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Heritage tourism needs KP Govt patronage

PESHAWAR: Known for over 2,000 religeo-archaeological sites, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is home to the primitive Gandhara civilization, diverse cultural heritage, and mesmerizing natural beauty requiring KP Government’s patronage to bolster its economy and generate employment opportunities for the people.

Blessed with approximately, 2,000 religeo-heritage sites and 30,000 relics of Gandhara civilization, the UNESCO world heritage site of Takht Bhai, Sahr-e-Bahlol, and Jamal Ghari in Mardan district.

Then the world’s lone Ghandhara art museum of Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is known for plenty of archaeological treasures from Chitral to D I Khan and Swat to Khyber.

These oeuvres attract tourists, historians, architects, monks and art lovers from across the globe including Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, Sri Lanka, and China throughout the year to explore.

Gandhara Trail, Swat Museum, Butkara III Site, Amluk Dara, Jehanabad Buddha, Ghaligy, and Bazira archaeological sites also draw tourists in large numbers throughout the year.

Takht-i-Bahi is witnessing an influx of foreign tourists and delegates who were overwhelmed after seeing its well-preserved and ancient Buddhist monastery there.

United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared Takht Bhai a world heritage site.

The provincial government has declared the entire mountain area of 445 hectares as an “Archaeological Reserve” to control urbanization at Sahr-I-Bahlol and Takht Bhai.

Bulgarian Ambassador Irena Gancheva along with a delegation has recently visited the famous Buddhist monastery Takht Bahi where they were briefed on its archaeological and historical significance and were highly impressed by its preserved monastery.

Alfred Grannas, Ambassador German Embassy Islamabad also recently visited the Takht-i-Bhai world heritage site and was highly overwhelmed by its conservation work.

Following the completion of conservation work, Peshawar Museum, having over 30,000 rare antiquities collections was also a great source of attraction for foreign tourists and delegates.

The two-story building, an amalgamation of British and Mughal architectures, originally consisted of the main hall and two side aisles on the ground and first floor, surmounted by four elegant cupolas and a small pinnacle on all corners, has been rehabilitated.

It is the only Museum in the world where the complete life story of the Founder of Buddhism, Lord Buddha was preserved in the form of panels and statues.

Its main hall was constructed in 1906 in memory of Queen Victoria where the complete life story of Lord Buddha, the Buddha Gallery with statues of Lord Buddha, and the Buddha Savatta Gallery having princely life of Lord Buddha were a source of attraction.

British Council Deputy Director Pakistan Dr. Joven Ilic visited the Peshawar Museum the other day and praised the grand architecture and the well-preserved masterpieces of Gandhara art and relics at the museum.

Bakht Zada Khan, Research Officer, Archaeology and Museums Department told APP that following the completion of Hazara, DI Khan museums and two pipelined museums at Kohat and Haripur districts, the number of museums in KP would increase to 16 where 10 new museums have already been established including three in Peshawar, one each at Charsadda, Mardan, Lower Dir, Swat, Bannu and two in Chitral.

He said the conservation of the Mughal-era monument, Ali Mardan Villa in Peshawar has been completed. Ali Mardan Khan, the famous commander and engineer of the Mughal era, the Governor of Kabul, Lahore, and Kashmir during Shah Jahan’s reign had built this villa in Peshawar, where there was a three-story pavilion surrounded by fountains while the garden had a variety of fruit trees and roses, attracting tourists.

The official said conservation work for the restoration of the iconic white architecture of Mohabat Khan mosque built by Mughal Governor, Mohabat Khan in 1630 on 30,155 square feet, has been completed besides the preservation of Islamia College Peshawar’s mosque founded on March 2, 1912, by great freedom fighter Fazal Wahid alias Haji Sahib Turangzai while the historic mosques at Kalam, Pishmal and Odigram would be kept preserved.

He said that 2,000-years old Buddhist fresco paintings found first century AD coins and three fresco paintings at Abba Saib Cheena Swat believed to be used for religious and education purposes were unearthed and kept preserved.

He said that survey for the exploration of new archaeological sites in merged areas formerly called FATA was started when a 2,000 years old Shapula Stupa was discovered in the Khyber district and was conserved.

Bakht Zada said that Cultural Heritage Trail Project had been completed under which an about 500 meters long trail from ancient Ghanta Ghar to Gor Gathri in Peshawar was renovated including 85 centuries-old buildings and houses.

He said Sethi House, an architectural wonder at Peshawar City built in 1880, was preserved and opened for tourists where a museum was established.

He said the Buddhist stupa ‘Bhamala’ in Haripur was preserved after discovery and lighted heritage branding was installed beside Penaflex and signboard boards on BRT Route in Peshawar for public education.

Besides Pena-flex and signboards on archeological sites in Swat, Information signboards at Takht Bhai, Jamal Ghari, and Shahbaz Ghari, he said these signboards were installed at different archeological sites on Swat motorway to facilitate tourists.


Anum Mashkoor

Anum Mashkoor is writing for since Sept 2018, particularly on Environment-related matters.