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For the genus of metalmark butterflies, see Taxila .

Taxila (Urdu, , , Pali:Takkasilā) is an important archaeological site in the Punjabmarker province of Pakistanmarker.

It dates back to the Ancient Indian period and contains the ruins of the Gandhāran city of Takshashila (also Takkasila or Taxila) an important Vedic/Hindu and Buddhist centre of learning from the 6th century BCEto the 5th century CE. Takshashila, the place where this university existed, is currently in Pakistan, and gets its name from Taksha, who was the son of Bharata (the brother of Rama). Taksha ruled over the kingdom of Taksha Khanda which even extended beyond modern day Uzbekistan, and Tashkent -the present day Uzbek capital also gets its name from Taksha/Takshashila.Joseph Needham (2004), Within the Four Seas: The Dialogue of East and West, Routledge, ISBN 0415361664:
In 1980, Taxila was declared a UNESCOmarker World Heritage Site with multiple locations. Recently it has been ranked as the top Tourist Destination in Pakistan by The Guardian.

Historically, Taxila lay at the crossroads of three major trade routes: the royal highway from Pā aliputramarker; the north-western route through Bactria, Kāpiśa, and Pu kalāvatī (Peshawarmarker); and the route from Kashmirmarker and Central Asia, via Śrinigarmarker, Mansehramarker, and the Haripurmarker valley across the Khunjerab passmarker to the Silk Road.

Taxila is situated about to the north-west of Islamabad Capital Territorymarker—and Rawalpindimarker in Punjabmarker—just off the Grand Trunk Road. Its elevation above the sea-level is .

The Ruins

The ruins of Taxila consist of many different parts of the city buildings and buddhist stupas which are located in 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 Bhir Mound, which dates from the sixth century B.C.E. The second city of Taxila is located at Sirkap and was built by Greco-Bactrian kings in the second century B.C.E. 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 Mohra Muradu in addition to a number of stupas.

History of Taxila

A coin from 2nd century BCE Taxila.

Legend has it that Taksha, an ancient king who ruled in a kingdom called Taksha Khanda (Tashkentmarker) founded the city of Takshashila. The word Takshashila, in Sanskrit means "belonging to the King Taksha". Taksha was the son of Bharata and Mandavi, from Indian epic Ramayana.

In the epic Mahābhārata, the Kuru heir Parik it was enthroned at Taxila.

According to tradition The Mahabharata was first recited at Taxila by Vaishampayana, a disciple of Veda Vyasa at the behest of the seer Vyasa himself, at Janamejaya's (Parikshit's son) 12 year-long Sarpa-Satra Yajna (Snake Sacrifice).

According to one theory propounded by Damodar Dharmanand Kosambi, "Taxila" is related to "Tak aka," which means "carpenter" and is an alternative name for the Nāga.
  • c. 518 BCE – Darius the Great annexes modern day Pakistan, including Taxila, to the Persian Achaemenid Empire.
  • 326 BCE – Alexander the Great receives submission of Āmbhi, king of Taxila, and afterwards surrender to Porus at the Jhelum Rivermarker.
  • c. 317 BCE – In quick succession, Alexander's general Eudemus and then the satrap Peithon withdraw from the Indus.
  • 321 BCE-317 BCE Chandragupta Maurya, founder of the Mauryan empire in eastern Indiamarker, makes himself master of the northern and northwestern India, including Punjab. Chandragupta Maurya's advisor Kautilya (also known as Chanakya) was a teacher at Taxila.
  • During the reign of Chandragupta's grandson Aśoka, Taxila became a great Buddhist centre of learning. Nonetheless, Taxila was briefly the center of a minor local rebellion, subdued only a few years after its onset.
  • 185 BCE – The last Maurya emperor, B hadratha, is assassinated by his general, Pu yamitra Śunga, during a parade of his troops.
  • Early 100s BCE Indo Greeks build new capital, Sirkap, on the opposite bank of the river from Taxila. 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, managed independently and controlled by several local trade guilds, who also mint most of the city's autonomous coinage.
  • c. 90 BCE – The Indo-Scythian chief Maues overthrows the last Greek king of Taxila.
  • c. 25 CE – Gondophares, founder of the Indo-Parthian Kingdom, conquers Taxila and makes it his capital..
  • 76 – The date of and inscription found at Taxila of 'Great King, King of Kings, Son of God, the Kushana' (maharaja rajatiraja devaputra Kushana).
  • c. 460–470 – The Hephthalites sweep over Gandhāra and the Punjab; wholesale destruction of Buddhist monasteries and stupas at Taxila, which never again recovers.
Before the fall of these invader-kings, Taxila had been variously a capital for many dynasties, and a centre of Vedic and Buddhist learning, with a population of Buddhists, Classical Hindus, and possibly Greeks that may have endured for centuries.

The Britishmarker archaeologist Sir John Marshall conductedexcavations over a period of twenty years in Taxila.

Taxila mentioned in history

The city of Taxila is mentioned by the Chinese monk Faxian (also called Fa-Hien), who visited ancient sites of Buddhism in India. He came to Taxila in 405 CE. In his book "A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms, Being an Account by the Chinese Monk Fa-Hien of his Travels in India and Ceylon in Search of the Buddhist Books of Discipline" he mentions the kingdom of Takshasila (or Chu-cha-shi-lo) meaning "the severed Head" (Chapter 11). He says that this name was derived from an event in the life of Buddha because this is the place "where he gave his head to a man".

Xuanzang (also called Hieun Tsang), another Chinese monk, visited Taxila in 630 CE. He mentions the city as Ta-Cha-Shi-Lo. The city appears to have already been ruins by his time.

Ancient centre of learning

Stupa base at Sirkap, decorated with Hindu, Buddhist, and Greek temple fronts.
Takshashila was an early centre of learning dating back to at least the 5th century BCE.There is some disagreement about whether Takshashila can be considered a university. While some consider Taxila to be an early universityRadha Kumud Mookerji (2nd ed. 1951; reprint 1989), Ancient Indian Education: Brahmanical and Buddhist (p. 478), Motilal Banarsidass Publ., ISBN 8120804236:

Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund (2004), A History of India, Routledge, ISBN 0415329191:
Balakrishnan Muniapan, Junaid M. Shaikh (2007), "Lessons in corporate governance from Kautilya's Arthashastra in ancient India", World Review of Entrepreneurship, Management and Sustainable Development 3 (1):
or centre of higher education,Radha Kumud Mookerji (2nd ed. 1951; reprint 1989), Ancient Indian Education: Brahmanical and Buddhist (p. 479), Motilal Banarsidass Publ., ISBN 8120804236:
others do not consider it a university in the modern sense,Anant Sadashiv Altekar (1934; reprint 1965), Education in Ancient India, Sixth Edition, Revised & Enlarged, Nand Kishore & Bros, Varanasi:
F. W. Thomas (1944), in John Marshall (1951; 1975 reprint), Taxila, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi:
Taxila (2007), Encyclopædia Britannica:
in contrast to the later Nalandamarker University.Takshashila is described in some detail in later Jātaka tales, written in Sri Lankamarker around the 5th century CE.

Takshashila is considered a place of religious and historical sanctity by Hindus and Buddhists. The former do so not only because, in its time, Takshashila was the seat of Vedic learning, but also because the strategist, Chanakya, who later helped consolidate the empire of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya, was a senior teacher there. The institution is very significant in Buddhist tradition since it is believed that the Mahāyāna sect of Buddhism took shape there.

Some scholars date Takshashila's existence back to the 6th century BCE or 7th century BCE. It became a noted centre of learning at least several centuries before Christ, and continued to attract students from around the old world until the destruction of the city in the 5th century CE. Takshashila is perhaps best known because of its association with Chanakya. The famous treatise Arthashastra (Sanskrit for The knowledge of Economics) by Chanakya, is said to have been composed in Takshashila itself. Chanakya (or Kautilya), the Maurya Emperor Chandragupta and the Ayurvedic healer Charaka studied at Taxila.

Generally, a student entered Takshashila at the age of sixteen. The Vedas and the Eighteen Arts, which included skills such as archery, hunting, and elephant lore, were taught, in addition to its law school, medical school, and school of military science.

Taxila today

[[Image:IndoGreekArtifactsDrawings.JPG|thumb|Archaeological artifacts from the Indo-Greek strata at Taxila (John Marshall "Taxila, Archeological excavations"). From top, left:

  • Fluted cup (Bhir Mound, stratum 1)
  • Cup with rosace and decoratice scroll (Bhir Mound, stratum 1)
  • Stone palette with individual on a couch being crowned by standing woman, and served (Sirkap, stratum 5)
  • Handle with double depiction of a philosopher (Sirkap, stratum 5)
  • Woman with smile (Sirkap, stratum 5)
  • Man with moustache (Sirkap, stratum 5)]]
Stupa in Taxila

Present day Taxila is one of the seven Tehsils (sub-district) of Rawalpindi Districtmarker. It is spread over an undulating land in the periphery of the Pothohar Plateau of the Punjabmarker. Situated just outside the capital Islamabadmarker's territory and communicating with it through Tarnol pass of Margalla Hillsmarker.

Taxila is a mix of posh urban and rustic rural environs. Urban residential areas are in the form of small neat and clean colonies populated by the workers of heavy industries, educational institutes and hospitals that are located in the area.

Nicholson's obelisk, a monument of British colonial era situated at the Grand Trunk road welcomes the travellers coming from Rawalpindimarker/Islamabadmarker into Taxila. The monument was built by the British to pay tribute to Brigadier John Nicholson (1822-1857) an officer of the British Army who died in India during the Sepoy mutiny of 1857.

The industries include heavy machine factories and industrial complex, ordnance factories of Wah Cantt and cement factory. Heavy Industries Taxila is also based here. Small, cottage and household industries include stoneware, pottery and footwear. People try to relate the present day stoneware craft to the tradition of sculpture making that existed here before the advent of Islam.

In addition to the ruins of Gandhara civilisation and ancient Buddhist/Hindu culture, relics of Mughal gardens and vestiges of historical Grand Trunk Road, which was built by Emperor Sher Shah Suri in 15th-16th centuries, are also found in Taxila region.

Taxila Museum, dedicated mainly to the remains of Gandhara civilization, is also worth visiting. A hotel of the tourism department offers reasonably good services and hospitality to the tourists.

Taxila has many educational institutes including University of Engineering and Technologymarker (UET).


  1. UNESCO World Heritage List. 1980. Taxila: Brief Description. Retrieved 13 January 2007
  2. "History of Education", Encyclopædia Britannica, 2007.
  3. "Nalanda" (2007). Encarta.
  4. UNESCO World Heritage Site. 1980. Taxila: Multiple Locations. Retrieved 13 January 2007.
  6. Kosambi 1975:129
  7. Marshall 1975:83
  8. Named "Taxiles" by Greek sources after his capital city.
  9. Peithon was named by Alexander satrap of Sindh, and was again confirmed to the Gandhara region by the Treaty of Triparadisus in 320 BCE: "The country of the Parapamisians was bestowed upon Oxyartes, the father of Roxane; and the skirts of India adjacent to Mount Parapamisus, on Peithon the son of Agenor. As to the countries beyond that, those on the river Indus, with the city Patala (the capital of that part of India) were assigned to Porus. Those upon the Hydaspes, to Taxiles the Indian." Arrian "Anabasis, the Events after Alexander". He ultimately left in 316 BCE, to become satrap of Babylon in 315 BCE, before dying at the Battle of Gaza in 312 BCE
  10. Thapar 1997
  11. Kulke and Rothermund 1998:68
  12. Kulke and Rothermund 1998:70
  13. Marshall 1975:84
  14. Marshall 1975:85
  15. Kulke and Rothermund 1998:75
  16. Marshall 1975:86
  17. The Life of Apollonius Tyana demonstrates that the rulers of Taxila spoke Greek several centuries after Greek political dominance had faded.
  18. Hartmut Scharfe (2002). ''Education in Ancient India. Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 90-04-12556-6.
  19. "Nalanda" (2001). Columbia Encyclopedia.
  20. Marshall 1975:81
  21. "Taxila", Columbia Encyclopedia, 2001.
  22. Kautilya. Encyclopaedia Britannica.
  23. Radhakumud Mookerji (1941; 1960; reprint 1989). Chandragupta Maurya and His Times (p. 17). Motilal Banarsidass Publ. ISBN 8120804058.
  24. Radha Kumud Mookerji (2nd ed. 1951; reprint 1989). Ancient Indian Education: Brahmanical and Buddhist (p. 478-489). Motilal Banarsidass Publ. ISBN 8120804236.

See also

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