Taxila: History At Every Step
Taxila is a medium sized town located in the near vicinity of the twin cities of Rawalpindi-Islamabad. Taxila has the unique honor to be a town of historical, archeological, industrial and education significance all at once. Located on the historical Grand Trunk Road (G.T. Road) the town of Taxila is amongst the top tourist attractions of Pakistan and is visited by millions of people each year from Pakistan and from abroad. The origin of Taxila goes back to 1000 B.C. Certain ruins and remains at Taxila date back to Achaemenid Empire in the 6th century B.C. and later days Mauryan Empire, Indo-Greeks, Indo-Scythians, and Kushan Empire. The old alignment of G.T. Road built by Sher Shah Suri can also be found close to Taxila.
Taxila can be accessed by road from the twin cities of Rawalpindi-Islamabad via G.T. Road. Using your own transport it takes about 20-25 minutes at a leisurely speed to reach Taxila. If you are approaching from Lahore via M2, you may be able to avoid getting into Rawalpindi and continue on M1 until you get down at Burhan Interchange and travel further via G.T. Road. The total travel time from Lahore is about 5 hours with a break either at Bhera or Chakri Service Area. If accessing Taxila from Peshawar you take the G.T. Road direct to Taxila or travel via M1 upto Hassanabdal and travel the remaining distance via G.T. Road. Regular bus and coaster service is available between Rawalpindi and Peshawar that may be used to travel to Taxila. Taxis in Rawalpindi are usually available and not expensive. You must, however, negotiate the fare in advance with your driver to avoid any distaste later.
Several small to medium sized hotels and motels are available at Taxila. However, it would be best to lodge at Rawalpindi or Islamabad and take day tour to Taxila and fall back for the night to Rawalpindi or Islamabad.
Taxila is extra full of ancient historical, religious and cultural sites and excavations. Some of the major tourist attractions at Taxila are as follows:
Taxila Museum is home to a vast collection of artifacts, statues, sculptures, stonework, and pieces of Gandhara art from the 700 B.C. to 7th Century A.D. Most of the objects in this collection were discovered from excavation of ruins of ancient Taxila City. The construction work at the museum started in 1918 with the foundation stone laid by Lord Chelmsford, the then Viceroy of India. Later the expansion work was undertaken in 1998 by the Government of Pakistan.
The Dharmarajika Stupa (also called the Great Stupa of Taxila) dates from the 2nd century A.D. It is claimed that the stupa was built to house bone fragments of the Buddha. The Great Stupa along with the monastic complex that later developed around it forms part of the Ruins of Taxila. Together this complex is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1980.
Jaulian Monastery is an archeological site discovered during excavation of ruins at and around ancient Taxila City. The Jaulian Monastery dates back to the 2nd century A.D and is located in the Haripur District, approximately 10 km away from Taxila. Jaulian Monastery is part of the archeological ruins of Taxila and is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1980.
Mohra Muradu is the site of an ancient Buddhist stupa and monastery. The ancient monastery is located in a beautiful valley offering a panoramic view of the adjacent mountains. The monastery was built around 2nd Century A.D. and renovated around 5th Century A.D. The site includes the main stupa, an auxiliary stupa and a monastery.
Sirsukh is archeological site discovered during excavation of the ancient Taxila City. Sirsukh was a walled town founded by Kushan King Kanishka around 80 Century A.D. The wall of the town is made of stone bricks with circular bastions containing holes for archers to throw arrows at the approaching enemy.
Jandial is the site of an ancient temple well known for its Ionic columns. The Temple was discovered during excavation in 1912-1913 by the Archaeological Survey of India and has been called "the most Hellenic structure yet found on Indian soil". The design of the temple closely resembles temples made by the Greek. It is believed that the temple was constructed around 2nd Century BCE.
Another tourist attraction which though not part of Taxila is located in close proximity of Taxila and can be visited during the same trip is the Mughal Gardens located at Wah. The site is located about 20 minutes drive form Taxila on the Main G.T. Road. The Gardens were developed during the Mughal era and have a pool, waterways, living quarters and gardens with trees dating back to the Mughal era.