July / August  2006




August/September Contents 

Sufis - wisdom against

 Sufi poet saints

 50 years of mountain

 Interviews with:
 Ajaz Anwar
Iqbal Hussain
Kamil Mumtaz

 Heritage cities:
 Taxila Dharmrajika
 Bhera - Part I
Bhera - Part II


Cotton - the fibre of

Cotton textiles of
 South Asia

 Handlooms & Dyes

 Hiran Minar


 Lahore Gymkhana

 B2B - Part I

B2B - Part II

Optical Networks I
Optical Networks II

Role of Internet in
 S Asian development

Technology and
 investment in US
 stock markets

Security & Trust in
 Internet banking

 Telecom & software
 - trends & future in
 South Asia

China & India - major
 players by 2025

Pakistan - IT Markets
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV









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TAXILA - 2002


Salman Minhas


First published in October 2002


JU+BMedit.jpg (34887 bytes)JU-Bud+LOtus.jpg (28110 bytes)JU-Txla-Monks-Rooms+Water-Crtyd.jpg (60365 bytes)
L-R: Meditating Buddha; in Lotus position; the monks' prayer room - Taxila complex in Pakistan

Taxila was one of the capitals of ancient kingdom of Gandhara – the other being Purushapura (later renamed Peshawar). Gandhara was the region, which, in present-day Pakistan, includes Peshawar, Dir, Swat, Bajaur and Bunair.

The first known reference to the Gandhara region is found in the Rig Veda of 1200 BC.  Later literature extols the splendour of Taxila ( Taksh-shila, as mentioned in the 6th century Buddhist texts) and its importance as a great centre of Buddhist learning.

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Standing Buddha at Taxila complex 


Gandhara was the meeting place of three great cultures – Indian, central Asian and Persian. It remained, for a long time, a province of the Mauryan Empire. Ashoka, the most famous of the Mauryan kings, turned Taxila into one of the most prestigious seats of Buddhist learning. Remains of his religious colleges are still extant. Fourteen rock edicts (inscriptions of Ashoka), explaining and elaborating his religious commands, are preserved, engraved on a rock at Shahbazgarhi in Peshawar valley. From the time of Ashoka to the 7th century AD, Gandhara remained the center of Buddhist religious education, with its university in Taxila, and its influence extended to Afghanistan and central Asia. Some of the principal Gandharan remains are in Taxila complex. Though Taxila was one of the capitals of Gandhara – the other being Purushapura (later renamed Peshawar) – Buddhist monuments of the same period are also found in Peshawar, Takht-i-Bha’I, Sahri Bahlol and numerous other sites." – Dr. Shaukat Mehmood


Sir John Marshall was the Director General of the Archaeological Survey of British India from 1913 to 1934, and Sir Mortimer Wheeler continued the work in 1944. Pakistani archaeologists continued the work after 1947 and found that in addition to the Gandhara settlements of Taxila between the period 600 B.C. to 100 A.D, there were also the Neolithic settlements found in Taxila and in the areas of Mardan, Peshawar between the rivers of Indus and Kabul as they join at Attock.

The classic Gandhara age – was the flowering of about 800 years of Indian, Persian , Greek, and Central Asian cultures .The city of Taxila is on the Grand Trunk [ GT] road about 30 miles from Islamabad & Rawalpindi. The remains of the old GT Road are still visible at a spot where one turns right towards Taxila going north near the railway line and the stone crushing plants that cause much of the haze over Islamabad’s pristine air.

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John Marshall's hut near the Taxila complex

Entering the Taxila area, one encounters the Armament factories and the Heavy Machinery Complex. These, and the University of Engineering and Technology are the salient features of Taxila . In addition, there are the beautiful, lush fruit and vegetable farms in the well watered valleys , the actual ruins, and the Taxila museum which Sir John Marshall built. Far beyond the ruins of the great Taxila university of the Gandhara period is the Atomic Energy complex.

The farms these days are full of corn , cauliflower, carrots , while the oranges are still an unripe green. The oranges in the nearby groves at Khanpur are the famous red-blood variety and one can still go and pick these oranges. Loquat trees are also in plenty supply. The farms supply most of Islamabad and Rawalpindi with fruits and vegetables.

The big dam at Khanpur supplies the water for these farms. Goats graze on the slopes of the small hills and in the glens in this area of Taxila among the ruins , near Sir John Marshalls hut at Jaulian where the old university ruins are . It could be a scene from Zorba – the Greek. At any moment one half expects o see a Zorba start to dance on the roof tops. But people here are Muslims, and as such more reserved .

Standing at the ruins, Omar Khayyam’s poetry echoes in my ear .

" They say the lion and the lizard ,keep the court,

Where Jamshyd the great gloried and drank deep.

And the wild ass stamps over his head ,

But cannot break his sleep ……."

TaxlaMeseum+Rosewood-ShishamTree.jpg (79739 bytes)The Old Taxila Museum is a grand old structure. It is built from the same stones as are still found in Taxila today and from which the locals make the mortar and pestle for the kitchens .The museum charges only four Rupees [ 7 US cents ] and one is not allowed to take pictures . Inside, there is a vast display of the elements of the daily items ofGate-Txla-Musem-Spellin-Perchase.jpg (50800 bytes) Gandharan everyday life - pots pans, spoons, clay objects , pots , and of course terra cotta figures of Buddha and exquisite Buddha and Boddhisattva statues in stone and terra cotta .The coin collection of gold , silver and stone is truly a coin collectors’ dream. The roof of the museum is made from teak. It is said that the palaces of the Persian kings once used wood grown in the area of Taxila. Shisham trees and cypresses surround the museum. The museum lawns are well tended and marigold flowers are in bloom at this time of the year. There is the sound of doves cooing. Young school girls in blue and white kameez-shalwar uniform have come on this day to the Museum ; young couples arrive with their children – it is the weekend.

Next time around, the other excavations around Taxila will be covered .Sirkup , Bhir mound, Sarai Khola, Hatial , Sirsukh, Dharma Rajika Stupa, Mohra Moradu and Jaulian – the University in more detail . This has been the first of a series of articles on Taxila & Gandhara civilization.

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