As I rode up the smiling verdant valley towards Saidu, the hereditary seat of the Badshah and now in course of rapid development into the capital of Upper Swat. Here his holy grandfather, the great Akhund of Swat, had lived as a spiritual leader. He, too, like so many holy men in the west, had known how to choose the right spot for pious devotions, while alive, and for local worship thereafter.
Saidu, situated some 3,300 feet above the sea, occupies a delightfully open position at the foot of a wooded spur descending from an outlier of Ilam and dividing two pretty side valleys. From afar, as I made my way up, I could see the features characteristic of the past and present of the site. Amid a cluster of trees and pilgrims’ rest houses the gilt-domed structure could be seen which shelters the remains of the holy ‘Akhund’ or Teacher. Under his spiritual leadership Swatis and Yusufzais had for years fiercely resisted Sikh aggression, while Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the rival ‘Buzurg’ of the Panjab, was growing old.
Around, on prominent hill-tops, high towers could be seen, quite medieval in appearance, designed to offer safe refuge in case of inter-tribal attack or of sudden invasion from the Buner side. The need for them was very real in the years when the Mianguls there were two then had to carry on a bitter struggle with rivals for secular power, whom jealous neighbours, the Nawab of Dir to the north-west and the Nawab of Amb, my host in 1921, were egging on and supporting in the interests of their own ‘forward policy’. Now white-terraced mansions of semi European style have risen, since the Badshah has made himself sole possessor of his grandfather’s sacred inheritance and full master of all the land.
Significantly enough a little higher up, above the new residence constructed for the chief’s eldest son, stands the Badshah’s ‘Kar-khana’ or factory. Here clever artificers are at work making fair imitations of Lee-Metfords, quantities of ammunition, and even small guns. No doubt, the Badshah may well have need of support of this kind for some time to come. But the Middle School that has been established and a well laid out garden which I passed by the side of the high road as I came up the valley showed that he was not neglecting other elements of stability.
By the side of the chief’s own residence, a rambling place with several airy halls and smaller apartments connected by screened galleries, I found a large comfortable tent pitched for my quarters in a newly planted garden. There I was formally welcomed by the Sipah-salar Ahmad Ali and his capable elder brother Wazir Hazrat Ali, the Badshah’s chief executive and judicial officer. In the evening, when duly refreshed, I had a long talk with the Badshah in the modest apartment that serves as his private council chamber. He assured me at the outset of his full acceptance of my programme. I was to be free to extend my tour to any point within his present borders that I might be interested to visit. But he insisted on the hospitable condition that I and my party should continue to be treated as his personal guests, notwithstanding the wish I urged to the contrary in view of the probable length of my tour. What did half a dozen people more or less matter, he retorted with a humorous look in his eye, when he had daily to provide for the entertainment of a couple of hundred guests!
Source of Information (Reference):
Sir Aurel Stein, On Alexander Track To Indus, Macmillan And Co., Limited, St. Martin’s Street, London, 1929, Pages 65-66.