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0048 Serindia : vol.1
Serindia : vol.1 / Page 48 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000183
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Strategical importance of Chakdara on Swat R.

crossing of
Swat range.

or Panjkôra to the Indus. Arrian gives a fairly detailed account of the several large towns in which their defence was chiefly organized ; but in the absence of any definite topographical indications or archaeological clues it seems useless at present to hazard conjectures as to the position of Massaga, the capital, of Bazira, Ora or Dyrta, or of the rock-fortress of Aornos.6

Fortunately, where historical records are lacking, geography affords guidance in at least one important point. No one familiar with the ground can doubt—and a reference to recent survey sheets will conclusively prove it for others—that in ancient times as at present the direct route, and the only one of any importance, connecting Bajaur with Swat, must have led from the Panjkbra across the easy Katgala Pass down to where the present fort of Chakdara guards the strategically important crossing of the Swat River. Thus when on April 28, 1906, I made my first march from Chakdara past Uch and Katgala and along the open Talash Valley to Sado on the Panjkbra,7 I could feel reasonably sure that the broad military road I was following led me over ground which more than twenty-two centuries before had seen the Macedonian columns pass by in the inverse direction.

The crossing of the Swat River at Chakdara derives additional importance from the fact that just opposite to it there clebouch into the riverine plain two much-frequented routes which traverse the range separating Swat from the Peshawar Valley by way of the Shah-lcbt and Charat Passes. The antiquity of the routes is abundantly proved by the massive remains of roads, undoubtedly of pre-Muhammadan date, which lead up to the passes.8 These routes certainly offered the most direct, and until the modern strategic road across the Malakand was made, also the easiest access from Swat to the plains of Gandhara. But whether Alexander for his descent thither before the attack on Aornos used one of these,' or chose rather one of the routes leading through Bunér to the south-east, it is impossible to decide from the available data.

As regards the ethnography of the region through which Alexander's hill campaign took him, it is impossible to assert more for certain than that the invaders classed the inhabitants as Indians. This agrees well with what we know from later records, textual and epigraphical, about the Indian character of the civilization and religion prevailing throughout the Kabul Valley before the Muhammadan conquest. As to the racial character of the contemporary inhabitants it would scarcely be safe to express any opinion, seeing how limited is even our present knowledge about the anthropology of that great portion of the hill population which does not belong to the latest stratum of invaders, the Pathans. But as regards its linguistic affinities we are on somewhat safer ground. Recent researches, of which the merit belongs mainly to Sir George Grierson, have demonstrated the fact that the languages now spoken in the valleys south of the Hindukush, from the Dard tracts north of Kashmir to Kafiristan, belong to an independent group of the Aryan language, being neither of Indian nor of Iranian origin.'° There are reasons which make it probable that the area covered by this group in times preceding the Pathan invasion extended a good deal further south along the Indian North-West Frontier." Hence it is of interest to note

6 See above, p. 2 and note.

7 See Desert Cathay, i. pp. 15 sqq.

6 See Sir H. Deane's Note on Udyana and Gandhara, J.R.A.S., 1896, p. 67r sq. ; Foucher, Géographie ancienne du Gandhdra, p. 40 ; Stein, Archaeological Survey Report, Frontier Circle, 1911-r 2, p. 6.

t, Mr. V. Smith thinks it probable that Alexander used the Shah-kôt Pass ; see Early History', p. 53.

1' See especially his work The Pitaca languages of North-Western India, pp. 3 sqq. Acceptance of this linguistic fact need not prejudice the question whether the application

of the half-mythological term Pihica to the race or races speaking languages of this group can be justified on a philological or historical basis. For Sir G. Grierson's latest views on this, to me rather doubtful, question, see his paper Paifâci, Pihicas and ' Modern Pitaca ', G.D.1{ .G., r9 r 2,

PP. 49 sqq.

It The little-known dialects of Tirahi, once spoken in the Afridi hills, and Diri surviving in the mountains of Dir, near

the Panjkbra headwaters, belong to this group ; see Grierson, PiiJca Languages, p. 6.

Early ethnography of Swat region.