Taxila Museum

The Taxila Museum is where the artifacts from the archeological sites around the area are displayed. It is a very old museum built in 1928 when Pakistan was under the British Indian Empire.

 

In the hall, you will find displayed the Gandhara Buddha stucco (carried from the ruins), the pedestal of the Stupa, and the Buddhist legend engraved on the schist that once decorated the base of Stupa.

 

This is a replica of the votive Stupa at Mohra Moradu. It is a small stupa with seven-layered umbrella cover, and the real artifact is left in the monastery of the ruins.

 

This stupa is very similar to the one found at the top of Sanchi Stupa in India. There is a flat square and topped with “umbrellas.” Surrounding it is the “summit railing” in which the wooden fence has been replaced with stone.

 

As part of the stupa display, you can see these decorative stones.

 

This is the base of the votive Stupa. You can see the Buddha statue, with Greek columns between each panel, as well as the Atlas God supporting the base of the pedestal.

 

There are many exhibits that symbolize the fusion of Eastern and Western cultures. This piece shows a festoon pattern. This displays a young man holding a wavy festoon (garland of flowers), which originated in Greece and Rome, and was very popular in Gandhara.
The cupid seems to carry the raised part of the festoon, and the lower part is decorated with grapes and a ribbon.

 

This looks like a foreign person standing beside the Buddha statue. A stunning stucco statue that was decorating the Jaulian ruins and according to the description, it is “probably the consecrator and his wife.” It is thought that they are of the Saka race due to the shape of the hat.

 

And then this exotic figure, the Greek goddess of love, appearing in Gandhara, is Aphrodite.

 

Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA

(Photos are from a trip in Feb 2020)

Location : Taxila Museum, Taxila, Punjab

 

Category : - Monument / Heritage of Punjab > - Gandhara > - Taxila > ◆ Punjab > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan > ◇ Museum of Pakistan
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Taxila – Mohra Moradu

This is Mohra Muradu, one of Taxila’s historic Buddhist ruins. It’s actually a mysterious sounding name, but the ruins of Gandhara’s monastery and stupa is simply taken from the nearby village, Mohra Muradu.
This picture shows the main stupa square platform, which is 4.75m (15.6 ft) tall.

 

Mohra Muradu has two stupas. There is a main stupa and a smaller stupa to the south of it, and there are stucco statues (decorative stucco) of Buddha and elephants which remain preserved on the walls.

 

The monastery has 27 cells on all four sides of a square courtyard, and some of them have stairs, so you can see some had additional levels. The central part of the garden is empty, possibly used for ceremonial baths.

 

This is a preserved Stucco Buddha statue (decoratively lacquered) in the monastery. The coloring remains despite the many years that have passed.

 

The highlight and masterpiece of Mohra Muradu is this 4m (13 ft) tall monumental votive stupa. Found in a small cell of the monastery, it is a hemispherical bowl on a circular platform, with a flat box-shaped fixture on it (probably a place to store a sarira, a container holding the Buddha’s remains). And on top, is a decorative 7-layered umbrella-shaped structure.
When you have so many layers, it doesn’t even really look like an umbrella, but it was a must-have item during the Buddha’s day. When a king or nobleman was outside, servants held an umbrella over by his head. It became a symbol of respect as well for Buddha, and the believers donated umbrella covers stacked to the top.

 

This is the 5 layer circular platform of the votive stupa. Each panel on the sides is separated by Corinthian columns (influenced by the Greeks) and decorated with carved reliefs of Buddha.
Also supporting at the base, is the elephant and the Greek god Atlas, who was said to “carry the sky at the west end of the world.”

 

Photo & text : Mariko SAWADA

(Photos are from a trip in 2005)

Location : Mohra Moradu, Taxila, Punjab

Category : - Monument / Heritage of Punjab > - Gandhara > - Taxila > ◆ Punjab > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan
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Dharmarajika – Taxila

In the 3rd Century BC, there were 2 stupas built by the Mauryan Empire King Ashoka in the Ghandara region. One is the stupa at Butkara ruins in Swat, and the other is the Dharmarajika stupa in Taxila.

Today, the oldest stupa which overall retains its original shape is the one in Sanchi, India, but there are similar huge stupas in the Ghandara region, built in the same circular form. However, unlike Sanchi’s stupas, they do not have column shields or trana. Instead there are shrines and smaller stupas around the main stupa.

 

The main stupa stands at height of 15m and a diameter of 30m.
Around 500 BC, the Buddha entered Nirvana (passed away) around Kushinagar. Seven days later, he was cremated and the relics (sarira) were placed in a relic urn in eight tombs at the bottom of the center of the tomb. This was the first stupa, and the sarira and its urn were worshipped.
In 3rd century BC, the Mauryan King Ashoka collected the relics (sarira) and distributed them to place in newly built stupas. The Dharmarajika stupa enshrines the relics.

 

The Main Stupa has a path of circumambulation (a path around the temple for walking prayer) and around it, there is a group of shrines and smaller stupas that were built in the 1st century BC to 4th century AD by the Kushan Empire in Ghandara.

On the walls of the square-shaped platform, you can see the Ghandara style architecture with panels and wall tiles separated by the Corinthian columns.

 

Decorations on the base of small stupas show elephants and figures supporting the platform. These are the figure of the Greek God Atlas.

 

Atlas is a Greek myth that supports the sky at the western end of the world. In Gandhara, it appears to support the pedestal of the Buddha and the platform of the stupa. The Greek gods seem to be supporting the Buddhist world view, the beautiful expression of the fusion of Eastern and Western cultures … it’s truly romantic.

 

There are remnants of stucco Buddha status inside the shrine, but unfortunately, they were destroyed. The Stucco statue is a clay statue made in Ghandara that was popular from the 3rd to 4th century AD.

For sightseeing in Taxila, the three main attractions are the Taxila museum, city ruins of Sirkap and the Jaulian monastery, but I hope you can take time to visit the Dharmarajika, too!

Text & Photo : Mariko SAWADA
Visit : Feb 2020, Dharmarajika, Taxila, Punjab

 

Category : - Monument / Heritage of Punjab > - Gandhara > - Taxila > ◆ Punjab > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan
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Sirkap – Taxila

About 30km northwest of Islamabad, the Taxila ruins are located at the eastern edge of an area that once flourished in Ghandara art (Buddhist visual art). Taxila is a group of archeological sites, stupas, monasteries etc. but among them, Sirkap city archeological site is an important area which is a must-visit for all tourists.

 

In the 2nd century BC, the city was built by Bactrian Greeks (Indo-Greek) who flourished in northern Afghanistan. The ruins of the town are located off of the main street and they spread out in a grid pattern, the foundations of the shops, Buddhist temples and Buddhist pagodas endure.

 

Ghandara stood in a cultural intersection where it received the cultural influence of India from the east and the cultural inspirations from Greece and Persia (Iran) from the west. The iconic buildings that symbolize that remains in Sirkap.

This is the “Double-Headed Eagle Stupa” that remains in Sirkap. There are three panels separated by Corinthian wall columns with shoots of Acanthus decorations on the wall of either side of the stairs in front of the square platform.

 

The beautifully preserved panels just to the right of the stairs.

In the panel on the very left, the Greek temple style building with the triangular gables.
Decorating the central panel is a double-headed eagle-like bird perched on top of an arched building shaped like the entrance to the Indian Chaitya Temple. The double-headed eagle is a design often found in Western Asia such as in Hittite and Babylonia.
On the rightmost panel is an Indian Torana (like the Indian Sanchi stupas) with a bird-like figure on top of it.

The Taxila Double-Headed Eagle Stupa is a structure that captures your imagination, blending the architectural artistry of India, Greece and Western Asia.

 

An aerial view of Sirkap, taken by drone, shows a large circular building foundation on the left side of the main street. It is said that it is the remains of a Chaitya temple because it has the same structure of the sacred temples.

It had been quite a long time since I was last able to visit Sirkap, but this time, I could see many students from Pakistan and families coming out for a picnic. Most of the Ghandara ruins are located on mountain tops, but this one is a flat, easy to access spot where people can enjoy the family time.

 

Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA

Visit : Feb 2020, Sirkap, taxila, Punjab

Category : - Gandhara > - Taxila > ◆ Punjab > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan
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(Vlog) Safe? Discovering the heart of Pakistan!Is it Safe? Discovering the heart of Pakistan! (including an insightful Travel Vlog shared by our customer)

This February, we traveled the heart of Pakistan with a Swiss and Mexican couple, Lucas and Patricia. Indus Caravan lead the trip from Lahore to Peshawar along the Grand Trunk Road, the railway made during the British-Indian Empire. Please check out the travel vlog from the eyes of a tourist traveling Pakistan, with the narration in Spanish and the subtitles in English.

Safe? Discovering the heart of Pakistan!

The insightful video takes you along the journey from Peshawar to Rhori, a riverside town to the Indus and the train station. The vlog touches on the “History and Hospitality of Pakistan” from the Mughal period, the influence of the British-Indian Empire, to now.

 

Text : Mariko SAWADA

Special Thanks to SUMMERMATTER DIAZ ENRIQUETA PATRICIA.
Please visit her website : https://elpadiro.ch/

Category : = Video Clip Punjab > ◆ Video Breathtaking Views of Pakistan > = Video Clip KPK > ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > ◆ Punjab > ◇ Pakistan Railways > ◇ Pakistan Travel Tip
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”The King’s Road” Traveling to the end of Grand Trunk Road

When driving from the capital city of Islamabad to Peshawar, you might be asked “Will you take the motorway? Or the GT Road?”

This GT Road refers to the “Grand Trunk Road” the main road of the ancient Mughal Empire or “The King’s Road” Of course, it looks just like any other modern asphalt road, but it has a deep history.

In the first place, “The King’s Road” = Grand Trunk Road is an extensive network created by the Afghan dynasty Sher Shah Suri who, in the 16th Century, took power after the Mughal Empire and set about improving the roads. During the brief reign of the Suri Empire, the road from Agra to his hometown Bihar (India) was first completed. Then eastward to what is now Bangladesh, the road to Sonargaon was made. And westward to Multan, which is now Pakistan. The Mughal Empire returned and the whole Empire was expanded from the current port of Chittagong (or Chattogram), Bangladesh to the east, across the Khyber Pass to Kabul, Afghanistan, and developed into a vast Mughal Empire.

This “King’s Road” was rebuilt during the British India era. The British launched three invasion towards Afghanistan but failed to colonize it. This section from Calcutta to Peshwar, ending just before Afghanistan, was given the name “Grand Trunk Road” and it remains so to this day.
There are still remnants of the glory days of the prospering “Grand Trunk Road” that have been retained in small pockets.

Mughal Era Cobblestone Road

On the outskirts of Islamabad, there remains a cobblestone road from the Mughal Empire’s Grand Trunk Road. It can be found just beside the more modern GT Roads. The cobblestone road has the traces of wear by carriage wheels that travelled over it for so many years.

Lahore Fort (a UNESCO World Heritage Site)

The ancient capital of the Mughal Empire, Lahore. Since then, many buildings have been built on top of the original castle that remains since the Mughal era. This is a photo of the main gate at night, Alamgiri Gate. The Shah Jahan period was when the gorgeous additions were made with the famous Sheesh Mahal “Palace of Mirrors” reminiscent of the prosperous times of the Mughal Empire.

Rohtas Fort (a UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Built by Sher Shah Suri, sitting above the Grand Trunk Road. The Rohtas Fort was built by Sher Shah Suri to protect the strategic road from Peshawar to Lahore.

Caravan Serai

In the old bazaar of Peshawar, remains the caravan serai  which was a place for travelers to rest from their long journey. It was during the old days, that many merchants traveled through here and supported the vast Mughal Empire, and afterwards in colonial times as well. The Peshawar would have been a thriving place with products from all over Central Asia and India.

Khyber Gate

When traveling from Peshawar to Khyber Pass this is the monument and gate that stands at the entrance. On one side of the road is Jamrud Fort, a fort built by Sikhs who invaded an old fort and rebuilt it in 1823. In front of Khyber Pass, which connects between Central and South Asia, you can see the history of the battles that took place between various ethnic groups. After you cross the Khyber Pass, the Torkham boarder and the Grand Trunk Road continues into Afghanistan to the west.

Babur’s Tomb

The first Emperor of the Mughal Empire was Babur. Originally from Central Asia, he set up his first base of operations in Kabul, and from there, set up the Punjab Plain, and conquered India, then in 1526 he founded the Mughal Empire as the emperor, in Agra. Just 4 years later, he died in Agra. He wished to have his tomb in his beloved Kabul, so after a war and some years later his family built a tomb in Kabul. (This photo was taken during restorations of Babur Gardens, so now it is even more beautiful to visit and see the elaborate Mughal Empire’s tomb.)

After the war in Afghanistan, the tomb of Barbur was in horrible disrepair, reflective of the destruction of the great Mughal Empire’s war history. The Afghanistan’s Urban Heritage Project to develop the city and revive its cultural identity with Bagh-e Babur, Babur’s Garden. It overlooks the same city that started and ended the Grand Trunk Road.

Winter in Kabul, from the Babur Gardens with the tomb of Babur.

 

Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA

※Photos of Kabul are from 2006 and the scenery may have changed since then.
※This article is an updated version of the blog posted in “Salaam Pakistan” in June 2011.

 

Category : - Grand Trunk Road > - Monument / Heritage of Punjab > ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > ◆ Punjab > - Lahore > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan
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(video) Rohtas Fort – Legacy of Sher Shar Suri

Rohtas Fort is one of the six World Heritage Sites in Pakistan.

A fortress built by Sher Shah (Founder of Sur Empire, a short-lived empire from 1539 to 1555)  who built the transportation networks that served as the foundation for Mughal empire.

Sher Shah built ” The Grand Trunk Road “between Kabul and the Punjab Plain and built Rohtas Fort on it’s middle way.

Aerial view of Lotus Fort by dronefootage.

 

Video &  text : Mariko SAWADA

Visit : Feb 2020, Rohtas Fort, Punjab

Category : = Video Clip Punjab > ◆ Video Breathtaking Views of Pakistan > - Monument / Heritage of Punjab > ◆ Punjab > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan
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White-browed Wagtail – Soon Valley

A White-browed Wagtail observed in Uchhali Lake in Soon Valley. Uchhali Lake is a salty blackish water lake and insects live on the shore; where birds feed upon.
At the lake pier, we saw a pair of White-browed Wagtail  feeding on the insects.
White-browed Wagtail is 21cm in length, the largest among Wagtail family.
White-browed Wagtail is endemic to Indian sub-continent. In Pakistan, it lives in northern Punjab year-round.

A White-browed Wagtail carrying material for  the nest.
You can listen to the beautiful songs during the breeding season from March to October.

Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA

Observation: end of March 2019, Uchhali Lake, Soon Valley, Punjab

Reference: Birds of Pakistan, Birds of the Indian Subcontinents (Helm Field Guides)

Category : ◆ Punjab > - Soon Valley > ◇ Birds of Pakistan
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Balkasar Bear Sanctuary, Protect Bears in Pakistan!

This is the story of Balkasar Bear Sanctuary.
An acquaintance working in the hunting tourism sector invited me to visit the Balkasar Bear Sanctuary. At first, I didn’t know the main idea behind this place until I went there and saw the reality.

 

The bears were safeguarded and brought here from the entertainment show businesses like, “Bear Fighting” and “Dancing Bear”.

Most of the bears were owned by landlords in the southern part of Pakistan (South Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan), and their teeth and claws were taken out and sold.

Some individuals even had no limbs. They were cut out by their avaricious owners as a punishment for not obeying.
Seeing a bear with no limbs in front of me, I could not believe how cruel humans are.

 

Himalayan black bear under the training.

An acquaintance brought me here, who is a hunting tour operator involved in the bear conservation project and is responsible for the operations of returning to the wild. For him, knowing real wild animals, abuse of wild bear was not acceptable.

As I mentioned in the previous blog, Pakistan’s hunting situation is somehow contributing to the conservation of wild animals. The officials decide every year quota for each animal and returning profits to the local area. In this way, illegal hunting has halted and simultaneously protecting wild animals. Though it works only for animals which are labeled as “Trophy Hunting” animals, not for all the animals.

 

Time for the evening meal.

Balkasar Bear Sanctuary has 54 bears. The vast majority of them are black bears.

According to the experts, the current population of wild bears in Pakistan is assessed to be between 600 and 650 Himalayan black bears, 200 to 250 Himalayan brown bears. Though there is no official survey.
This means that approximately 6-7% of Pakistani bears are saved and protected in Balkasar Bear Sanctuary.

 

As my curiosity escalated, I asked how these bears are sold in the city.

In many cases, shepherd and locals search for hibernating mother bear and cub, killing the mother bear and bringing cub for sale.

I could not believe all these stories but it is a hard reality.

These bears were dealt badly in show business. When they were rescued and brought to the sanctuary their condition was utterly horrendous. Even the staff had difficulty confronting the truth of what befell these bears.
Pakistani and foreign veterinarians who cooperate with this Bear Sanctuary have helped save many bear’s life.

Unfortunately, these bears can’t go back to the wild anymore. The teeth and claws were taken out by some remorseless and selfish humans.

The purpose of this facility is to provide these bears to spend their remaining lives in a natural condition with other bears.

 

Moreover, this facility is working hard daily to return the bears to the wild who  are able to survive in the wild.
In the early summer 2016, they released three Himalayan black bears, and that success encouraged them to adopt this practice regular.
In the early summer of 2017, they released two Himalayan brown bears (2 and a half years old) who were trained to return to the wild.

As of October 2019, when we visited this sanctuary, two of them have survived in the wild. A microchip was embedded and its movement was monitored.

Some Himalayan black bear cubs are expected to return to the wild in 2020. The cubs will be trained regarding how to catch a fish at the facility in Nathia Gali.
Lobbying to the government has also been made at the same time.

 

It is also surprising that Balkasar Bear Sanctuary is not operating with aid funds such as the government’s or donations, but is working with income from their vegetable garden.

Negotiating with owners of bears such as powerful landlords, saving the bear from them, and returning the cubs to the wild is not an easy task by any means.

Wild animals such as Ibex and other goats’ families are protected under the trophy hunting resume and no doubt the number is increased, but bears are not protected at all and are in danger condition.

I would like to express my sincere respect and gratitude to the people of Balkasar Bear Sanctuary who fight against the cruel humans for the sake of wildlife, bears of Pakistan.

 

Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA
Visit : Oct 2019, Balkasar, Punjab, Pakistan

Category : - Himalayan Brown Bear > ◆ Punjab > ◇ Wildlife of Pakistan > ◇ Conservation of Wildlife, Nature
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Black-winged Stilt – Soon Valley

A Black-winged Stilt observed at Uchhali lake in the Soon Valley. It was feeding on the underwater invertebrates in the shallow water.
Black-winged Stilt is a widely spread water bird; mainly found in Europe, Africa, and South Asia, and is characterized by its long red foot.
When it flies, its feet resemble the tail feathers.
In Pakistan, it travels as a summer bird in northern Punjab. Moreover, it is observed all year round in the waters of southern Punjab, Sindh and on the coast of Balochistan.

 

Uchhali Lake with black saltwater reflecting the exquisite scenery around the lake.

 

The lake is surrounded by lush green mountains and tranquil villages.

 

If there is no wind, the lake surface reflects the view as a clear mirror.

 

A beautiful and crystal-clear sight of Black-winged Stilt reflected on the surface of the lake, just like a mirror.

 

Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA
Observation: end of March 2019, Uchhali Lake, Soon Valley, Punjab
Reference: Birds of Pakistan, Birds of the Indian Subcontinents (Helm Field Guides)

Category : ◆ Punjab > - Soon Valley > ◇ Birds of Pakistan
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