Archaeologists busy in excavation work at the site in Barikot. — Dawn
Archaeologists busy in excavation work at the site in Barikot. — Dawn

MINGORA: The archaeologists and historians have discovered a unique Turki Shahi period temple, built in the 7th century, on the top of Ghwandai mount at Bazira in Barikot Swat.

The experts claimed that the discovery was of immense importance for lovers of history, archaeology and cultural heritage across the globe. The temple was discovered by the Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan in collaboration with provincial directorate of archaeology and local students.

Director Italian Archaeological Mission Dr Luca Maria Olivieri, who is heading the team, said that there were only few examples of cultic buildings of the Shahi period in Pakistan. The recent discovery could be considered extremely important for the understanding of a crucial historical phase in late Gandhara, he added.

Head of Italian mission terms it important for understanding Gandhara civilisation

“The temple was actually built during the Turki Shahi period around 700 AD. At that time Uddiyana (Swat) was ruled by a king known as From Kesar (King ‘Ceasar of Rome’). He was the son of Tegin Shah Khurasan, a well-known Turki Shahi king from Kabul,” said Dr Luca.

He said that the temple was re-established and maintained till the Hindu Shahi time (ca 1000 AD). The temple is also mentioned in a Hindu Shahi inscription, found in Barikot in the late 19th century and conserved in Lahore Museum.

“It was very crucial time as it was the end of ancient time and the last historical macro event before the arrival of Islam, which marks the beginning of medieval time in this part of South Asia,” he said.

The archaeologists, historians and tourists said that Barikot in Swat was a landmark and unique site with its visible archaeological ruins of different eras including Achaemenian, Indo Greek, Kushan, Sasanian, Hindu Shahi, Turki Shahi and Ghaznavid fortification.

The students of Quaid-i Azam University and Jahanzeb College were also part of the 40-member excavation team. The students said that they were lucky to take part in the excavation.

“Taking part in practical excavations helped a lot in my intellectual growth and enriched my academic knowledge to a great extent. I am excited that I am taking part in archaeological excavation in Swat,” said Sirat Gohar, a student of MPhil in Asian Studies of Quaid-i Azam University.

He said that although very few students of archaeology got the opportunity of practical work in Pakistan, yet field work was extremely important for their training.

The team of students said that Swat was one of the most important areas in the world archaeology where still a lot had to be explored.

Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2019