Editor ChoiceSwat History

‘The Yusufzai State of Swat’ By Major. W. R. Hay (Part 9)

There are no large towns in Swat. The biggest centre of population is Mingora, where there is a bazaar which has recently been widened and rebuilt by the Wali. The capital of the State is 2 miles away at Saidu, where the Wali resides and where the tomb of the famous Akhund is situated. A few miles above Saidu, in a little valley running down from Mount Ilam, lies Maina, which the Wali has made his summer residence. The only local industry is the weaving of blankets and the country is almost entirely dependent on agriculture except in the Kohistan, where the forests are an important source of income. No mineral wealth has been discovered. The average annual rainfall in the lower part of the valley is probably between 20 and 30 inches, about half of which falls between December and May and the rest during the monsoon from July to September. There is practically no monsoon rainfall in the Kohistan, but the abundant snow which falls in the winter feeds the Swat river during the summer months. Wheat is the principal spring crop of the valley, while rice and maize are grown during the hot weather. There is sufficient grazing on the hills for considerable flocks and herds, and ghee or clarified butter of very good quality is produced, while wool and hides are also exported.

All the lower hills within easy reach of the river have long been denuded of trees, and even in the Kohistan the more accessible forests have been ruined within the past few generations by indiscriminate felling. With the Wali’s consent the surviving forests are now controlled by the Forest Department of the North-West Frontier Province, and it is hoped that it will eventually be possible to reforest some of the denuded areas.

The Swat valley where it forms part of the State is shut in both on the north and south by high mountain ranges, and is only easily accessible from the Malakand Agency lower down in the same valley. To the north the range that forms the boundary with Dir State nowhere drops below about 8000 feet, while the Karakar Pass, the lowest point in the southern range which separates Swat from Buner, is 4384 feet. The latter range contains the peak of Ilam (9222 feet), a well-wooded cone which forms a very conspicuous feature of the landscape as viewed from the plains of the Peshawar District. On its summit is a Hindu shrine which is visited by numerous pilgrims of that faith at certain seasons of the year, and, as Sir Aurel Stein has shown, the mountain was famous as a sacred site in ancient Buddhist times.

To Be Continued…

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