Taxila : History, Archaeological Value & Tourism


When it comes to ancient history, Pakistan has its fair share of treasures, chief among these being the ancient metropolis of Taxila. It is a city of the Gandhara civilization, sometimes referred to as one of its capitals, whose history in the Khanpur caves around 1000 AD Taxila was a center of Buddhism, a center of learning, an urban metropolis and various cultures. A meeting point of, namely the Achaemenids, Greeks, Mauryas, Scythians, Parthians, Kushans, Huns and finally Muslims.

Although lost to time for nearly 1000 years after its fall, the metropolis and its treasure troves surfaced in the late 1800s under Alexander Cunningham, an antiquarian for the British Raj and the first director of the John Marshall. were more prominent. According to the Archaeological Survey of India in the early 1900s, there was a time when worldwide archeology had become a highly disciplined field and new discoveries were emerging from all over the world. Along with the discovery of the Indus Valley Civilization, Marshall also did major works in Taxila that highlight this ancient and mysterious culture.


The Taxila archaeological site is located in the province of Punjab, Pakistan, about 30 km north of the capital region of Islamabad. It is just off the famous and historic Grand Trunk Road. The modern archaeological area of ​​Taxila is made up of 18 sites of significant cultural value, which were included in the UNESCO World Heritage umbrella in 1980 CE.

The area is of particular interest when one considers its ancient role as a route for the movement of caravans and it still serves the same function today as in the 6th century BC. This continued function of the site as a pathway tells us about the urban pattern of ancient Taxila (remaining more or less unchanged since antiquity) and how it developed and spread through crafts, settlements and markets, as well as as an institutional framework. develops in. As a result of the need to manage the surrounding population.

Although the region did not favor an increase in maritime trade in later times, the occupation of the previous centuries meant that there is still a large amount of archaeological data left in the region that gradually and gradually passed from the British era to the present. – Discovered slowly. day.

Pre-History of Taxila

The beginning of human occupation in the area can be traced back to microlithic hunter-gatherers of the period before 3500 BC, most notably in three important caves discovered by Eldon Johnson of the University of Minnesota in 1964 CE at Bhamala, Mohra Moradu and Khanapur. . Notably in Khanpur Cave, a 2.9 m (9 ft 7 in) cultural deposit was found dating all the way from 900 CE to the Stone Age.

Early agricultural communities developed around 3500–2700 BC, as evidenced by the small mound of Seraikla – 305 m (1000 ft) from east to west and 610 m (2000 ft) from north to south, being a “small” relative. ft) – excavated by Ahmed Hassan Dani, a leading archaeologist from Pakistan. The site has evidence of stone, bone and handmade pottery.

Stone objects include parallel-sided blades, side and end scrapers, and asymmetrical flakes and arrowheads as well as microliths, axes, and maceheads. Ground stone tools are also found such as chisels as well as saddle quarries, grinders and pounders for daily use. Bone tools belonging to five categories have been found including awls, vaporators, spatulas, points, and pressure flexors. The pottery industry is the third industry, the earliest examples of which are almost all handmade and divided into four subcategories.

The Bronze Age begins in the region around 2700–2100 BC and is also attested at Seraikla, with no breaks between Bronze Age deposits from the late Neolithic period. There is also a transitional period between the two eras that includes Neolithic and Bronze Age varieties of mixed tools.

Architectural Highlights

The stupas came to represent the pinnacle of Buddhist architectural achievement in the region and, of course, along with the artwork, they are also meant to promote purely religious power structures. The stupas themselves were decorated with innumerable relief panels and their role was further strengthened by depicting religious stories and events.

Some of the most prominent stupas include:

Dharmarajika Stupa

It is the largest Buddhist establishment in the Taxila region and dates back to the time of the great Mauryan emperor Ashoka, who unified India in the 3rd century BCE and is known in some Buddhist sources as Dharmaraja, the name to which the site itself is associated. is.

It is strongly believed by most scholars that Dharmarajika is one of the places where the relics of the Buddha himself were buried and this makes it a relic storehouse stupa or metal-garb stupa. Ashoka had an affinity for Taxila because of his father Bindusara’s rule of the area and therefore also chose it as a place to re-enact the relics of the historical Buddha.

The present site is the second reconstruction on the original Ashokan stupa, the first in the post-earthquake period in the Kushan era (1st century CE) and the second much later. The original stupa was probably smaller and humbler, on which the existing dome was installed, with radiating support walls resembling wheel spokes holding the dome. Inside the 150 ft square dome is 45 ft in height, with an average diameter of about 115 ft, excluding the procession path.

Kunala Stupa

The legend associated with this stupa links it to Kunal, the son of Ashoka. Kunal was the governor of Taxila at that time and his stepmother longed for him. He denied his advances and in his anger he sent a fake message by Ashoka to Taxila asking the administrators to blind Kunal. Kunal accepts the punishment even though he is innocent, and later leads the life of a wandering mistress, singing the story of his misfortune anonymously.

He managed to go to Ashoka while wandering India, and Ashoka, hearing the song, knew that this was his son and the story was true and accepted him back, after which Kunal’s vision was miraculously restored in Bodh Gaya.

The stupa at Taxila was erected to commemorate that legend, although the extant remains cover an older stupa that has not yet been dated. The latest remains date from the 3rd-4th centuries CE.

Jaulian Stupa

This 2 st CE establishment is a highly decorated and compact construction located in the Sirsukh city neighborhood, 300 feet above the Taxila valley and within a view of Sirsukh. The name Joulian means “seat of the saints” in the vernacular, a name that probably existed since ancient times. The Jaulian Establishment is a later work and is very grand, reminiscent of a time in the Buddhist history of the region when the superficial depiction of the Buddha image was at its peak.

Its two courts have several chapels and votive stupas and once housed massive Buddha statues. Its location is considered one of the most picturesque in the region.

Other sites include the Mohra Mordu complex, the Jinnah Wali Dheri and the recently re-excavated Bhamala Stupa (a rare cruciform stupa). Each of these establishments has linked monasteries and other ancillary buildings that form a similar pattern of planning with other Gandharan sites.

Although today Takshashila is known as a “region”, in ancient times it was the name of a city which was spread over 3 sites from the Vedic age to the ancient period. Now known by the names of the places where the remains were found, in ancient times all the cities were probably known by the same name i.e. Taxila.

Bhir Mound

Its archaeological remains, the first city, lie to the south of the existing Taxila Museum, which covers an area of ​​about 1200 x 730 yards above the Tamra River, the main ancient source of water for the city, and comprises 4 levels. Indo/Bactrian Greek period from 5th-6th centuries BC (Achaemenid period) to 2nd century BC.

Excavations prior to the 1970s had revealed an organic layout without any evidence of fortifications. The Maurya era (3rd–4th BCE) is believed to have been a masonry period from early rubble masonry to a later more coherent masonry. A thick coating of clay plaster is in evidence initially and later changed to lime plaster in the Indo-Greek period. Limestone and Kanjur stone have been used for construction here.


The second ancient city of Sirkap is believed to have been formally founded by the Bactrian Greeks in the 2nd century BC. The name of the city is associated with a local legend of Nayak Rasalu, who fought seven demonic demons. These were 7 siblings, who had 3 brothers named Sirkap, Sirsukh and Amba and 4 sisters named Kapi, Kalpi, Munda and Mandehi. Raslu was the son of the king of Sakal (modern Sialkot) and upon his arrival in the city he found the demons demanding sacrifices from the local people. He took it upon himself to slay the demons, conquering all, but is said to still be hiding. The city marks the spot where the demon was killed.

The city has been attributed to the Greeks not only because of archaeological remains but also because of various urban planning factors such as flat ground, Hippodamian street patterns and geographic location, as well as natural protection on all sides, as well as upper and lower cities of which the following has been excavated) although these were also present in earlier Indus cities. Yet no buildings culturally related to the Greeks such as temples, palaces or theaters have been found that have cultural links to Greek heritage. After the original plan was implemented, the latter settlement was quintessentially Indian.


Founded in the second half of 1st CE, the Kushan city of Sirsukh was probably founded either to drive the population away from the ruined ruins by the earthquake of Sirkap, or to establish a new capital to testify to the Kushan conquest. .

It is a roughly rectangular city in an open plain without any natural defenses, but with solidly built limestone fortifications with round towers at regular intervals, one of the first examples of round fortifications outside the European continent. . It was probably adopted by the Kushans during their interactions with Europe on their western borders.

Although an important part of the archaeological landscape, the site has not been properly excavated due to local farming in the area, which would need to be heavily disrupted to facilitate excavation. However, the narrow strip of fortifications around the Lundi River, which hugs the walls on one side, has revealed coin hoardings of not only the Kushan rulers, but also those of the Mughal emperor Akbar, indicating that the city It continued to function for at least 1000 years after its original foundation.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Taxila

Q. What is Taxila famous for?

A – Taxila, however, is most famous for the ruins of several settlements, the oldest dating from around 1000 BCE. It is also known for its collection of Buddhist religious monuments, including the Dharmarajika Stupa, the Jaulian Monastery and the Mohra Muradu Monastery.

Q. Who destroyed Taxila?

A – When these routes lost their importance, the city became insignificant and was finally destroyed by the Huns in the 5th century. Taxila was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.

Q. Which civilization is in Taxila?

A – From the ancient Neolithic period of Seraikala to the ramparts of Sirkap (2nd century BC) and Sirsukh city (1st century AD), Taxila depicts the various stages of development of a city on the Indus which alternated from Persia, Greece. was influenced. and Central Asia and Joe, from the 5th century

Q. Who built Taxila University?

A – According to the Indian epic Ramayana, Takshashila (represented by Greek writers as Takshashila) literally means “City of the Cut Stone” or “Rock of Taksha”, the younger brother of Rama, an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, Takshashila was founded by Bharata. was. Taxila is considered to be the first international university of the ancient world.

Q. Which is older Taxila or Nalanda?

A – Takshashila University was one of the oldest universities in the world, with which many eminent scholars from various disciplines were associated. Although Nalanda was a formal university in the modern sense of the word, Taxila functioned in more informal conditions.

Q. Who destroyed Taxila Nalanda?

A – After his recovery, Khilji was surprised that an Indian scholar and teacher had more knowledge than his princes and countrymen. He then decided to destroy the roots of Buddhism and Ayurveda. As a result, Khilji set fire to the great library of Nalanda and burned about 9 million manuscripts.

Q. Who burnt Taxila?

A – It is believed that Nalanda’s library was so huge that it burned for months after Bakhtiyar Khilji ransacked the university and set the library on fire. Nalanda was attacked thrice by invaders – Hunas, Gauda, ​​and finally Bhaktiyar Khilji who destroyed it completely.

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