The Forgotten Archaeological Site
Pakistan is one of those countries that abound in archaeological remains of the vestige days. However, there are many a site that are not only obscured but no mention of those is made when talking of the history and archaeology. Besides Moenjodaro, Harappa and Taxila, there are many remains that still talk of their majestic days centuries ago. Take for instance Peshawar and its surrounding areas, there are more than 300 archaeological sites in Mardan and Swabi. Prominent among those are Takhtbhai, Ashoka’s edicts at Shabaz Garhi, Jamal Garhi, Asota, Hund, Aziz Dheri, Ganguder, Mekha, Sanda, Safiabad, Kashmir Smast (cave), Torabaz Kaka stupa, Trali, Chanako Dheri and Tangu. The sites at Shahbaz Garhi (Mardan) and Hund (Swabi) have a unique importance from the archaeological point of view. At present, Hund, which was the capital of Hindu Shahi till the commencement of 11th century, is facing neglect.
The town of Shahbaz Garhi was once known as Po-lo-Sha or Varshapura, 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 from 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 practiced.
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.”
Hund, situated on the right bank of the Indus river at a distance of about 50km from the Attock bridge, is believed to be the the ancient city of Embolima, founded by Alexander the Great. Hund is also famous for being the birthplace of the celebrated Sanskrit grammarian, Panini. In the 7th century A.D., many Chinese pilgrims visited Hund, as it was a revered place for the Buddhists of the period. Later in its history, it was made the capital of Gandhara by Hindu Shahi kings. In the beginning of the 11th century, Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni conquered Hund. One can visit the remnants of this once famous city; floods have washed some of it away. Among the remains numerous coins belonging to the Indo-Scythion and Hindu Shahi Rulers, jewelry and other articles of immense historical value have been found.
The Karamar Mountain near the village is full of historical evidences and signs. One of the busy ancient trade routes of the ancient times, It starts from Peshawar and after passing through (Pushkalavati), Shahbaz Garha, it reaches 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.The locals now remember the mountain as the location of the romantic legend of Yusaf Khan and Sher Bano, a modern Pushto ballad composed by Ali Haider of Ismaila village.
Today, Karamar is only a shadow of its glorious past. Many of its Gandhara sculptures and relics of the Hindu past have been taken away. In 1871-72, Colonel Hastings, the then Assistant Commissioner of Mardan, directed the digging and exploration of Sudam Valley by sappers. Another British officer, Lieutenant Maxwell conducted some excavation of the ruined buildings at Kotki on the Karamar. Later H B W Garrick visited the site in 1881-82 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 at Uria, close to Kotki, which was excavated by the sappers.
A stair-risers relief from the Karamar is now in the Lahore Museum. It narrates Saddanta Jataka, the tale of the six-tusked elephant. As the story goes, the Buddha was once born as a marvellous six-tusked elephant. He lived happily in a forest with his two elephant wives. However one day, all that changed when he, unintentionally, shook a tree. Flowers, pollen and tender shoots fell on one of his wives. At the same time, the wind threw dead leaves, dried twigs and red ants on the other. This made the latter wife jealous who starved herself to death. She prayed to be reborn as a beautiful woman, which she did and went on to become the Queen of Banaras. Even as queen, she remembered how badly she was treated in her previous life. And therefore, wanted revenge from the Buddha who had ignored her in her previous life. To this end, the most skilled hunter in the land was hired and assigned to kill the king elephant and bring its tusks. The hunter set off on this mission of revenge and eventually found the elephant in the forest. He shot his poisonous arrow from a hidden pit. The injured beast surrendered to the hunter who cut off its tusks, and brought the tusks to the queen in her palace. He also related how the poor animal had generously offered its tusks. The queen was ashamed and died of a broken heart.
Recently, there have been efforts to excavate the sites at Hund to preserve the cultural and historical values and secure material for the proposed museum at Hund. This provide tourists a chance to enjoy a beautiful view of the River Indus and experience the traditional and ancient crossing point at Hund.