Some ancient places that may not have stood the ravages of times but
they still define our history and the process of societal evolution
in this part of the world we call home. Quiet
village Shahbaz Ghari (some time called Shahbaz
Ghara) at the foot of Karamar Mountain
in Mardan Division is one such place. Hospitable
people with rich culture and colorful
traditions, oblivious of historic past of the place, live in
the village. Shahbaz Ghari has been one of the important transit
stations for all invaders and conquerors that came from the north.
Every force regrouped here before crossing mighty Indus at the
crossing point near Hund.
It was on Hund crossing that personal bravery was tested. History has
it that no one in word could withstand the onslaught of Genghis
Khan as did Jalal-ud-Din Muhammad, the Khwarazm
Shah, gulf between different powers and internal
strife between Muslim notwithstanding.
Khwarazm Shah moved to India in order to seek support with Genghis
Khan closely chasing. Khwarazm Shah put his horse in the River
Indus at Hund. Genghis Khan's marksmen took
positions on the River bank ready to hurl their
arrows. "Stop! No one will let the arrows fly,"
Ordered Khan to his soldiers who were surprised because Genghis Khan
was not known for forgiving. Genghis Khan called his sons and said
pointing at Khwarazm Shah, "Look at the brave man."
All those who are familiar with the tussle between Khwarazm Shah and
Genghis Khan still is at loss about who out of the two was braver,
Khwarazm Shah whom a man like Genghis Khan who used to say, "I am
the punishment of God. If you had not committed
great sins, God would not have sent punishment
like me upon you" was calling brave or Genghis
Khan who could control his anger and accept the bravery of arch enemy
giving his example to his sons as a roll model?
The Karamar Mountain near the village is full of historical evidences
and signs. One of the busy ancient trade routes of the ancient
times -- Peshawar, Charsadda (Pushkalavati),
Hund (Udabhandpura) -- the Capital during the
Hindu Shahi dynasty, onwards to the plains - passed
through Lotus Valley. There is also a natural pass through the
mountain that is known as Gailey-Kandao. It connects Sudam Valley
and Buner. Karamar rises to a height of 3480
feet above the sea. Many Relics of Hindu temples
and Buddhist stupas and monasteries are found
standing near natural water sources in the Karamar. The excavations
were first executed in the area by the British in 1871-72. Many of
its Gandhara sculptures and ruins of the Hindu
past have been taken away.
A small rustic village Shahbaz Garhi was known as Po-lo-Sha or
Varshapura in the past. This was once an important city of Gandhara.
As per the legend the name Shahbaz Garhi has been derived from the
saint Sakhi Shahbaz Kalander. Alexander and most other invaders
the north had camped in the village before crossing the River Indus on
their way to South Asia. Hieun Tsang, the Chinese traveler, visited
Shahbaz Garhi in 620 AD. He considered that it was here that the
Buddha was born as Prince Wessentara. It was during his travel here
that he saw a statue in blue stone of the Hindu goddess Parvati, the
wife of god Shiva, on the Karamar. At the foot of the hill there
was a temple of the god himself, to whom
Pashupatas and Ashsmeared devotees paid their
respects. The temple of Shiva and image of Parvati have
vanished but the village still survives to remind visitors the story
of the rise and fall of Hinduism and Buddhism in Gandhara, the
ancient name of Peshawar Valley.
To this miraculous natural statue of the goddess, a huge number of
people used to come from all over India to pay tribute. Though the
locals think the figure was self-wrought. Down below the Karamar
there still exits the village where once stood
the temple of the Hindu god
Shiva. The temple was mentioned by Hieun Tsang in the works. His
account is very helpful if one is to understand the religious
history of Gandhara, before the advent of divine
of Islam. He has mentioned the temples, stupas
and monasteries where Hinduism and Buddhism were
Gandhara was not wholly Buddhist, as presumed by some historians,
those who downplay the peaceful coexistence of both communities
of the past. Liberal religious policies of King Asoka and Kaniskha
gave Buddhism a status of state religion as it was the religion of
the majority. Hinduism survived but was the
religion of minority. Hinduism re-appeared again
to become the majority religion after the decline of
Buddhism and survived till the arrival of Method of Ghana.
About 70 kilometers from Peshawar, Shahbaz Garhi has been identified
as an important city on the main highway. Hieun Tsiang referred it
as a fortified city. The inscriptions here refer
to a golden house buried beneath the hills. It
was the seat of one of the most celebrated of
the Buddhists Jacanas according to which in one of his previous births
Buddha gave his wife and children in charity here. In 1881, Garrick
visited the site and noted a ruined temple and a monastery, with
cells for the accommodation of monks. He also
saw a broken statue of the
Buddha with traces of gold, which was excavated by the sappers.
Saddanta Jataka, the tale of the six-tusked elephant is associated
with the Karamar Mountain. Romantic folklore -- Yousaf Khan and
Sher Bano -- is also linked with the Karamar
Mountain. The Pushto film of the same name has
been set in the rugged environment of Karamar where
longings of the lovers are said to echo in the area even now.
Buddhist monastery at Chanaka Dheri near Shahbaz Garhi consists of a
rectangular tank, the foundations of a circular stupa, and the main
complex consisting of two rows of three stupas each, plus a row of
monastic cells on the side of the tank and royal stone-carved
of the great Mauryan King Asoka (2nd century BC) in Kharoshti script
of Gandhara, inscribed on two large boulders, on the edge of a hill
South of the village.
The sites at Shahbaz Garhi (Hund and Swab also) have a unique
importance from the archaeological point
of view. At present they are facing total
neglect despite the fact that The University of Peshawar
- The only one in country to award master's degree in Archaeology -
playing important role in excavation, conservation, and preservation
of archaeological assets in the valley besides involving academia
and intelligentsia in the process. Still like
many more important sites in the country, it is
neither being maintained as tourists' attraction
nor as a historical monument.
The challenge that faces the historical tapestry of the North Western
Frontier Province now is how to use the advantages of its unique
archaeological wealth - that spans from the Stone Age to the Muslim
era -- while ensuring that the resources are conserved for future
generation. Like any resource they must be conserved wisely keeping
in view the parameters of conservation and
precautionary principles -- for once gone, they
cannot be replaced with any thing.