The kingdom of Apraca

O my love bring me the flowers from Bajaur so that I can dress my hair with them. It is a popular Pashto song and an indication of the wild flowers which nomadic women loved so much.

The legendary Bajaur at the foothill of Kemor mountain, was lush green with strong people who fought with the invaders through the centuries. In 328 BC, at the foot of the same mountain Alexander of Mecedonia found the ancient city of Nysa, believed by the Greeks to have been founded by Dionysus, the god of wine. Legend says that his soldiers prayed , celebrated and got drunk at this place. Alexander’s historian Arrian wrote about the place as a stronghold of the warlike Aspasioi people. Later the tribal people of Bajaur also known as Ashvakas ( people with horses) and some called them Kamboja.

Approximately a 100 years later, this area was part of the Asoka dynesty. The King thought it wise to bestow autonomy on the same bold people of Bajaur and give eminent place in his Rock Edict of Shahbaz Garrah. However, a centuary later Bajaur like many other parts of Gandhara went into anonymity.

There are some clues that Bajaur was the centre of Apraca Kingdom from the 1st Century AD and was ruled by a small dynasty of the rajas believed to have been important allies of Kharaosta King based in Mathura. The Kharoshti script was probably evolved at that time and also gave the name to its capital, “Khaar”

In the last decade of the 20th Century an “Inscribed Buddhist Reliquary” was found from Shinkot in Bajaur which revealed a few names of the Royal family from that period. It is a silver cup with a lid, believed to be originally made in Taxila. From the dates mentioned on it, is calculated between 80 to 90th year of the 1st Century with inscriptions in Kharoshti and Prakrit scripts. The vessel was used by Apraca king Indravarman to enshrine Buddhist relics in a stüpa in Bajaur. Another reliquary, a schist jar, with Kharoshti inscription refers to the same King.

In 1999, a hoard of manuscripts written in Gandhari language was found in the ruins of a monastery in Bajaur. All of them were preserved and read by the Archaeologists in Peshawar. The manuscripts helped in making a dictionary of Gandhari Language.

Just before the Islamic period little information is avaialable for historians, except that it once belonged to the Kingdom of Kapisa. Bajaur remained a route for invaders of Central Asia and in 16thC. Mughal Babur crossed Kemor, faced resistance by the fortified people of this area. He massacred thousands in the strong Fort Gabar of Bajaur. The whole male inhabitants 3000 in number including their chiefs were cruelly put to the sword and a keeping up with the Mughal tradition, piled up their heads to make a victory minaret. The women and children were taken as slaves. He was helped by Dilazak tribal chiefs who served him as guides and directed his vengeance against their deadly enemies theYusufzais. At this time the Sultan of Swat and the Yusufzais sent their envoys to appease the Mughal King. Subsequently, the daughter of Shah Mansoor was exchanged in marriage for peace. Leaving Shah Mansur’s daughter in Bajaur, Babur crossed River Swat and rode towards “Maqam” (Mardan).

Bajaur now

Bajaur is inhabited by a number of clans of Tarkalanri tribe, i.e Loi and Wur Mamund, Gigiani, Salarzai. To the south of Bajour is the wild mountain district of the Mohmands. To the east, beyond the Panjkora river, are the hills of Swat, dominated by another Pathan group. To the north is an intervening watershed between Bajour and the small state of Dir and it is over this watershed and through the valley of Dir that the new road from Malakand and the Punjab runs to Chitral.

The drainage of Bajour hills flows eastwards, starting from the eastern slopes of the dividing ridge which overlooks the Kunar and terminating in the Panjkora river. The drainage has given the name Nawagai (drainage in Pashto) to another chief town of Bajour. It is the smallest of the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies and strategically important region on the Afghan border with a non ending conflict.

Its beautiful green trees were chopped by the government so that the insurgents don’t use them as hiding places. People living here are killed but there are no Skull minarets because it is 21st century now and the Schist Jar found in Bajaur is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.