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On March 5, 2009, suspected Taliban militants blew up a 17th century Sufi shrine, that of Rehman Baba. Concerned, the eminent historian Nayanjyot Lahiri, writing in the Hindustan Times, recalls the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, eight years back, and wonders "if a Muslim place of worship in the valley of Peshawar can be destroyed ...will a similar erasure of the past be extended to the much older heritage of the hill-girdled Swat, to the north of Peshawar?" She explains the cultural heritage of Swat:
In the University of Delhi, Swat's heritage forms an integral part of the syllabus that is taught to all graduate students who opt to specialise in 'Ancient India'. ...It is Swat that forms part of a crossroads of culture and commerce, marked by cultural elements of lands whose communication axis passed through it - northeast Afghanistan and Central Asia, the Kashmir valley Punjab, and the Indo-Gangetic plains.
So, it is no surprise that in the second millennium BC itself, its inhabitants used objects of lapis lazuli and jade, under lining contacts with Badakshan and Central Asia, respectively or that their stone 'harvesters' were similar to those , used by early agriculturists in Kashmir. Later, Swat was on the line of Alexander's invasion route to India. The region's integration with an eastern subcontinental orbit is most strongly expressed through the ruins of stupas and monasteries that mark Swat out as a major centre of early Buddhism.
Buddhism, a religion that originated in the Gangetic plains of India, was the reason why the art of the Gandhara region - of which Swat was a part - came into existence.
How this heritage can be safeguarded must concern many in Pakistan.
Full article: Reigning over Ruins