from Kabul to Gandharan city of Taxila by the likes of Alexander the Great and Sher Shah Suri, while Mughal rulers and other emperors often passed through, while traveling between Afghanistan and India.

There are marks on the ground, which indicate the exact location where Alexander was received by the King of Taxila, Raja Ambi.

Shah Allah Ditta is also famous for its caves, which are located on the route leading towards Khanpur, and can be found next to the shrine and tomb of Shah Allah Ditta, himself.

Archaeological evidence indicates that the caves and the platform-like formations surrounding the area were first used for meditation by Buddhist monks and later by Hindu sadhus, before Muslim ascetics took over during the Mughal period.

The 2,400-year-old Buddhist-era murals on the walls of the caves bear testament to this fact.

The place is surrounded by an air of mystery; alongside the relics of the Buddhist-era dating back to the 8th century, burnt-out earthenware lamps can be found, alongside amulets tied to the giant, ancient trees.

Shah Allah Road, which runs adjacent to the caves, to the top of the mountain, is said to be built on the exact path followed by Sher Shah Suri during his visit to the area.

Moving up the mountain from the caves, there is a stepwell called Losar Baoli and a mosque built by Shahabuddin Ghori, the famed sultan of the Ghurid dynasty.

The majesty of the place is, however, compromised by the fact that the road to Shah Allah Ditta village is filled with potholes.

The mosque has broken walls and the entire area is clearly in a state of disrepair.

Government negligence is apparent and maintenance of the area by heritage organisations seems non-existent.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2016.

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