Hidden away in the scenic Margalla Hills is Shah Allah Ditta, a village believed to be more than seven hundred years old and named after Shah Allah Ditta, a Mughal-era dervish.
The pleasant climate, the proximity to Islamabad and the historic importance of this region attract hundreds of visitors all year round, especially to see the shrine and tomb of Shah Allah Ditta and the 2,400-year-old Buddhist caves.
The Buddhist history of this area is believed to relate to the Gandharan Civilization of Taxila.
The village was used as route from Kabul to the Gandharan city of Taxila by Alexander the Great and Sher Shah Suri with other Mughal rulers and emperors also passing by while traveling from Afghanistan to the Hindustan.
Archaeological evidence shows that the caves and the natural platform formations around the area were first used for meditation by Buddhist monks and then by Hindu sadhus before Muslim hermits took over during the Mughal period.
The caves attracted monks and priests from all over the region looking for inner peace.
With the caves located at an elevated height in the middle of such peaceful place and surrounded by natural beauty I can only imagine how spiritual can be to meditate there.
HOW TO GET THERE
The village is located very near sector D-12 on the old road that connected Punjab with Mansehra, about 40 minutes by car.
There is parking just outside the caves area.
VISIT TO THE SHAH ALLAH DITTA CAVES
We arrived early in the morning to avoid the heat during summer but I believe that you can visit at any time during the day as there’s a lot of shaded areas with all the greenery and small pop up cafes with umbrellas around.
The ancient caves walls used to be covered with paintings made from red clay but most of it faded away with time.
Although CDA (Capital Development Authority) has been doing preservation efforts to bring it back to previous splendor it still needs some work done as some of the walls are damaged or have suffered erosion.
One of the most beautiful things to see there is this huge Banyan tree that has to be several centuries old judging from its girth.
It creates most of the shade there and attached to these trees are long roped swings which were super fun!
Moving up the mountain from the caves, there is a step well called Losar Baoli and a mosque built by Shahāb-ud-Din Ghori.
You can also do to some really cool activities like archery, paint ball, trekking, rock climbing or even camping with Sadhu’s Retreat and have some lovely BBQ at the Fossils Restaurant whilst enjoying the views of the hills.
If you’re looking for a different day away from Islamabad this is it. It combines a bit of history, a bit of nature, good food and fun for all!