Wednesday, August 26, 2009

day 80, Taxila, Pakistan (1)

My dear bhai, Ashfaque has arranged for a guided tour of Pakistan for us.........I am so fortunate that all my tour guides are so well informed.....

Gandhāra is the name of an ancient kingdom (Mahajanapada), located mainly in the vale of Peshawar, the Potohar plateau and on the Kabul River.

c.2300–c.1900 BC Indus Valley civilization

c.1900–c.520 BC No records. Indo-Aryan migrations.
c.520–c.326 BC Persian Empire Under direct Persian control and/or local control under Persian suzerainty.

c.326–c.305 BC Occupied by Alexander the Great and Macedonian generals
c.305–c.180 BC Controlled by the Maurya dynasty, founded by Chandragupta. Converted to Buddhism under Asoka (273–232 BC)

c.185–c.97 BC Under control of the Indo-Greek Kingdom, with some incursions of the Indo-Scythians from around 100 BC
c.97 BC–c. AD 7 Saka (Scythian) Rule
c.07–c.75 Parthian invasion and Indo-Parthian Kingdom, Rule of Commander Aspavarman?

c.75–c.230 Kushan Empire
c.230–c.440 Kushanshas under Persian Sassanid suzerainty

c.450–c.565 White Huns (Hephthalites)
c.565–c.644 Nezak kingdom, ruled from Kapisa and Udabhandapura
c.650–c.870 Turkshahi, ruled from Kabul
c.870–1021 Hindushahi, ruled from Udabhandapura

c.1032–1350 Conquered and controlled by the empire of Mahmud of Ghazni.

Its main cities were Purushapura (modern Peshawar), literally meaning City of Man and Takshashila (modern Taxila)......and yes Sita, the UNESCO world heritage site of Taxila is our next stop.....

Oh, Sita really looks happy today:-) as does Nopi.
Hmmm, is it because this site in Pakistan has such strong links to India and Greece??

Legend has it that Taksha, the son of Bharata and Mandavi, from Indian epic Ramayana, an ancient king who ruled in a kingdom called Taksha Khanda (Tashkent) founded the city of Takshashila.

In the epic Mahābhārata, the Kuru heir Parikṣit was enthroned at Taxila.

According to tradition The Mahabharata was first recited at
Taxila by Vaishampayana, a disciple of Veda Vyasa at the behest of the seer Vyasa himself!

Taxila is the abode of many splendid Buddhist establishments. Taxila, the main centre of Gandhara, is over 3,000 years old.

Taxila had attracted Alexander the great from Macedonia in 326 BC, with whom the influence of Greek culture came to this part of the world.

Taxila later came under the Mauryan dynasty and reached a remarkable matured level of development under the great Ashoka.

During the year 2 BC, Buddhism was adopted as the state religion, which flourished and prevailed for over 1,000 years, until the year 10 AD.

During this time Taxila, Swat and Charsadda (old Pushkalavati) became three important centers for culture, trade and learning.

Hundreds of monasteries and stupas were built together with Greek and Kushan towns such as Sirkap and Sirsukh, both in The Gandhara civilization was not only the centre of spiritual influence but also the cradle of the world famous Gandhara culture, art and learning.

It was from these centers that a unique art of sculpture originated which is known as Gandhara Art all over the world.

Today the Gandhara sculptures occupy a prominent place in the museums of England, France, Germany, USA, Japan, Korea, China, India and Afghanistan, together with many private collections world over, as well as a vast collection in the museums of Pakistan.

Buddhism left a monumental and rich legacy of art and architecture in Pakistan.

Despite the vagaries of centuries, the Gandhara region preserved a lot of the heritage in craft and art.
Most of the archaeological sites of Taxila (600 BC to 500 AD) are located around Taxila Museum.

For over one thousand years, Taxila remained famous as a centre of learning Gandhara art of sculpture, architecture, education and Buddhism in the days of Buddhist glory.

There are over 50 archaeological sites scattered in a radius of 30 kms around Taxila.

The ruins of Taxila consist of many different parts of the city buildings and buddhist stupas which are located in a large area.

The main ruins of Taxila are divided into three major cities, each belonging to a distinct time period.

The oldest of these is Bhir Mound, which dates from the sixth century B.C.E.

The second city of Taxila is located at Sirkap and was built by Greco-Bactrian king
s in the second century B.C.E.

The third and last city of Taxila is at Sirsukh and relates to the Kushan kings.

In addition to the ruins of the city, a number of buddhist monasteries and stupas also belong to the Taxila area.

The very earliest examples of Buddhist Art are not iconic but aniconic images and were popular in the Sub-continent even after the death of the Buddha. This is because the Buddha himself did not sanction personal worship or the making of images.

As Siddhatha Guatama was a Buddha, a self-perfected, self-enlightened human being, he was a human role model to be followed but not idolized. Of himself he said, 'Buddha's only point the way'. This is why the earliest artistic tribut
es t o the Buddha were abstract symbols indicative of major events and achievements in his last life, and in some cases his previous lives.

Some of these early representations of the Buddha include the footprints of the Buddha, which were often created at a place where he was known to have walked. Among the aniconic images, the footprints of the Buddha were found in the Swat valley and, now can be seen in the Swat Museum. When Buddha passed away, His relics (or ashes) were distributed to seven kings who built stupas over them for veneration.

The emperor Ashoka was later said to have dug them out, and distributed the ashes over a wider area, and built 84,000 stupas. With the stupas in place, to dedicate veneration, disciples then initiated 'stupa pujas'. With the proliferation of Buddhist stupas, stupa pujas evolved into a ritual act.

Harmarajika stupa (Taxila) and Butkarha (Swat) stupa at Jamal Garha were among the earliest stupas of Gandhara.These had been erected on the orders of king Ashoka and contained the real relics of the Buddha.

The city fell into obscurity after it was destroyed by White Huns in the 5th ce

The ruins of the stupa at Dharmarajika is thought to be established by the Maurya emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE around relics of the Buddha.

These structures were reinforced in the following centuries, by building rings of smaller stupas and constructions around the original ones.

Hey Nopi, did you know that several coins of the Indo-Greek king Zoilos II were found under the foundation of such a 1st century BCE stupa??
Isn't that statue of lord Bbuddha with a hole in the navel an odd artifact??

It is called the "healing buddha".
Pilgrims would put their fings in the navel hole and pray for the ailment of the patients.
The inscription preserved under the statue shows that it was gifted by a friar "Budhamitra Dharmanandin"
This inscription and a couple of others at this site, show that the script was still used at Taxila in the fifth century CE.

There is another monastery in the vicinty....the monastery at Mohra Muradu in addition to a number of stupas.

The modern-era excavation of the site was led by Sir John Marshall between the years of 1913 and 1934.

Wow, Taxila ( was the cultured capital of an empire stretching across the subcontinent and into Central Asia, until the 3rd century, it was the birthplace of a striking fusion of Greek and Indian art, and also the place from which Buddhism spread into China!

hmm, I wonder if any of my ancestors studied or lived in this awesome UNESCO world heritage site??

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