Preserving history: First Pashto book on Gandhara civilisation published

Police had seized a truck laden with 2000-year-old Gandhara civilisation relics on July 6. PHOTO: REUTERS

Police had seized a truck laden with 2000-year-old Gandhara civilisation relics on July 6. PHOTO: REUTERS

PESHAWAR: In order to report historical facts with utmost accuracy and in the language that is spoken in the areas themselves, a book titled Gandhara was published in August. The Pashto manuscript recounts history of sites of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Khyber Agency—exhibits information not only about the life and people of the regions but also casts light on the growth of communities—from caves into splendid Gandhara civilisation.

The book was published by Radio Free Europe, also known as Radio Mashal and is considered to be the first ever Pashto book on the history of Gandhara.

Gandhara contains history of Pukhtuns written by themselves in their own language,” Khalid Kheshgi who has written the book told The Express Tribune. “It is unlike other books where history has been distorted and reality has been concealed from public.”

Modus operandi

The book derives its name from the mighty civilisation itself and reveals evolution of historical events with reference to different historians and archaeologists who have taken part in excavations at different places in the province. The research has been conducted through public archives, interviews and by contacting people living in the province who have some affiliation with art and history of K-P.

Digging the past

Gandhara is divided into 21 chapters, with each one elucidating history of specific regions in detail. It not only contains articles about the history of the region – from 3,000 old caves in Mardan, Buddhist monasteries of Takht Bhai, Charchal Morchal region in Swat to architectural jewels and archaeological ruins from Attock Fort to Khyber Pass, but also presents a pictorial representation of all these areas. Moreover, in around 200 pages, the manuscript probes into regions left unexplored or those that hardly made it to mainstream narratives without being distorted.

It commences with peoples’ lives in caves based on recent excavation carried out in Sangao village of Mardan by Abdul Wali Khan University.  The book states people in Mardan and Bajaur regions lived in caves over 3,000 years ago.

Gandhara also contains tales and discoveries made by archaeologists about the first ever planned city of South Asia found during excavations in Rahman Dheri in Gomal Valley. The book states after Aryans and Iranians left the area, Gandhara civilisation commenced from parts of Afghanistan to Hund area of the province. Although information regarding the region exists, no work has been done in Pashto for ease of access for Pukhtuns.

Another important topic which has so far been ignored due to instability in the region was the archaeological treasure of Khyber Agency. The area remained under Gandhara civilisation and there are signs that Kushans ruled the areas from 2nd to 5th AD. Stupas and other symbols of Ashoka era exist there that need further exploration and study.

The need

“There is a dearth of quality books on our history in Pashto,” Kheshgi said, adding the book is for common people who can easily gain access to it and read it with interest. “The people should know about their past identity and existence in the region – how their ancestors lived in caves and evolved to their present condition gradually.

He also said Gandhara discusses history of Peshawar, its historical monuments, 16 tall gates, green surroundings that existed only the past. “They were constructed during Sikh rule in Peshawar and while there is no sign of walls, the gates still stand as reminder of past times,” Kheshgi said.

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