1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Swat

Swat, a tract on the Peshawar border of the North-West Frontier Province of India, consisting of the valley of the Swat river above its confluence with the Panjkora. This valley is some 70 m. long, varying from 10 m. to a few hundred yards in breadth; it is intersected by ravines and glens, which bring down the drainage of the ranges on either side. Only that portion of the valley which lies beyond the Peshawar frontier hills, and which is reached by the Malakand, the Shahkot and other passes from the south, is Swat. To the east are the independent hill tracts of Kohistan and Buner, all bordering the Indus, and to the west are Dir and Bajour.

The Swat river rises among snow mountains in the Kohistan, not far from the source of the Gilgit river. After flowing due south for nearly 70 m., it turns to the west and is joined by the Panjkora. It then passes through the Mohmand country, and on entering Peshawar district spreads out to the south-east in many channels which ultimately fall into the Kabul river. Total length about 400 m. In British territory its waters have been utilised by a series of canals to irrigate an area of about 160,000 acres; and the system is now being extended by means of a tunnel through the Malakand range, which will tap the river much higher up.

Swat was better known to the ancients, and to the warriors of Baber’s time, than it was to us until the frontier risings of 1895–97 gave British surveyors the opportunity of visiting the country. The ancient name of the river was Suastos, and that of the Panjkora was Ghoura, under which names they figure in the history of Alexander’s campaign. The site of the city Massaga, the capital of the Assakeni, is supposed to be near the modern Manglaur. But since the adoption of the Khyber as the main high road from Kabul to India the Swat routes had passed into oblivion. Only the lower portion of the Swat valley, where the river intervenes between Malakand and the passes leading to Dir from the Panjkora, is of military significance. The upper valley is closely gripped between mountain spurs stretching southwards from the Hindu Koh, rising to 15,000 ft. on one side and 19,000 ft. on the other, leaving but a narrow space between their rugged summits and the banks of the river. The valley, narrow though it is, and traversed by the worst conceivable type of hill tracks, contains many villages or hamlets, and is pretty thickly populated. The district has come into prominence of recent years, on account of its lying on the direct road to Chitral.

The Swatis are a clan of Yusafzai Pathans numbering 40,000 fighting men but are of weakly and thin physique, due to the malaria with which the valley is saturated. They are divided into three main clans, the Baizais, Ranizais and Khwazozais. They had not much name for valour, but they opposed a stout resistance to Sir Robert Low’s advance over the Malakand Pass in 1895 to the relief of Chitral; and again in 1897, under the influence of fanaticism, they showed desperate bravery in the attack on the Malakand Fort and Chakdara. They are all Suni Mahommedans, and have earned the reputation of being the most bigoted of all the Afghan tribes. For many years they were under the religious dominance of the Akhund of Swat, Abdul Ghafur, who, born in 1794, obtained ascendancy by means of his ascetic practices, ruled practically undisputed in Swat for the last 30 years of his life, and died in 1877. The Akhund, after his experience of the British strength in the Umbeyla Campaign of 1863, always exerted his influence in favour of peace with the British government, though in his earlier days he was sometimes troublesome. He was succeeded by his son Mian Gul, who never possessed the same influence as his father.