the-south-asian.com July / August 2006
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TAXILA - the story continues at Dharmrajika Stupa
First published in December 2002
To discover the importance of Taxila, there is no better way than to combine field visits to the sites around present day Taxila, with a detailed reading and reference to the original book by Sir John Marshall on the this topic . An excellent reprint of his famous work is called
" A Guide to Taxila " by
Sir John Marshall , C.I.E. Litt.D., F.B.A.
Fortunately, while carrying out field visits to Taxila and its many sites, I came across this original work and bought it for Rs 300.00 [$ 5.00] from a newly opened mega-Bookstore in the Jinnah supermarket, Islamabad. This is next to Pizza Hut and Kim-Yun, which I am told is the best Chinese restaurant in Islamabad, judging from the number of Chinese customers always seen at the restaurant. It is considered the equivalent of Peking Restaurant in Arlington, King Road /Route 7, Virginia, where President Bush Senior used to eat frequently.
But I digress; back to this wonderful book by Sir John Marshall. Thanks to this gentleman’s labor of love in supervising the excavations at Taxila, we are able to learn much about the fascinating past history of this area of south Asia. I am quoting extensively from his book to bring out the facts of Taxila’s and our ancestral past and also to share with the reader the simple elegance and beauty of his style of English. Marshall’s book is quoted extensively in this essay, especially to bring to light the grandeur and the greatness of Taxila.
Marshall was the original archaeologist at Taxila ; his hut at Jaulian is a real classic of British Colonial architecture of a servant’s quarter , whilst the Taxila Museum is done in the classic style of the British Colonial India style with high ceilings, lined by teak wood to reinforce it.
Taxila –the name’s origins
Tashasila as it was called in Sanskrit gives some idea of the meaning of this name. Sila in Sanskrit means rock or stone . The legend says that the Buddha gave his head in charity to a man in this place . The Chinese called it Chu-cha-shi-lo.-- the difficulty of Chinese phonetics with the sila and sira has led to this day to have names around Taxila such as SIRKAP , Sirsukh and Margalla .
Taxila – center of 3 to 4 Great trade routes [ the secret as they say of great trading shops is its -- location , location location ….! ]
Of Taxila’s location, Marshall writing in his book after starting the excavations at Taxila in 1920s and 1930s, says that:
" ……. it was a little over 20 miles northwest of the modern city of Rawalpindi and close beside the railway junction of Taxila, where the main line of the North-Western Railway is joined by a branch line from Havelian in the Haripur valley. [It is currently also accessible from Islamabad, which is a twin city of Rawalpindi and the capital territory of Pakistan. In a away, Islamabad is like Washington D.C which is surrounded by Virginia and Maryland, so is Islamabad surrounded by the North-West Frontier Province on the North & West, and Punjab on the south.
The greatest coincidence is that Islamabad was designed by a Greek Architect /Town Planner called "Doxiades " who also used a lot of the Gandhara architectural style in constructing the new Institution at Islamabad notably the Islamabad University [ Islamabad will be covered in subsequent issues of "The-South-Asian.com" ]..
Here also, in ancient days, was the meeting place of three great trade routes; one from Hindustan and Eastern India, which was to become the "royal highway" described by Megasthenes as running from Patliputra [modern Patna city] to the north-west of the Maurya Empire; the second from Western Asia through Bactria, Kapisi, and Pushkalavati or Purushapura [modern Peshawar] and so across the Indus [river] at Ohind [near Attock] to Taxila; and the third from Kashmir and Central Asia by way of the Srinagar valley. These three trade-routes, which carried the bulk of the traffic passing by land between India and Central and Western Asia, played an all-important part in the history of Taxila, for it was mainly to them that the city owed its initial existence as well as its subsequent prosperity and greatness ……"
The fourth great trade route was of course the Indus river near Taxila from where access to the Arabian or India ocean was about a 1000 miles down stream via the cities of Multan and Thatta, great cotton & textile centers as the old remains of Mohenjo-Daro and the Indus valley civilization have proven.
LEGENDARY HISTORY of TAXILA
"In early Indian literature Taxila is given a legendary history which went back to remotest antiquity. The Ramayana, which has a glowing account of its wealth and magnificence, tells us that it was founded at the same time as Pushkalavati in Gandhara by Bharata, son of Kaikayi and younger brother of Rama , who installed two of his sons as rulers in the two cities: Taksha in Takshasila and Pushkala in Pushkalvati. Mahabharata relates that the city was conquered by King Janamejaya of Hastinapura, who performed there the great snake sacrifice -- the whole of the famous epic being recited during the performance.
Taxila was a university center where students could study any subject, "religious or secular, from the Vedas to mathematics and medicine, even to astrology and archery". The prominence of Taxila as a seat of academic and practical teaching was a result of the city’s geographical location and its reputation as an institute that promoted exchange and discussion of both western and eastern ideas.
TAXILA , ITS DHARMARAJIKA STUPA and Buddha’s Body-Relic :
The stupa of Dharmarajika was started by Asoka. It is about 3 kilometers from the Taxila museum on a metalled road ; a new road is being built towards it .Its importance lies in the fact that one of Buddha’s body-relics was buried there . The name Dharmarajika comes from Dharmaraja, a name given to Buddha who was the true Dharma Raja [ i.e. Law Lord ] according to Marshall..
The pictures given here show the main stupa mound, the chapels surrounding it are mostly gone except for the foundations and a few stucco figures . The pictures are given here of these stucco. Also one can see the great tank on one side of the stupa at Dharmarajika . The place is very serene and is ideally located at the foot of the Hathial Spur and the Tamra nallah [stream]
According to Marshall " In the chapel G5 was found some of the most interesting relics yet discovered in this part of India. The find was made near the back wall of the chapel opposite the Great Stupa and about a foot below the original floor. It consisted of a vase-like casket of gray micaceous schist with a silver vase inside, and in the latter an inscribed scroll of silver and a small gold casket containing some minute bone relics. A heavy stone placed over the deposit had been crushed by the fall of the roof and had broken both the casket and the silver vase but had left the gold reliquary uninjured and chipped only a few fragments from the edge of the scroll, nearly all of which was recovered .The record, which is in the Kharoshti character and dated in the year 136[ A.D. 78] tells us that the relics were those of the Lord Buddha .
It is not known where this relic has gone; whether it is in the Taxila museum or was taken to be kept at Lahore Museum or was forwarded to the Museum at Delhi. Recently in August a Japanese tourist delegation had come to lead a peace march on the occasion of the anniversary of the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
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