Thursday, June 27, 2013


         Taxila or Takshashila is one of the most important archaeological sites in Asia, lie just northwest of Rawalpindi, Pakistan. Taxila served as a place of religious and historical sanctity for Vedic or Hindu and Buddhist from 600 BC to 500 CE. Some archeologist considers it to be an early university or center of higher education. It was an important center of learning several centuries before Christ and continued to attract students from around the world until the destruction of the city in 5th century. The institution is   significant in Buddhist tradition since it is believed that the Mahayana sect of Buddhism took shape there. 

The history of Taxila dates back to the Gandhara period (1st BC) and reached its apogee between the 1st and 5th centuries AD. It was the most flourishing of all the cities between the Indus and Jhelum Rivers. Taxila or Takshashila, Literally meaning “City of Cut-Stone” or “Rock of Taksha,” was the capital of the Buddhist kingdom of Gandhara, founded by Bharata, the younger brother of Rama. It came under Persian rule and in 326 BC was surrendered to Alexander the Great. Ruled by a succession of conquerors, including Bactrian’s and Scythians, the city became an important Buddhist centre under King Ashoka. The final period of Taxila is in the fifth century A.D. when white Huns destroyed the most successful and the greatest Gandhara civilization of last several centuries.

The structural remains at Taxila include the Bhir mound area, the palace area at Sirkap, the Jandial and Pippala temples, the Giri fortress, the Mohra Moradu and Jaulian monasteries, and the Dharmarajika, Bhallar, and Kunala stupas (burial mounds). Different types of masonry used in the monuments indicate their period of origin. 

The Bhir mound is the earliest historic city of Taxila and was probably founded in the 6th century BC, situated on a hill that commanded the river Tamra Nala, a stream of the Indus. It was an important cultural centre and it is said that the Mahabharata was first recited at Taxila by Vaishampayana (traditional narrator of the Mahabharata). 

A spacious Buddhist temple, several small shrines, and blocks of dwelling houses were uncovered in Sirkup. Stupa base at Sirkap, are decorated with Jain, Hindu, Buddhist, and Greek temple fronts. It also reveals Apsidal Temple, Sun Temple, Shrine of the Double Headed Eagle, Kunala Monastery and Ghai Monastery there. 

The Dharmarajika Stupa, popularly known as the Chir tope, is a circular structure with a raised terrace around its base. A circle of small chapels surround the great stupa. Three distinctive types of masonry in the buildings around the main Stupa suggest the contributions of different periods to the building activity. 

The Jandial temple, set up on an artificial mound, closely resembles the classical temples of Greece. Though the Jandial temple is not Buddhist, the Jaulian remains are. These include a monastery and two Stupa courts and many Muslim mosque and Madrasas made on last period are also found on top of Giri. 

The Gandhara sculptures are the prime attractions in Taxila as it is like a book on the Buddha. There are a number of images and sculptures that depict Buddha in his different stage of life. The Buddhist monuments erected throughout the Taxila valley, transformed it into a religious heartland and a destination for pilgrims from as far a field as Central Asia and China. 

Taxila was a university center where students could study any subject. Generally, a student entered Takshashila at the age of sixteen. The Vedas and the Eighteen Arts, which included skills such as archery, hunting, and elephant lore, were taught, in addition to its law school, medical school, and school of military science.The prominence of Taxila as a seat of academic and practical teaching was a result of the city’s geographical location and its reputation as an institute that promoted exchange and discussion of both western and eastern ideas. 
Takshashila is perhaps best known because of its association with Chanakya. The famous treatise Arthashastra (Sanskrit for The knowledge of Economics) by Chanakya, is said to have been composed in Takshashila itself. Chanakya (or Kautilya), the Maurya Emperor Chandragupta  and the Ayurvedic healer Charaka studied at Taxila.

Taxila is a region that contains numerous examples of Hindu, Buddhist and Greek cultures and was an important focal point for interactions with the outside world and it will continue to do so. It reminds us of the rich cultural heritage that is to be found in Pakistan.
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