Sanjay Godbole

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Lord Buddha at Takshashila

By Sanjay Godbole

The city of ‘Taxila’ is situated at a distance of 35 kilometers from Rawalpindi in the Punjab province of Pakistan. It is the seventh Tehsil of Punjab province. The old name of ‘Taxila’ was ‘Takshashila’ and it was famous throughout the world as an ancient centre of Hindu and Buddhist culture. There is a verse in the ancient epic ‘Ramayana’. The verse describes how Bharat, the son of queen Kaikayi, after defeating all his enemies in war, established two settlements, namely, Takshshila and ‘Pushpakalavati’ in the Gandhar province. Both these settlements were abounding in all necessities of life. Bharat deputed his two sons, Takshak at Takshashila and Pushpal in Pushpakalavati’ to take charge and rule them. The state capital of ‘Takshak’ situated on the top of a mountain was popularly addressed as ‘Takshakshila’. This name ‘Takshakshila’ in course of time, got changed to ‘Taksh-Shila’. The grandson of Arjuna, named as ‘Janmajaya’ conquered Takshashila and established his rule on a hill there, called ‘Haathiyal’. The first presentation of the great epic ‘Mahabharata’ was given by “Vaishampayana’ here only. ‘Haathiyal means abode of elephants. This whole region was called ‘Gandhar’ meaning thereby ‘Land of fragrance’. In the opinion of some Archaeologists from Pakistan, King Takshak belonged to the ‘Naga’ Dyansty and he had established the city of Takshashila.

The University of Takshashila was an important knowledge imparting centre of ancient India and it was operational between the 6th century B.C. to the 5th century A.D. Here the student aspirants were admitted at the age of 16 and finished their educational courses.

Here various courses, such as archery, horse riding, elephant riding, philosophy, defence sciences, grammar, religion, law etc. were taught. The merit list of the alumini of Takshashila University included such famous names such as Jyotipal the commander of armed forces of the king of Varanasi, the physician Jeevak of King Bimbisar, Prasannajeet king of the state of Kaushal and the emperor Chandragupta. The famous grammarian Panini was at Takshashila during the sixth century BC. Similarly, Arya chanakya, (Kautilya) was also busy in imparting education at Takshashila University. Many historians from Pakistan are of the opinion that Kautilya wrote and compiled his world famous treatise on economical sciences (Arthashastra) at Takshashila only. Takshashila was renowned all over the world then for unequalled quality of education imparted and the discipline observed. In one of the ‘Jatak kathas’ of Srilanka, composed in the fifth century, there is a stray reference to the University at Takshashila.

During the regime of the Iranian emperor, ‘Dariyush the Is’ prior to the year 486 B.C. the King ‘Pukkusati’ of Takshashila was defeated by the Iranian forces. On the tomb of king Zerzes the 3rd (year 338 B.C.) the fact that he conquered ‘Gandhar’ along with the images of the Gandhar’s warriors are carved out. Alexander the great reached Takshashila in the year 326 B.C., when king Ambhi was the ruler. Ambhi subsequently surrendered to Alexander. The region where the remains of old Takshashila lie scattered and strewn is presently known as ‘Bheer’. These remains are scattered in an area admeasuring some 1600 sq meters. A strong fortification exists in this area and has been constructed with wood, bricks and soil. The residences at Takshashila had storage spaces for food grains in the rear walls.

‘Sirkap’ is a small settlement near ‘Tamra-Nallah’ near Takshashila. The remains of the fortification, surfaced during an archaeological excavation, have long been testified in ancient literature. In the biography of ‘Apolonius’ authored by ‘Philostratus’, he writes that Takshashila is as imposingly colossal as the city of ‘Neenwah’. He further adds that Takshshila has all the characterically distinctive Greek features including a Greek styled fortification. Sirkap has narrow roads like ‘Athens’ and has single storeyed houses have Parthian type roofs. The remains of this city are strewn over a large area of 12000 sq. meters. During the regime of Alexander the great the Greeks addressed this city as Taxile’. ‘Strabo’ has described this city as vast and expansive and abounding. After the Greeks, emperor Chandragupta Maurya conquered Takshashila. After, Maurya, the Bactrians, the sakes and then Kushanas ruled Takshashila. The white Hunas devastated Takshashila on a great scale during the 5th century A.D. The famous Chinese traveller, ‘Fahiyaan’ visited this area in the 5th century. He addressed Takshashila as ‘Chuchshila’. He has described the four large ‘Stupas’ there and has praised both the ruler and the ruled. Hu-en-tsang, the famous Chinese traveller visited Takshashila in the 7th century. He addresses Takshashila as Taa-chi-shilo’. He also says that Takshashila was included into the kingdom of Kapisha initially but was included in Kiyashilo Kingdom (Which is Kashmir at present.) He has specially described the brave people, the fountains and the area abounding in flowers & fruits and the vegetation in general.

The Takshashila University charged one thousand ‘Karsharpane’ (the then prevailing unit of currency) towards tuition fees from the rich. The poor, however, were provided with education, free of cost. The coaching work was on throughout day and night. Takshashila could be very aptly described as the one and the uniquely one University, which was fully operative and functional in the whole of the universe for one thousand record years and that too, without any incessance or disturbance. During the British regime, the firstever attempt was mady be ‘Cunningham’ to fathom the hidden whereabouts of this ancient city of Takshashila. Subsequent to these attempts, in the years 1912 AD and 1934 A.D. an archaeological excavation exercise was undertaken, under the able leadership of Sir John Marshall at Takshashila. In this excavation many constructed structures were surfaced at different levels in various encrustrations These include remains of the ‘Bhallar Stupa’ on the sharda hill at an enormous height, at the banks of river ‘Haro’. The Kushan Kings erected many ‘Stupas’ and monasteries at ‘Jalian’. In one of such monasteries, many coins struck by Tormana and ‘Samantdeva’, so also, many stucco idols (made from lime) of ‘Bodhisatva’, Goddess ‘Hariti’ in Gandhara style surfaced. At that time complete sets of ornaments also surfaced. One ‘Armaiec’ inscription was also found. Several earthen pots, terracottas, stucco idols and hoards of Indo Greek and Saka Kushan coins were also surfaced. There is a stupa erected by emperor Ashoka at Dharmarajika. At this Dharmarajika stupa, there is an inscription of the Sythian king ‘Azes’. In that inscription the name of emperor Ashoka had been referred to as ‘Dhar raja’. This inscription was brought to light during that excavation. At ‘Jandiyal’ the remains of a uniquely characteristic and typically distinctive Greek temple were surfaced.

During the excavation at Takshashila many miniature stupas deployed during worship and several Urns for preserving the remains were brought to light. After Sir John Marshall, Mr. Mortimer Wheeler undertook an excavation at Takshashila. After the partition, Takshashila.

(The author is a noted archaeologist, based in Pune).

Source: Kashmir Sentinel



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