Taxila

ٹیکسلا

( Taxila )

Taxila or Takshashila (Punjabi and Urdu: ٹيکسلا; (Sanskrit: तक्षशिला); Pali: Takkasilā; Prakrit: 𑀢𑀔𑀲𑀺𑀮𑀸, Takkhasilā; Ancient Greek: Τάξιλα Táxila), is a city in Punjab, Pakistan. Located in the Taxila Tehsil of Rawalpindi District, it lies approximately 25 kilometres (16 mi) northwest of the Islamabad–Rawalpindi metropolitan area and is just south of Haripur District in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Alexander the Great was able to gain control of Taxila in 326 BCE without a battle, as the city was immediately sur...Read more

Taxila or Takshashila (Punjabi and Urdu: ٹيکسلا; (Sanskrit: तक्षशिला); Pali: Takkasilā; Prakrit: 𑀢𑀔𑀲𑀺𑀮𑀸, Takkhasilā; Ancient Greek: Τάξιλα Táxila), is a city in Punjab, Pakistan. Located in the Taxila Tehsil of Rawalpindi District, it lies approximately 25 kilometres (16 mi) northwest of the Islamabad–Rawalpindi metropolitan area and is just south of Haripur District in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Alexander the Great was able to gain control of Taxila in 326 BCE without a battle, as the city was immediately surrendered by its ruler, king Omphis (Raja Ambhi).

Old Taxila was an important city of ancient India, situated on the eastern shore of the Indus River—the pivotal junction of the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia; it was founded around 1000 BCE. Some ruins at Taxila date to the time of the Achaemenid Persian Empire in the 6th century BCE, followed successively by the Maurya Empire, the Indo-Greek Kingdom, the Indo-Scythians, and the Kushan Empire. Owing to its strategic location, Taxila has changed hands many times over the centuries, with many polities vying for its control. When the great ancient trade routes connecting these regions ceased to be important, the city sank into insignificance and was finally destroyed by the nomadic Central Asian Hunas in the 5th century. In the mid-19th century, British archaeologist Alexander Cunningham rediscovered the ancient city's ruins. In 1980, Taxila was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

By some accounts, the university in ancient Taxila is considered to be one of the earliest universities in the world. Other scholars do not consider it to have been a university in the modern sense, in that the teachers living there may not have had official membership of particular colleges, and there did not seem to have existed purpose-built lecture halls and residential quarters in Taxila. In a 2010 report, the Global Heritage Fund identified Taxila as one of 12 worldwide sites that "on the verge" of irreparable loss and damage, citing insufficient management, development pressure, looting, and armed conflict as primary threats. However, significant preservation efforts have been carried out by the Pakistani government since then, which has resulted in the site being declared as "well-preserved" by different international publications. Because of the extensive preservation efforts and upkeep, the site is a popular tourist spot, attracting up to one million tourists every year.

Early settlement

The region around Taxila was settled by the neolithic era, with some ruins at Taxila dating to 1000 BCE.[1][2] Ruins dating from the Early Harappan period around 1300 BCE[3] have also been discovered in the Taxila area,[2] though the area was eventually abandoned after the collapse of the Indus Valley civilisation.

The earliest settled occupation in Taxila Valley was found at Sarai Khola, located 2 km to the south-west of Taxila Museum, where three radiocarbon dates from Period I suggest the site was first occupied between the late 4th and early 3rd millennium BCE, with deposits of polished stone celts, chert blades and a distinctive type of highly burnished pottery that shows clear signs of the use of woven baskets in the manufacturing process and the application of a slurry to the exterior surface.[4] Periods IA and II at Sarai Khola seem to show continuity from Period I, with the appearance of red burnished wares. However, Kot Diji-style wares were found in greater numbers, and the Kot Diji-style forms show signs of having been wheel-thrown, marking a clear technological change from the Period I material. Seven radiocarbon dates were also taken from the earlier and later Period II/Kot Diji, and seem to show this phase dates from the mid-late 3rd to early 2nd millennium BCE.[4]

Later on, the first major settlement at Taxila, in Hathial mound, was established around 1000 BCE.[5][6][7] By 900 BCE, the city was already involved in regional commerce, as discovered pottery shards reveal trading ties between the city and Puṣkalāvatī.[8]

Later, Taxila was inhabited at Bhir Mound, dated to some time around the period 800-525 BCE with these early layers bearing grooved red burnished ware.[9]

 
Eastern border of the Achaemenid Empire
Achaemenid

Archaeological excavations show that the city may have grown significantly during the rule of the Persian Achaemenid Empire in the 6th century BCE. In 516 BCE, Darius I embarked on a campaign to conquer Central Asia, Ariana and Bactria, before marching onto what is now Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. Emperor Darius spent the winter of 516-515 BCE in the Gandhara region surrounding Taxila, and prepared to conquer the Indus Valley, which he did in 515 BCE,[10] after which he appointed Scylax of Caryanda to explore the Indian Ocean from the mouth of the Indus to the Suez. Darius then returned to Persia via the Bolan Pass. The region continued under Achaemenid suzerainty under the reign of Xerxes I, and continued under Achaemenid rule for over a century.[11]

Taxila was sometimes ruled as part of the Gandhara kingdom (whose capital was Pushkalavati), particularly after the Achaemenid period, but Taxila sometimes formed its own independent district or city-state.[12][13]

Hellenistic
 
A map of Alexander's campaign in ancient India.

During his invasion of the Indus Valley, Alexander the Great was able to gain control of Taxila (Ancient Greek: Τάξιλα)[14] in 326 BCE without a battle, as the city was surrendered by its ruler, king Omphis (Āmbhi).[11] Greek historians accompanying Alexander described Taxila as "wealthy, prosperous, and well governed".[11] Arrian writes that Alexander was welcomed by the citizens of the city, and he offered sacrifices and celebrated a gymnastic and equestrian contest there.[15]

Mauryan

By 317 BCE, the Greek satraps left by Alexander were driven out,[16] and Taxila came under the control of Chandragupta Maurya, who turned Taxila into a regional capital. His advisor, Kautilya/Chanakya, was said to have taught at Taxila's university.[17] Under the reign of Ashoka the Great, Chandragupta's grandson, the city was made a great seat of Buddhist learning, though the city was home to a minor rebellion during this time.[18]

Taxila was founded in a strategic location along the ancient "Royal Highway" that connected the Mauryan capital at Pataliputra in Bihar, with ancient Peshawar, Puṣkalāvatī, and onwards towards Central Asia via Kashmir, Bactria, and Kāpiśa.[19] Taxila thus changed hands many times over the centuries, with many empires vying for its control.

Indo-Greek

In the 2nd century BCE, Taxila was annexed by the Indo-Greek kingdom of Bactria. Indo-Greeks built a new capital, Sirkap, on the opposite bank of the river from Taxila.[20] During this new period of Bactrian Greek rule, several dynasties (like Antialcidas) likely ruled from the city as their capital. During lulls in Greek rule, the city managed profitably on its own, to independently control several local trade guilds, who also minted most of the city's autonomous coinage. In about the 1st century BCE or 1st century CE, an Indo-Scythian king named Azilises had three mints, one of which was at Taxila, and struck coins with obverse legends in Greek and Kharoṣṭhī.

The last Greek king of Taxila was overthrown by the Indo-Scythian chief Maues around 90 BCE.[21] Gondophares, founder of the Indo-Parthian Kingdom, conquered Taxila around 20 BCE, and made Taxila his capital.[22] According to early Christian legend, Thomas the Apostle visited Gondophares IV around 46 CE,[23] possibly at Taxila given that city was Gondophares' capital city.

Kushan

Around the year 50 CE, the Greek Neopythagorean philosopher Apollonius of Tyana allegedly visited Taxila, which was described by his biographer, Philostratus, writing some 200 years later, as a fortified city laid out on a symmetrical plan, similar in size to Nineveh. Modern archaeology confirms this description.[24] Inscriptions dating to 76 CE demonstrate that the city had come under Kushan rule by that time, after the city was captured from the Parthians by Kujula Kadphises, founder of the Kushan Empire.[25] The great Kushan ruler Kanishka later founded Sirsukh, the most recent of the ancient settlements at Taxila.

Gupta

In the mid-fourth century CE, the Gupta Empire occupied the territories in Eastern Gandhara, establishing a Kumaratya's post at Taxila. The city became well known for its trade links, including silk, sandalwood, horses, cotton, silverware, pearls, and spices. It is during this time that the city heavily features in classical Indian literature – both as a centre of culture as well as a militarised border city.[26][27]

Taxila's university remained in existence during the travels of Chinese pilgrim Faxian, who visited Taxila around 400 CE.[28] He wrote that Taxila's name translated as "the Severed Head", and was the site of a story in the life of Buddha "where he gave his head to a man".[29]

Decline

The Kidarites, vassals of the Hephthalite Empire are known to have invaded Taxila in c. 450 CE. Though repelled by the Gupta Emperor Skandagupta, the city would not recover- probably on account of the strong Hunnic presence in the area, breakdown of trade as well as the three-way war between Persia, the Kidarite State, and the Huns in Western Gandhara.

The White Huns and Alchon Huns swept over Gandhāra and Punjab around 470 CE, causing widespread devastation and destruction of Taxila's famous Buddhist monasteries and stupas, a blow from which the city would never recover. From 500 CE to 540 CE, the city languished [30] after falling under the control of the Hunnic Empire ruled by Mihirakula. A patron of Hindu Shaivism,[31] Mihirakula presided over some destruction of Buddhist sites and monasteries across northwestern regions of the Indian subcontinent.[32][33]

Xuanzang visited India between 629 and 645 CE. Taxila which was desolate and half-ruined was visited by him in 630 CE, and found most of its sangharamas still ruined and desolate. Only a few monks remained there. He adds that the kingdom had become a dependency of Kashmir with the local leaders fighting amongst themselves for power. He noted that it had some time previously been a subject of Kapisa. By the ninth century, it became a dependency of the Kabul Shahis. The Turki Shahi dynasty of Kabul was replaced by the Hindu Shahi dynasty which was overthrown by Mahmud of Ghazni with the defeat of Trilochanpala.[34][35]

Al-Usaifan's king during the reign of Al-Mu'tasim is said to have converted to Islam by Al-Biladhuri and abandoned his old faith due to the death of his son despite having priests of a temple pray for his recovery. Said to be located between Kashmir, Multan and Kabul, al-Usaifan is identified with kingdom of Taxila by some authors.[36][37]

^ "Taxila – Once a Great Centre Of Buddhist Civilization | Tourism Department Punjab". tourism.punjab.gov.pk. Retrieved 4 November 2022. ^ a b Allchin & Allchin 1988, p. 127. ^ "Taxila – Once a Great Centre Of Buddhist Civilization | Tourism Department Punjab". tourism.punjab.gov.pk. Retrieved 4 November 2022. ^ a b Petrie, Cameron, (2013). "Taxila", in D. K. Chakrabarti and M. Lal (eds.), History of Ancient India III: The Texts, and Political History and Administration till c. 200 BC, Vivekananda International Foundation, Aryan Books International, Delhi, p. 654. ^ Allchin & Allchin 1988, p. 314: "The first city of Taxila at Hathial goes back at least to c. 1000 B.C." ^ Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. "Taxila". whc.unesco.org. ^ Scharfe 2002, p. 141. ^ Mohan Pant, Shūji Funo, Stupa and Swastika: Historical Urban Planning Principles in Nepal's Kathmandu Valley. NUS Press, 2007 ISBN 9971693720, citing Allchin: 1980 ^ Petrie, Cameron, (2013). "Taxila", in D. K. Chakrabarti and M. Lal (eds.), History of Ancient India III: The Texts, and Political History and Administration till c. 200 BC, Vivekananda International Foundation, Aryan Books International, Delhi, p. 656. ^ "Darius the Great - 8. Travels - Livius". www.livius.org. ^ a b c Marshall 1951, p. 83. ^ Samad, Rafi U (2011). The Grandeur of Gandhara: The Ancient Buddhist Civilization of the Swat, Peshawar, Kabul and Indus Valleys. ISBN 9780875868592. ^ Marshall 1951, pp. 16–17, 30, 71. ^ Stephanus of Byzantium, Ethnica, § T602.8 ^ Arrian, Anabasis of Alexander, § 5.8 ^ Mookerji 1988, p. 31. ^ Mookerji 1988, pp. 22, 54. ^ Thapar 1997, p. 52. ^ Thapar 1997, p. 237. ^ Kulke & Rothermund 2004, p. 75. ^ Marshall 1951, p. 84. ^ Marshall 1951, p. 85. ^ Medlycott 1905, Chapter: The Apostle and Gondophares the Indian King. ^ Marshall 2013, pp. 28–30, 69, 88–89. ^ Kulke & Rothermund 2004, p. 80. ^ Kumar, Sanjeev (2017). Treasures of the Gupta Empire - A Catalogue of Coins of the Gupta Dynasty. ^ Ancient India by Ramesh Chandra Majumdar ^ Needham 2005, p. 135. ^ A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms, Being an Account by the Chinese Monk Fa-Hsien of his Travels in India and Ceylon in Search of the Buddhist Books of Discipline, Chapter 11 ^ Marshall 1951, p. 86. ^ Mihirakula, Encyclopaedia Britannica ^ Li Rongxi (1996), The Great Tang Dynasty Record of the Western Regions, Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai and Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, Berkeley, pp. 97–100 ^ Singh, Upinder (2017). Political Violence in Ancient India. Harvard University Press. p. 241. ISBN 978-0-674-97527-9. ^ A Guide to Taxila. Cambridge University Press. 20 June 2013. pp. 39, 46. ISBN 9781107615441. ^ Elizabeth Errington; Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis. Persepolis to the Punjab: Exploring Ancient Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. British Museum Press. p. 134. ^ The Panjab Past and Present - Volume 11 - Page 18 ^ Pakistan Journal of History and Culture - Volumes 4-5 - Page 11
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