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08/12/10  Location:

Taxila, 35.40 km from Rawalpindi. It is located 31 Kilometers Northwest of Islamabad on Museum Road, which takes off from the Grand Trunk (G.T.) Road at the roundabout (chowk) marked with a board for Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT). Drive another 7 Kilometers along the Museum Road and you will arrive at the Museum. The Museum Road is also known as Khanpur Road among the locals. The present day town of Taxila is a couple of kilometers further along the G.T. Road, from the turning (i.e. roundabout).

Taxila is the one of the famous archaeological site in the world. At sometime it was center of Buddhism, worlds famous Gandhara sculpture and the center of learning and culture. At Taxila, you can see the great Buddha. His eyes gaze at you till you find yourself gripped by the feeling of awe. The other people you can meet at Taxila are Alexander of Macedonian, Asoka the famous Buddhist king and Kanishka. You'll find their imprints all over the place. In 327 BC Alexander conquered the Taxila which was Achaemenian Empire. Later it came under Mauryan dynasty and reached a great level of development under the rule of great Asoka. The next step in the Taxila history was the indo-Greek descendents of the Alexander's warriors and the final period is called Gandhara. The great Kushan Dynasty was then established in 50 AD, and in these 200 years Taxila became the most renowned center for philosophy, art and learning. Taxila is the great attraction for the pilgrims and tourists from China and Greece. The final period of the Taxila in the fifth century AD when white Huns snuffed out the most successful and great Gandhara civilization of last several centuries. Taxila is the one of the famous archaeological site in the world. At sometime it was center of Buddhism, worlds famous Gandhara sculpture and the center of learning and culture.

Exploring Taxila is a multi-dimensional experience. The richness and variety of the famed Gandhara sculpture will attract you. There are many images of Buddha, in stone and stucco and numerous panels depicting all the important stages of the great sage's life. Exquisitely times of one of the world's most impressive men of peace Gautama Buddha. Each carved bit of sculpture, from the colossal to the miniature and there are literally thousands of them is the items of collection. To find difference between the Greece-Roman counterparts and the Gandhara masterpieces will be a great challenge for you. To welcome you there are stone men and women who will receive you open armed in Taxila. Then there are three distinct cities, which are in very good state of preservation. With your imagination sided by the carved people who inhabit these cities, you will have little difficulty in picturing crowds on the well laid out streets, families in the spacious houses, priests in the towering stupas and royalty in the great palaces.

The earliest city of these is known as Bhir Mound. Which was established somewhere in sixth century BC, whose irregular streets, cramped houses and mediocre public buildings indicate its primitive origins. Then comes the Sirkap city which is on the opposite side of Tamara Stream, is much younger and it was built somewhere around 2nd century BC, and you'll find the difference between these cities because this one is well planed.

And as you will stroll down its streets you can call at the houses of the affluent and go slumming, as it were, in the more crowded sections where dwelt the common man of the dim and misty past. Note the fortification of wall, the long, straight and impressive main street, the Royal palace, an Apsidal Temple and the shrine of the double headed eagle. Sirsukh the most modern city of them was built by Kushan kings in first century AD. It is fully excavated as yet but it is clearly a well-fortified and well-laid out city. This city is patterned after Central Asian cities, and is complete with suburb.

In addition to these cities, there are many monasteries and stupas have been excavated all along the Taxila valley. Dharmarajika stupa, which is 2 miles from Taxila museum is a must see stupa. It comprises main building, a monastery area where the monk lived and a series of small chapels. A wealth of gold, silver coins, gems, jewelry and the other antiques were discovered at Dharmarajika.

Jaulian another marvelous complex of chapels, stupas, quadrangles, and a monastery with assembly hall, store rooms, refectory, kitchen and bathrooms. At five small stupas you will sea beautiful stucco relieves of Buddha and Bodhisattvas supported by rows of stone elephants and lions.

Two miles west of Jaulian is an other well-preserved monastery at Mohra Moradu. In one of the monk's cells here was found stupa with almost all the details intact. At Jandial, a mile-and-a-half from Sirsukh, is an image-less temple in the classic Greek style, with sandstone columns and cornices.

Attraction for climbers is Glen of Giri, which is about three-and-half miles from Dharmarajika stupa. Atop the highest peak of the range of hills are two stupas and a fortress built in a cleft near a spring of pure, sweet water. The stucco decorations of the stupas are well worth of the climb.

Visit to Taxila is a good worth of your money. To feel and understand the importance their full importance you'll have to visit Taxila by your self. The men 3000 years ago knew that what they are doing when they choose Taxila to built there cities here.

The Museum:

The Taxila Museum is one of the finest museums of Pakistan, which is frequented by scholars and tourists alike. B. M. Sullivan designed the ell shaped building and the then Viceroy and Governor General of British India, Lord Chelmsford, laid the foundation stone in 1918. Khan Bahadur, Sir Mohammad Habibullah, inaugurated the Museum on 5 April1928. The artifacts on display in the Museum reflect the cultural history and achievements of the people of Taxila or Takshasila as named by the Greeks. There are some seven thousand rare objects, which can be classified into:

• Gandharan sculptures in stone, stucco, and terracotta
• Gold, silver, and stone jewellery as well as articles of personal ornamentation
• Inscriptions and other writing material
• Articles of domestic use, household vessels, and pottery
• Toilet articles
• Coins
• Weapons
• Tools, implements, and miscellaneous objects

Tickets are available at the hut-like post to your left upon entering the Museum gate, and the same ticket is valid for a visit to the archeological sites. Books and brochures can also be purchased here. A similar hut few paces further along the road, houses toilets for ladies and gents but suffers from water shortage, for a better option - try the PTDC Motel across the road. The semi-circular lawn on the right lends grace to an austere Museum faηade. If you walk across the front entrance to the identical rear exit, you can step into a nice terraced lawn.

Nearest Airport:

Islamabad

Railway Station:

Taxila

Bus Stop:

Taxila City(on GT Road)

Taxila - The Archeological Sites:

Taxila or Takshasila as the Greeks called the city, is situated at the head of Sindh-Sagar Doab between the rivers Indus and Jhelum, at an elevation of 549 meters (1800 feet). Accounts of Chinese travelers around 400 - 700 AD also mention the two similar names, Chou-cha-shi-lo and Ta-cha-shi-lo, meaning "Cut-of-Head". It is believed that the name has been derived from that of Tak-Sha, Prince of the Serpent Tribe, who was consecrated here, according to puranic verse. However, the origins of Taxila go back to the Mesolithic age.

The recorded history of Taxila starts from 6th century BC, when this Gandharan kingdom became part of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia. Four years later, Chandra Gupta Maurya dethroned Macedoneous, and it became part of the Mauryan Empire till the death of Asoka in 232 BC. Around 190 BC, the Bactrian King Demetrius conquered this region and laid out a new capital city, now called Sirkap. After the Bactrian Greeks, it was ruled by the Scythians and the Parthians. Next came the Kushanas, who shifted the City 2 miles further from Sirkap. This third city is now known as Sirsukh, which was taken over by the Sassanians. In 5th century AD, the Huns destroyed Sirsukh, and that brought an end to the hay-day of ancient Taxila.

Taxila was the prime seat of learning in the sub-continent, which offered courses in mathematics, law, history, medicine, social sciences, the arts, astronomy and military tactics. It was here in 4 AD, that the great Panini compiled the Sanskrit grammar. The Kharoshthi script was also developed here, which became the national script of Ghandhara.

Excavations in the area were conducted between the years 1913 to 1934, by Sir John Marshal the Director General of Archaeological Survey of British India. He unearthed three cities at Taxila, numerous stupas and monasteries. The artifacts found here have been placed in the Museum. There are more than 50 archeological sites in the Taxila Valley and all these cannot be visited in a day, besides transport is essential. The most ancient ruins are called Bhir Mound, the city ruled by the Achaemenians. It was here, that the Hindu King Ambhi played host to Alexander the Great in 326 BC. Sites of importance or convenience are briefly described below:

The Ancient Cities

Bhir Mound:

The era of this first known city of Taxila lasted from 6 BC to 2 BC. Only a portion of the center of the city has been excavated and protected by a walled enclosure. The Museum building has been built on its Northwest corner. The entrance to Bhir Mound is diagonally across (south) from the Museum gate.

According to Marshall, Bhir Mound looked similar to a present-day Pakistani village. From the remains you can trace the main street that winds along abodes with narrow streets branching off now and then. Each courtyard has a soakage pit and one in each public square. Drains in the street seem to be for rain water only. There were no wells in the city, so water was carried from the river, east of the site. The people wore calf-length tunics with a shawl over their heads and shoulders, thick leather-soled shoes, and most people carried a parasol.

Sirkap:

The second city of Taxila - Sirkap, existed between 2 BC and 2 AD. It is located 3 kilometers northeast of the Museum, and to get there simply drive beyond the Museum along the main road towards Khanpur. But look out for the inconspicuous sign for the right turn leading to Sirkap. The car park is outside the main entrance.

Once a wall surrounded the roughly rectangular city laid out in Greek fashion. The total length of the wall was five kilometers, it was 6 to 9 meters high (20 to 30 feet) and 6 meters (20 feet) thick, with square bastions spaced along it. The 700 meters long main street was wide and off-set from the main entrance of the North gate to prevent invaders from charging straight in. As you walk down the main street, the low walls you see on either side are the foundations of the Parthian City built on top of the older city of the Bactrian Greeks. The sewage ran down the streets in open drains.

In almost every block there was a Jain or a Buddhist stupa.

The large Buddhist apsidal temple takes up an entire block, and was rebuilt over the ruins of an earlier temple after the earthquake of 30 AD. A block away, on the same side was a Shrine of the double-headed eagle, only the base survives. This first century AD stupa shows a mixture of Greek and Indian influences in decoration. The double-headed eagle motif was found in early Babylon and in Sparta, which was later adopted by the Scythians.

There is also the Kunala Monastery and the Ghai Stupa within the Sirkap city wall.

Sirsukh:

It was the third and last of Taxila's three cities, which thrived between 2 AD to 5 AD. Sirsukh was the regional capital of the Kushans. The site is 5 kilometers from the Museum along the main road towards Khanpur. A signpost in English reads 'Sirsukh remains', where you turn left; half a kilometer later the road ends and you walk another half. However you can drive all the way too, the gravel track is not bad.

Sirsukh City was a 1.5 x 1.5 kilometers square, laid-out on flat ground and surrounded by a wall. Only a section of the southeast corner of the outer city wall has been excavated. It was originally 6 meters (20 feet) thick and neatly faced in limestone, with semi-circular bastions at 30-meter (100 feet) intervals, which were several stories high and had slits on every floor for shooting arrows. The quality of workmanship is evident from 10 feet high and wider base that remains of the wall.

The Kushans had built this new city for three reasons:

• A plague had wiped out half the population of Sirkap soon after their arrival.
• The Kushans of Mongol origin were not accustomed to the Greek City plan.
• It was an accepted tradition and a matter of prestige, that conquerors should establish a new city.

Jandial Temple:

The only Greek temple in the subcontinent was at Jandial, 700 meters North of the Sirkap North-gate. It was built in the mid-second century BC by the Bactrian Greeks, and ruined during the earthquake of 30 AD.

A front porch supported on four Ionic columns lead into an antechamber. A heavy wood and iron door divided the antechamber from the sanctuary, where statues of various Greek gods stood on the platform, no remains were found. Behind the sanctuary, a solid mass of masonry indicates a tower foundation, which is deep enough to support a tower 13 meters high. To one side of the tower was a back porch and around the temple was a peristyle in typical Greek style. Two variations are noted in temple layout at Jandial: Firstly, the temple roof was supported by a wall that had 20 windows instead of the Greek colonnade, because of lack of suitable stone at Taxila. Secondly, the place of the of the tower was traditionally reserved for a chapel.

Jaulian Buddhist Stupa and Monastery:

Jaulian is 8 kilometers from the Museum, first along the main road towards Khanpur for 6.7 kilometers and then a turn right (southeast) at the signpost. A path from the car park crosses the aqueduct and climbs the steep hill to the monastery, from where you can get a sweeping view over the valley of Taxila. The stupa and monastery at Jaulian gives you some idea of what the original decoration round a stupa looked like. A roof protects the plaster statues round the stupa, and the site is guarded day and night. The monastery's main stupa is surrounded by 21 votive stupas. Once, its gilded dome and spire umbrellas stood 20 meters (65 feet) high and surrounded by gilded spires from the small votive stupas.

The Healing Buddha, a stone Buddha image with a hole in its navel, is set in the north wall of the main stupa to the left of the steps. The faithful would put their fingers in the hole and pray for a cure for their ailments. The Kharoshthi inscription below the statue records that the statue was a gift. There are more Kharoshthi inscriptions on other votive stupas, with the names of the donors.

The second century AD Jaulian monastery is west of the main stupa. Visible today, are 28 monks' cells that enclose the monastery court. Originally there was a second floor with another 28 cells and stone staircase. The water tank at the center of the court collected rainwater off the wooden roof. The hall of assembly, kitchen, storeroom, refectory, stewards' room, baths and latrine are all to the west of the monastery court. The monastery was burnt by the Huns in 455 and never rebuilt.

Nomads are often camped in the valley to the south of the monastery. Female visitors are usually welcomed, but men should not approach unless invited. The nomads are herders who winter in the plains and spend the summer in the mountains.

Mohra Moradu Buddhist Stupa and Monastery

Go northeast approximately 4.5 kilometers from the Museum along the main road to Khanpur and turn right (south), look out for the signpost. Short of a kilometer the road ends and gravel track continues, turn right again and go another 100 meters or so. Park short of the bridge and walk up along the ravine, soon the edge of the stupa will appear through the opening in the hills. Alternatively, you can take a walk from Jaulian, follow the irrigation channel south to Pippala and Mohra Moradu.

Mohra Moradu Stupa and Monastery is well concealed in the hills and it would seem from strategic intent. One side of the base of votive stupa still has the stucco relief representing Buddha and Bodhisattuas, which is well preserved and protected. One of the cells in the adjoining monastery has been used to preserve the stupa's 'Astua', a 12 feet high spire with its 7 umbrellas and decorated square base, which is the most interesting feature at Mohra Moradu. To see it, ask the attendant there to open the wooden door of the cell . There is an exact replica of the stupa in the museum. It is also on the World Heritage List.

The stucco plaster sculptures of the Buddha around the base of the main stupa are also worth seeing. These are delicately modelled, dignified and lifelike, and are fairly well preserved. The beautiful heads have been removed to the museum for safety.

Pippala Buddhist Stupa and Monastery

Pippala, halfway between Mohra Moradu and Jaulian, was originally built in the first century AD. A second larger monastery was built on top of the ruined remains of the first in the fifth century. Pippala is interesting because some of the rubble-and-mud walls built on top of the 50-centimetre stone base are still standing in the monastery court and between the kitchen and dining room, showing what the walls at Taxila were like. In one of the cells is a fine plaster stupa, nearly as well preserved as that at Mohra Moradu.

Giri Fort and Monastery:

Giri Fort is in an easterly direction from the Museum, and can be reached by taking the side road to Dharmarajika and then turning right (southeast) onto the jeep track. A track also links it to Jaulian. It was built in the fifth century perhaps as a stronghold for the thousands of monks in Taxila Valley. About 500 meters of the fort wall still stands. Part of the monastery is also in good condition.

Dharmarjika Buddhist Stupa and Monastery:

It is 3 kilometers from the Museum. A side road branches off at the museum gate. Proceed eastwards on this road, take the left at the fork. Park where the tarmac ends and walk half a kilometer along the beaten track, cross the stream over stepping stones and then climb the low hill on the left to reach the stupa.

Dharmarajika stupa is probably the oldest and the most impressive stupa in Pakistan. Emperor Ashoka built the stupa in the third century BC; it has a small relic chamber containing some of the ashes of the Buddha. Over the centuries this was enlarged with the addition of votive stupas and monastery. The main stupa is 15 meters (50 feet) high and 50 meters (165 feet) in diameter. The original smaller stupa is encased in the heart of the existing larger one, because of the fact that, stupas could not be destroyed, so they simply built around the old one. The present outer layer dates from second century AD, the time of the Kushan king Kanishka.

To the north is a row of open sided chapels or alcoves, two of these contain the remains of four huge lime plaster feet that once supported enormous statues of the Buddha. According to Marshall, the biggest statue must have been 11 meters (35 feet) high. Further north is a large monastery with five courtyards. In the center of each courtyard are the remains of a stupa, and monks' cells opening into the courtyard, The largest monastery was two stories high and accommodated 104 monks. The hall of assembly stood at the center of the monastery. A water tank from the first century BC lined with the original lime plaster still survives, this was the monks' bathing pool. The Sassanian invaders destroyed it in the mid-third century AD but the monastery was rebuilt. This in turn was burnt by the white Huns in about AD 455. The monastery was rebuilt but was finally abandoned in the seventh century.

From one of the stupas on the west, a silver vase containing silver scroll and a small gold casket holding tiny fragments of bone were found. The scroll written in Kharoshthi, dated about AD 78, claims that these are the relics of the Lord Buddha enshrined by Urasaka to bring health to the Kushan king, his family, friends, relations and to himself. 'May this right munificent gift lead to Nirvana'.

Next to the main stupa on the western side is another stupa with relief-work in stucco plaster dating from the second century AD. The scene depicts the Buddha's horse Kathaka taking leave of his master, and another portrays the Departure of Buddha i.e.Prince Siddhartha setting off on his search for enlightenment. These are the earliest Gandharan stucco relief yet found; statues were made of stone.

Kunala Buddhist Stupa and Monastery:

Kunala Stupa is on a hill inside Sirkap City, and its high walls are still standing. Kunala was the son of Emperor Ashoka, who had such beautiful eyes that his stepmother fell in love with him. When he ignored her advances, she persuaded Ashoka to send him away as viceroy to Taxila. She then sent a letter of accusations against Kunala bearing Ashoka's seal, in it she ordered that his eyes to be gouged out. The ministers of Taxila were reluctant, but the prince insisted that his father be obeyed, thus Kunala was blinded. Kunala Stupa is believed to have been built on the spot where he was blinded. The stupa assumed importance as a pilgrimage for the blind, and today Taxila has one of the best eye hospitals in the country.

Ghai Buddhist Monastery:

Ghai Monastery is on a hill inside the city wall of Sirkap. It is a third or fourth century monastery whose high wall are still standing. The monastery is unusual because the monks' cells surr surround a square hall with sloping windows instead of an open court.

Museum Road, Taxila ( also called Khanpur Road)

Location:

It is located on Museum Road, which takes off from the Grand Trunk (G.T.) Road at the Heavy Industries Taxila round-about (chowk). The hostel is only about 60 yards from the Taxila Museum.

General Description:

The Hostel is well maintained and tidy, a nice and wide entrance door leads to the anteroom with a reception counter. On either side are guestrooms equipped to accommodate up to two persons. Across the anteroom a new hall has been added where floor beddings can be arranged for large groups. If the group exceeds 24, additional mattresses would have to be brought in from Islamabad, therefore ensure that you apprise the management while making the reservations at the Islamabad Office.

An attached kitchen provides the necessary utensils for cooking or you could walk over to the PTDC Motel opposite the Museum for your meals. The Motel closes early and there are no shops nearby, so you will be on your own for late night snacks.

Outside the hostel building are lawns with a boundary wall, where you can relax and bask in the sun.

A maximum stay of 3 consecutive nights is permissible. PTDC MOTEL

Museum Road, Taxila:

Location:

It is located opposite the Taxila Museum, just across the Museum Road. The locals also refer to the Museum Road as Khanpur Road.

General Description:

The motel is a simple affair with 5 double rooms on the top, a small restaurant on the ground floor, and a gift shop. The size of the rooms is comfortable and all have attached baths. They are well maintained with nice crisp linen, however only 3 rooms have air conditioning.

The restaurant has seating capacity for 32 guests, however an adjoining room can accommodate another 40. It is a simple but tidy affair with a touch of elegance and the white tiled washrooms are the best in the area. The food is good but limited in choice. A nice place for some rest and reflection.

Advance reservation is essential during the season, from March to October.

 

 




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