The Alpes of Pakistan – Swat Valley
Swat, the ancient city of Pakistan is known as one of the most beautiful regions in the world. Buddhists occupied Swat in the 2nd century BC and were absolutely mesmerized by the beauty and serenity of the area. Buddhism spread in the region of Swat towards the end of the ‘Mauryan’ period (324-185 BC), and Swat became the heart of the Buddhist faith. Afterwards, Hinduism started growing in the region as Buddhism moved towards the east, therefore during the Muslim invasion in 1000 AD, the major population in the region was Hindus. ‘Pakhtun Dilazak’ tribes from southeast Afghanistan were the first Muslim immigrants in Swat. However, they were later on exiled by the Swati Pakhtuns who succeeded in the sixteenth century. These two Pakhtun groups came from the Kandahar and Kabul valleys of Afghanistan. There are over 100 archaeological sites in Swat valley. This beautiful region is an attractive spot to many tourists for its rich culture and history as well as its beauty.
Different Types of Arts & Crafts from Swat Valley
The magnificent valley of Swat is a thriving hub for beautiful arts and crafts. The handicrafts created by the talented artisans of Swat are procured by tourists from all around the world and are famous worldwide.
The famous handicraft of the Swat region is the wollen craft. Woollen blankets known as ‘Sharai’ in the local language are worn by the men of Swat so that they could keep themselves warm in the cold winters. While woollen shawls are made for women. Cotton is blended with wool to enhance the texture of the fabric and the borders are adorned beautifully.
Rug making on the other hand is also very common in Swat. Rugs are called ‘Lamsay’ that are made by using sheep’s wool, and later on, spun with the help of a wooden instrument. The moulded wool is later on placed on a straw mat and water is sprayed on it. It is then dyed in beautiful colours and the straw mat is folded and ready to use.
The beautiful embroidery of Swat is an extremely captivating ancient form of art that the locals have inherited from the artisans of Gandhara. Largely, women and young girls are involved in this art form. The most special kind of embroidery is known as ‘Nekpikheil’. This gorgeous embroidery work is then categorized into three areas such as silken work, golden lacework and cotton thread work.
The silk work is the toughest one and consumes quite a considerable time because there is so much calculation and counting involved in carrying out this work. Certain items could be made using silk work embroideries, such as tablecloths, bedsheets, pillow covers, shirts, caps and dupattas. The yarn used in this kind of embroidery is pure silver yarn and the embroidery done on dresses is of poetry, flowers, animals, landscapes and many more. The attire of brides is decorated with beads and mirrored embroidery, and to give a beautiful look to the bride, golden and silver ribbons are used with artificial gemstones and coloured glass beads.
4. Leather Shoe
Furthermore, the skilled craftsmen of Swat make ‘Panrae’ an old-styled leather shoe with golden embroidery. However, this ancient craft is gradually fading away.
Moreover, beauty is a highly important factor for the people of Swat therefore, braids for hair are made by skilled artisans known as ‘Bachookay’ and are made with strips of silk and cotton which are weaved together and decorated with pearls, gemstones, and jewels.
One of the most celebrated crafts of the Swat region is woodcarving. Gandhara art prospered and produced the finest pieces of art and sculpture in the Buddhist era in Swat. Stone carving was the favourite hobby of the artisans of that period. They carved the life story of Mahatma Buddha in various poses and took great interest in carving various day-to-day life activities, nature, and different floral patterns. The Pukhtun artisans inherited the Buddhist’s artistic abilities after occupying Swat. Statues were replaced with natural landscapes and stone carving was replaced with wood carving. This tradition of wood carving transferred from one generation to another. Today the art of woodcarving and portraying the beauty of nature through wood carving is one of the most renowned crafts of the Swat region.