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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Takht-i-Bahi, Ghandara’s Buddhist Monastery

The ruins of Gandhara include city ruins like Taxila’s Sirkap and Buddhist temples secluded deep in the mountains. Takht-i-Bahi is a typical example of Buddhist temples built during this time. Takht-i-Bahi is 80 km (50 miles) northwest of Peshawar and 15 km (9 miles) from the town of Mardan and has been a well-preserved archaeological site since long ago.
In the 1 – 7th Centuries AD, Gandhara art had reached its peak in the Kushan Dynasty with the flourishing Buddhist temples. The (winter) capital of this era was Purushapura, which today, is known as Peshawar.

 

The Takht-i-Bahi Buddhist site was built on a mountain, rising 150m (492 feet) above the plains. Walking up the well-maintained stairs, you will arrive at the archeological site and at the entrance of the dedication tower area.

This photo of the wall of the ruins was taken just at the entrance. The upper section is an unrestored wall from the Gandhara era, but the white line shows the lower part, which is engraved with “A.S.I 1946” by archeological teams. “A.S.I.” stands for the “Archaeological Survey of India,” which worked to excavate and restore the site back during the British Indian Empire in 1946, before India and Pakistan separated.

 

The ruins of Takht-i-Bahi still retain the structure of the typical Gandhara Buddhist Temple, which includes the Main Stupa Court, the votive Stupa court, the monastery, meditation room and other structures.
Touring this site on foot, we came to this Stupa court, as the first thing we saw. There are 35 consecrated stupas lined up in a row between the South Tower and the North Monastery. Now, only the base of the structure is left. The base is decorated with Greek styled columns.

 

The votive Stupa Court
Of the 35 holy stupas, 2 are round base and the rest are rectangular in shape.

 

This is the monastery. There were 15 small cells surrounding the courtyard, each cell having a wall with a lamp on it, and some having a second floor. There is also what looked to be the remnants of a kitchen on the edge of the courtyard.

 

This is the Main Stupa. As you go up the stairs, you will see a square, then there is a 6.2m (20.3 foot) platform for the Main Stupa. There are shrines lined up on all three sides of this stupa, and stucco statues were placed in the wall of shrines.

 

This is a shrine near the stairs to the Main Stupa. The three sides are walled off and back in those days it was probably covered with stucco statues.

 

A basement area that is most likely a meditation room. The small room is pitch-black, but it connects to the bright courtyard.

This is the base of the stupa court where the caretaker lives. You can see the stucco of an Acanthus leaf sticking out from the top of the column. There is even still some color left.

 

If you climb up the mountain a little more, it leads to the observatory overlooking the ruins of Takht-i-Bahi and the town below. There are still many other buildings visible from here, so it is impressive to think what a huge Buddhist temple Takht-i-Bahi used to be.

 

Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA

(Photos are from a trip in Oct 2019, Feb 2020)

Location : Takht-i-Bhai, Mardan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

Category : - Gandhara > - Takht-i-Bahi > ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > ◇ Heritage 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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”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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Priest King of Mohenjodaro (National Museum of Pakistan, Karachi)

The great excavation of the Mohenjodaro mainly took place between 1922 – 1931. Many of Pakistan’s national treasures that were excavated before Pakistan’s independence in 1947, are stored in museums in Britain and India, but there are some valuable pieces still located in Pakistan.

One of the masterpieces that is housed at the National Museum of Pakistan is the “Priest King” of Mohenjodaro.

Mohenjodaro is the largest city of central Pakistan’s Indus Valley Civilization, which flourished between 2500 BC to 1800 BC. This Indus Valley Civilization was the oldest found in South Asia that eventually developed into the northwestern Indian subcontinent around the Indus River Basin. Archeologists from around the world are slowly revealing the significance of the life of the Indus Valley, but many mysteries remain unrevealed.

Despite the three other languages of ancient civilizations (Egyptian hieroglyphs, Mesopotamian and Chinese texts) already having been deciphered, the characters of the Indus language have not been deciphered yet. It shrouds the origins of their religion and history in mystery, but perhaps the biggest riddle is what caused their decline.

This statue of the Priest, housed in the National Museum of Pakistan in Karachi, is said to be a key in revealing the past relationship of the Indus Valley Civilization’s connection with Mesopotamia, based on the shape of the statue.

“Priest King” – Mohenjodaro :   Made from white soapstone, the modest size measures 17.5 cm high and 11 cm wide. During the excavation in 1927, it was unearthed from what was probably a noble’s house, a large building from the DK area.

 

The statue is adorned with a headband with a three-leaf pattern and was given the auspicious name of “Priest King.”

In fact, it is unclear if that is on display at Karachi’s National Museum is real or a replica. According to one theory, the real one is stored in a special vault for preservation, but when you ask the museum guard, they will tell you it is the original ‘real’ thing. So even this is wrapped in the mystery of the Indus Valley Civilization.

 

Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA
Visit: Feb 2020, Karachi, Sindh

※Photography inside the Museum is generally restricted. Large bags are also not allowed to be brought inside.

※This article was originally published as part of an article in “Salaam Pakistan” uploaded in September 2015.

 

Category : - Karachi > ◆ Sindh > ◇ Museum of Pakistan
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Mohenjo-daro

This is the ruins of the Indus Valley Civilization, the city of Mohenjo-daro (also Moenjodaro).

It is the site of the largest urban archeological settlement, with its most active period between 2500 to 1800 BC. It is believed that up to 40,000 people inhabited this area, in the east is a fortified section (There is a Gandhara stupa, Ritual bath believed to have been used for religious ceremonies, bathing or purifying, and for political gatherings) and divided on the western side (there were houses for the nobles, shops and commoners homes also). So far, only 10 percent of the area has been excavated, and scattered all around are unexcavated mounds.

Meaning “Mound of the Dead people” in Sindhi the local language, back in the old days, this burial place was a site that locals were afraid to come close. In 1921 an Indian archeologist excavated the site calling it the “2nd and 3rd Century Gandhara” but upon exploring it, they had uncovered a city ruins of the Indus Valley Civilization, much older than they thought.

Extensive excavations were carried out by the Archeological Survey of India (A.S.I)  during the British India period until 1947. In 1980 it was designated a World Heritage Site. It is still unclear what might have caused the decline of the city. During the survey, a seal was discovered, but because the text of the Indus script that is engraved on the seal has not been deciphered yet, the true name of the town is unknown.

 

This Mohenjodaro  SD Area’s Gandhara Stupa, which dates back to 2nd or 3rd Century AD. There is a monastery surrounding the area which is built using bricks from the Indus Valley Civilization.

 

The famous “Great bath” area is 12m x 7m and 2.5m deep, and there are remain of  waterproofing on the elaborate wall made of bricks. It is said  that some religious ceremony was held here.  The stepped ghats (terraces) descending to the surface of the water are supposed to lead to Hindu features later.

 

A sewage system in the SD Area. It is covered with limestone rocks. Some of the DK area is built entirely underground.

 

This is also the sewage system in the SD area. Water from the Great Bath and other dwellings are directed through this channel to the Indus river. During that time, the Indus River ran very close to the town of Mohenjo-daro.

 

In the corner of this DK area home, is a “Rubbish Bin.” Similar efforts for “Trash collection” areas are also seen in the SD areas as well. Unfortunately, this concept of managing their garbage wasn’t carried into modern pakistan.

 

In the Urban DK area, an aristocratic house was a two story building, with access to the well even from the second floor.

 

“The Old Street” as it is called is the Main Street. On both sides it was lined with shops.

Recently, many domestic tourists of Pakistan have increased in visiting this site. Particularly at sunset, you will see many people.

Unfortunately, the time I visited Mohenjo-daro it was too cloudy to catch a good sunset. But my personal recommendation is to visit early in the morning, when you can enjoy “the deserted city of Mohenjo-daro.” without other tourists.

Photo & Text: Mariko SAWADA
Visit: Feb 2020, Nov 2019,  Mohenjo-daro, Sindh

Category : - Monument / Heritage of Sindh > ◆ Sindh > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan
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