Monday, June 1, 2009

Sociocultural history of Swat .

I came across a book Proceedings of the Second International Hindukush Cultural Conference in my library.Some very interesting papers were presented.Few things I am presenting. The Swat valley and mountaineous area are inhabitated by people who came across as a cultural and ethnic mix.The people are mainly of three ethnic mix.They are mainly surviving on agriculture and now on tourism.The people are generally peaceful .The settlements are generally shrinking and so is the forest reserves as unhindered logging is taking place.
The profile of the Chitrali people was presented in many papers. The Chitrali cultural practices appear quite distinct from many others.These people use music,poetry,sufism,more productively in their everyday lives. There is no glorification of fighting and war in their social intercourses. The birth of woman is celebrated as much as the man.I am qouting a few things from various papers for readers.
The paper by Mr Usman Ali showed the various settlements patterns of the Swat area . The Swat Kohistan is an area populated by The Torwals which inhabit the narrow gorge of the Swat river from Bahrain to Asrit Khwar.The Kohistani clans live in Kalam tehsil in the valleys of the Utror and Ushu rivers,which are the two principle tributaries of the Swat river. The third ethnic group of Gujjars reside along the hill and mountain slopes.
Kohistani people;speak Torwali language,which is Dardic,while those in northern Kalam district speak Kohistani.These people have fair complexion,reddish hair and greenish eyes.They are agriculturists,sunni muslims in faith.Due to strong ethnic cohesion and equitable distribution of land,there is little social stratification and polarization in their societies.
The Gujjars: They speak Pushto,Punjabi, Hindko,and Urdu.They live on moutaineous slopes and are muslims.They were initially grazers and nomads and were pushed to slopes by invaders.Their main occupation are raising cattle and grazing goats and sheep as well as cultivation of small pieces of land which they lease from local landlords.
Other small groups are Jalban and Gahil village residents. They are like Pathans.
The origin of settlements in Swat Kohistan goes back to protohistoric times. archeologists have discovered four settlements along Kalam -Utror route.The Chitral valley was near and its connection with Hindukush,Pamir,Karakorum,Oxus valley and the whole of the subcontinent.Due to abundant supply of pasturage,water and building materials,settlements appeared along this route between Swat and Kohistan.
After the pasage of time, Iranians, Greeks,Scytho-Parthians,Kushanas,and Shahis came to Swat valley and constructed their settlements along the banks of river Swat and its tributaries.At the end of Maurya period Buddhism was the dominant religion and Swat beacame the center.Mahmood of Ghazni invaded in 1023 AD and forcibly converted the people to Islam. dissenters were either crushed or sought refuge in northern Kohistan which provided them refuge.These people were called Red Kafirs.They embraced Islam later on.These are believed to be the present day Torwals and Kohistani people.Another Pathan dynasty invaded Swat and started living there due to fertile land . This was the Yusufzai tribe from Afghanistan.
The Value of Love as expressed by Khwar culture;Mr Mir Baiz Khan writes in his paper:
Chitralis are bright,cheery,impervious to fatigue,splendid mountaineers,fond of laghter and song,and devoted to polo and dancing.By nature they are soft and have no war like instinct.They are peaceful,no dash or love of war. No tradition of severe fighting amongst tribes and nearly no murders.They have been termed "laissez aller" but Khwar culture is human oriented.A concern about destroying these cultural values was shown in 1895 when british military officers were busy in their campaign in the ergion. GW Leitner,a learned British linguist and anthropologist writes;
"It is duty to raise one's voice on behalf of races that I have learnt to love and of languages,now threatened by degeneration and extinction,which contain the key to the first history of human thought as developed in our own, the Aryan group of speech. It is not for England to be the destroyer of the remnants of prehistoric culture and thus inflict a loss on civilization by allowing the ambitions of a few and ignorance of the many,to bring about the perpetration of an act of vandalism that will forever attach to us the councils of the learned and in the annals of mankind
"The laughter and song loving Chitrali will be completely cowed till our civilization teaches him a treachery is his only weapon against those who have despoiled his paradise home for no reason he can possibly discover" As I was reading this very informative book I was thinking the mass ignorant movement in our present day context, to plough down the plurality and cultural rich,diversity in the name of religion and impose a thinking or prejudice as a dogmatic licensed practice so devastatingly injurious to our existence in the context of history.

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