A Day In Taxila
Taxila is a historic city at the base of Gandhara civilisation and has a huge significance for both Buddhism and Hinduism. It is located close to Islamabad and a half day trip is perfect to explore this jewel. I spent my day in Taxila exploring the ancient city that spanned four major cities in three different sites throughout its glory. It has been destroyed multiple time, the last time by Huns who persecuted Buddhists. The city never recovered after that.
I would highly recommend not to miss this because it is a unique opportunity and if you are Buddhist or Hindu, the visit will be greatly rewarding, I promise!
Fun Fact: According to legend, Mahabharata was first recited here in Taxila.
Getting to Taxila
Getting to Taxila is quite fun on its own, it takes no more than 45 minutes from Islamabad and the reason I called it interesting is because you will be going on the historical Grand Trunk Road called GT road.
Old Grand Trunk Road
It is a busy toad that leads all the way to Peshawar. Taxila is located on the main road but the most I terestj g thing is the Margala hills. A lot of them have been blasted and some of them are at the edge of disappearing. They are used to make a variety of things including using them as construction material. This same stone was used to carve statues of Buddha. Times have changed but the relationship of locals with stone hasn’t changed. It used to be statues before, now it’s decorative items, pestle and mortars and entire graves.
Fun Fact: According to legend, Buddha offered his head to a hungry lion in his previous life as Pasu. That’s why the hills are named Mar-gala. The name literally means cut through a neck.
When you are close to Taxila, you will see Nelson’s Obelisk. A unique placement because at it almost seems like it’s perched over a cliff overlooking great distances.
Within 45 minutes on a nice day, you will be in Taxila from Islamabad.
How to Explore Taxila?
There’s no lack of ancient ruins and you could spend an entire week here and not be able to explore all the sites but most of the sites aren’t interesting if you’re not an archeologist. Just follow the plan below and you’ll be able to see the main sites that have interesting artefacts and places that aren’t walls sticking out of ground.
Fun Fact: Chankya Kutalya composed his Arthashastra here, a book about economics and art of diplomacy.
Important: Each place which you will visit in Taxila will have its own ticket and entrance fee and the local guides do expect some tip as well.
Stupa: A hemispheric mound which is used to host the burial remains of Buddhist monks or nuns and in case of Taxila, the small bone fragments of Buddha’s body. It is used as a meditation site and stupas are often placed in meditation halls called Chaitya.
Dharma Rajika Stupa
This is the first important site and also called the Great Stupa of Taxila. The stupa was built to host the bone fragments of Buddha. The area surrounding it is a monastical complex. The site is located before the museum and I turned right on the main road to get there. The way to the stupa is located through a gate with quite a few steps to get there. It is quite a serene place. The stupa is disintegrating but still very impressive.
Taxila museum is a fascinating building that holds quite a few artefacts. Photography and filming isn’t allowed inside. Most of the severed heads from the Buddha statues are hosted here. It was a fascinating place to get some perspective and learn some more about the history of this place.
I was hoping to see the fasting Buddha statue but it is hosted in the Lahore Museum, if you’re heading to Lahore don’t miss it.
After museum the rod leads to Sirkap site. It is the third site which has the layout of an entire city with a main road, shops around with multiple temples and houses. The most fascinating place is the stupa located inside a private house and the double headed eagle statue.
The road to Mohra Muradu is located on the right hand side from the main road. It is one of my favourites here. The site is divided into two parts; a giant stupa with a small stupa on the site in entry. The most important thing is the status of Buddha with a hole for a belly button. It is used by Buddhists to make wishes. There are two statues of this sort left, one here and the other one in Julian which is the next location.
The next part is remains of a monastery which hosts a few other statues including a well preserved statue of Buddha. The monastery has 27 rooms and only the lower floor remains now.
The star of the show is a votive stupa, very well preserved depicting seven levels of heavens and different statues of Buddha. During its time, it was decorated with jewels and made colourful. It remains colourless but still impressive.
The air around is still and it seems like the perfect spot for meditation.
Fun Fact: Most status of Buddha depict him in three postures; meditating, teaching and preaching.
The last and most impressive location I explored was Jaulian. It is the last spot and the most impressive one. I arrived at the parking and headed up through stairs. The site is located on quite some elevation. In ancient times, it must be possible to see the entire Valley from here including other sites around.
Fun Fact: The name Jaulian comes from an archaeologist probably Julia which became Jaulian with time.
The site hosts a main stupa which is damaged but the 21 votive stupas around are impressive. The same hall hosts the other Buddha statue with a hole for a belly button to make wishes.
It also hosts the facade of a stupa which has different hairstyle different influences on the art in ancient times.
The other side goes through a beautiful best preserved statue of Buddha followed by a college/ monastery complex with rooms around a pond. It has the same structure as Mohra Muradu but the stupa is much smaller.
Taxila is big enough to spend a week and not run out of places to explore. The day I spent there was memorable, I definitely recommend not missing this day in Taxila excursion and a great chance to explore one of the best archaeological sites in the entire world.