Taxila: Emerald of History
July 29, 2011
Pakistan has a rich cultural and historical backgrounds, it may be a heaven for tourists as it owns not only the beautiful sites in the world but also have remains of thousands years old civilizations.
In fact it was the fascination of this land that attracted Alexander the great from Macedonia in 326 B.C., with whom the influence of Greek culture came to this part of the world.
During the 2nd century B.C., it was here that Buddhism was adopted as the state religion which flourished and prevailed here for over 1000 years, starting from 2nd century B.C., until 10th century A.D. During this time Taxila, Swat and Charsaddah (old Pushkalavati) became three important centres for culture, trade and learning. Hundreds of monasteries and stupas were built together with Greek and Kushan towns such as Sirkap and Sirsukh both in Taxila. It was from these centers that a unique art of sculpture originated which is known as Gandhara Art all over the world.
Today the Gandhara Sculptures occupy a prominent place in the museums of England, France, Germany, USA, Japan, Korea, China, India and Afghanistan together with many private collections world over, as well as in the museums of Pakistan. Nevertheless, the zenith of this Gandhara Art is one and only "Fasting Buddha" now on display in Lahore Museum, Lahore.
Taxila once most frequently visited place by the foreign tourists is situated about 32 km northwest of Islamabad Capital Territory and Rawalpindi.
Historically, Taxila lay at the crossroads of three major trade routes. The uttarapatha, the northern road—the later Grand Trunk or GT Road — the royal road which connected Gandhara in the west to the kingdom of Magadha and its capital Pa?aliputra in the Ganges valley in the east.The northwestern route through Bactria, Kapisa, and Pu?kalavati.
The Sindu (Indus river) route from Kashmir and Central Asia, via Srinagara, Mansehra, and the Haripur valley across the Khunjerab pass to the Silk Road in the north to the Indian Ocean in the south. The Khunjerab passes between Kashmir and Xinjiang—the current Karakoram highway—and was traversed in antiquity.
In 1980, Taxila was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site with multiple locations.
Taxila was a satrapy of the Achaemenid Empire. It was added during the reign of Darius the Great. The occupation did not last long, and there are no archaeological traces of western armies in the Punjab, although a claim that the Persians built something in the area was made in 2002.
The ruins of Taxila contain buildings and Buddhist stupas located over a large area. The main ruins of Taxila are divided into three major cities, each belonging to a distinct time period.
The oldest of these is the Hathial area, which yielded surface shards similar to burnished red wares (or 'soapy red wares') recovered from early phases at Charsadda, and may date between the 6th century BCE and the late 2nd millennium BCE. Bhir Mound dates from the 6th century BCE. The second city of Taxila is located at Sirkap and was built by Greco-Bactrian kings in the 2nd century BCE. The third and last city of Taxila is at Sirsukh and relates to the Kushan kings.
In addition to the ruins of the city, a number of Buddhist monasteries and stupas also belong to the Taxila area. Some of the important ruins of this category include the ruins of the stupa at Dharmarajika, the monastery at Jaulian, the monastery at MohraMuradu in addition to a number of stupas.
After 2005 Earthquake, the number of foreign visitors in Taxila declined sharply. The wave of terrorism added more miseries not only to Taxila’s local tourism but to the other parts of the country at large.
As compare to Sawat, Kalam and Kaghan, Taxila is not more than half an hour drive from the Capital city of Islamabad and it definitely need less effort and hard work for revival of its tourism industry.
For projecting soft image of Pakistan, the site may be a best inspiration. After the devolution of ministry of culture, it is now responsibility of the government of Punjab to take necessary steps and encourage foreign tourists’ visits to the Taxila.