People have started coming back to historical sites in Swat, a source of information in understanding how Buddhists lived in the Swat valley.
Located in the valleys of Mingora, the Buddhist monastery of Ta-Lo tracing back to 3rd century BCE was once a happening spot for international tourists before the militants came. However, now that normalcy has returned to the valley, people, while lesser than before, have begun to return to these sites.
“We can’t believe we’re seeing the historical remains of Gandhara civilization. Reading about this is completely different from actually seeing it,” said Ayesha, a student at a local high school.
She added that visiting historical landmarks helps in widening academic understanding and hoped that tourists could learn something from the pacifism propagated by Buddhism.
Sanaullah Khan, an official from the archaeological department stated that the main Stupa that stands in the middle traces back to 3rd century BCE. Subsequent reconstruction over it traces back to 7th century BCE.
The stupa was first uncovered in 1956 Italian archaeological mission from which 9,000 statues and sculptures were recovered.
Sanaullah added that the site is arguably one of the most sacred in the world and has historically been visited by groups of pilgrims. “We have even entertained more than 25 groups in a day,” he added.
The Swat valley is the cradle of various civilizations, glimpses of which are still evident in the form of stupas, statues and castles that afford much history to international and local tourists, provided they are preserved by the government. Unfortunately, such protection has not been offered and between the vandalism and militant occupation, much has been lost to the ravages of current history.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 5th, 2011.
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