THERE are several historical and archaeological sites which are lying neglected in the capital territory of Islamabad . The authorities concerned are least interested in taking care of them. Unfortunately, the cultural heritage in Pakistan is the most ignored sector.
?In Europe, such treasure would sustain an entire Industry,? writes Alice Albania, in her book ?Empires of the Indus , the story of a river?. But here in Pakistan the case is entirely different. In every nook and corner of the country, the destruction of the cultural heritage continues unabated. There are many sites around the capital city which are also being vandalized. Prof Ahmed Hassan Dani (late) was the first archaeologist who documented the Buddhist caves of Shah Allah Ditta and Loi Dandi of Bari Imam.
Some months back during my excursions in the vicinity of Islamabad , I accidently discovered the remains of a Buddhist site in Sector G-12 of Islamabad . The discovery of Buddhist site by this scribe is an addition to the Buddhist ar chaeology of Islamabad .
There is a 10feet high mound which might have been a stupa or the settlement site because the potsherds lying on the mound show that they belong to the Buddhist period. The Buddhist remains lie on the ancient route that leads to Taxila. The route was once used by the Buddhist caravans to reach the Taxila.
There were several stupas on the route. Buddhist pilgrims coming from east always stayed at Tope Manikyala and then moved to the one located in G-12 in Islamabad and onward to Taxila stupas and monasteries. The Islamabad stupa is located west of the Tope Manikyala. Some pilgrims used to visit Gumbat stupa which is located 10-km north of Tope Manikyala. Between these two stupas were several water tanks/ponds which were believed to have been constructed by the Buddhist. Some of the ponds were later used by the Sikhs.
?There are many other remains on that ancient route but unfortunately most have become victim of development activities,? says Ilyas Mohammad, a retired primary school teacher of Meharabad in Islamabad .
The Buddhist sites are generally vandalized. ?Treasure hunters have dug out the top and sides of the stupa in the hope of finding treasures,? confirms Banaras Awan who lives just opposite the Buddhist remains. Another person of Meharabad, said (requesting not to be named) that some artifacts had been found from the top of the mound.
There are many Buddhist remains in and around Islamabad . The Tope Manikyala near Rawat, Buddhist caves at Shah Allah Ditta, Chauntra caves (north of E-11) the Taxila monasteries and stupas and the recently discovered at Meharabad or G-12 are among some of them. Chauntra caves were also used by the Buddhist monks, Jain Munis and Hindus ascetics.
At present the Buddhist remains of Meharabad lie in the middle of agricultural fields. Much of the area has been brought under cultivation. The pot sherds are scattered not only on the mound but also on the cultivated land. Some pieces of cooking pots are also found on the surface. Potsherds are spread over vast area. The sides and top of the stupa have been vandalized and the masonry of the stupa is thus exposed suggesting that it was constructed by filling rubble and was plastered on the outside.
The authorities concerned should carry out the excavation at the site and save the buried artifacts from further pillage. They should also put a fence around the mound to save it from further encroachment. If timely action is not taken, it is likely that the remaining part of the site will also be brought under cultivation by the local people of Meharabad (G-12).
The writer is a Research Anthropologist at Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), Islamabad. He may be contacted at: email@example.com