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Shakhurai or Jahanabad Buddha 

Place names can be shown to have undergone change, modification or distortion. It is more visible in relation to what is known as Gandhara. Here we can see names to have either changed, modified or distorted. One of the most intriguing cases is Gandhara (modern Peshawar valley and Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa for that matter) itself. For almost two millennia, Gandhara used to appear in texts, the earliest being Reg Vida and the latest al-Beruni’s Indika. Similarly, Swat and it’s surrounding areas were known as Uddiyyana. Modified and distorted instances of place names could be abundantly encountered throughout the northwestern parts of the Indian subcontinent. Let us refer to Ilam mountain separating Buner from Swat, the famous Barikot archaeological site in Swat and Meng-ch’ieh-li which is modern Mingawara.

We can hardly know how such changes occurred. However, an example from Swat can be a good illustration in this context. It is the popularly known Jahanabad of our time which is historically called Shakhurai, a great archaeological site. It is to be clarified that the topic Shakhurai vs Jahanabad is not so simple as it seems to be. It needs some historical clarifications with a focus on three point. We need toponymal illustrations and corrections, the related social features and the cultural heritage.

The toponomy of the area is embedded to its physical features. Shakhurai/Jahanabad is traversed by a stream called Ugad-khwar. The stream has its sources in the upper reaches of Malam-jaba valley and throughout is joined by other side streams like Makaday-khwar and Arqay-khwar around Taligram village.

Historically speaking, Shakhurai lies on the left side of Ugad-khwar while Maira is situated on its right side. Adjacent to Maira in the south is Dharmala mountain. The eastern limit of Shakhurai was what was later on named as Jahanabad by the Naib Salar (Syed Jahazeb Pacha) of the Swat State’ army. On its west lies a small locality called Batra.

The social features of this whole area on both side of Ugad-khwar need to be understood by ethnic composition and property ownership. Shakhurai belongs to the Babuzi section of Yusufzi Pukhtuns excepting part of its eastern limit which is included in the Maturizi Tehsil. It is particularly this second part of Shakhurai which originally became Jahanabad sometime around the mid-twentieth century. Maira is also divided into two halves of which the eastern portion, parallel to Shakhurai, is daftar of Maturizi; the western Maira being Babuzi’s property. This whole area on both sides of Ugad-khwar is dominantly inhabited by Gujjars and Ajjars but some Yusufzi, old Swati and Syed families, including the progenies of Jahanzeb Pacha, are also settled here. Long before the well-known Nausherawan Khan of Mingawara had also built his residence at Shakhurai and lived here for some time. This entire area is now popularly known as Jahanabad, an overarching name which subsumes all other toponyms.

In its history of recent centuries, Shakhurai and Maira have been peripheral to Manglawar and Ser-Talegram. However, in sharp contrast to it, the area’s history is witness to its central position, especially from religious point of view, in the past.

It is Shakhurai which houses some of the most important archaeological remains of Swat valley. They include the colossal Buddha image carved on a huge boulder, a Bodhisattva figure called Padmapani and three Sanskrit inscriptions on Ubu-gat and Khazana-gat. Remains of a stupa, identified by Professor G. Tucci with the Adbutha stupa mentioned by the Chinese pilgrims, and a monastery are also found at Shakhurai. Other traces of the past could also be seen here and there.

Since this locality is now popularly called Jahanabad, its archaeological heritage is also often so named. In particular, the Buddha image is generally called the Jahanabad Buddha. However, the fact of the matter is that all this is either taken for granted or so done ignorantly. All the remains are lying in Shakhurai, a name deep rooted in history. Sir Aurel Stein, who surveyed Swat in 1926 for the first time, mentions the Shakhurai hamlet and archaeological remains as within its ambit. He was followed by G. Tucci in 1956 who used the same toponym, Shakhurai, for the heritage. The latter generation of scholars has used Jahanabad and Shakhurai interchangeably. In their works we can observe it this way: Shakhurai (modern Jahanabad) or Jahanabad (old Shakhurai). However, to substitute one with another further obfuscates the situation. Neither can be the exact equation of the other. However, jahanabad makes sense when it is used as per its popular evocation. Still, Shakhurai fulfills requirements of both academic considerations and local toponymal memory with respect archaeological remains of the area.

Rafiullah Khan is serving as Assistant Professor, Taxila Institute of Asian Civilizations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He completed his Master’s, MPhil and PhD from Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad. He has produced a number of publications and presented papers in national and international conferences. His interests ranges from history and archaeology to literature and philosophy.
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Rafiullah Khan is serving as Assistant Professor, Taxila Institute of Asian Civilizations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He completed his Master’s, MPhil and PhD from Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad. He has produced a number of publications and presented papers in national and international conferences. His interests ranges from history and archaeology to literature and philosophy.
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