ISLAMABAD: The two remaining caves of Mughal period ‘dervish’ Shah Allah Ditta are still not on the city administration’s list of historical sites to preserve. These caves are located near Golra at the base of Margalla Hills and are representative of our history and cultural heritage, according to local anthropologists and architects.
Relics of the Buddhist era dating back to the 8th century can be found here along with burnt diyas and trees with amulets tied to them.
The caves are rarely visited by residents of the capital as most are unaware of their existence and historical significance. The people of Taxila would once visit the cave and drink from the nearby stream, believing that it had healing powers.
Marked on the ground close to the caves the location where Alexander arrived and was received by Raja Ambi, King of Taxila. The road next to the caves that leads to the top of the mountain, Shah Allah Ditta road, is said to be built on the exact path followed by Mughal Emperor Sher Shah Suri during his visit.
Moving up the mountain from the caves, we find a well and a mosque that were built by Shahabuddin Ghauri. The mosque has broken walls and the road leading to it is dilapidated.
“Islamabad is not just 60 years old; it has a 3,000 year old heritage,” said Chairman of Archaeological and Historical Department Ghazfar Mehdi. He said that residents of the capital were unaware of the rich archaeological sites present in the city and showed concern over inefficiency of authorities in maintaining these. He said a few years ago there was construction taking place next to the caves. The contractors were using heavy machinery like crushers and damaged the caves in this process. “The initial damage had been done then but as these caves are further neglected, their condition will continue to diminish.” He urged that steps should be taken to preserve the caves soon as only two out of nine caves are left intact.
Mehdi said that as the caves hold great historical significance and can serve as a tourist attraction. “CDA can mark the spot and give it the title ‘Raja Ambi Park’ or ‘Old Taxila Park’.
However four years ago, Japanese Embassy offered generously to provide funds for the preservation of Shah Allah Ditta caves but “no one took the initiative,” said Mehdi.
Spokesperson Ramzan Sajid said that PC-I for the preservation of Shah Allah Ditta caves was disapproved last year but “Hopefully in the next fiscal year we will get it approved.” He added that CDA is planning to launch a project regarding the conservation of heritage in collaboration with partner organisation, NGOs and relevant government organization.
The Taxila Institute of Asian Studies, Quaid-i-Azam University, the Natural History Museum and the Department of Architecture, Comsats Institute of Information Technology have previously urged for the government to preserve such sites of Mughal heritage but concrete action is yet to be taken.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2010.