Nestled in a quaint little spot at the foothills of Margalla Hills, Islamabad, Shah Allah Ditta caves are an enigma, fascinating visitors as they allow you to indulge in sheer history, dating centuries.
The caves are situated within the Shah Allah Ditta village which was named after a Mughal period called Dervish. It is known the village is almost seven years old and was of high value due to its location. As it was the route used to travel from Kabul to the Gandharan city of Taxila by Alexander the Great and Sher Shah Suri.
The village was also valuable as it was a passageway for Mughal rulers and other emperors to travel through it from Afghanistan to the Hindustan. Local people used to call that route Gernaili Road (Sher Shah’s road), and some of its remnants are still visible today. It is said that Mughal emperor Akbar built a watering hole for travelers in this village.
While the village itself holds importance for being incredibly scenic, with a centuries-old tree with its branches growing and spreading out everywhere with peaks of weathered rocky hills, creating a rather haunting ambiance, the location is important for its significance to the Buddha era. 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. The caves contain traces of human occupation spread over a large span of time. These caves consist of two natural rock shelters of porous sandstone situated on either side of a natural spring of hot water. The front side of the eastern cave is blocked with a wall constructed in underdressed stones laid in mud mortar. Narrow access to the cave is provided in the extreme north.On the smooth surface of the wall, some paintings were executed in black color, which have been defaced due to the passage of time. This reflects the limited preservation efforts that have not been able to secure and keep the area protected through the years. What is extremely interesting is how this one location held importance not just for the Buddha era but for Hindus too. The paintings discovered were believed to be of Hindu origin, probably of the god vishnu. Many Hindu families were living in the village and would make use of the caves for their daily worship rituals, this was in practice during their occupation till 1947.
While you can discover and explore the lush greenery of the Margalla Hills by covering the region through a well-maintained track, there are also fancy resorts with activities like archery, ziplining etc and eateries throughout the way, allowing you to plan a full day of family exploration. Considering most of the hype has been taken over by Murree hills, you can consider this as your very own serene, quiet place which allows you to indulge in history and greenery, without the hustle and bustle that comes with a lot of people.