Ancient city of Taxila: One of the oldest archaeological sites in Pakistan

In 1980, Taxila, one of the major and oldest archaeological sites in Pakistan, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site with reference no. 139. The Guardian magazine selected it as Pakistan's top tourist destination in 2006.

Taxila is a city and an important archaeological site in the Rawalpindi district of the Punjab province of Pakistan. Taxila is located approximately 25 kilometers (16 miles) northwest of the Islamabad–Rawalpindi metropolitan area and is just south of the Haripur District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which is very close to Grand Trunk Road. Taxila is situated at an altitude of 549 meters (1,801 ft) above sea level. It was part of India until the Separation and creation of Pakistan after the partition of India.

According to the Indian epic Ramayana written by Valmiki, Taxila was founded by Bharata, younger brother of Rama, an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu. The city was named for Bharata’s son Taksha, its first ruler.

History of Taxila: What is Taxila famous for?

The city of Taxila, known in antiquity as Takhshasila, was a renowned site of Buddhist Gandhara, especially after Ashoka’s rule and in the 1st century CE Kushan era. The name Taxila is a Greek approximation of the original name. The discussion of Gandhara is found in Rigveda only, Taxila is first known from Valmiki’s Ramayana. In connection with the mention of the victories of King Ramachandra of Ayodhya, we come to know that his younger brother Bharata conquered the country of Gandharvas (Gandhara) by the invitation and help of his maternal grandfather Kekayraj Ashwapati and appointed his two sons as its rulers. Gandharva country Indus river and on its banks, both the sons of Bharat named Taksh and Pushkal established their respective capitals named Taxila and Pushkalavati.

Taxila was on the eastern bank of the Indus. It is difficult to tell for how long the descendants of those Raghuvanshi Kshatriyas ruled Taxila. After the Mahabharata war, Parikshit ‘s descendants retained authority there for a few generations and Janamejaya performed his Nagayagya there (Maha, Ascension Parva, Chapter 5). Gautam buddhaAt the time of Gandhara’s king Pukkusati had sent his embassy to Magadharaj Bimbisara. Before the 6th century BC, the Persian ruler Kurush invaded the Indus regions and later also some of his successors copied him. Taxila seems to have gone into their possession and for about 200 years it was dominated by Persia. Referring to Taxila in the time of Alexander the conqueror of Macedonia, Strabo writes (Hamilton and Faulkner’s English translation, III, p. 90) that it was a large city, governed by good rules, thickly populated and blessed with fertile land. was contained. The ruler there was Basilius. He befriended Alexander by meeting him with gifts. After his death, his son too, whose name was Aambhi, remained a friend of Alexander, but after a few days, Chandragupta Maurya killed Alexander’s generals from the north-western frontiers and took possession of Taxila. It became the capital of his Uttarapatha province and the Maurya princes ruled there with the help of ministers.

Chandragupta’s son Bindusara, grandson Susim and great-grandson Kunala were appointed provincial rulers there in turn. It is known from the Divyavadana that due to the tyranny of the ministers there were occasional rebellions and Ashoka (during the administration of Susim) and Kunala (Ashoka would have been the king of) were sent to suppress those rebellions. In the days of the decline of the Mauryan Empire, the invasions of the Greek barbarians started and they got possession of it and Demetrius and Eucratinds ruled there. Then in the first century AD, the Scythians and in the first century AD, the Sakas occupied it in turn. Kanishka and his immediate descendants definitely had rights over it. The subsequent history of Taxila is somewhat obscure.

The city of Taxila was also destroyed in the devastating invasions of India by the Huns in the fifth century. In fact, the decline of the learning center of Taxila had started from the time of the Shakas and their Yuchi successors. Fahyan in the time of the GuptasWhen he went there, he could not find any special sign of the promotion of education there. He calls her Cho-Sha-Shilo. (Legi Fahyan’s Travels in English, page 32) The second Chinese traveler, Yuan Chwand (seventh century) who came to India after the invasion of Huns, found the old Sri there absolutely dead. At that time the Buddhist monks there were in a sad state and the ancient Buddhist viharas and monasteries were in ruins. The deadly swords of the uncivilized Huns had destroyed a major center of Indian culture and learning.

Neolithic artifacts have been found around the city. Human settlement has probably been established in Taxila since ancient times. The city has sometimes served as the capital of Gandhara along with Pushkalavati and sometimes it has gained fame as a center of learning. The ancient city of Taxila was an important center of Hinduism and Buddhism and even today the place has a historical and religious significance in the traditions of both religions.

Kautilya is said to have written his book Arthashastra in the city of Taxila in the time of Chandragupta Maurya.

Historically it was situated at the confluence of three great routes—

  • Uttarapatha: The present Grand Trunk Road, which connected Gandhara to Magadha;
  • North-west route: which used to pass through Kapish and Pushkalavati etc.
  • The Indus River route: Srinagar, Mansehra, passing through the Haripur Valley, used to go to the silk route in the north and to the Indian Ocean in the south.

In 1980, Taxila was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site with reference no. 139. The Guardian magazine selected it as Pakistan’s top tourist destination in 2006.

Taxila is mentioned in various texts

Scattered sources in various later texts indicate that Taxila was probably founded around 1000 BC. Taxila is said to be named after Taksha, son of Rama’s brother Bharata and his wife Mandavi.  According to legend, Taksha ruled a kingdom called Taksha Khand and founded the city of Taxila. According to another theory advanced by Damodar Dharmananda Kaushambi, the name Takshil is related to the word Takshak which is the Sanskrit form of the word carpenter or sutradhar and this word is another name of the Naga people of ancient India.

In the Hindu epic Mahabharata, Parikshit was installed on the throne of Taxila after Kuru’s succession was tested. According to popular belief, Parikshit’s son Janamejoya was commissioned by Vyasa to recite the Mahabharata at Taxila, his disciple Vaishampayana.

Later the Jatakas written in Sri Lanka around the 5th century describe Taxila in some detail. The Chinese monk Faxien (also known as Fa-Hien) in his Taxila travelogue of 405 AD described the kingdom of Taxila as meaning ‘severed head’. He says that the name derives from an incident in Buddha’s life, as it was the place ‘where Buddha gave his head to a man’. Another Chinese monk Xuanzang (also known as Hiuen Tsang) traveled to Taxila in 630 and 643 and named the city Ta-Cha-Shi-Lo. It is believed that the city was almost in ruins at that time. Taxila is described as ‘Taxiala’ in Ptolemy’s Geography. Taxila is described as Egrisilla in the Historia Trium Regum (History of the Three Kings) written around 1375 by John of Hildesheim. 

Ancient educational center

Taxila is sometimes considered one of the oldest universities in the world. But some experts think that teaching was not done here like in the university.

Legend has it that Kautilya composed his Arthasastra here. King Bimbisara’s personal physician Jivaka studied here. This place is the study place of various famous people of that time.

Students come for higher education after completing primary and secondary education. Sixteenth to eighteenth year students studied here.

At least eighteen subjects were taught in Taxila Mahavihara e.g. Medicine, Handicrafts, War Science, Architecture, Sanskrit Language etc.

Excavation and Archeology

General Cunningham was the first to try to find the ruins of ancient Taxila, but only after 1912, the concrete work started under the leadership of Sir John Marshall on behalf of the Archaeological Department of India and now its scattered remains are being dug at many places. have been taken out. It seems that in different eras, the city was destroyed due to foreign invasions and kept moving here and there in the form of new settlements. Its first settlement was Rawalpindi in Pakistan.In the district, a second settlement has been found from the Bhir mounds, 22 miles north of Rawalpindi from the ruins of Sirkap and a third settlement from Sirsukh even further north. These settlements are believed to be between 5th and 2nd century BC, between 2nd and 1st century BC (Greek-Bakhtari era) and between 1st century BC and 1st century AD (Saka-Kushan era) respectively. Excavations there have found traces of many stupas and viharas (especially Kunal Vihara) (Reports of the Archaeological Survey of India, 1912–13, 1923–24 and 1928–29, Marshall Krit, A Guide to Taxila, Delhi 1936; Ancient India, Bulletin of the Department of Archaeology, 1947-48 pp. 41 onwards).

Taxila University

In Indian history, the city of Taxila was famous as a great center of learning and education. It seems that before the last few centuries of the Vedic period, his fame did not become much. But in the Buddhist era, it was the most important field of education. Although it is not discussed in the ancient sources of Buddhist literature, its description is full in the Jatakas. Many of his things are also known from Tripitaka ‘s commentaries and Atthakathas. Accordingly, students from far-flung areas of India like Banaras, Rajgriha, Mithila and Ujjayini used to go there to study and get education from world famous gurus. Molemushti JatakIt is known from (No. 252 of Foswall and Cowell’s editions) that the discipline there was very strict and even the sons of kings could be beaten if they repeatedly faulted. It is known from the Jatakas that many kings (Brahmadattas) of Varanasi sent their sons, other princes and successors to get education there (Foosball no. 252).

It is clear that Taxila was the most important center of education of politics and weapons. 103 princes of different states used to study in an arsenal there. There were special schools of Ayurveda and jurisprudence. The names of some of the most famous men of Indian history are found among the graduates of Taxila. Panini, the best grammarian of Sanskrit literature, was a resident of Shalatula located in Gandhara and it is not impossible, he may have got education in Taxila only. Some famous persons contemporary to Gautam Buddha had also been students there, in which the main three classmates were Kosalraj Prasenjit, Malla Sardar Bandhul and Lichchavi Mahali; Chief physician and surgeon Jeevak and Brahmin robber Angulimala.

The description of Jivaka ‘s immense knowledge and skill related to Ayurveda obtained from there is found in Vinaya Pitaka. There were graduates and teachers and the most famous among his disciples was Chandragupta Maurya, who established the Mauryan Empire with his guru. In Taxila, almost only high-level education was taught and the children coming from far and wide were definitely teenagers who had already received their primary education. Ayurveda, Dhanurveda, Palmistry, Trilogy, Grammar, Philosophy, Mathematics, Astrology, Calculation, Numerology, Commerce, Serpentology, Tantrashastra, Music, Dance and Painting etc. had the main place in the curriculum there. Mentioned in the Jatakas (Foosball edition, Volume I, page 256) must be appropriate in the three Vedas and 18 Vidyas taught there. But not Taxila, but Varanasi was more famous for the education of rituals. The biggest feature of Taxila was the predominance of cosmic weapons in the scriptures taught there.

Some scholars are of the opinion that Taxila was not an organized and united institution like modern colleges or universities, but it was a center of learning where different small- There were small gurukuls and teachers of various subjects personally imparted education to the visiting students. But keeping in mind that there was no control over the gurukuls of that time by any authority or central institution other than the gurus, it does not seem impossible that the total number of students of all the gurukuls of Taxila and the total number of students of those different gurukuls The overall format should not be much different from that of modern universities.

Sometimes there were five hundred students in each Gurukul (Jatak, Fosball, I, page 239, 317, 402; III, page 18, 235 etc) and different subjects must have been taught in them. It would not be unfair to call them colleges.


Who is the founder of Taxila?

According to the Ramayana, the city of Taxila was founded by Bharata, the son of Kaikeyi, and younger half brother of Rama. Along with Nalanda, Taxila was one of the leading Mahaviharas of higher learning in ancient India.

When was Taxila University founded?

Probably the Buddhist Taxila University was established in around 600 B.C.

What is Taxila famous for?

Taxila is most famous for the ruins of several settlements, the earliest dating from around 1000 BCE. It is also known for its collection of Buddhist religious monuments, including the Dharmarajika stupa, the Jaulian monastery, and the Mohra Moradu monastery.

What was Taxila’s old name?

Takhshashila. The city of Taxila, known in antiquity as Takhshasila, was a renowned site of Buddhist Gandhara, especially after Ashoka’s rule and in the 1st century CE Kushan era. The name Taxila is a Greek approximation of the original name.

Who destroyed the Taxila?

When these routes ceased to be important, the city sank into insignificance and was finally destroyed by the Huns in the 5th century ce. Taxila was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1980.

Which language is spoken in Taxila?

An overall Punjabi culture prevails in Taxila with people understanding both English and Urdu languages but speak Punjabi language with a different dialect native to the region.

Between which river is Taxila located?

Taxila is situated between Indus and Jhelum river.

Who were famous students at Taxila University?

Chanakya (or Kautilya), the Maurya Emperor Chandragupta and the Ayurvedic healer Charaka studied at Taxila.

Which is older, Taxila or Nalanda?

While some consider Taxila to be an early university or center of higher education, others do not consider it a university in the modern sense, in contrast to the later Nalanda University. Takshashila is described in some detail in later Jātaka tales, written in Sri Lanka around the 5th century CE.

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