Islamabad: A Hindu temple recently discovered by a joint team of the Pakistani and the Italian archaeologists in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Swat District is believed to be more than 1,300 years old.
The temple of the Hindu deity of Vishnu was discovered during an excavation expedition at a mountain in Barikot Ghundai, District Swat.
According to Falze Khaliq of the KP Department of Archaeology the temple was probably constructed during the Hindu Shahi period.
The Shahi or the Kabul (850–1026 CE) was a Hindu dynasty that ruled the Kabul Valley (Eastern Afghanistan), Gandhara (modern-day Pakistan), and present-day northwestern India, he said.
During their excavation, the Pakistani and the Italian archaeologists also found traces of cantonment and watchtowers near the temple site.
The experts also found a water tank near the temple site which they believed was used by the Hindus for bathing before worship.
Swat district is home to thousands of years old archaeology sites and the traces of the Hindu Shahi period have been found for the first time in the area.
Head of the Italian excavators, Dr Luka also confirmed the discovery of the first temple of the Ghandhara Civilization in the Swat district.
Last year in October, the archaeologists and historians discovered another temple Turki Shahi period temple, built in the 7th century, on the top of Ghwandai mount at Bazira in Barikot Swat.
That discovery too was regarded immensely important for lovers of history, archaeology and cultural heritage. The temple was discovered by the Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan in collaboration with the provincial directorate of archaeology and local students.
Dr Luca Maria Olivieri said there were only a few examples of cultic buildings of the Shahi period in Pakistan. The recent discovery could be considered extremely important for the understanding of a crucial historical phase in late Gandhara, he added.
Swat district is among the top 20 sites in Pakistan which is home to every kind of tourism like natural beauty, religious tourism, cultural tourism and archaeological sites.
While talking to Gulf News, Patron-in-Chief of the Faith Tourism International and a Hindu community leader in the KP, Haroon Sarabdayal viewed the discovery of the 1,300 year old temple as a milestone in the cultural and the historical record of the province.
In the entire Swat Valley you would find traces of the ancient Buddha and the Hinduhe civilizations and the whole region used to be considered the centre of learning and wisdom and people from Burma (Myanmar) to Afghanistan used to come here for the sake of knowledge, he said.
Kapil Dev, a minority rights activist called it is the government’s responsibility to preserve the Vishnu Temple in Swat and promote faith-based tourism.
In the same Swat valley in the past, the archaeologists have discovered traces of Hindu temples, coins, stupa, pots and weapons of that period, said Kapil Dev.
Pakistan he said has been home to over 1 million non-Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and people belonging to other faiths and the country’s progress was not possible unless we ensure religious, economic, social and political rights to all the minorities living her.