Neglected Pakistan monument fading into time

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A short distance from GT Road in Ghalegey village lies Shingardar Stupa, a renowned Buddhist tourist attraction. Once swarming with visitors, now desolate and neglected, it has fallen into disrepair. 

A renowned Bhuddist tourist attraction lies in ruins in Ghalagey village [Credit: Fazal Khaliq]

Poles minus the barbed wire stand out in the midst of garbage in what now serves as a children’s playground. 

According to Abid Hussain, a local resident, the site was once patrolled by a guard who is rarely present. “Many Buddhist tourists would come and leave money near the stupa, but their visits ended since militancy engulfed Swat valley. Not too long ago, the monument was in a very good condition. There was not much encroachment and it was properly protected, he added. 

Another resident, who asked that his name be withheld, said influential landowners had claimed stupa’s premises as their own and planned to build on the land. They have even dermarcated the boundaries. 

Despite the fact that the stupa’s lower portion is the most dilapidated, the government has not  repaired it. 

“This historic heritage is crumbling owing to the archaeology department’s neglect and if it isn’t protected, the monument will collapse entirely,” said a journalist, Niaz Ahmed Khan.Swat is full of ancient monuments which the elements have eroded over time. Due to vandalism  and lack of interest of the archeological department, they may just disappear. 

When children were observed removing stones from its lower portion and questioned about it, they said they had not been forbidden. “We play cricket and football here and climb the stupa freely,” they added. 

If encroachers are not evicted and repairs are not carried out immediately, photographs in history books will be the only evidence of its existence. 

When contacted, Faizur Rehman, curator at the archaeology department, said strict measures would be taken against the guard for not observing his duty. Repairs and excavations will be carried out at historic sites, including Shingardar Stupa, he added. “Since the department has recently been devolved to the province, we have been taking a keen interest in historic monuments and are doing our best to preserve them.” 

Legend has it 

The Shingardar Stupa, identified by Colonel Deane and SA Stein, was built by King Uttarasena. It is believed that the monument was built on the spot where the white elephant which carried the king’s share of Buddha’s relics, halted. The elephant dropped down and turned into a rock. By the side of the rock, the king erected the stupa. There is a controversy regarding the stupa since some historians dipute the fact that it was built by King Uttarasena or that his elephant turned to stone. 

Originally, the platform of the stupa was square in plan. However, locals removed the well-dressed stone and most slabs around the podium to construct houses and roads. Large dressed slabs of white stone separated by small columns of dark slate pieces adorned the stupa. 

Author: Fazal Khaliq | Source: The Express Tribune [January 15, 2012]

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