Swat District

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Swat District
Location of Swat District (yellow) within the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan.
Location of Swat District (yellow) within the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan.
Country Pakistan
Province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province
Capital Saidu Sharif
 • Total 5,337 km2 (2,061 sq mi)
Population (1998)
 • Total 1,257,602
 • Density 236/km2 (610/sq mi)
Time zone PKT (UTC+5)
Area code(s) Area code 946

Swat (pronounced [ˈsʋaːt̪], Pashto:سوات, Urdu: سوات‎) is a valley and an administrative district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 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.[1]

It was a princely state (see Swat (princely state)) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa until it was dissolved in 1969. The valley is almost entirely populated by ethnic Gujjar, Pashtun Awankhel. The predominant language spoken in the valley is pashto,gujri, while minor languages include Torwali and Kalami in Swat Kohistan.

Languages and demographics[edit]

Languages of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

The primary local language of the Southern Swat region is Pashto; people in the northern Swat Kohistan areas speak Kohistani languages like Torwali, Gojri and Kalami. Urdu being the national language is also spoken and understood, and to a lesser extent English. The population at the 1981 census was 715,938, which had risen to 1,257,602 at the next census in 1998. Main Tribes are Mohmands, Khattaks, Awans or AwanKhel, Yusufzais, Akhund Khel, Banur Khel Sahibzadgan (Sayedan), Shilmani,Mashwani, Babi, Tarin, Tarani,Swati, Uthmanzai or Utman Khels, Miangan (Syed), Chitralis, Kohistanis, Akhund khel Yousafzai, Nooristani and some Mehsuds and Wazirs migrants from Bannu and Waziristan.


Swat has been inhabited for over two thousand years by Hindus. The first occupants created well-planned towns. In 327 BC, Alexander the Great fought his way to Udegram and Barikot and stormed their battlements. In Greek accounts, these towns have been identified as Ora and Bazira, respectively. 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.

In the beginning of the 8th century AD, the (Pashtun tribe) Tanoli & Gabari Swati Pashtun tribe advanced through Laghmanat, Nangarhar, and Dir. By the early 13th century, they captured Swat, defeating the local Buddhists and the Hindus. This war was headed by Sultan Pakhal Gabari and later on by the Jahangiri Sultan Behram Gabari rulers of Kunar Pech and cousins of the rulers of Kashmir.

Later some Dilazak encroached on the area and settled among the Gabari. They were ousted in turn by the Yusufzais, backed by the Mughal Badshah Zahiruddin Muhammad Baber, considered the super power in 1519 and 1520. The historical paradox was that the Yusufzais were ousted from Kabul by Mirza Ullegh beg, the uncle of Baber, who killed 600 malak of Yusufzai. Yousofzais refugees settled among the Gabaris in the Dir and Swat regions.

With the help of Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur, the Yousofzais encroached upon the Gabari state. They demolished the Gabar-Kot (fortress) in Bajour in 1519 and advanced to the Swat. The last Gabari king, Sultan Awais Gabari, fled to Upper Dir, where he established his rule in Chitral, Wakhan, Badakhshan and other towns along the upper Oxus River.

The ancestor of the present family of Swat was the Muslim saint Abdul Ghafoor, the Akhund of Swat, a Safi Momand of Hazara district. He migrated to the Buner territory. He was a pious man and the people respected him so greatly that they called him Akhund Sahib.[2]

During the mid-19th century, Muslim tribes fought against each other to control the Swat Valley. On the intervention of Akhund Sahib, the killing was stopped.The Islamic State of Swat was established in 1849 under Sayyid Akbar Shah with Sharia law remaining in force. The chiefs of the tribes then unanimously chose Akhund Sahib as the ruler of the valley in 1857. Akhund Sahib administered the valley according to Muslim laws. Peace prevailed, and agriculture and trade flourished.

After the death of Akhund Sahib, the tribal chiefs fell into open warfare again, which continued for years. The state was in abeyance from 1878 to 1915.At that time when there was no central controlling authority in Swat,Wali Ahmad known as Sandakai Mulla,rosed as influential figure who struggled for the formation of Islamic government in Swat. He was surrounded by a force of fifty to sixty shaykhs (disciples) equipped with latest weapons who were ready for every kind of action ordered by their pir (religious leader).His supporters increased day by day. He, first brought and made Abdul Jabbar Shah as king in Swat in 1915, then drove him out and enthroned Miangul Abdul Wadud as the ruler of Swat, thus playing the role of king maker and king breaker.[3] The tribal chiefs gave full control of the valley into the hands of the Gul Shahzada Abdul Wadood Gujjar, the son of Mian Gul Abdul Khaliq, son of Akhund Sahib. The wife of Mian Abdul Wadood was the daughter of Mirza Afzal-ul-Mulk, the ruler of Chitral. The British 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 went under protection of the British.

In 1947 during the rule of Mian Gul Muhammad, Abdul Haq Jehanzeb Gujjar, the son of Mian Abdul Wadud Gujjar, the state acceded to Pakistan. The present prince, Miangul Aurangzeb Khan Gujjar, son of Miangul Jahanzeb Gujjar, married the daughter of Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan in 1955. By intermarriages with the other castes, the family developed strong relation with other nobles of the area such as the Lala (Sayyeds) family. They supported the Royal family in administrative as well as in the military affairs of the state. Jahanzeb Gujjar built the famous Jahanzeb College at 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. The Gujjars were traditionally very poor people in the Swat Valley. They are gaining education and are holding good posts in government services. They also have a firm stand in politics of Pakistan. The current Prince Aurangzeb Gujjar also served as Governor of Baluchistan and as Governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan.

Buddhist and Dardic heritage of Swat[edit]

An 1896 photo of a Buddha statue seated on a lotus throne in the Swat Valley

Although it is generally accepted that Tantric Buddhism first developed in the country of Uddiyana or Odra Desha under King Indrabhuti, there is an old and well known scholarly dispute as to whether Uddiyana or Odra was in the Swat valley, Odisha or some other place. There are some claims that Tantric Buddhism first developed in Swat under King Indrabhuti.[4] One of the original Siddhas, Indrabhuti flourished in the early eighth century AD and was the king of Oddiyana in the Kabul valley. His son Padmasambhava, a legendary Buddhist mystic from the valley who introduced Tantric Buddhism to Tibet, is credited with establishing the first Buddhist monastery here.[5] Indrabhuti's sister, Lakshminkaradevi, was also an accomplished siddha of the 9th century AD.[6]

Ancient Gandhara, the valley of Peshawar and Kabul River, 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.[7]

Buddha heritage in the Swat Valley

The Swat museum has 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 Harmarajika stupa at 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.[citation needed] The Gandhara school is credited with the first representations of the Buddha in human form, symbolically as the wheel of the law, the tree, etc.[citation needed]

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 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 came to Swat during his incarnation as Gautama Buddha and preached to the people here.

At one time, the Swat valley was said to have 1400 stupas and monasteries, which held as many as 6,000 gold images of the Buddhist pantheon. Archaeologists have found more than 400 Buddhist sites, covering an area of 160 km2 in Swat valley alone. Among the important excavations of Buddhist sites is Butkarha-I, containing original relics of the Buddha. A stone statue of Buddha stands in the village Ghalegay.[citation needed] There is also a big stupa in Mohallah Singardar Ghalegay.[citation needed]

Kabul Shahi rulers[edit]

Swat was ruled by the Kabul Shahi dynasty, who built an extensive array of temples and other architectural buildings. These are now in ruins.[8]

Kabul Shahi rulers built fortresses to guard and tax the commerce through this area. Their ruins can be seen in the hills of Swat at Malakand Pass at Swat's southern entrance.[9]

Advent of Islam[edit]

The first Mughal Emperor Babur and his servicemen hunt a Rhinoceros in Swati.

At the end of the Mauryan period (324-185 BC), Buddhism spread in the whole Swat valley, which became a famous center of the religion.[10] The Hindu religion expanded again as Buddhism retreated east. By the time of the Muslim conquest (1000 AD), the population was mostly Hindu.[10]

In 1023, Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi conquered Swat and defeated the last Buddhist king, Raja Gira, in battle. The conquest by Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi is of special importance because he introduced Islam. In addition, he changed the way of telling time in history.[11] The discovery of Mahmud Ghaznavi Mosque(Odigram) in 1984,attests the splended architectural style of Ghaznaved period in Swat(1041-1050).[12] The Swat region became predominantly Muslim by the force of the rulers and missionary Sufi saints, whose dargahs dot the landscape of Swat.

Arrival of Yousafzais[edit]

The first Muslim arrivals in Swat were Pakhtun Dilazak tribes from south-east Afghanistan. These were later ousted by Swati Pakhtuns. They were succeeded in the sixteenth century by Pakhtuns. Both groups of Pakhtuns came from the Kandahar and Kabul Valley.[10]


Map of Swat district

The valley of Swat is situated in the north of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 35° north latitude and 72° and 30° east longitude, and is enclosed by the mountains. Chitral and Gilgit–Baltistan are situated in the north, Dir in the west, and Mardan in the south. The Indus River separates it from Hazara in the east.

Physical features: Swat can be divided into two physical regions - mountains and plains.

Mountain ranges[edit]

View from Baine Baba Ziarat, looking southwest

Swat lies in the lap of mountain ranges, which are the offshoots of the Hindu Kush, so the larger part of Swat is covered with high mountains and hills. The ranges run irregularly: some to the west while the others to the east, but the general direction is north-south. The ranges enclose small valleys.

Eastern ranges

  • In Swat Kohistan, the chief knot of eastern ranges is Mankial.
  • Its northern branches separate Swat Kohistan from Abasin Kohistan. These ranges form a barrier between Gilgit and Swat, and between Chitral and Swat.
  • The southern extension of Mankial ranges reaches proper Swat. There they join Shangla ranges. Shangla ranges separate proper Swat from Shangla Par area (Shangla Par district).
  • In Shangla district, there are Karora Ranges, which separate Puran from Kanra and Ghurband.
  • The continuation of Shangla ranges joins Dwasaray. On the one hand Dwasaray separates lower Swat from Puran, on the other, it set aside the Buner from Puran.
  • The general direction of the ranges now turns westward and are called Elum. Elum range is a big wall between the proper Swat and Buner. The Elum ranges at last join mountains of Malakand.

Western ranges

  • Western ranges start from the mountain and hills of Gabral, Swat Kohistan and join the hills of Kundal (Utror).
  • There these ranges meet the Daral Ranges that form a border with Dir district. They run west ward and are named according to the locality. For example Lalko ranges Manrai and Chaprai etc.
  • Then they join the hills of Adenzee and Shamozee.
  • Manrai ranges send off some off shoots southward. They the hills separate Arnoyay valley from the widest valley of Nekpikheil valley.


The valley of Swat starts from the foothill of Malakand but this section is about Landakay to Gabral (Gulabad), the area within the administrative boundaries of Swat.

The length of the valley from Landakay to Gabral is 91 miles. Two narrow strips of plains run along the banks of Swat River from Landakay to Madyan. Beyond Madyan in Swat Kohistan, the width varies but the average width is 5 miles. The widest portion of the valley is between Barikot and Khwaza Khela. A good view point where a major portion of the valley is seen is at Gulibagh on main road, which leads to Madyan. There are some subsidiary valleys called "Daras". A Dara is a narrow passage between mountains, and sometimes, the upper course of a river is also called Dara. Imagining the main valley as a stem of a tree the subsidiary valleys form its branches.

Swat River and its tributaries drain Swat. The boulders and stones are rolled, which causes destruction in the upper courses. When the loaded water reaches areas of low gradient, the heavier materials are deposited. The whole plain of Swat valley is strewn by the running water, and is made up of fine alluvial soil.

Cultural diversity[edit]

In Swat seven languages are spoken. Besides Pashto, the majority language, Torwali, Gujri, Gawri, Qashqari, Ushojo and Badeshi are also spoken in Swat, although Badeshi and Ushojo are now moribund. Gujri is a commonly known language in Pakistan and its speakers are scattered throughout the whole Swat; however, other languages are much less well known. Torwali, Gawri, Qashqari (a variety of Khowar/Chitrali language), Ushojo and Badeshi are all among the Dardic group of languages of the Indo-Aryan family.

The Torwali community is said to be descended from the original inhabitants of pre-Muslim Swat, before the invasion of Swat in the second millennium. Recent research, and excavation (2012) by the Italian Archeological Mission in Swat, show traces that suggest that the Torwali community was inhabiting Swat even before the Buddhist and Hindu period.[13] The region between the Hindu Kush and the Himalayas – from Nuristan and Laghman provinces in Afghanistan to the bottom of Himalaya including Indian Kashmir via the ranges of Karakorum – was the land of Dardic or Darada (a Romanized name for Herodotus' Dadakai) people, with indigenous worldviews different from the major religions. The Torwali community is now confined to a part of Swat Kohistan – the upper narrow but beautiful valley beyond the town of Madyan up to the boundary of Kalam in the north; and to the Chail Valley to the east of Madyan. The speakers are a little over 100,000 people.[citation needed]

Gawri, another Dardic language, is confined to Kalam and Utror valleys with about 60,000 speakers; however, a considerable number of Gawri language speakers also dwell in the Kohistan of Upper Dir generally known as Dir Kohistan.

Qashqari is a variety of Khawar, which is also a Dardic language. Qashqari is spoken by a few thousand people in Kalam and Mitiltan.

Ushojo is now moribund. It is Dardic in origin and resembles the Shina language of Gilgit. It has now a few hundred speakers. Badeshi is now completely extinct; its last two speakers died a couple of years back.[citation needed][timeframe?]

The situation of Ushojo and Badeshi is critical. While Badeshi is no longer alive Ushojo is on the verge of death as no documentation or preservation has occurred. [14]


The region has gone through considerable changes since the dissolution of the princely state in 1969. Members of the former Royal family have on occasion been elected to represent the area in the Provincial Assembly and National Assembly.

The region elects two male and one female members of the National Assembly of Pakistan (MNAs). It elects seven male and two female members of the Provincial Assembly of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (MPAs).[15]

In the 2002 National and Provincial elections, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, an alliance of islamist political parties, won all the seats amidst a wave of anti-Americanism that spread after the United States' invasion of Afghanistan joining the Northern Alliance against the Taliban.


Swat has many schools and colleges (public and private) along with a government chattered university. The largest college of the district, P.G Jahanzeb College in Saidu Sharif, was built in 1952 and offers MSc (to males and females), BSc and Fsc degrees (male only).[16]

Saidu Medical College, built in 1998, ranks 3rd in the government medical colleges in the province.[17] On 7 July 2010, The University of Swat was established, the first university of the district. .[18]

The valley has many graduate colleges like GDC Mingora, GGDC Saidu Sharif, GGDC Khwaza Khela, GPGC Matta and GDC Madyan. Private schools of Swat like SPS College Rahim Abad,[19] Excelsior College Sangota, Sangota Public School, etc. are known for their high academic progress throughout the province.


Approx 38% of economy of Swat depends on Tourism, and 31% depends on Agriculture.[citation needed]

Wild life When shrubs and bushes covered slopes and foothill areas, hares, porcupine, fox, jackal, wolf, pigs, and hyenas were in large number. Deforestation has resulted from the residents' use of wood as fuel, and wildlife has decreased with the loss of habitat. In the forests, monkeys are often found.

Hawks, eagles, and falcons are found in the high mountains, while pheasants, partridges, hoopoes, larks, sparrows, quails, doves, swallows, starlings, nightingales, crows, kites, vultures, owls, bates are the common birds.

Bees: The bees were kept in Swat commonly, and the honey was famous all over the country. But now the moveable beehives have affected the Swat locally reared bees greatly. Now, the local good honey is found in remote areas only, while the honey of moveable hives is available everywhere at low prices.

Trout of Swat valley
Emerald of Swat Valley

Fisheries There is a large fishery in Madyan where trout fish are reared. Swat Kohistan operates some private fisheries. In Buner the fish are reared in Barandu, Dagar. The Swat River serves as a permanent fishery throughout the year, while its tributaries are used for fishing only in spring.

Mineral resources Mines' production plays an important role in the economy of a country because local people get the opportunities to earn their livelihood. But the Swati mines have no importance for the local people in this respect. Swat's mineral wealth is mainly in china clay, marble and emerald.

China clay: China clay exists at "Kathyar" in Nekpikheil (on the road that leads to Shahderai at a distance of 15 miles from Mingora). This is the largest mine, having the finest quality, of china clay in Pakistan. The clay is mined here, and is transported to Shaidu in Nawshehra (which is at a distance of around 100 miles from Swat). It is not so advantageous for the local people, because they have no opportunity to work in the complex.

Soap clay Soap clay has been discovered between Alpurai and Kanra on the side of Gilgit Road (Shahrah-e-Resham).

Marble Marble is dug near Charbagh, Murghuzar, and Barikot in the proper valley of Swat. In Buner, it is mined in Thor Warsak, Bampokha, and Sawawai.

Emerald Emeralds are mined in Swat and exported to international markets.

Industries Handicrafts The handicrafts of Swat are famous.

Stone art in Swat Valley
Stone art in Swat Valley

Woolen blankets: These blankets are known as "Sharai". They are made of wool obtained from the local sheep. The weight of a medium-size blanket is four kilos. These heavy blankets provide the best source of warmth during severe winters. The blankets are woven in Dewlai, Kala Kalay, Salampur, Puran, and Ghurband. These villages produce the items on a commercial scale.

Shawls Shawls are woolen sheets, light in weight. Sometimes, cotton is added. Shawls are produced in Salampur and Dewlai "Jolabad".

Rugs Rugs are made from local fleeces, prepared in the villages by pressing wool with the help of water spray. After preparation, the wool is beautified with the use of color. Rugs were the traditional carpets of shepherds, but now are used everywhere.

Embroidery The embroidery of Swat is famous. This art is an indoor hobby of the ladies in Swat, particularly in Nekpikheil. There are three types of embroidery: Panrey or Panrhey is the traditional embroidery of shoes, still used by the old persons in Swat. They are made in Swat with tanned leather. The cobblers make ladies' shoes and sandals adorned with golden lace work.

Shkor A Shkor is a pot in which chapatis (bread used in India and Pakistan) are kept. The ordinary Shkors are prepared everywhere in Swat. A special design is made in Puran and Chagharzee. (These Shkors are high-based pots made of wheat stalks with art, not easily available in bazaar).

Furniture Furniture, such as cots, tables, chairs, dressing tables, and cradles, is made in Mingora, and in nearly all large villages.


Saidu Sharif, capital of Swat Valley in panorama view

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Pakistan troops seize radical cleric's base": officials, Agence France Presse (AFP), 28 November 2007, accessed same day
  2. ^ S.G. Page, pp. 398-399, T and C, in Ibbestson, N.W.F.P, p. 11 etc
  3. ^ Khurshid, Khan. "Sandakai Mullah:Career and Role in the formation of Swat State,Pakistan". Swatvalley.net. Retrieved 5 April 2014. 
  4. ^ Italian Archeological Mission in Swat 2012
  5. ^ Dale Hoiberg, Students' Britannica India, Indu Ramchandani, p. 138
  6. ^ Omacanda Hāṇḍā, Buddhist Art & Antiquities of Himachal Pradesh: Up to 8th Century A.D., Indus Publishing, 1994, p. 89
  7. ^ F. A. Khan, Architecture and Art Treasures in Pakistan, Elite Publishers, 1969
  8. ^ Amineh Ahmed, Sorrow and Joy Among Muslim Women: The Pukthuns of Northern Pakistan, Cambridge University Press, 2006, p. 21
  9. ^ Inam-ur-Rahim, Alain M. Viaro, Swat: An Afghan Society in Pakistan: Urbanisation and Change in Tribal Environment, City Press, 2002, p. 59
  10. ^ a b c Fredrik Barth, Features of Person and Society in Swat: Collected Essays on Pathans, Routledge, 1981, p. 20
  11. ^ Elena Bashir, Israr-ud-Din Contributor, Proceedings of the Second International Hindukush Cultural Conference, Oxford University Press, 1990, P. 50
  12. ^ Fazal Khaliq (March 3, 2011). "Swat tourism: Historical mosque hopes for new life". Express Tribune. Retrieved 28 January 2014. 
  13. ^ Inam-ur-Rahim, Alain M. Viaro, Swat: An Afghan Society in Pakistan: Urbanisation and Change in Tribal Environment, City Press, 2002
  14. ^ "The ignored Dardic culture - Zubair Torwali". Thenews.com.pk. Retrieved 2013-07-12. 
  15. ^ Constituencies and MPAs - Website of the Provincial Assembly of the N-W.F.P
  16. ^ http://www.jc.edu.pk/
  17. ^ http://www.smcswat.edu.pk/
  18. ^ http://uswat.edu.pk/
  19. ^ http://spscollege.edu.pk/

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 34°46′58″N 72°21′43″E / 34.78278°N 72.36194°E / 34.78278; 72.36194