This is an important point for us to know, why do we call ‘Swat’ to this tract, and from which source the name has been contrived.
In the ancient history, the word ‘Swat’ is not found. The early peoples called this soil with various names, but not by the present name, Swat. For example, some three thousand years ago, it was called Udhyana (Garden). In the writings of Chinese travelers, we can find ‘Soto’, while in the accounts of Greeks, the “Asoconoi” has been mentioned, but Mahmood Ghaznavi has called it ‘Qerat’. So for as the early names are concerned, Soto has much similarity to the present name.
The second base for its nomenclature is of Arabic origin. It is said that the word ‘Swat’ is the distorted shape of Aswad (black). As the hills and mountains of this land are covered with thick forests, which appear in sight as black, therefore, it was called Aswad. Slowly, it became ‘Swad’ but latter on the name changed completely and the present name ‘Swat’ was composed.
The final decision is lying in the fact that when Mahmood Ghaznavi conquered Swat, he wanted to settle some of his people to keep the control of the conquered area. So he settled two tribes the Swati and Dalazak here. As the Swati tribe was larger, the zone was called by the name of this tribe, Swat.
The valley of Swat is situated in the north of N.W.F.P, 35° North Latitude and 72° and 30° East Longitude, and is enclosed by the sky-high mountains.
Chitral and Gilgit are situated in the north, Dir in the west, and Mardan in the south, while Indus separates it from Hazara in the east.
Swat can be divided into two physical regions:
- Mountainous Ranges.
As mentioned above, Swat is lying in the lap of Mountainous Ranges, which are the offshoots of Hindukush, so the larger part of Swat is covered with high mountains and hills, the crests of which is hidden by everlasting snow. Though these gigantic Ranges run irregularly: some to the west while the others to the east, but the general direction is North-South. These ranges enclose small but very enchanting valleys.
In Kohistan-e-Swat the chief knot of eastern ranges is Mankial. Its northern branches separate Kohistan-e-Swat from Abasin Kohistan. These ranges form a barrier between Gilgit and Swat, and between Chitral and Swat. The southern extension of Mankial ranges reaches proper Swat. There they join Shangla ranges. Shangla ranges separate proper Swat from Shangla Par area (Shangla Par district).
In Shangla district, there are Karora Ranges, which separate Puran from Kanra and Ghurband.
The continuation of Shangla ranges joins Dwasaray. On the one hand Dwasaray separates lower Swat from Puran, on the other, it set aside the Buner from Puran.
Now the general Direction of the ranges turns westward. Here it is called Elum. Elum Ranges is a big wall between the proper Swat and Buner. The Elum ranges at last join mountains of Malakand.
The Western Ranges:
Western ranges start from the mountain and hills of Gabral, Kohistan-e-Swat. It joins the hills of Kundal (Utror). There these ranges meet Daral Ranges. These ranges form a border with Dir district. They run west ward and are named according to the locality. For example Lalko ranges Manrai and Chaprai etc. at last they join the hills of Adenzee and Shamozee. Manrai ranges send off some off shoots southward. They the hills separate Arnoyay valley from the widest valley of Nekpikheil valley.
In Buner, there are many ranges of hills. Some of these hills run east west while others north south. For example Ambela Ranges form a border between Sodam Rustam (Mardan) and Kawga. Again, there are some ranges, which separates the surrounding areas of Kawga from Chinglai. The pass through these ranges is known as "Doormai Kandaw". There come other ranges. These are the hills of Dambara. So it is hard to count the actual number of the hills and ranges, but this is a fact that the major portion of Buner district is covered with hills. Though, these hills are not as high as hills of Kohistan-e-Swat, yet they enclose many small charming valleys and are more populated.
In the armpits of these mountains and hills there are small beautiful valleys, which are praiseworthy, these are limited to the watercourses of local rivers. The hills or mountains no doubt, enclose these valleys, but the local people have connected them by narrow path through high passes.
These mountain ranges have some high peaks, which are capped with everlasting snow. In the north of Mankial Ranges, Falakseir is a well-known peak with a height of 19415 ft above the sea level. Chokail is another sky-high peak in the same ranges, which lies to the south of Falakseir. The height of this peak is 20528 ft. The third one is Mount Mankial in the vicinity of Chokail. This mount is 18338 ft high above sea level.
An explorer submerged in the snow while he tried to conquer them. However, a Japanese adventurer conquered mount Mankial in 1975.
In these high ranges there are lakes, known as Dand. In Ushu the famous lake is Mahodand (the lake of the fish).
In the eastern ranges, the other famous Dand is Bashigram Dand. Though, there are many Dands but Bashigram Dand is very charming. It seems that this Dand have been made by some gigantic creatures, and all the big blocks have been prepared very carefully by the sculptor and have been placed skillfully. The natural scene of this Dand is so charming that the ex-ruler of Swat has visited it thrice. This Dand is one of the sources of Bashigram River.
The western ranges, Daral Ranges, have also three big Dands. Two of them lie in the area of Swat, while the third one is in the boundary of DIR.
The Dand of Kundal is the largest of all the Dands of these ranges. It is rather a tiny sea surrounded by the high peaks with murmuring rills. In the vicinity of this biggest Dand there are two small Dands, one is called Khaperai Dand (fairy Dand) and the next is the Dand of Speen Khwar. This Dand is so charming that the ex-president of Pakistan, Farooq Ahmad Khan Laghari came here by helicopter to enjoy the enchanting scene of this Dand. Seidgai Dand is second in size, but it lies out of the borders (watershed) of Swat. It is situated at the terminal of Wosheray Dara, Dir. It is mentioned here, because, the pastures of this area are hired by shepherds of Swat. The Dand of Daral is third in size, which is the smallest one among the big Dands.
These Dands feed rivers. For example, Daral Dand feeds Daral River, which joins Swat River in Bahrain.
These ranges have good pastures, generally, the areas in the vicinity of a Dand is used as a pasture. These pastures are very charming. The land surface is covered with green grass. The grazing cattle, goats, sheep, cows, horses and even the buffaloes on the slopes seem very charming.
Some of the famous pastures are Mair, Tolay, Jamdarai, Seidgai, Tharkana, Kar Banda, Chamber, Jaba, Kundal, Batal, Lado Banda, Loi Pandghalay etc.
These pastures are lying in the knot of Daral. Moreover, each Spinsar (denude mount) has pastures. For example, Bashigram Pasture, and the pasture of Ajmair are at such a height that the rock is denuded, and have no soil.
The true plain is not found here, yet the local people call to some areas Plain Surfaces. These so-called plain surfaces may be divided under the following headings:
The Valley of Swat.
- The Plains of Buner
The Valley of Swat:
Actually the valley of Swat starts from the foothill of Malakand but we are concerned with portion from Landakay to Gabral (Gulabad), the area within the administrative boundaries of Swat.
The length of the valley from Landakay to Gabral is 91 miles. Two narrow strips of plains run along the banks of Swat River from Landakay to Madyan. Beyond Madyan in Kohistan-e-Swat, the plan is too little to be mentioned. So for as the width concerns, it is not similar, it varies from place to place. We can say that the average width is 5 miles. The widest portion of the valley is between Barikot and Khwazakheila. The widest view point and the charming sight where a major portion of the valley is seen is at Gulibagh on main road, which leads to Madyan.
There are some subsidiary valleys, which help to increase the width of the main valley. These subsidiary valleys are called "Daras". A Dara a narrow passage between mountains, and sometimes, the upper course of a river is also called Dara. If we imagine the main valley as a stem of a tree the subsidiary valleys form its branches.
Swat River and its tributaries drain Swat. There fore, the whole valley is the outcome of running water. This flowing water cuts the upper courses deeply, and flows the load of washed away materials. As the gradient is greater in the upper course so the erosion is on large scale, particularly in the summer rains, when all the rivers are in flood. The big boulders and stones are rolled, which causes more destruction in the upper courses. When the loaded water reaches to the areas of low gradient, the heavier materials are deposited. The deposition takes place according to the slope, generally, we observe, that the upper course is made up of big boulders, the middle course is of relatively small stones, pebbles, and debris, while the lower course is made of fine clay. Anyhow, the whole plain of Swat valley is strewn by the running water, and is made up of fine alluvial soil.
The Plains of Bunair:
Buner has also an irregular plain surface but there are not such active perennial rivers as in the valley of Swat. Only Barandu is the river, which has a little water flowing through the whole year. Many of the rivers of Buner are inundation rivers. When the rain stops, there is no sign of water in the watercourses. It should be kept in mind that there are two Buners: Upper Buner and Lower Buner (Chamla). Barandu and its tributaries, the Jowar River and Kohqand River, drain the upper Buner. Barandu joins the Khwar (a big watercourse) of Chagharzee. (In Chagharzee, There are three Kwars: one Khwar flows from Bar Shamnal, next from Gulbandai, and the third is the Khwar of Pandeer.)
The lower Buner, Chamla, starts from Ambela Kandaw and reaches to Swabi.
We can find plain areas in Upper Buner like Jowar, Anghapur, and Swarai up to Budal, and in Lower Buner or Chamla: Chinglai and Khadukheil. The area of Kawga, Nawagai, and Sora may be grouped as plain to some extent.
As many of the rivers in Buner are inundation or rainy rivers, and their upper courses are short, therefore, the deposition of clay is started just at the foot of the hills. This is because the whole surface of Buner Plain is made of clayey materials. The thickness of the layer of clay is greater here.