Swat is a river valley and an administrative district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan. It is the upper valley of the Swat River, which rises in the Hindu Kush range. The capital of Swat is Saidu Sharif, but the main town in the Swat valley is Mingora. It was a princely state in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa until it was dissolved in 1969 along with many other princely states like Dir state and Chitral state. The valley is populated mostly by ethnic Pashtuns and Gujjar and Kohistani communities. The languages spoken in the valley are Pashto, Gojri, Torwali and Kohistani.
With high mountains, green meadows, and clear lakes, it is a place of great natural beauty is popular for tourists. Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to the The Yusafzai State of Swat called it “the Switzerland of the east.”
Swat has been inhabited for over two thousand years. The first inhabitants were settled in well-planned towns. In 327 BC, Alexander the Great fought his way to Odigram and Barikot and stormed their battlements. 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. Later some Dilazak entered the area The originator of the present family of Swat was the Muslim saint Abdul Ghafoor,a Pashtun and Akhund of Swat, a Safi Momand of Hazara district, from where he went to Buner territory. He was a pious man and the people respected him so greatly that they called him Akhund Sahib.
During the mid-19th century, Muslim tribes were fighting against each other for the possession of Swat Valley. On the intervention of the honourable Akhund Sahib, the killing was stopped, and such was his influence that the chiefs of all tribes unanimously made him the ruler of the valley. Akhund Sahib administrated the valley according to Muslim laws. Peace and tranquility prevailed, and agriculture and trade flourished in the territory. Akhund Sahib had two sons by his wife, who belonged to Naik pi Khel.
After the death of Akhund Sahib, the tribal chiefs again started fighting and killing, which continued for years. Eventually the tribal chiefs agreed to give the control of the valley into the hands of the honorable Gul Shahzada Abdul Wadood, the son of Mian Gul Abdul Khaliq, son of Akhund Sahib. The wife of Mian Abdul Wadood was the daughter of Afzal-ul-Mulk, the ruler of Chitral. The British by trick put Chitral under the suzerainty of Kashmir. The Chitral ruler gave two horses every year to the Rajia of Kashmir, and the Raja provided Chitral with grain and sugar, etc. Swat thus went under protection of the British.
During the rule of Mian Gul Muhammad, Abdul Haq Jehanzeb, the son of Mian Abdul Wadood Khatana, the state acceded to Pakistan in 1947.The Princely State of Swat was a province of the Durrani Empire ruled by local rulers known as the Akhunds, then until 1947 a princely state of the British Indian Empire, which was dissolved in 1947, when the Akhwand acceded to Pakistan. The state lay to the north of the modern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan and continued within its 1947 borders until 1969, when it was dissolved. The present prince, Muhammad Aurzngzeb Khan, son of Jahanzeb, married the daughter of Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan in 1955. Thus by intermarriages with the other castes, the family became a branch of the imperials i.e., the Royal family of Swat valley which laid down the foundation of Swat kingdom. Jahanzeb started a Degree College at Saidu Sahrif, the capital of the State, and four High Schools at Mingora, Chakesar, Matta and Dagar. Fourteen middle schools, twenty-eight lower middle schools, and fifty-six primary schools were established. A girls high school and high class religious schools were established at Saidu Sharif. At all the schools, the poor students were granted scholarships. The state was an exemplary state during British rule. They also have a firm stand in politics of Pakistan. A member of the family Prince Miangul Aurangzeb was also Governor of Baluchistan.
Although it is generally accepted that Tantric Buddhism first developed in Swat under King Indrabhuti, there is an old and well-known scholarly dispute as to whether Uddiyana was in the Swat valley, Orissa or some other place. Padmasambhava (flourished eighth century AD), also called Guru Rimpoche, Tibetan Slob-dpon (teacher), or Padma ‘byung-gnas (lotus born), semi-legendary Indian Buddhist mystic who introduced Tantric Buddhism to Tibet was, according to tradition, native from Uddiyana. He is revered as the second Buddha in Tibet. Padmasambhava is said to be the son of Indrabhuti, king of Swat in the early eighth century AD and one of the original Siddhas. Indrabhuti’s sister, Lakshminkaradevi, is also said being an accomplished siddha of the 9th century AD.
Ancient Gandhara, the valley of Pekhawar, with the adjacent hilly regions of Swat and Buner, Dir and Bajaur was one of the earliest centers of Buddhist religion and culture following the reign of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka, in the third century BC. The name Gandhara first occurs in the Rigveda, which is usually identified with the region. The Swat museum has acquired footprints of the Buddha, which were originally placed for devotion in the sacred Swat valley. When the Buddha ascended, relics (personal items, body parts, ashes etc.) were distributed to seven kings, who built stupas over them for veneration.
The Darmarajika stupa (Taxila) and Butkarha (Swat) stupa at Jamal Garha were among the earliest Gandhara stupas. These were erected on the orders of King Ashoka and contained the genuine relics of the historic Buddha.
The Gandhara school is credited with the first representations of the Buddha in human form, rather symbolically as the wheel of the law, the tree, etc.
As Buddhist art developed and spread outside Gandhara, Gandharan styles were imitated. In China the Gandhara style was imitated in bronze images, with gradual changes in the features of these images over the passage of time. Swat, the land of romance and beauty, is celebrated throughout the Buddhist world as the holy land of Buddhist learning and piety. Swat was a popular destination for Buddhist pilgrims. Buddhist tradition holds that Buddha himself came to Swat during his incarnation as Gautama Buddha and preached to the people here.
It is said that the Swat valley was filled with fourteen hundred imposing and beautiful stupas and monasteries, which housed as many as 6,000 images of the Buddhist pantheon for worship and education. Archaeologists now know of more than 400 Buddhist sites covering an area of 160 km in Swat valley alone. Among the important excavations of Buddhist sites in Swat an important one is Butkarha-I, containing original relics of the Buddha. A stone carved statues of Buddha, are still existent in the village Ghalegay and Jehanabad Manglawar. There is also a big stupa in Shingardar Ghalegay and other ones are located in Amlukdara near Barikot and Shnasha stupa near Batora village.
Hindu Shahi rulers and Sanskrit
Swat was ruled by the Hindu Shahi dynasty, who have built an extensive array of temples and other architectural buildings now in ruins. Sanskrit may have been the lingua franca of the Swatis.