Footwear in Swat Valley
The evocative vale of Swat has deep-rooted traditions and culture linking it to the glorious era of Ghandara civilization that has left indelible marks on the mind and culture of the ingenious inhabitants of Swat. Due to this strong influence and profound heritage, the dwellers of Swat have explored and conquered new horizons not only in the creative discipline of art but also in the logical and practical field. Being brought up in the very lap of Mother Nature, they have acquired and attained the golden knowledge of protecting themselves from the severities of Nature through the hidden gifts, which she has bestowed on them generously. The weather of Swat is sometimes unpredictable and uncertain especially in the rugged mountainous regions where a hovering group of clouds laden with water and snow can transform the weather in the blink of an eye. To cope with these recurrent and playful feats of Nature, the ingenious dwellers of Swat discovered their own ways and means to tackle and tame these rare inflictions of Nature. The lush green mountains of Swat receive heavy snowfall during winter, which sometimes paralyses the daily activities in the valley. Walking and working in knee-deep snow was a challenge happily tackled by the skillful shoemakers or cobblers (Chamyaran) of the artistic valley? They invented, a unique and utterly different kind of (Peezar) shoes, to accomplish their mastery over the Nature.
Kanraway (Wooden slippers)
Kanraway (broad wooden slippers/sandals) were created after much deliberation and pondering for snow walking. Kanrnaway were made of pure wood with stripes of animal skin to support and keep intact the feet inside the slipper. These wooden slippers worked like snow board and helped the pedestrian to walk on soft and thawed snow with much ease and comfort. The centuries old tradition of Kanraway has almost perished due to the intrusion of modern and sophisticated shoes but they are still revered and used by the very elders in some secluded parts of the valley.
Da Geedo Saplai (Straw slippers)
When the summer arrived with its various blessings in the valley, the skillful shoemakers (Chamiaran) became busy in making another remarkable invention called straw slippers (Da Geedo Saplai), which were soft, absorbing and simple. The people who worked in the fields and were related with farming mainly used straw slippers. These extraordinary slippers were also used to tread on the muddy rooftops of the traditional houses to mitigate the seepage of water below.
Panja Daray Saplai (Five Fingered Slippers)
The straw slippers are still prepared and used in the mountainous regions where most of the houses are still constructed with mud, stones and wood. As these slippers were very delicate and not so durable, the talented shoemakers reverted to animal skin and created a casual, all time summer slippers called Panja Daray Saplai (Five fingered slippers) due to the appearance of the five fingers of the feet in the shoe. These shoes were made of tough animal skin with a metal buckle to retain the position of the feet in the shoe. Panja Daray Saplai are still commonly used and are very famous among the drivers clan due to its lightness and comprehensive ventilation during summer in the valley. They are still in great demand especially by those people whose feet perspire, stink and are vulnerable to itchy sores.
Panrhay (Golden/Silver Laced Boots)
Some shoes were specially created for the genteel and honorary citizens of the valley that reflected their affluence and place in the community. These boots were called Panrhay which were skin made, boat shaped, light, comfortable and intricately designed with golden or silver lace. Panrhay were prepared and decorated with extreme care and labour and there were few accomplished artisans famous for their workmanship in this trade. Though the cobblers made these gorgeous looking boots from animal skin but the ladies who had excelled in this art fulfilled the spectacular golden or silver lace work. Only the dignitaries and ladies of the house wore these invaluable shoes/boots, which were carefully kept and protected. Today, Panrhay has retained the same tradition and value and is a sign wisdom and experience of the wearer. The modern version of Panrhay is called Khossay, which are machine made, cheap and easily available in the market. Khossay has the appearance of Panrhay but not the rich elements of tradition and culture and therefore, can never replace the artistic and traditional Panrhay in the beautiful valley of Swat, where culture and traditions are the ultimate driving forces.