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Butkara Stupa is one of the most important Buddhist shrines in Swat, and is located near the Swat Museum. The stupa, which dates back to second century B.C, was possibly built by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka to house some of the ashes of Buddha. In subsequent Centuries, it was enlarged five times by encasing the existing structure in a new shell. Italian excavators working in 1955 exposed the successive layers of the stupa, each layer illustrating a stage in the evolution of building techniques. The stupa was decorated with stone and plaster carvings of the life of the Buddha and the whole was guilded and painted and topped by a stack of stone umbrellas. Most of the carvings have been removed but two of green shist (a crystalline rock) dating from the fifth century have been left in place on the great stupa. One is a headless figure of the Buddha low down on the east side, and the other is a carving of the Buddha standing ona lotus flower between three rows of acolytes on the north side.
Votive stupas were built around the main stupa by wealthy pilgrims hoping to gain merit. There were 215 of these, all decorated with statues, painted, guilded and topped with stone umbrellas. The best-preserved ones are on the north side of the main stupa with some of the decoration is still visible. The Jambil and Saidu rivers run on either side of the Butkara and have often flooded the site.