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Castle of last Hindu king Raja Gira in Swat crumbling

Castle of last Hindu king Raja Gira in Swat crumbling

MINGORA: The castle of Raja Gira, the last king of the Hindu Shahi period before the advent of Muslims in Swat, is crumbling down due to the government’s lack of interest and constant neglect.

Perched on a rocky spur of a hillside overlooking the plains of Udigram village, the Raja Gira’s castle with its jutting towers and privileged position guaranteed total control of the city below as well as the entire valley.

According to archaeologists, the principal occupational phases of the stronghold can be placed in a later period between the 7th and 10th century. The castle was excavated by Italians in 1958 and onward.

“Udigram where the castle is located was the capital of Swat during the Hindu Shahi period between the 8th and 10th century. The region was identified as Ora by Aurel Stein, the city where Alexander the Great fought one of his battles. It was this castle which was captured by the Muslims after a fierce battle and thus Islam spread in the valley,” said Dr Luca Maria Olivieri, head of the Italian Archaeological Mission in Swat.

It captivates the visitors who after climbing a steep ascent passing along the Mamhood Ghaznavi Mosque reach the wide stairs leading to the entrance of the castle.

Local visitors can’t remain without praising grandeur of the architecture and beauty of the location, but they also complain about neglect of the government and the relevant department.

“I am shocked to see the crumbling state of its every wall. It seems that no conservation work has been carried out for decades here. The location also gives a panoramic view of the whole valley,” said Saeedur Rehman, a resident of Saidu Sharif who visited the castle with his friends. He said that people walked freely on its walls and columns throwing down its stone masonry and there was no one to stop them.

The site has its own guard, but he has never been seen there. “We come here every Friday, but we have never seen any guard on the site,” said Habibullah, a young visitor.

Niaz Ali Shah, an archaeology department’s representative, said that their department in Swat had recently sent a proposal to the higher authorities to carry out necessary conservation work on the site.

Provincial minister for tourism, culture and archaeology Mahmood Khan, when contacted, said that he would soon direct the archaeology directorate to start conservation work on the site and ensure its protection from further decay.

Published in Dawn, March 6th, 2016

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