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A memorable trip to Shah Allah Ditta Village

(Coordinates: 33°43'18.2665''N 72°54'56.0635''E)

(Shaikh Muhammad Ali)

3D Google Map of the Shah Allah Ditta Village: Elevation 2,109 Feet

“Love can consign us to hell or to paradise, but it always takes us somewhere. We simply have to accept it, because it is what nourishes our existence”……George Santayana

A memorable trip to Shah Allah Ditta Village

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While reading the excerpts of Fauzia Minallah’s articles in Daily DAWN during 2007, I was always intrigued by the caves and banyan trees of Shah Allah Ditta village adjacent to Islamabad and wanted to visit this sleepy little village. Finally, on 9th October 2011 being a Sunday; we decided to take this pilgrimage. I had further gathered from friends that this village housed a bird sanctuary; a Well (Bowli) developed by Sher Shah Suri along with the famous caves and the old banyan vines. The interesting thing about this place is that it is hardly a fifteen minute drive from Golra Sharif while not too many Islooites (Inhabitants of Islamabad) know about this village. We left the house rather late i.e. after 12:00 p.m. and within fifteen minutes we reached the venue. We had to cross sector D-12 which has recently been opened by Capital Development Authority (CDA) for development.

(Housing in the heart of Margalla Hills) Another 10 minutes of driving and we were in the heart of the village. After taking directions from the locals, we decided to visit the famous bird sanctuary first. The place was called ‘Bird paradise’ and is owned by a gentleman called Feroz Shah who hails from the village but has spent some time in the UK and

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while having made his millions there, has returned to his native village to open this beautiful bird sanctuary for nature and bird lovers.

(The entrance to the Bird Paradise) My kids were delighted to visit the bird sanctuary since it housed birds of unique and rare types.

(The kids posing in the bird sanctuary)

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They thoroughly enjoyed watching the peacocks, pigeons, hoopoe, quails etc.

(A colorful peacock with shades of blue & green)

(A rhapsody of colors)

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The birds were as good as the ones kept in the Islamabad zoo although the sanctuary was not as big since this was a private venture and must be expensive to maintain.

(Another peacock with interesting colors) After spending almost 45 minutes here, we decided to move towards the famous caves and the banyan trees.

(A panoramic view from the Shah Allah Ditta caves)

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Within another 5-7 minutes’ drive; we came to the end of the village and were able to appreciate the huge banyan trees while the small caves were nicely tucked away within these banyan vines. This place was also called ‘Sadhu Ka Bagh’ and lately a stone laying ceremony was undertaken by the Chairman of Capital Development Authority (CDA).

(Sadhu Ka Bagh aka Sadhu’s Garden) We were greeted by Mr. Muhammed Ayub who has been living here in one of the caves since 1947 when he moved from India along with his family to this spot. He had also been working with Prof. Ahmed Hassan Dani (the famous archeologist & historian) of Pakistan who was instrumental in putting a door on one of the caves where Mr. Ayub now resides. He narrated the story of this place to us and took us around the vicinity and the caves.

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(Resting inside the cave with Mr. Muhammed Ayub, the caretaker)

(Adil, Mohsin & Ayesha with their mother inside the cave)

(After conquering the cave)
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We also came to learn from Mr. Ayub that further up on the hilltop there is a well which was dug by Sher Shah Suri during his reign here and was used by travelers who came from the Hazara side to the Rohtas fort.

(The well dug by Sher Shah Suri has 76 steps) It was such an irony to note that the well is still intact after 400+ years while a road that was promised to be built by a local minister some four years ago is still not developed.

(Stone laying ceremony of a road which still could not be developed even after a lapse of 4 years)

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On the way back from the hilltop, we decided to have lunch at a small restaurant which serves K&N foods.

(Relaxing at the restaurant)

(Waiting for lunch after moving to a shaded location) After enjoying a sumptuous lunch, we decided to return. Although we also wanted to visit the tomb of Shah Allah Ditta, the gentleman after whom the village has been named but since we were a little tired; we decided to revisit this place again to pay homage to him.

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“Shah Allah Ditta is a village on the outskirts of Islamabad situated at the foothills of the Margalla Hills. The village is named after a Mughal period Dervish Shah Allah Ditta and bears significant importance for its natural beauty and historical background. The village is believed to be more than 700 years old and was used as a route from Kabul to Gandharan city of Taxila by Alexander and Sher Shah Suri while Mughal rulers and other emperors often passed through while traveling from Afghanistan to Hindustan. Relics of the Buddhist era dating back to the 8th century can be found here along with burnt diyas and trees with amulets tied to them. Shah Allah Ditta caves are located on the route leading towards Khanpur. These caves are next to the shrine and tomb of Shah Allah Ditta. 2,400-year-old Buddhist era murals of Buddha appear on the walls of caves at Shah Allah Ditta. Archaeological evidence indicates that the caves and the platform-like formations surrounding the area were first used for meditation by Buddhist monks and later by Hindu sadhus before Muslim ascetics took over during the Mughal period. Marked on the ground close to the caves is the location where Alexander arrived and was received by Raja Ambi, King of Taxila. The road next to the caves that leads to the top of the mountain, Shah Allah Ditta road, is said to be built on the exact path followed by Mughal Emperor Sher Shah Suri during his visit. Moving up the mountain from the caves, there is a step well called Losar Baoli and a mosque built by Shahāb-ud-Din Ghori. The mosque has broken walls and the road leading to it is dilapidated”1

‘The Wandering Dervish’

Shaikh Muhammed Ali

E-mail: Cell: +00-92-321-5072996 25th October 2011, 09:48 p.m. (PST)

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