The oldest Buddhist temple in Pakistan has been discovered in the northwestern part of the country by Italian archaeologists. The remains of the temple date back to 300 BC.
The discovery in the town of Swat comes from an archaeological site where the remains of a Hindu temple were found last year, said regional chief archaeologist Abdul Samad Khan.
“It is an important finding in many ways, especially with regard to religious harmony, tolerance and multiculturalism in Gandhara times,” he added.
The Kingdom of Gandhara emerged in what is now northwestern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan around 1000 BC and lasted for 1000 years.
The city of Swat continued to change hands between Hindu, Buddhist and Indo-Greek rulers, who first arrived in the region from Greece with Alexander III of Macedon, commonly known as Alexander the Great.
Khan said the discovery of Hindu and Buddhist temples was a signal that followers of those religions were living together in the area or building layered structures one after another.
Some coins and stamps from the period of an Indo-Greek king were also among the latest finds, hinting that Swat was a multicultural city even thousands of years ago.
Swat, then Bazira, is the hometown of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, who was shot and wounded by Taliban militants because of her campaign for girls’ education.
Italian and Pakistani archaeologists would continue their excavations at the site to learn more about the life and history of this period, Khan said.