The ‘Swat’ valley is presently in the news as a stronghold of the Taliban. The inhuman and violent culture that is prevalent now is a complete anathema to what this place was once! This place was once reverberating with Vedic chants and was peopled with a culture of high order. In the article posted below excerpted from http://indianrealist.wordpress.com/2009/05/03/hindu-heritage-of-swat-valley/, it is known that Swat was originally known as Suvaastu river.
In my curiosity to locate this place in the Kurma Chakra of Varahamihira, I went through the nations mentioned in Brihad Samhita.
Varahamihira has given the division of countries as they existed long before him, when Vedism was in its prime glory. Most of the names of the places he has mentioned had become redundant or underwent changes even by his times. I am saying this to stress the antiquity of the countries he has mentioned.
The Kurma charka has 9 divisions of land forms having many countries in each division.
It is in the form of a kurma (tortoise) with the central part called as Madhya bhoomi ruled by stars, Kritthika, Rohini and Mrigashira. This land consists of Matsya and Panchala desas. This seems to be lying on the axis (imaginary line) connecting Lanka and Ujjain.
Other 8 divisions lie on 8 directions of this Madhya desam, in clockwise direction starting from east of this Madhya desam. These divisions are ruled by 3 stars each continuing from Arudra ( after Mrigashira of Madhya desam).
What is of interest in the present context is that countries such as Peshawar (known as Pushkalavatha in Kurma charka) and Kandahaar (Gandhara) lie to the north of this Madhya desam. Takshasheela (Taxila) also is part of this land.
Since Swat lies between these places, it can be said that it also formed part of the Northern lands of the Kurma charka.
All these places were known for nurturing Vedic culture. Swat also could not have been any different from the culture of these places. This list by Varahamihira contains a place called “Vasathi’. The article below says that Swat was known as Suvaastu in olden times. Both Vasathi and suvaastu mean the same – ‘that which is fit for living / settlement.’ Perhaps Vasathi came to be known as Suvaastu later.
From Udyana, the Seat of Rig-Veda,
to the Present Swat Valley in Pakistan
under Taliban Control
By V. V. S. Sarma
Sadguru Sri Sivananda Murty, an eminent scholar and a well known spiritual leader in Andhra Pradesh hosted the tenth annual Vedic conference at Bheemunipatnam, Vizag District on 12th April 2009. For ten successive years, he has been hosting/sponsoring this important event, wherein not only the Vedic Pandits are honoured but young students of Vedas are also honoured and given certificates.
The Sabha witnessed crisp group chanting of portions from all the four Vedas. Guruji explained that Vedas are important for the unity of the country and stressed the important role played by Andhra in preserving that tradition. He shook everyone when he mentioned that the present land of Taliban (SWAT valley) was called the Brahmin Vatika!
Later, when asked for the reason for such a downfall, he answered, “Brahmins can only dedicate themselves to Vedas. Theirs is a life of total commitment to a singular cause. They cannot protect themselves. They have to be protected. When kshatriya dharma left us, things collapsed.” This input prompted me to explore the history of the place.
The Hindu Kush Mountain Range
The name ‘Hindu Kush’ of the mountain range in Eastern Afghanistan means in Persian ‘Hindu Slaughter’ or ‘Hindu Killer’. History also reveals that until 1000 A.D. the area of Hindu Kush was a full part of the Hindu cradle. More likely, the mountain range was deliberately named as ‘Hindu Slaughter’ by the Moslem conquerors, as a lesson to the future generations of Indians. However Indians in general and Hindus in particular are completely oblivious to this tragic genocide.
The Hindu Kush is a mountain system nearly 1000 miles long and 200 miles wide, running northeast to southwest, and dividing the Amu Darya River Valley and Indus River Valley. It stretches from the Pamir Plateau near Gilgit, to Iran. The Hindu Kush ranges mainly run through Afghanistan and Pakistan. It has over two dozen summits of more than 23,000 ft in height. Below the snowy peaks the mountains of Hindu Kush appear bare, stony and poor in vegetation.
Historically, the passes across the Hindu Kush have been of great military significance, providing access to the northern plains of India. The Khyber Pass constitutes an important strategic gateway and offers a comparatively easy route to the plains of Punjab. Most foreign invaders, starting from Alexander in 327 BC, to Timur Lane in 1398 AD, and from Mahmud of Ghazni, in 1001 AD, to Nader Shah in 1739 AD attacked Hindustan via the Khyber Pass and other passes in the Hindu Kush. The Hindu name of the Hindu Kush Mountains was ‘Paariyaatra Parvat’.
History of the Swat Valley
Swat is a valley and an administrative district in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) located 160 km/100 miles from Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. It is present in the Hindukush range, in the Pakistan area. The Swat River originates in the Hindu Kush and is a tributary of the Kabul River in the Peshawar valley. Swat Valley is located between POK and Afghanistan to the North of Pakistan’s Punjab province. In December 2008 most of the area was captured by the Taliban insurgency and is now considered too dangerous for tourism.
The Swat River is mentioned in the Rig Veda 8.19.37 as the Suvāstu River. Suvāstu, literally means that the river is an ideal location on which human settlements can be made. This opinion is expressed by Kumkum Roy, professor of ancient Indian history at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and the author of “Historical Dictionary of Ancient India”. Centuries later, the scenic river, which flows from the majestic Hindu Kush Mountains, is a magnet for Pakistani tourists who love to flaunt the Swat valley as the Switzerland of Pakistan.
Swat has been inhabited for over two thousand years and was known in ancient times as the Udyana. It is fair to assume that the people of Swat are of Vedic Aryans. The first inhabitants were settled in well-planned towns. In 327 BC, Alexander fought his way to Udegram and Barikot. In Greek accounts these towns have been identified as Ora and Bazira. By 305 BC, the region became a part of the Mauryan Empire (or it may be Gupta Empire as per the more recent understanding).