The arrival of Buddhism in Pakistan is a phenomenon of some 2,300 years ago, through the Mauryan King Ashoka, who was known as “greater than any other king or emperor”. Buddhism is deep rooted in Pakistan and remained under the Bactria, the Indo-Greek Kingdom, the Kushan Empire, the Mauryan Empire Ashoka, the Punjab Region and the Indus River Basin Civilization.

It is believed that the Buddhist scholar Padma-Sambhava has been born in a village near the town of Chak-Darra, located in the present day Lower Dir District (it was the part of Uddiyana State). Padma-Sambhava, known as Guru Rinpoche in Tibet, had introduced the Vajrayana, a branch of Buddhism in the Tibetan Region.

There are numerous of Buddhist monuments, like Stupas, Monasteries, Viharas, Settlements, Caves, Rock-Carvings and Inscriptions, scattered here and there in the Swat Valley. This is our own ancient cultural heritage and should be protected, preserved and renovated.

Fa-Hein, who came to Swat Valley in 4th century A.D, wrote about the 6000 Monasteries, found in the valley. Sung-Yun also visited the valley in the 6th century A.D and he reported 6000 images in the sacred Monastery of Talo (Butkara). A Chinese pilgrim, Hsuan-Tsang, who came in the valley in the 7th century A.D, wrote about 1400 monasteries in Swat, which clearly indicated of the remains of the Buddhist monuments. We could find ruins of over 400 Buddhist Stupas and monasteries in Swat even today. Let’s find out a few of them.


Butkara was a Buddhist holy place in Swat, ruins of a Monastery are still found here at Ta-Lo, which was mentioned by Sung Yun, who visited the area in 520 A.D. 9t was also described by the Buddhist pilgrims from China in the 5th, 6th and 7th centuries A.D. It lies in the East of Mingora, the ancient capital of Udyana. The main Stupa stands tall in the middle, surrounded by other Stupas, Viharas and columns. The main building is on its Northern side and inhabited area is in the North and West. The Great Stupa was renovated and extended for several times, from 3rd century B.C down to 10th century A.D.

butkara stupa Mingora Swat

Nemogram Stupa and Monastery:

The place of archaeological importance, Nemogram is in the Shamozai Valley of Swat, which is located about 45 kilometres in the West of Saidu Sharif and 22 kilometres from Birkot, on the right bank of Swat river. It was discovered in 1966.

It consists of three main Stupas in a row, from North to South. There is a courtyard with 56 consecrated Stupas and a Monastery, adjacent to the West of the main Stupas. The definite history of Nemogram Stupas could not be revealed till date yet the coins found there, indicating towards the period of Kushana, dated back to the 2nd or 3rd century A.D. Besides the coins and pottery of Scytho-Parthian period, there are a large number of stone-carving and Stucco sculptures, which illustrates the Buddhist Mythology. These sculptures are now exhibited in the Swat Museum.

Elephant Paw:

The place where one can examine the Elephant Paw is Shahkot Pass, which exists between Mura Pass in the East and Malakand Pass in the West. There are vast plains and a small Hamlet (Shahkot Banda) in the North-East of this beautiful valley. In the South-West of the valley, there lies the famous Hathi Darra (the Elephant Paw) near the village Zalam Kot. It is at the distance of about 10 miles from the village Thanra.

It is called Hathi Darra because of 20 feet wide and 6 miles long road which joins both the sides of the Pass. It was constructed for the caravans of elephants, during the Kushan Empire and became popular as “The Elephant Paw”. The “Queen’s Throne” is also located there, on the top of a hill near Hathi Darra.

Statue of Buddha Ghaligay Swat:

This colossal statue of Buddha is found near the village of Ghaligay, at the distance of 18 kilometres from Mingora, on its left side a main road leads to Mardan. The Buddha Statue is situated about a kilometres away from the left bank of the River Swat.

Gumbatuna Stupa:

Gumbatuna (singular: Gumbat) is a Pashto word for “dome”. This is a Buddhist establishment, located on the right bank of the Swat River, 6 kilometres away in the West of Barikot village, along the metalled road leading to Nimogram Valley. The sites of archaeological interest are scattered on a large area of 1500 metres from North to South and 1000 metres from East to West and known as Shamozai Range.

Amlok Darra Stupa:

The track to the Stupa of Amlok Darra is situated a couple of kilometres away, in the North of Nawagai village, a beautiful small valley of Amlok Darra, near Buner.

Tokar Darra (Najigram) Stupa and Monastery:

The Buddhist site of Tokar Darra is situated near Karakat Pass, about 5 kilometres away in the South of Barikot. It lies on the side of a small picturesque valley, which is about a kilometer away from the present day village of Najigram.

The site consists of a large Stupa, which is attached with a Monastery, Quarters, Assembly Hall, and an Aqueduct Cave.

Janabad Seated Buddha:

It is a high rock-carving, the image of the seated Buddha. It is a reddish-brown coloured cliff that rises on the hillside to the South-West of Janabad (Shakhorai) village. It is at a distance of 5 kilometres from Manglawar. This huge illustration of the Buddha can be seen from the road, on the way to Malam Jabba.

Author: Fehmeeda Farid Khan

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