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Taxila from Sanskrit: तक्षशिला Takṣaśilā (Pali:Takkasilā, Urdu, Punjabi: ٹیکسلا) is an important archaeological site in the Punjab province of Pakistan. Taxila is situated about 32 km (20 mi) to the north-west of Islamabad Capital Territory and Rawalpindi in Panjab; just off the Grand Trunk Road. Taxila lies 549 metres (1,801 ft) above sea-level.

It dates back to the Gandhara period and contains the ruins of the Gandhāran city of Takṣaśilā which was an important Hindu and Buddhist centre. Takṣaśilā, is reputed to derive its name from Takṣa, who was the son of Bharata (the brother of Rama).[1]

Historically, Takṣaśilā lay at the crossroads of three major trade routes:

1. The uttarāpatha, "the northern road" - the later Grand Trunk or GT Road - the royal road which connected Gandhara in the west to the kingdom of Magadha and its capital aliputra in the valley of the Ganga in the east.

2. The north-western route through Bactria, Kāpiśa, and Pukalāvatī.

3. The Sindu (English: Indus) route from Kashmir and Central Asia, via Śri nagara, Mansehra, and the Haripur valley[2] across the Khunjerab pass to the Silk Road in the north to the Indian Ocean in the south. To fully understand the importance of Takṣaśilā it must be noted that the Khunjerab pass between Kashmir and Xinjiang - the current Karakoram highway - was already traversed in antiquity.

In 1980, Taxila was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site with multiple locations.[3] Recently it has been ranked as the top Tourist Destination in Pakistan by The Guardian.[4]

The Ruins

Map of Taxila - The ancient geography of India,
 Volume 1 - Sir Alexander Cunningham - pg46.jpg

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 the Hathial area, which yielded surface sherds similar to burnished red wares (or 'soapy red wares') recovered from early phases at Charsadda, and may date between the 6th century B.C.E. and the late 2nd millennium B.C.E. Bhir Mound 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.

[edit] History of Taxila

Taxila is in western Punjab, and was an important city during Alexander's campaign in ancient India.

Legend has it that Takṣa, an ancient king who ruled a kingdom called Takṣa Khanda the modern (Tashkent) founded the city of Takṣaśilā.[citation needed].However Sanskrit Takṣaśilā, appears to contain the suffix śilā, "stone" with the prefix Takṣa, alluding to Takṣa, the son of Bharata and Mandavi, as related in the Mahabharata.

In the Mahābhārata, the Kuru heir Parikit was enthroned at Takṣaśilā.[5]

According to tradition the Mahabharata was first recited at Takṣaśilā by Vaishampayana, a disciple of Vyasa at the behest of the seer Vyasa himself, at the sarpa satra yajna, "Snake Sacrifice ceremony" of Parikit's son Janamejaya.[citation needed]

According to one theory propounded by Damodar Dharmanand Kosambi, Takṣaśilā is a related to Takṣaka,"carpenter" and is an alternative name for the Nāgas of ancient India.[6]

Before the fall of these invaders, Takṣaśilā had been variously a capital for many dynasties, and a centre of Vedic and Buddhist learning, with a population of Buddhists, Hindus, and possibly Greeks that may have endured for centuries.[21]

The British archaeologist Sir John Marshall conducted excavations over a period of twenty years in Taxila.[22]

Taxila today

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.

Nicholson's obelisk, a monument of British colonial era situated at the Grand Trunk road welcomes the travellers coming from Rawalpindi/Islamabad 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, also known as the First War of Independence.

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 Technology (UET).



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