Peucelaotis (Charsadda)


Peucelaotis (Old Indian: Puskalāvatī): ancient town in the valley of the river Charsadda, modern Charsadda, not far from Peshawar.

Coin from Pushkalavati. First third of the second century BCE.
Coin from Pushkalavati. First third of the second century BCE.

When Alexander the Great invaded India (or, to use our vocabulary, Pakistan) in the winter of 327/326, he divided his forces. Hephaestion and Perdiccas were to take the direct route, along the river Cophen (the Kabul) and across the Khyber Pass, and capture the capital of the region, Gandara. This city was called Peucelaotis or Puskalāvatī, "the city of lotus flowers". It consisted of two hills: one in the east and one in the west, which is higher and larger. It is shown on the three photos below. The hills together are called Bala Hisar.

After taking this city, the army of Hephaestion and Perdiccas was to proceed along the Uttarāpatha, the main road connecting the cities in the Kabul valley with the capitals of the Punjab and the Ganges valley (the present Grand Trunk Road). This army would build a bridge across the Indus near modern Hund. Alexander himself took the more northern route along the Kunar and Swat, and covered the northern flank.

Peucelaotis surrendered immediately. Perhaps, the Macedonians were shown the begging nap of Buddha, which was venerated in this city at a slightly later time. Hephaestion and Perdiccas proceeded to the Indus, but the inhabitants of Peucelaotis revolted. The Macedonians returned and captured the city after a siege of thirty days. King Astis was killed.

Today, the site is covered with thousands and thousands of old pottery fragments, just waiting for an archaeologist to come along. A group of Pathan boys stayed with us for some time, was more interested in gathering eggs from the birds' nests than in the adventures of Alexander.

This page was created in 2004; last modified on 13 August 2020.