Saturday April 01, 2023

Custodian of rich cultural legacy needs preservation

November 05, 2018

Islamabad : Shah Allah Ditta caves carrying the history of 2500 years at the foothills of Margalla Hills in federal capital is attracting hundreds of visitors especially during the weekend with its historical significance, natural ambiance, greenery and picturesque beauty.

The historical Buddhist caves are situated at the centuries old Shah Allah Ditta village which is the custodian of historical and cultural legacy but the road leading to this village is in dilapidated condition and creates difficulties for the tourists who visit this place for entertainment or research purposes.

Similarly, the old crumbling caves with omitting Buddhist carvings carrying a long history although sustained the extreme weather conditions but still in dilapidated condition and needs immediate attention of the concerned departments for conservation and maintenance.

It is my long cherished desire to see this place developed during my life as per vision of Pakistani Archaeologist, Ahmad Hasan Dani who conducted thorough research on this site.

If this place is developed by the authorities, it can earn huge revenues from tourism point of view, Muhammad Ayub, who is a local of the area and spent his entire life in this place said.

Talking to this agency, Muhammad Ayub, who is in his seventies, said the map of this place is just like the palace of Alexandar The Great. This was a garden once and our life was dependent on this garden. Shah Allah Ditta city, according to him, was a place where Hindus, Sikh and Muslims used to live at the time of Independence. He said around 12,000 students, researchers and tourists visit this place during Friday, Saturday and Sunday and this number can be increased further if the concerned authorities pay attention to maintain this place.

“I feel like living in a heaven here as this place is cold during summer and warm during winter. I don’t bother about anything here, I ask Allah for something, and I get it immediately,” he said. The Mango and Banyan Tree there, he said, believed to be over 900 years old and planted during Emperor Sher Shah Suri’s time and these are focus of attention for most of the researchers. It is direly needed that Capital Development Authority (CDA) pay attention to the historical Shah Allah Ditta Village developing it into a new addition to the tourists spots of Islamabad which were less in number.

Muhammad Yar, a visitor who came to this place from Buner with his family said, “I was not convinced to come to this place for recreation and enjoyment with my family considering it an old historical place with no entertaining facility but was astonished to see the natural village like environment, beautiful ducks along with a historical stream and few food outlets offering tea and some meal.

“I have decided to come again and spend whole day in this place,” he said. Those nations which protect their cultural and historical heritage can only survive. The authorities must take steps for conservation of these caves and maintenance of the road leading to Shah Allah Ditta village, the visitor said.

According to the researchers, Shah Allah Ditta Village was used as a route from Kabul to Gandharan city of Taxila by Alexander the Great and Sher Shah Suri while Mughal rulers and other emperors often passed through while travelling between Afghanistan and India.

The Buddhist-era murals dating back 2,400 years are still seen on the walls of the Shah Allah Ditta caves.

These caves are close to the shrine and tomb of Shah Allah Ditta. The place has a great historical importance for a number of students, researchers and archaeologists who use to visit the place to carry out studies on different aspects of this popular heritage site however no step has been taken yet by the concerned authorities for conservation of these caves and developing into a tourism spot. An official of Department of Archaeology and Museums (DoAM) informed that Executive Committee of PM Endowment Fund has approved Rs3.6 million in the month of June this year for the preservation of Shah Allah Ditta Caves to promote and preserve the national heritage. But so far no work has been done yet to execute this task. CDA also remained actively engaged during last year in planning to preserve this site and repair road leading to Shah Allah Ditta Village considering its importance for boosting tourism but no solid step was taken yet.