||Taxila (Old Indian Takshaçila):
the ancient capital of the eastern Punjab, the country between the
The site consists of several parts, which belong to three periods:
|The oldest part of Taxila is Bhir (satellite
photo), which consists of several building phases:
|The division between the first and second strata is a bit artificial.
Even worse, the common identification of the oldest part of the city with
the presence of the Achaemenid
the Great in India in ca. 518 BCE is not based on archaeological finds.
In his own texts, Darius claims to have conquered the Indus country, but
until now, there is no archaeological confirmation. It would help if we
found a Persian cuneiform tablet. So far, only one Persian coin has been reported.
|There is some continuity from the oldest to the youngest levels. The
main street (to the left on this picture) has been found on the same place
in every stratum. The rest of the town changed considerably in the course
of the centuries. It consisted of irregular, zig-zag, small streets and
housing blocks made of bricks, stones and timber. There was a building that is usually interpretetd as a temple ("the
pillared hall") and it is said that in the palace, the Mahabharata
was recited for the very first time.
316, king Chandragupta of Magadha (321-297), the founder of the Mauryan
dynasty, conquered the Punjab, which had become destabilized after the Macedonian invasion.
Taxila lost its independence and became a mere provincial capital. Still, the
city remained extremely important as center of administration, education and trade.
During the reign of Chandragupta's grandson Ashoka, Buddhism became important
and the first monks settled in Taxila. They built the stupa called Dharmarajika, "the tomb of the real law lord", i.e., the Buddha, because Ashoka had sent
relics to several places in his empire. At the same time, Taxila was rebuilt.
Unlike the pictures above, this one does not show the Mauryan stratum;
instead you can look down into the older strata.
|Another picture showing the Mauryan stratum and the deeper level of
the Achaemenid city. You can see that the orientation of the houses changed.
In c.184, the Greeks, who had maintained a kingdom in Bactria, invaded Gandara and the Punjab again. From now on, there was a Greek king living in Taxila, Demetrius. He seems to have ordered the rebuilding of the town on the plains north of Bhir mound. This second second city is called the Sirkap.
The greatest monument of Bhir mound, however, can not be shown: the
scholars of Taxila. Panini, the author of a famous book on Sanskrit grammar,
lived in Taxila; Caraka, a famous master of medicine had a house on Bhir
mound too; and Kautilya, the Brahman adviser of Chandragupta Maurya
and author of a guide to statecraft, the Arthasastra, was a resident
of Taxila as well.
Note:A publication in the newspaper Dawn (24 March 2002) suggests that the throne hall of raja Ambhi has been identified. When we visited Taxila (May 2004), there was no one to confirm this, but it may be true.
Jona Lendering for
Revision: 28 May 2008