Pakistan is a cradle of ancient civilisation and timeless cultural traditions. The north western regions in particular,were the melting pot of cultures , traditions and a meeting point of East and West. From relics of the stone age man, as old as half a million years, to creative Mehrgarh (7000 BCE) enterprising Indus valley (7000-3500 BCE) and artistic Gandhara(1st century BCE to 7th century CE),the story of civilisation stands unfold through remains of ancient cities, monuments , antiquities and creative manifestations in the land of the Indus and its tributaries. This land of cultural diffusion and diversity is studded with gems of archeological monuments and heritage sites.

Gandhara the land of fragrance mainly comprised the north western parts of the present day Pakistan including Peshawar valley, Kabul river valley, Dir ,Bajaur,Buner,Mardan ,Swat ,Hazara,Taxila ,potohar and adjoining areas of Kashmir. It played a special role in the cultural history of this region and the world at large. For its geographical location on a cross roads of cultural influences between the sub continent, China,Central Asia and the middle East,It nurtured and propagated such ideas and art forms which influenced people and places far beyond its boundaries.

Buddhism, which was born in the foothills of Himalayas found avid followers, supporters and patrons in Gandhara.Its seats of learning and sangharamas (monastic complexes) inspired and influenced those who came from far-off lands.

After the Parinirvana(Nirvana after death) of Buddha,his ashes were placed in caskets and enshrined under eight mounds, which came to be known as stupas. When Ashoka embraced Buddhism,he distributed these ashes to various regions including Gandhara.

The great stupas of Gandhara ,which received these relics were Dharmarajika,Takshasila,Jamal Garhi,Peshawar Valley and Butkara Sawat.This was the beginning of a glorious period of Buddhist civilisation, popularly known as Gandhara.

The region became the centre of Buddhist learning and culture. It flourished as an enterprising society characterized by diversity, prosperity and creativity. It set new standards of excellence in learning and art.

Not only did Jaulian develop as the first university, Gandhara art emerged as a distinctive art form which remains unsurpassed. The people of Gandhara also built marvellous moments which were among the wonders of the world like the great stupa of Parushpura (present day Peshawar) built by Kanishka,which was reportedly 180-210 meter tall and adorned with jewels.

It had an iron spire ,gold and copper umbrella. Its monastery buzzed with the chanting of as many as 700 monks .According to Fa-Hien ,there was not one comparable to this in solemn beauty and majestic grandeur .the finest rope in jambudvipa(universe or the known world).The other sangharamas in Takshasila (Taxila) and Uddiyana (Sawat) were equally magnificent are renowned.

The most significant aspect of Gandhara is it’s well recorded history. It finds a mention in ancient religious and secular literature and chronicles. Alexander who conquered this place in 327 BCE was accompanied by historians and men of letters, who wrote detailed accounts of the land and its people, such as life of Apollonius of Tyara by Philotratus,who wrote that the “temple in front of the city was decorated with paintings in the style of great Greek painters”Gandhara has also developed it’s own written script (Kharoshti) and its people were the first to introduce official communications in writing.

The Edicts of Ashoka and Thousands of other inscriptions bear testimony to the glory of Gandhara,at it’s best. Five metropolitan centres played a vibrant role in making Gandhara the hub of cultural and trade activities. Pushkalavati ,the city of Lotus flower (present day Charsadda) which remained the capital of Gandhara from 6th century BCE to 2nd century CE,Peshawar the capital of Kanishka ,Bazira the trading centre in Uddiyana and Takshasila”greatest of all cities”in wealth and magnificence, the capital of indo-Greek rulers of Gandhara and Hund ,the capital of Kabul and Hindu Shahi dynasties.
For the foreign Buddhist fraternity following are the worth seeing places mainly in KPK province from religious point of view .

1.Dharmarajika,Taxila 3rd -5th century CE
2.Mohra Muradu,Taxila 3rd-5th century CE
3.Jaulian Monastery and University, Taxila
4.Bhamala Stupa and Monastery, Taxila
5.kunala & Ghai Stupa and Monastery, Taxila
6.Zar Dheri (Gold Mound) ,Hazara
7.Adnan Dheri ,Swat
8.Takht-e-Bahi ,Mardan
9.Sahri Bahlol,Mardan
10.Jamal Ghari ,Mardan
11.Aziz Dehri Mardan
12.Rani Gat Buner
13.Butkara-l,ll and lll Swat
14.Nimogram ,Swat
15.Amluk data,Swat
16.Shingardhur stupa,Swat
17.Saidu Stupa ,Swat
18.Mankiala stupa ,Rawalpindi
20.Barikot ,Swat.

Apart from this ,Taxila and Lahore museums have also preserved a lot of Buddha related relics and artefacts ,which will definitely enhance knowledge regarding Ganddhara civilisation in Pakistan.

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