Visual Index of Taxila Sites (Site name and description)
Bhir Mound Bhir Mound (6th-2nd centuries B.C.)
The remains of the first settlement at Taxila.
Dharmarajika Stupa Dharmarajika Stupa (2nd century A.D.)
The earliest Budhist monument in Pakistan.
Double-Headed Eagle Shrine Double-Headed Eagle Shrine (2nd century B.C. to 2nd century A.D.)
Remains of a shrine that shows heavy Bactrian Greek influence.
Jain Shrine Jain Shrine (2nd century B.C. to 2nd century A.D.)
A Jain Shrine along the streets of Sirkap.
Jandial Temple Jandial Temple (2nd century B.C. to 2nd century A.D.)
A building that greatly resembles ancient Greek temples.
Mohra Moradu Monastery Mohra Moradu Monastery (3rd to 5th centuries A.D.)
A rural Buddhist monastery.
Sirkap City Remains Sirkap City Remains (2nd century B.C. to 2nd century A.D.)
Remains of the main settlement at Taxila.

About Taxila

Taxila, the "City of Stones," was once a flourishing city along the trade routes of central Asia, mentioned in both the Mahabharata and the Ramayana for its wealth and magnificence. Its strategic position has made it vulnerable to conquest. In 326 B.C. Alexander the Great entered the city with his armies and was greeted by King Ambhi. The Greeks lauded the city as the "greatest of all the cities" in the area. Alexander annexed the area as part of his enormous kingdom, but his weak sucessors were unable to hold on to the prize. In 300 B.C. Taxila was conquered by the Mauryan Empire of India under Chandragupta. Taxila served as the capital of India's western province.

Ashoka (or Asoka), the great Indian king, ruled here as Governor under his father Bindusara. After the bloody conquest of Kalinga, which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, Ashoka converted to Buddhism and as Emperor, constructed a large number of Buddhist monuments and monasteries throughout the empire, including some at Taxila. Dharmarajika Stupa is a particularly good example, where he enshrined relics of the historical Buddha.

Taxila's position in on the open Asian steppes left it open to conquest. As the Mauryan empire disintegrated the Bactrian Greeks, the successors of Alexander, conquered the area in 190 B.C. Their king moved the city to a new location - Sirkap - which they believed would be more defensible. The new city was built with a fortified acropolis and a large defensive wall of coursed rubble.

The Bactrian kings kept a foothold on the area till about 90 B.C., when the Scythians overran the area and occupied the city. Just a century and a half later, the Kushans, originally from China's Gansu province, invaded Ghandara (the name of the region around Taxila) and established a dynasty. The Kushan kings ruled well, supporting both the arts and Buddhism. Trade flourished with the Roman Empire, which led to almost unimaginable wealth. This era is justly described as Taxila's golden age.

The downfall of the Kushan kings came in 230 A.D. when the Sassanian Emperor Shahpur annexed it as part of his Empire. The Sassanian rule as very short, however, and power soon passed to the Kidara Kushana, an offshoot of the dispossessed Kushan rulers. They established a strong dynasty that endured till the second half of the 5th century. Though not as magnificent as the Kushan rulers of the past, the Kidara Kushana founded many Buddhist monasteries and reinvigorated Taxila with wealth and magnificence.

Taxila's downfall came in the 5th century A.D. when the White Hun hordes sacked the area, destroying monasteries and looting the city's treasures. When the famous Chinese Pilgrim monk Hsuan Tsang visited the area in the 7th century (while looking for Buddhist Sutras), he described it by saying "monasteries are half ruined. The country is depopulated and now a dependency of Kashmir."

Bibliography:

All images copyright 2001 Prof. Yunsheng Huang of the University of Virginia

Jan, A. Waheed. Taxila: Story in Stone
  A. Waheed, 1997. Pakistan

Muhammad Wali Ulla Khan
  Anjuman Press, 1973. Karachi

Rajput, A. B. Architecture in Pakistan
  Pakistan Publications, 1963. Karachi