Taxila is an important archaeological site of Ancient India and is currently in modern-day Pakistan. It contains the ruins of the Gandharan city of Takshashila (also Takkasila or Taxila) an important Vedic/Hindu and Buddhist centre of learning from the 6th century BCE to the 5th century CE. In 1980, Taxila was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site with multiple locations.
Historically, Taxila lay at the crossroads of three major trade routes: the royal highway from Paaliputra; the north-western route through Bactria, Kapisa, and Pukalavati (Peshawar); and the route from Kashmir and Central Asia, via Srinigar, Mansehra, and the Haripur valley across the Khunjerab pass to the Silk Road.
Taxila is situated 35 km to the west of Islamabad Capital Territory-and to the northwest of Rawalpindi in Punjab-just off the Grand Trunk Road.
Legend has it that Taksha, an ancient Indian king who ruled in a kingdom called Taksha Khanda (Tashkent) founded the city of Takshashila.The word Takshashila, in Sanskrit means “belonging to the King Taksha”. Taksha was the son of Bharata and Mandavi, characters who appear in the Indian epic Ramayana.
In the epic Mahabharata, the Kuru heir Parikit was enthroned at Taxila.
According to tradition The Mahabharata was first recited at Takshashila.
Ahmad Hasan Dani and Saifur Rahman Dar trace the etymology of Taxila to a tribe called the Takka. According to Damodar Dharmanand Kosambi, “Taxila” is related to “Tak?aka,” which means “carpenter” and is an alternative name for the Naga.
” 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 Ambhi, king of Taxila, and afterwards surrender to Porus at the Jhelum River.
” c. 317 BCE – In quick succession, Alexander’s general Eudemus and then the satrap Peithon withdraw from the Indus.
” 321BCE-317 BCE Chandragupta Maurya, founder of the Mauryan empire in eastern India, 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 Asoka, 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, Bhadratha, is assassinated by his general, Puyamitra Sunga, during a parade of his troops.
” 183 BCE – Demetrios conquers Gandhara, the Punjab and the Indus valley. He builds his 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 minted 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 Ephthalites sweep over Gandhara 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 British archaeologist Sir John Marshall conducted excavations over a period of twenty years in Taxila.
Ancient centre of learning
Takshashila was an early center 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 university or centre of higher educationothers do not consider it a university in the modern sense, in contrast to the later Nalanda University. Takshashila is described in some detail in later Jataka tales, written in Sri Lanka around the 5th century CE.
Stupa base at Sirkap, decorated with Hindu, Buddhist, and Greek temple fronts.
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 Mahayana 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.
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)
Present day Taxila is one of the seven Tehsils (sub-district) of Rawalpindi District. It is spread over an undulating land in the periphery of the Pothohar Plateau of the Punjab. Situated just outside the capital Islamabad’s territory and communicating with it through Tarnol pass of Margalla Hills, 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.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 civilization 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 Technology (UET).