amluk dara stupa

Amluk Dara Stupa in Swat Pakistan

The Amluk Dara Stupa is located in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. It is part of the Gandhara civilization in Amluk Dara. The stupa is believed to have been built in the third century. Amluk dara stupa was first discovered by the Hungarian-British archaeologist Sir Aurel Stein in 1926. It was later studied by Domenico Faccena in the 1960s and 1970s.

The foundation of the stupa is a square plinth about 4 meters thick. This is surmounted by a hemispherical dome measuring 7 meters high and 21 meters in diameter, making it visible from miles away. Although it is the best example of a stupa in Swat, it is unprotected and being damaged by treasure hunters.

Location of Amluk Dara Stupa in Swat

Amlukdara Stupa is located about 2 km north of Nawagai village in the beautiful little Amlok dara valley, on the main road to Buneer. One has to walk about 1 km through the village to reach the place.

Design of Amlukdara Stupa

The tall stupa stands prominently visible from the surroundings, naturally protected by the great Mount Elum. Amluk dara stupa is built on a magnificent square plinth with a base molding in a torus and scotch pattern and measures 34 meters in diameter. The height of the square plinth is approx. 4 meters.

A three-story cylindrical drum with dimensions of 9 meters rests on a high square plinth, remaining approx. 5 meter wide ambulatory.

Amluk Dara stupa is further surmounted by a hemispherical dome with a height of 7 m. The drum on which the hemispherical dome rests is 21 m in diameter, probably the largest in the Ilam Valley. The drum is divided by a thick ledge supported by brackets at intervals of 0.30 cm. 

A second cornice projecting further runs below the lower course of the dome. The height of the amluk dara stupa from the floor level on the ground to the existing top of the dome measures 20 meters. The stupa has an ascending step on the north which is 04.26 m wide and connects the pradakshina path at ground level with the ambulatory corridor on top of the plinth.

The pradakshina patha at the top of the plinth is accessed by another 03.65 m wide step leading to the third pradakishna patha. Only here was a 04.57 m deep hole dug in the drum to reach the relic chamber. The entire building of Amluk dara stupa, from the base to the top shows remarkable fine semi-pincer masonry which has preserved good sections of architectural decoration typical of the Gandahara Valley during the Kushanas period.

The half-wall cladding was originally covered with stucco plaster, traces of which are still visible in some places today. Corinthian columns of small dark stones decorate the stage and the lower drum. 

On the east side of the stupa podium, four stone “umbrellas”, once raised above the dome and now fallen over a year, lie in a heap. The largest of them measures 04 m, the smallest 1.82 m in diameter and 30 cm in thickness.

On the east and north sides of the main stupa, the ruins of the monastery, stupa and various remains can still be seen. They are mostly disturbed by illegal diggers. Stein recorded a number of coins from the Kushans to the Turkish Shahis from the 2nd to 7th centuries AD.

Amluk dara stupa site was explored by Barger and Wright in 1938. They recovered some sculptures from Gandhara but did not investigate further to ascertain the exact period of the site.

Stein says: “Amluk-dara lies on the route taken by the Hindus from the lower Swat on their annual visit to the sacred height of Mount Elum, which forms so conspicuous a background to the ruined stupa. 

The peak of the mountain was an object of religious pilgrimage as early as Buddhist times, and may have been in some way connected with the pious legends which once clustered around it and persisted in a modified form to the present day’ (1930).

Amluk dara stupa with its separate components like plinth, dais, drum and dome is the best example in Swat.

Amluk dara stupa  have been damaged by the history Treasure hunters. The concerned department should take note of this, if they neglect the damage the stupa has suffered, the coming generation will not see this magnificent monument of the glorious past.

It is an opportune time to excavate the site at the Amluk dara Stupa to protect the monuments and hidden antiquities from the clandestine activity of unauthorized diggers.

Local and foreign excavators revealed that a unique part of the previously discovered Gandhara civilization site in Amluk-Dara, Swat, was unearthed jointly by the Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan and the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Directorate of Archeology and Museums

Sheltered by the great Mount Elum, the amluk dara stupa is an ancient relic two kilometers from the main road that leads from Barikot to Buner, standing in ancient majesty and visible from the surrounding mountains.

Excavators working at the site, which dates back to the third century, recently discovered the entire complex surrounding the four-metre stupa – first discovered by Hungarian-British archaeologist Sir Aurel Stein in 1926. It was later studied by Domenico Faccena in the 1960s and 1970s.

“Amluk-Dara is not really a new discovery, but a rediscovery. Sir Aurel Stein reported the ruins in 1926 and wrote that the main stupa was perhaps one of the best preserved pieces of Buddhist architecture he had seen in Gandhara. 

The main stupa with its sacred precinct was established around the third century and lasted until the 10th or 11th century,” said Dr Luca Maria Olivieri, Director of the Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan.

Remarkably, the archaeological site lasted until 90% of the Buddhist sites in the Swat Valley had already been abandoned. “The Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang certainly visited the site in the 7th century, but unfortunately Xuangzang’s text could not be translated very well, which raises some doubts, so we are now looking forward to reading Professor Max Degg’s new translation, which is in progress,” revealed Dr Olivieri .

The ancient relic was vandalized and looted by archaeological smugglers, where illegal excavations took place until recently. “Though the site has already been selected for the Archeology Community Tourism (ACT) dig, the K-P Archeology department has asked us to start operations a little earlier than planned after the police arrested some smugglers at the site.”

Sculptures or fragments of stupa sculptural decoration, interesting architecture – including a small shrine with a pyramidal roof built right in the middle of the main stupa staircase – stucco decoration, sherds and painted Shahish pottery from the 7th–11th centuries were discovered. during excavation.

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