The oldest living city in South Asia
Known as the oldest living city in South Asia with a documented history of 2,500 years, Peshawar bears the unique distinction of being the guardian of eight to ten ancient civilizations including Gandhara, making it a center of attraction for foreign and domestic tourists due to its unique archaeological sites and glorious history.
Famous for the ancient fort of Balahisar and the bazaar of Qissa Khwani, Peshawar has been officially declared by the Department of Archeology as the “oldest living city” in South Asia, with its history dating back to 539 BC.
Director of Archeology and Museums Dr Abdul Samad Khan said APPLICATION that recent scientific excavations of Gor Kathri revealed that Peshawar was the oldest living city in South Asia inhabited by humans with diverse culture, language and architecture.
He said excavations, architectural designs, food and languages of Gor Khatri revealed that eight to ten ancient civilizations existed in Peshawar.
The excavations at Gor Khatri, which continued for several years and were published in the British Journal of Current World Archeology titled “The World’s Deepest and Largest Excavation” has revealed 20 layers that provide a comprehensive profile of the city of Peshawar spanning from the British era to the pre-Indo-Greek era.
Excavations found that Peshawar was a province of the Persian Achaemenid Empire from four to six centuries BC and later came under the influence of Mauryans, Greeks, Scythians, Kushans, Sassanids, White Huns, Ghaznavids, Slave Dynasty, Ghoris, Suri Afghans, Mughals, Durrani, Sikhs and the British before the establishment of Pakistan.
Conquered by the Greeks and ruled by the Buddhists, Peshawar was rebuilt by the Brahmins, invaded by the Ghaznavids, captured by the Mughals, invaded by the Sikhs and successively annexed by the British.
Although he witnessed the onslaught of worriers, kings and invaders who marched from Afghanistan and the Central Asian republics to the subcontinent through the historic Khyber Pass, Dr Samad said Peshawar has remained intact and a center of attractions for tourists and traders since its inception.
“Qissa Khwani bazaar remained the center of attraction for international traders and merchants, who often stayed there to enjoy its famous chapli kabab and other delicious cuisines with traditional Qehwa and exchanged stories about each other’s culture, food, art and music before leaving for the Central Asian Republics (CAR) and the subcontinent for the trade.
“During a stay in Qissa Khwani, he said that international traders had a unique opportunity to explore almost all historical sites and buildings in Peshawar like Sethi House, Balahisar Fort, Ghanta Ghar, Chowk-e-Yadgar, Mohabat Khan Mosque and Peshawar Museum.
Calling the Peshawar Museum one of the greatest Gandhara art museums in the world, Dr Abdul Samad said the conservation of the building from its British era was almost complete with an estimated cost of Rs 20 million which would be soon to be open to the general public.
“The museum currently houses 4,000 rare antiquities and artifacts in addition to the complete life story of Lord Buddha, attracting Buddhists and monks from all over the world.”
He added: “Conservation work on the historic Mohabat Khan Mosque building has been completed and efforts are underway to restore it to its original form, adding that 40% of the work on its ceiling and minarets in addition to adjacent parts were also completed.”
The archeology guru said 87 million rupees has been approved for the conservation of the Mohabat Khan Mosque and the KP Chief Minister has already passed guidelines to allocate more funds for the completion of the mega project.
Dr Abdul Samad said that 42 overgrown shops and the adjacent plaza affected the construction of the historic mosque and negotiations were underway to convince shopkeepers and traders to remove these shops.
Bakhat Muhammad, Deputy Director of Research, Directorate of Archeology and Museums, said about 3,000 historical sites exist in Peshawar, Charssadda, Swabi, Nowshera and Mardan districts, including 1,840 ancient buildings in Peshawar.
Besides Gor Khatri, he said that Dalazak Tomb, Kotla Mohsin Khan, Sakhi Mahuddin Tombs and Chacha Younas Monument have been declared protected sites while Sakhi Shah Mardan Villa, Bejo Tomb, Qissa Khwani, Lady Reading Hospital and others are unprotected.
He said the British-era Sethi House Peshawar, a historic British-era building with unique architectural value and eye-catching timber craftsmanship, was purchased by the KP government and has been transformed into a museum in its own right.
Inspired by Muslims and the vernacular architecture of Bukhara Uzbekistan, he said the Sethi family associated with international trade built the masterpiece in 1886 after emigrating from Punjab to Peshawar in the early 19th century to Mohallah Sethian where about seven Havelis were built in almost the same style, signifying their aesthetics.
“I have heard a lot about the wood craftsmanship of Sethi House and found it okay today after visiting the wooden architectural marvel of Peshawar,” said Engr Khushal Khan, a resident of Dir Lower, during an interview with the news agency.
“The impressive building with eye-catching wooden patterns, red and green window panes and a structure of Sethi House fans impressed me the most.”
Dr Abdul Samad said the focus was on completing 12 ongoing projects including the conservation of the Mohabat Khan Mosque, the development of the key archaeological sites of Swat, Takht Bhai and the preservation of the Kalash culture in Chitral, the fight against illegal excavations and smuggling of antiquities and preservation. archaeological sites from the colonial era.
He said 800 new archaeological sites have been discovered in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Regarding new projects in the 2022-23 budget, he said that Rs 100 million was allocated for a new project of “Documentation of Archaeological Sites in Merged Tribal Districts” and practical work on it would start in during the next fiscal year.