I belong to Taxila, one of the cities in Pakistan with
immense historical significance. During my childhood period till the age of
adolescence, I had been roaming in the scenic outskirts, vales, dales and the
ruins of Taxila that spread over a vast area along the mountains. The valley of
Khanpur situated between the two high walls of mountains is breathtakingly enchanting
with a river flowing called Haro.
Taxila is famous for the Gandhara Art that dates back to the
period between first millennium BC and 11th
century AD. Those were the peak times for the Hindu,
Buddhist and Greek civilizations. During the rule of King Asoka who was the grandson of Hindu king Chandragupta Maurya
and converted to Buddhism, Taxila became a great Buddhist center of learning.
The Eastern side of Taxila is a plateau situated in the
foothill of the Himalayan Mountains. The Western part of the lofty Himalayan
ranges start from the captivating valleys of Taxila and Khanpur. It was here
that Aryans, white Huns, Greek and waves of other invaders and conquerors
arrived from the North to the subcontinent. They stopped here to settle as the
mountains would block them to move further.
Besides the main river Haro there is another small rivulet
known as Dhamrah. It winds around the mountains’ ridges. Most of the ancient settlements, monasteries
and military barracks were built around the curved slops of mountains or just
adjacent to the lap of these beautiful ranges.
It was in these
valleys partly excavated and partly covered that I along with my friends would
walk mostly after school hours. To look yonder at the vastness of the place as
far as the Silhouetted Mountains, we would be nourished and filled with a new vibrancy
and inner serenity. This place was hardly a mile away from my residence and
therefore was easy to visit whenever we would find time.
After crossing over the railway line laid out by the British
in between the Taxila city and the Museum and its surroundings, we would
witness the first dazzling spectacle. It was the majestic building of the
museum built on a higher ground and surrounded by a variety of flower plants, fragrant
bushes, tall mulberry, and pine and walnut trees. It is fenced. The surroundings
of the museum looks like an emerald for its lush green, well maintained grassy
plots and flower beds.
British viceroy Lord Curzon appointed the famous British archaeologist Sir
Johan Marshall as the Director-General of Archaeology in 1902. In 1913
John Marshall started the excavations at Taxila. It lasted for twenty
years. He laid the foundation stone for the Taxila museum in 1918.The museum
was however inaugurated in 1930.
The museum hosts a few thousands artifacts from
statues to gold ornaments and antiques taken out from various sites. The
museum is built within a vast area better to be portrayed like a big garden
meticulously maintained with fruit and ornamental bushes, trees and flowers
beds all around.
There are about a dozen ancient cities and settlements
spread over an areas of thirty to fifty sq. miles built with meticulous
planning However, only six sites have been excavated and that was mostly done
by Sir John Marshall. The antiques and artifacts were also preserved and
catalogued by him. Thereafter no meaningful effort has ever been made to
explore as to what more lies in Taxila. However in 1998 another wing named the
“Northern Gallery” was added to the
museum by Pakistan government.
These sites are
spread over a vast area that circulate and wind up around the hills and turning
sharply towards the east at Sirkap. Then along the mountains it further extends
up to the small valleys in the mountains that stretch on the right side of the river
Haro and the road that runs in between the river and the mountains.
The walls of the compounds, buildings and stupas are minutely
engraved, carved, and studded with various images and postures of Lord Buddha
or Hindu deities. It is ever a breath-taking spectacle to see the old houses,
wells, baths, stupas, sidewalks and main paths made of symmetrical sized stones
and the walls in perfect harmony and neatly and smoothly laid-out.
that in those primitive times, there were great builders, artisans, masons,
iron-smiths, the designers and the mural makers.
During our time the
engraved statues of various sizes were still intact on the wall.
Taxila used to be an outstanding
Buddhists University whose ruins and old structures have been unearthed and
offer great attraction for tourists all over the world. Barring roofs, their
walls and rooms appear to be intact and holding on. There are niches for the statues
to be placed.
The Taxila museum displays
a huge collection of artifacts ranging from earthen pottery, statues, idols
beads, rosaries, coins, make-up things, utensils to jewelry and weapons and so
on. All these invaluable objects encompass various periods and civilizations
from 600 BC to 500 AD.
In fact all the sites, old temples on the mountains, the
Buddhist University, the magnificent stupas are located on the periphery of the
mountains. Within these mountains, there are also paths and passages linking
them. For instance the Dharamrajika Stupa which is situated on the right of the
same mountain near the village of Shahpur is connected with the Sirkap ruins
from a narrow passage through a gorge. From
the main road it comes like a curve and should be not less than 15 miles.
In the far away valley of Khanpur, there is a large meticulously
laid-out city of Sirkap with wide lanes and passages. This city was built by the Greco-Bactrian king Demetrius after he invaded India around 180 BC.
Adjacent to that there are
several layers of high walls and huge barracks perhaps made for the armies in
successive periods. Here, while walking we would find old coins, toys, weapons,
statues, household articles, and even gold jewelry. A few miles further in the
mountain lap is located the world famous Buddhist university at the Julian
Now let me come to my actual purpose of writing this
article. While walking and looking down on the ground, we would find old coins,
neatly rounded stones for grinding purpose and similar relics. I had collected
a good number of old coins some bearing the images of the old kings, deities
and also the later times Greek administrators.
In my assessment Taxila is unearthed only by a small part
and most of its old ruins are still buried underneath the debris and soil. It
is my firm understanding after having seen and traveled these places for countess
times that there are still hidden archaeological sites full of past relics
ranging from gold and silver jewelry to precious statues, weapons and household
objects But if discovered another huge museum building would be needed for their
As already narrated, I have seen many pavements, earthen
pots, ovens and chiseled stones etc. half exposed and half buried in the
ground. While walking on the plowed land one may, all of sudden, see a coin or
piece of an ornament or earthen pottery, a precious tone, a bead, a pitcher or a
At Sirkap there is a huge mass of earth with long walls of
hostels or military barracks of the Greek army extends up to the small river Dharma.
Only a portion of it has been excavated. Here I found several coins that were later
put up in an exhibition at my school and these were never returned to me.
sure that a huge trough of treasures and antiques are buried in this huge landmass
that if recovered, can shed light over the lifestyle and culture prevailing in
The land between the museum and Dharma River that flows
along the mountains ridges and Taxila Museum is yet to be excavated. It was
here that we have been also collecting old coins, toys, beads and small
artifacts that would surface after the plowing of the land by the peasants who
sparsely live here.
The flat ground that exists between the museum and the two adjacent
disappearing Bhir Mound ruins can be excavated for marvelous discoveries of the
Similarly there are caves in the mountains that are unexplored
in order to find out what was hidden inside. There are sites near the city of
Usman Khattar that show signs of underneath settlements of the past. The stupa
of Balartope is a marvel of the ancient times and with its fine roundness and
smooth construction takes us back into the past.
That round pillar is erected
on the western end of the “Sarhra mountain” .This is the same mountain, along
which flows river Haro. The entire zone stretching for several miles is full of
Ever since the evocation in Taxila early 20th
century and creation of the Museum the relic robbers and vandals have made
several attempts to steal the artifacts particularly original Gandhara art
statues from the museum. And they have succeeded in many instances. They sell
these in the international markets on huge prices.
While the museum is well guarded, the ruin sites and temple especially
the Buddhist University is unprotected .The guard stay for day time. They can
also be prevailed upon by money or force to cooperate with the antique robbers
and that has been happening uninhibited.
From time to time, they are caught and even some of the
precious treasures are recovered by them. But they do not relent in their
profitable business. It is said that as a result of collusion between the staff
and the antique dealers, quite a few things in the museum have been replaced
with fake artifacts. This is an alarming situation and needs to be checked once
and for all.
The local residents living in nearby villages sell both fake
and real statues and other artifacts to the tourists. They roam about the archaeological
sites and show both the original and replicas to the visitors and charge money
As for further excavation and extension of museum, while it
would not be financially possible for Pakistan to spend a sizable amount of
money on these projects, the UNESCO may move forward to allocate funds for such
interesting missions that can connect the antiquity with the present and find
out how our ancestors differed from us.