Monday, 3 October 2016

A Brief Account of Archealogical Remains in Hazarkhwani

"A Brief account of Archealogical Remains in
Hazarkhwani Graveyard Peshawar"

By Ibrahim Shah
The Hazarkhwani graveyard, known after a nearby village of this name, is located at a short distance to the south of Ganj gate of the walled city of Peshawar. It is also called Akhun Baba graveyard after the celebrity of the famous saint Akhun Darweza Baba lying enshrined herein. It extends over a vast area and is still used by the local people. When the graveyard was first made in use cannot be ascertained for lack of any inscriptional or literary evidence at hand. At the most the possibility that it was already existing at this place prior to the Mughal epoch cannot be ruled out. It houses thousands of graves belonging to the rank and file, higher government functionaries and saints in different mode of construction. Apart from this, the graveyard also contains two ruined mosques and remains of large well. Innumerable historic inscriptions found within the graveyard form a separate class of its own which is beyond the sphere of this work. Archaeologically, the graveyard bears utmost importance. The last but not the least importance is the location of the world-famous Shah Ji Ki Dheri identified to be the site of the Kanishka vihara in the northern quarter of this graveyard. The graveyard is bifurcated by a narrow metallic road going to Hazarkhwani, a village in the Peshawar. The existence of these historical monuments and graves makes it distinguished in the whole area. We are going to discuss on by one.

Research Scholar, Department of Archaeology, University of Peshawar.
Vol. XX No. 1 July 1997


In chronological order the site of Shah Ji Ki Dheri, dating to the time of Kanishka. can be placed at the earliest. It can be approached by a road leading to Hazarkhwani. The ruins of the mound, although at present hardly traceable, can only be identified by an elevated contour of the earth upon which now stands modern houses, lying in the north-east part of this graveyard. The spot is generally known as “Mahbuba Dheri” after a legendary loving couple “Mahbuba and Jalat Khan” whose love story is still circulating among the dwellers of outskirts of the city. The south side of he ruins is enclosed within the curtain wall of the tomb of Khawaja Sayyid Ata Allah which can be discerned from cultural material found within the debris of excavations conducted in the first decade of this country. Once it consisted of two large mounds laying in east-west orientation. The site was first excavated by Lt. Crompton in 1875, which was followed by D.S Spooner in 1908—09 and H. Hargreaves in 1910- II. The eastern mound revealed the great stupa while the western unearthed the monastery attached to it. This great stupa according to Hiuen Tsang, was located to the south of the sacred pipal tree itself lying to the south-east of the city. Buddha is said to have prophesied the erection this stupa having sat beneath this pipal tree whose height was one hundred feet or so …… four hundred years after by (my) departure from the world, there will be a king who shall rule it called Kanishka (Kia-ni-se-kia): not far to the south of this spot he will raise a stupa which will contain many various relics of my bones and flesh”5. As to the stupa, Fa-Hein observes that it was about 400 feet high, and “adorned with all manner of precious things.” Sang-Yun reports that “among the topes of Western countries this is the first”: lastly Hiuen Tsang says that it was upward of 400 ft, in height and 1/½ li or just one quarter of a mile, in circumference. Hargreaves reports that “ the monument was of cruciform type, the square base 180 feet in length, the projection 50 feet.” He further maintains that “ the circular bastion-like tower bases at each corner are

Vol. XX No. 1 July 1997

Journal of Central Asia
However, a unique feature of the monument....." . The eye-witness record of the Chineese Pilgrims informs that there were a hundred small stupas to the right and left of the great stupa standing with regularity, and executed with consumate art . Hiuen Tsang further tells us that "according to the prediction of Tathagatha, after this stupa has been seven times burnt down and seven times rebuilt, then the religion of Buddha will disappear. The record of old worthies says this building has already been destroyed and restored three times. When first arrived in this country it had just been destroyed by a fire calamity. Steps are being taken for its restoration, but they are not yet complete"9. Whether the prophecy was fulfilled and the stupa was finally burnt down for the seventh time is not known for certain '. Since the upper storeys were made of wood, they had therefore been subject to destruction by fire or lightening. Ashy layers exposed in the course of excavation have testified this statement.

The most celebrated Kanishka vihara was identified by Alfred Foucher with Shah Ji Ki Dheri which was attested by D.B. Spooner's excavations in 1908-09 who not only located the stupa but also succeeded in discovering the bronze reliquary . The inscribed cylindrical casket yielded three small fragments of bone believed to be the relics of Buddha (as per his prediction in the accounts of Chinese pilgrims) which were later on presented by Lord Curzon, the then Governor-General of India, to the Buddhists of Burma to be re-enshrined at Mandalay '. The relic casket is inscribed in the cursive Kharoshthi script, the language being Sanskritized form of Prakrit. Of the four epigraphs on the casket transcribed and translated by D.B. Spooner, the excavator, the most informative is as follows15:

dasa agisala navakarmi (k)aniskasa
vihara mahasenasa sangharame
"The slave Agisalaos, the superintendent of works at the vihara of Kanishka in the monastery of Mahasena".

Vol. XX No. 1 July 1997