Friday, 2 December 2016

A guide to Takhtbhai

A guide to Takhtbhai
History of the site
This study describes only a small portion of the ancient route followed by kings, invaders, traders and merchants since remote antiquity. Roads and communication system under a competent administration and management play a vital role in the socio-economic development of a country.

"The famous ruins of Takht-i-Bahi are situated on the crest and northern slope of a detached spur rising abruptly from the plain some nine miles north of Hoti Mardan in the North West Frontier Province, that is to say in the heart of the Yusufzai country, itself, roughly speaking, the centre of the ancient territory of Gan- dhara. Their romantic situation, high on the precipitous hill, with its magnificent views of the fertile plains below and the encircling mountains, together with their comparative accessibility have made the ruins a familiar and favourite spot with the Europeans of the neighborhood, while the extraordinary extent and relatively good preservation of the ruins themselves are sufficient to explain the interest that has long been taken in them by archaeologists, an interest which has been widened by the fact that many of the best pieces of Gandhara sculpture now to be found in the museums of Europe were originally recovered at this site", writes Dr. D.B. Spooner, Curator, Peshawar Museum and excavator of the Buddhist Monastery of Takht-i-Bahi in

"Of the many Buddhist sites in Gandhara none is better known than that of Takht-i-Bahi and no spot has been the object of so many excavations both irregular and systematic than this isolated ruin", writes Mr. Hargreaves, Curator, and Peshawar Museum who excavated this site in 1910-11.

"Today probably the best known monument in the Peshawar [now Mardan] district is the Buddhist monastery of Takht-i-Bahi on a rocky ridge about 10 miles north-east of Mardan. It stands 500 feet above the plain and is approached by a steep and winding path, but the visitor is repaid for his climb by the architectural diversity of the ruins and by their romantic mountain setting", remarks Sir Mortimer Wheeler, Archaeological Adviser to the Government of Pakistan in 1949.

The history of the Buddhist monastery of Takht-i-Bahi is shrouded in darkness. Even the famous Chinese pilgrims, Fa-hien, Song-yun and Hiuen Tsang do not make a mention of it. Either the site was abandoned before their arrival or they had no knowledge of it. Prof. Foucher's conclusion was that the Chinese pilgrims did not mention it whatever the reason might be. Another view is that the barbaric Huns from Central Asia destroyed it. Their king Mihiragula, the Hun is charged with the destruction of sixteen hundred stupas and monasteries of Gandhara and slaying two thirds of its inhabitants. Hiuen Tsang mentions that there were about one thousand monasteries in Gandhara and the country was without a king. The greater parts of them were deserted and in ruins but fifteen of them were inhabited which were described by him. There were about hundred Brahmanical temples also in Gandhara at the time of the pilgrim's visit. There were constant invasions of the Sassanian kings of Iran on this part after AS. 200. They are also considered to be responsible for weakening the hold of Buddhism as they were fire worshippers and the later Kushana kings had accepted their overlord ship. In many of the Gandhara sculptures of the later period, the Sassanian influence can be seen in the form of Persepolitan pilasters and fire altars. Not a complete historical inscription was found at the site, which could throw light on the monastery except the Gondophares inscription from Shahbaz Garha village, which is believed to have originally come from Takht-i-Bahi.

After Kanishka's death, the later Kushana kings did not show that much patronage to the monasteries. Thus the monks descended to earn their livelihood which made the monasteries desolate. Their roofs collapsed, rooms hurried under heap of earth and shrubs grew over them. The few colossal walls survived even against the onslaughts of winds rains and thunders.

General Court, the French Officer of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, was the first to mention this site in 1836 who had found also the Asokan Rock Edicts at Shah-baz Garha in the same year. He writes, "To the north east of Hashtnagar is the mountain of Behhi, standing alone on a vast plain, and close to it are the ruins of an ancient castle, which is attributed to Raja Vara and which, according to the traditions of the inhabitants, was the dwelling of the ancient sovereigns of this country". But General Abbot writing in 1854, on the Indian side of the Indus, where he derived all his information from Indians, states that "at Nogran in Yusufzai, near Ranida-Gat, is the stable of Raja Varat". Dr. H.W. Bellow, Assistant Surgeon, Corps of Guides at Mardan who visited the site in 1864 writes, "These ruins are very extensive, and still in very good preservation. They occupy the crest and northern slope of the Takht-i- Bahi hill, a spur which, projecting westward from the Pajah ridge, traverses the plain for several miles, and separates the valley of Lundkhwar from that of Su-dhum.

The ruins occupy the western end of this ridge, which is a bare ledge of grey mica and quartz schist, about three hundred feet above the plain, and cover about a mile of surface along a central crest between terminal eminences on the east and west. On these are the boundary buildings, of the city, the rest are on the intervening crest, and the ridges sloping down from it to the plain on the north. The hollows between these ridges are the natural drains of the hill".

He described all the structural remains with great care, which were visible and identified some of them correctly. As the ruins were not fully and systematically excavated, there-fore he could not identify some of them and called as the remains of a big city as they were lying spread on the mountain. The Hindus at that time believed that the ruins were formerly the residence of Raja Bharat and the Pandu kings of the Epic Age.

Then the site was excavated by Sergeant Wilcher in 1871 with a company of Sappers and Miners. He also could not give a satisfactory explanation regarding the true nature of the ruins.

Sir Alexander Cunningham who had visited the site for the second time in 1873 writes that Hiuen Tsang mentions the story of Rishi Ekasringa. He was a holy man who lost his divine powers through the seductive arts of a courtesan, who actually persuaded him to carry her on his shoulders through the town. Asoka the Mauryan emperor had built a stupa on the spot where the Rishi Ekasringa had formerly lived. He further writes, "The monument of the Rishi Ekasringa with its neighbouring monastery I would identify with the great stupa of Sahri Bahlol, which was opened by Dr. Bellew, and the monastery attached to it. As nothing is said about any monuments on the high hill itself, I conclude that the Buddhist establishments on Takht-i-Bahi had already been abandoned before the time of Hwen-Thsang's visit". Prof. Foucher and Colonel Dean locate the scene of Rishi Ekasringa in the Malakand Agency at the site of Butan, "The Idols" which lies about 41 miles to the north-west of Palai and circ. half a mile to the east of the point where the side valley crossed by the Shahkot Pass debouches.

"The hill of Takht-i-Bahi forms three sides of an oblong square, of which the north face is open, and the south is formed by the highest ridge of the hill, which is very nearly straight.

About halfway between the two long ridges, which form the east and west sides of the square, there is shorter ridge or spur, which runs almost directly north from the crest of the hill. The ruins of Bahi occupy this centre spur and two other shorter spurs to the east of it, as well as the main ridge, including the highest peak at the south-west corner of the square, to which alone the name of Takht or "seat" properly belongs.

The religious buildings which are by far the most interesting portion of the ruins are nearly all confined to the three shorter spurs or ridges, the mass of the buildings along apparently private dwellings, from one to three and even four storeys in height".

The name of Raja Vara was supplied to Sir Alexander Cunningham also by the local people who first visited Navagram and Shahbaz Garha in the Yusufzai country before 1849. The Hindus used to call these ruins as those of Raja Virat in his time because the Mahabharata and the Ramayana were brought during the British campaigns to this side of the Indus by the Hindu soldiers. He thinks that before this the people knew only Raja Vara, which he linked with the famous Aornos of Alexander the Great and Po-lu-sha (Shahbaz Garha) of Hiuen Tsan. Sir Aurel Stein identified Aornos with the rock of Pirsar near Unra on the bank of the river Indus.

"The name of Bahi or Bahai which means a reservoir or baori has been applied to the hill on account of its possession of two small artificial tanks. One of these on the very crest of the hill is about 8 feet square and regularly built, but it is now nearly filled with debris. The other is a few yards below the crest on its northern face at the western end of the city. It is about 14 feet square and 20 feet deep, and is excavated out of the solid rock".

Both of these tanks have been mentioned by Sir Alexander Cunningham and Dr. Bellew in their reports more than a hundred years ago. Whatever may be the nomenclature but it is a fact that Takht-i-Bahi has the most beautiful and complete Buddhist monastery to this side of the Indus on the hills.

A report published in 1883 says, "General Cunningham discovered Jamalgiri in 1848. Lieutenant (now Sir Harry) Lumsden dug at Kharkai about 1850-51 at the request of the Commissioner of Peshawar, Colonel Mackeson. Lieutenants Lumsden and Stokes partially explored Jamalgiri and Takht-i-Bahi in 1852. Dr. Bellow partially excavated Sahri Bahlol about 1865. General Maclagan sent Sappers to the Takht-i-Bahi in 1869-70, and a large number of sculptures were deposited in the Lahore Museum, Dr. Leitner in 1870 procured some sculptures from the Takht-i-Bahi through men of the Guides. Colonel Hastings (then Assistant Commissioner) in 1871-72 directed digging by Sappers in the Sudam Valley. Lieutenant Crompton, R.E., about 1872, directed explorations by Sappers at Takht-i-Bahi and Jamalgiri. A Colonel from Peshawar is said by the natives to have removed 12 camel-loads of sculptures from Jamalgiri before 1873. Jamalgiri was partially excavated in January 1873, by General Cunningham. Jamalgiri was extensively excavated by Sappers under Lieutenant Crompton, R.E., in 1873. Sahri Bahlol was partially excavated by General Cunningham in 1873. Sappers under Lieutenant Macgregor and Grant were at work at Kharkai in 1874. Sappers under Lieutenant Grant worked at Sawal Dheyr in 1874".

Dr. D.B. Spooner, Curator, Peshawar Museum and Superintendent, Archaeological Survey of India, Frontier Circle, was the first to excavate the monastery scientifically in January 1907 in accordance with the recommendations made by Sir John Marshall, Director General of Archaeology in India. He again continued the work in 1908-11. Later Mr. H. Hargreaves, Curator, Peshawar Museum excavated the site in 1910-11. He again resumed the work in 1912-13. Side by side with the excavations, the conservation of the site was also started systematically from 1907 to 1929 and a large number of sculptures were recovered each year in clearing operations. Necessary repairs were also carried out at several places and the famous Court of Three Stupas was rooted over.

The excavations have not been able to build up the chronological history of the site as they were conducted on different occasions. However, it is possible to build up a probable chronology on the basis of the structural remains and the general layout of the site. The following chronology is made by making on-the- spot study of the structures and their inter-relations.

First Period

It starts from the first century B.C. to second century AJ». The earliest phase belongs to the time of Gondophares, the Parthian ruler whose inscription was supposed to have come from Takht-i- Bahi. It includes the reign of Kanishka also who belonged to the line of the Great Kushana dynasty, which had earlier migrated from the province of Kansu in the northwest of damp. In this period we include the structures of the Court of Many Stupas, the Monastery and its kitchen and refectory.

Second Period

It starts from the third century to fourth century AD. Which covers the reign of the Later Kushana rulers. Kanishka III and Vasudeva II were the important rulers of this line. The former king had issued two types of coins i.e. Shiva and bull on the reverse and the king standing on the obverse and the other had the goddess Ardochso seated on the reverse. The second type was common in Gandhara. Kashmir was included in his territory but probably Mathura was not. He is assigned a period of thirty years. Vasudeva II succeeded him who was probably his son and ruled for about twenty years. Much of the areas in the Punjab and Sistan were out of his control. In this period we place the Main Stupa and the Assembly Hall.

Third Period

It starts from the fourth century to fifth century AD. and covers the reign of the Kidar. Kushana rulers. The founder of this dynasty was Kidar, a chief who was originally a vassal of the Sassanian emperor Shahpur II. He consolidated his power in Gandhara, Punjab and Kashmir and ruled with the help of governors. Finally they were swept away by the Huns, a barbaric race from Central Asia in the fifth century A.D. We include the Court of Three Stupas in this period.

Fourth Period

It starts from the sixth century to seventh century AD. and covers the post Hun period. We place in this period the Low Level Cham- bers and its Open Courtyard in the west.

The most important portion of the ruins, which extend altogether for something like a mile east and west along the summit, is the monastic complex situated on a ridge to the north, somewhat lower than the crest of the hill itself and towards the eastern end of the whole site. From the precipitous sides of this smaller ridge massive walls still rise in places, to a height of nearly 50 feet, enclosing the summit, which appears to have been artificially leveled within this enclosure and laid out in its present series of quadrangles terraced one above the another.

We leave the vehicle down below the hill and start walking on the plain a few hundred yards. Then we climb the hill about 500 feet above the plain to reach the ruins. Although we arrive a bit tired, we are rewarded when we find ourselves among the beautiful structures of the monastery. The group of buildings includes 1) The Court of Many Stupas. 3) The Monastery. 3) The Main Stupa. 4) The Assembly Hall. 5) The Low-Level Chambers. 6) The Courtyard. 7) The Court of Three Stupas. 8) The Wall of Colossi and ") The Secular Buildings.

The main entrance to the monastic enclosure is on the south and a passage leads north to the western end of the rectangular courtyard of the Court of Many Stupas, which appears to have been on the same level.

Another entrance to the monastic complex was probably on the extreme south behind the hills because the famous village of Sahri Bahlol is at a distance of 2i miles situated on an extensive mound which was surrounded by a dozen other small ruins. The foundation walls of the settlement revealed that it was a strongly walled and fortified town and its surrounding ruins had yielded a large number of Gandhara sculptures in the past. The townsmen of Sahri Bahlol could easily bring food and offerings to the monks, nuns and students of Takht-i-Bahi by taking a direct route on the plain upto the southern foot of the hill and after ascending and descending it, could reach the monastery. The Buddhist pilgrims who came from the direction of Peshawar, Charsadda, Hund. Shahbaz Garha and Sahri Bahlol used this entrance to the Monastery while on their way to Uddiyana (The Garden) i.e. Swat. The present access to the Monastery was used by the pilgrims from Bajaur, Dir, Chitral, Swat and Malakand who entered the plains of the Mardan district on their onward journey to Taxila and other important cities of Gandhara.


Having advanced, then, from the entrance gate to the western end of the courtyard of the Court of Many Stupas, the visitor would have turned to the right and east to enter the court itself, which as can be seen by the plan, is a mass of little stupas surrounded on three sides by lofty chapels, and bisected from north to south by a paved passage running between little stupas and miniature shrines and connecting courts of the Monastery and the Main Stupa both of which lie at higher levels than the Court of Many Stupas itself. The monastic quadrangle proper is approached by a short flight of five steps and the Main Stupa by a loftier one of 15. The Court of Many Stupas is 116 feet long from east to west and 50 feet broad from north to south and contains as many as 35 votive stupas. They were dedicated by the pilgrims who came to this sacred place. All of them stand on the square plinths with the exception of the two, which have circular podiums. They are surrounded in the east, north and south by lofty walls of 25 to 30 feet in height retaining 30 tall chapels of various sizes, which face the court. The roofs of all these chapels have collapsed due to the ravages of time. Probably they contained the same type of domes that can be seen in the chapels of the Main Stupa. Seven of these domes on the northern side of the quadrangle were restored by the Archaeological Survey of India. They give us a picture of how they looked in their original form. Images of the Buddha were enshrined in them. Dr. Bellew and Sergeant Wilcher discovered statues of gigantic size in this area. In 1864 Bellew mentions that he found fragments of plaster figures which ''must have belonged to statues of gigantic size. A hand, a foot, and portion of the head, in this composition, were fully four times the natural size". These huge figures", he adds, "probably occupied positions outside the stupa court", for their fragments are only found outside its limits. Here also the same colossal fragments were exhumed by Sergeant Wilcher in 1871. This part of the ruins was not completely cleared, as the mass of debris was from 10 to 12 feet deep. But the fronts of the chapels were opened out, and all the remains of buildings in the middle of the court were cleared and exposed to view in 1872—73 at the time of Sir Alexander Cunningham's visit to the site.

The votive stupas in the quadrangle were embellished with stucco plaster, decorative and narrative relief’s each surmounted by a cornice and separated by Corinthian pilaster. Due to natural calamities the ornamentation of these stupas has completely vanished. If we visit the Court of Three Stupas we can realise the architectural and sculptural ornamentation with traces of colour on stucco in their original form, which does not exist now. This will give us some idea about the original condition of the Court of Many Stupas hundreds of years ago. This courtyard was covered with debris and all the votive stupas were concealed in earth. They became visible when the earth was removed from the quadrangle. One of the two stupas here has a circular and the other an octagonal plinth.

The latter contained eight niches on each side with ogee arches for holding sculptures. In the eastern half of the court there was a raised podium measuring 30x20' which was ascended by a flight of five steps on the western side. General Cunningham, before the excavation, had assu- med that it might have contained a large stupa with two smaller ones at each end. Thus this court presents a confused picture of stupas erected in different periods and also of the walled chapels, which do not give a symmetrical look.


The monastery is in the north of the Court of Many Stupas and can be approached by a short flight of five steps. The work began here in 1907-08 with the clearance of the monastic quadrangle under the supervision of the Public Works Department. The debris and rubbish had collected here in some places to a depth of 8 or 9 feet and the walls of the monk's cubicles were in many instances quite concealed, while practically no trace remained of the square building in the midst of the courtyard. The difference in the appearance of this quadrangle after the clearance was remarkable. One might say that the quadrangle, once lost, is now recovered.

As was expected, however, the work in this portion of the site did not yield much in the line of sculptural remains. A number of pieces were found nevertheless, but for the most part in a very fragmentary condition because the monastic quadrangle is naturally not the portion of a convent in which sculptural finds are to be expected. However a beautiful emaciated Siddhartha in parts seated in meditation with the story of the two merchants at the pedestal was recovered from the monastery; and is on display in the Peshawar Museum.

The monastic quadrangle is 62 feet square inside with 15 cells arranged on three sides for the accommodation of the monks. The two comer cells in the north and south are somewhat longer than the others. Each cell contains a ventilator and from one to three inches inside to keep oil lamps, books and other articles of the monks. In the southeast quarter of the square there is a tank for water which Alexander Cunningham thought was probably filled by drainage from the roots of the cells. It is possible that the monks used to bring water in the pots from the spring down below to fill this tank. Near the middle of the blank wall on the eastern side there is a door leading into a small court 20 feet square, which was the kitchen of the monastery. To the north this has two doors, one leading to the upper storey of the monastery by a flight of nine steps and the other to the outside of the building. To the east there are two more openings. To the south there is a single door leading into a court 32 feet by 30 which was the refectory attached to the kitchen.

Sir Alexander Cunningham writes, "The size of this monastery is small, but I have little doubt that it originally consisted of two storeys, as would appear to have been the case with most of the dwelling houses. Hwen-Thsang’s also describes the Sangharamas as having pavilions of two or three storeys at the four corners. They were built, he says, with extraordinary art, the windows and partition walls were painted in different colours, and their beams and architraves were ornamented with fine sculptures. If this monastery was two-storeys in height, it would have held 30 monks, a number which would have found ample sitting room in the large closed court, 50 feet square, to the west of the monastery. Indeed, 1 look upon the size of the court as affording a very good indication of the number of monks for whose use it was intended, and therefore also of the size of the monastery.

"In this south-east corner of the court of colossi or Vihar Court (The Court of Many Stupas) a few steps lead up to a private passage, on one side of which there are two rooms or cells. These may per- haps have been solitary cells for the punishment of refractory monks, but I think it more probable that they were the cells of two of the chief monks of the fraternity, he adds.

He concludes, "The whole number of persons in this monastery would therefore have been either 33 or 34. I conclude that the two separate cells had upper storeys; but I suppose that the Abbot and senior monk may have been allowed two rooms each".


Ascending 15 steps to the south, one enters the court of the Main Stupa and finds oneself in front of a square platform originally approached by a few steps now quite ruined. This is obviously the basement of the stupa itself, but long continued and irresponsible treasure seeking has resulted in its complete destruction. Round this courtyard on three sides rise a number of chapels, originally five on a side. It is obvious from the structures of these buildings as Prof. Alfred Foucher, the French archaeologist, points out, that as first planned they were separated one from another by a considerable space, which, at a later date when the court became crowded with images, were built up into miniature shrines completely closing the court on the three sides. By great good fortune it is precisely here that the only superstructures extant in the whole site are to be found (with the exception of the vaulted passages underground to the west of the Court of Many Stupas), but even here only two of the chapels retained their original roofing while a third had the lower of its two domes and the collar partly preserved.

Sir Alexander Cunningham visited the Main Stupa- of Takht-i-Bahi in 1872-73 and describes it in this way.

"The stupa stands in the midst of an oblong court 561/2 by 451/2 feet. The basement of the stupa is a square of 201/2 feet, diminishing in three stages to 151/2 feet, at a height of 81/2 feet from the ground. The middle stage is only 9 inches in height, but the lower stage is 3 feet 4 inches high with 6 pilasters on the side, and the upper stage is 3 feet high with 10 pilasters on the side, and the upper stage is 3 feet, 4 inches high with 6 pilasters on the side. To the north immediately in front of the entrance to the court there is a flight of steps leading to the top of the basement, to enable the pious to per- ambulate the stupa itself. The actual body of the stupa could not therefore have been more than 12 feet in diameter and about 20 feet in height, or with its basement not more than 30 feet.

"The chapels surrounding the stupa are separate buildings, each 8 feet square externally, with the side towards the court open. On the two longer sides the spaces between the chapels, 2 feet, 10 inches broad, were originally open, but these were soon utilized by building a cross wall in the middle of each opening, thus forming a number of smaller chapels open to wards the court. I gather from this arrangement that all the large chapels must have been the gifts of different individuals, and that the smaller ones were an ingenious after-thought, each of which would have better suited the slender means of less wealthy persons.

"The side walls of the chapels were 1 foot, 71/2 inches thick, leaving one opening of 4 feet, 10 inches, and a depth of 5 feet, 6 inches for the interior room. The end of each side wall towards the court was faced with a pilaster crowned by a rich Corinthian capital of acanthus leaves. Each chapel was covered with a high dome of overlapping stones, springing from a circle of broad projecting stones at the level of the pilaster capital. Each dome was 21/4 feet thick at the spring. No example now remains of the mode of covering the opening between the pilasters. I judge, however, from a comparison of the representations of chapels in the sculptures with the few pieces of stone beams now lying about, and with the appearances of the broken domes, that some of them were covered by a horizontal architrave, and others by a trefoil-overlapping arch. Externally the dome was much flattened at top, and on the top of it was raised a second smaller dome, resting on a low cylindrical neck. But one of the middle chapels, which is still standing, although much injured, is differently finished, the upper dome having a gable end with a small trefoil opening, the whole being capped with a mushroom pinnacle.

"The smaller chapels were covered with semi-domes like niches, the opening to the front having a flat or Egyptian shaped head, of which one example still remains at Takht-i-Bahi. These Egyptian openings are represented in many of the sculptures. Alternating with circular openings, just as in the present instance. In some of the sculptures the interior of the semi- dome is shown as panelled.

"These Egyptian-shaped heads would appear to have been forced upon the builders by the converging capitals of the pilasters between which they were placed.

"The purpose for which these chapels were intended may be gathered from their sculptured representations, as well as from the remains of statues and sculptures which have been found lying in front of them. From these sources we learn that all the larger chapels must have contained single figures of Buddha, either sitting or standing, and either alone or accompanied by two or more auditors. Many of them were dedicated to the memory of holy men, or of powerful kings, whose statues were enshrined in them, as I have already shown in the case of the Rishi Ekasringa, which I have quoted from Hwen-Thsang. No statues were found in situ at Takht-i-Bahi, either by Dr. Bellew or by Sergeant Wilcher, nor did I find any in situ at Jamal-garhi, but at Sahri Bahlol I discovered a row of upright statues, at nearly equal distances apart along the base of a wall, which once formed the basement of a line of chapels. In this instance the statues, though not actually in situ, were within 1 or 2 feet of their original positions, having apparently been pushed for- ward by the falling inwards of the chapel walls. The side walls of chapels and probably also the blank spaces in the back walls were ornamented with alto-relievo sculptures displaying various memorable scenes in the life of Buddha. These slabs were usually fixed to the walls by large iron nails driven through some sunken portion of the sculpture.

"The smaller chapels would have contained smaller statues of Buddha, or of saints or of kings, or perhaps larger scenes in alto-relievo. The pilasters also which divided the chapels were frequently sculptured, as we learn by numerous miniature examples.

"The chapels as well as the principal statues would also appear to have been gilded, as they are even now in Burma. This was perhaps nearly always (he case with the pilaster statues, although it is possible that some may have been simply coloured red. I have always found fragments of gold leaf in company with the broken plaster statues. Two of the alto-relievos and one of the pilaster capitals found at Jamal-garhi still retain numerous patches of thick gilding".

Sir Mortimer Wheeler writes, "The site has produced fragmentary sculptures in stone and stucco to an extent that indicates considerable wealth and elaboration, but most remarkable feature is the design and arrangement of the range of small shrines which surrounds the main stupa-court. These shrines, containing images and votive stupas, stood upon a continuous sculptured podium and were crowned alternately with stupa-like finials and with gabled chaityas, forming an ensemble without known parallel".


Outside the monastery on the -west there is a long narrow passage, only 5 feet in width and 50 in length. It separates the monastery from a large courtyard, which is 50 feet square inside. It has only one enhance in the south and is surrounded by lofty walls, 30 feet high. There are no traces of any other openings in the walls nor of any seats or smaller buildings on the ground inside. The outer walls of this courtyard rise directly from the hill side on the north and west but the accumulated debris of several centuries have gra- dually forced them out which resulted into the collapse of the middle portion of the wall on the west. Sergeant Wilcher in 1871 had presumed that this high-walled quadrangle was "a place of cremation or sepulture". Prom its size as he justly argues, "it could not have been roofed by any means at the disposal of the people". The only break in the interior of the walls is where a few recesses for the small native diva or oil-lamps have been constructed. Sir Alexander Cunningham after giving convincing arguments has correctly identified this courtyard as the place set apart for general meetings of the Fraternity. The assembled monks used to sit here on the ground, each on his own mat, or on a small stool brought from their cells. Monthly meetings of the monks were held in this Assembly Hall for the purpose of reading the Buddhist scriptures. Here the Dharma and Vinaya were recited by the Abbot while the assembled monks responded Sadhu. The small holes in the walls for oil-lamps would/ only show that some meetings were also held at night. Extraordinary meetings could be convened at any time, as when circumstances called for the censure or expul- sion of a brother, either for serious neglect or willful violation of the religious rules. Thus it was an Assembly Hall where all the important issues related to the Sangha (Monastic Order) were resolved with the general consensus of the monks.


To the south of the Assembly Hall are the Low- Level Chambers. The coloration of this portion of the site and excavation of 1910-11 by Mr. Hargreaves proved that the so-called "underground" chambers were not so in reality. They were "low-level" chambers and not truly sub-terranean. The removal of the debris brought to light a large courtyard. 111’ by 40’, to which two arched doorways on the west, gave access. These chambers constructed later than the retaining wall of the Court of Many Stupas are built against, but not bonded with that wall. Their roof, consisting of corbelled arches 14' high and covered with a thick layer of earth, is level with the Court of Many Stupas. The entrances to the chambers were the two doorways leading from the newly excavated courtyard on the west, and the entrance from the stairs on the south, which leads to the central passage.

On either side of the central passage to which the south doorway gave access are five cells, those on the east being considerably larger than those on the west, the former ranging in size from 8' 4" by 15' 2" to 8' 6" by 13' 3"; the latter from 11' 6" by 8' 6" to 8' 6" square. Their height is in reality 14'; and 9' of debris was removed from the inside of the chambers. A few fragmentary sculptures were also found but all appeared to have come from other parts of the site. Only two of these doorways to the cells, one on either side of the central passage/are in perfect repair, the one to the west is bordered with straight sides and flat stone lintel, the other to the east arched in true Gandhara style. The cells on the east are exceedingly dark because they were built against the retaining wall. The only light reaching them is a few stray beams, which find their way through the now open doorways on the west and south. Those on the west having either doors or windows, could, however, have been used as living rooms. A few corroded copper coins (one, in poor condition, of Apollodotus), the few fragments of sculpture and some pieces of broken black pottery inscribed in Kharoshthi were found in the debris. These cells were used as places for meditation and retirement and not granaries as presumed by some excavators in the past. The inscribed fragment of black pottery, apparently part of a large jar which must have held grain was recovered from this place. It contained on its outer face seven inscribed aksharas the characters each about 5/8" in height. These were read by Dr. Vogel, Curator, and Peshawar Museum, as Samghe chadudise ka ....... "To the (Buddhist) Community of the four quarters..." The epigraph, therefore, very closely resembles the votive inscriptions on the jars, which were found at Charsadda in 1903. It was on the basis of this inscription, which led them to conclude that these Low-Level Chambers were the granaries of the monastery. They were actually places of extreme meditation, asceticism and seclusion isolated from the monastery where the monks could meditate with full concentration in these chambers. When they wanted to relax, they could come out of them and sit, walk and enjoy the sunshine in the open courtyard in the west.


Its eastern halt is 77' 6" long, western half 100', and breadth 50' 6". It is bounded on the north partly by a wall of a double storeyed building and partly by another wall rising abrutly from the hill side; on the east by the western back wall of the Low-Level Chambers, on the south by the retaining wall of the Court of Three Stupas and on the west by a massive wall rising from the hill side above the nullah which is revetted from inside with an average breadth of 11' to strengthen it. It was an ideal place for the monks of the Low-Level Chambers for relaxation and sun battling.


To the south of the Low-Level Chambers lies the Court of Three Stupas. It is bounded on the north by the high retaining wall, which forms the southern boundary of the courtyard lying to the west of the Low-Level Chambers. To the west is a damaged revetment while on the east are two structures forming the western boundary of the passage lying between the Main Stupa Court and the one under discussion. On the south lies the open passage and a high wall, 40' long. The greatest length of the courtyard is 70', its greatest width 47' 8". Beneath the courtyard in a westerly direction runs the covered stair-case. An arched gateway in the southern wall gives access to the court, the level of which is reached by descending a flight of six steps. On the north side and almost immediately opposite these steps traces of three others were found, so that, in all probability, there formerly existed a way from the courtyard to the root of the Low-Level Chambers, over the root, now destroyed, of the little room, which lies between them.

It was a great surprise at the time this part of the site was cleared, that directly over the roof of this stair-case two small stupas, 4' 6" square were dis- covered. They were interesting for their preservation and elaborate decoration. They were ornamented in stucco with two friezes each surmounted by a cornice. The one to the west was well preserved and the lower frieze showed four panels separated by Indo-Corinthian dwarf pilasters with acanthus capitals. In each panel was a seated Buddha figure, either in the attitude of meditation (dhyana-mudra) or with the right hand raised in the attitude of imparting protection (abhaya-mudra). The upper frieze was more varied and showed five standing figures between elaborate double superposed pilasters, namely a lower short square-shafted Indo-Corinthian pilasters, the acanthus capital of which supported a similar circular-or octagonal-shafted pilaster. Each figure stood as if under the flat roof of a vihara whose sloping sides sprang from the base of the upper pilaster. Three of the figures had lost the ushmsha (a protuberance on the head), but all undoubtedly represented the Buddha in various mudras, with right hand upraised (abhaya mudra), with right hand extended to the ground palm outward (varada-mudra) and with the right hand concealed in the robe (sanghati).

The spring of the dome was also preserved and showed the familiar motif of sitting Buddha figures in the attitude of meditation, separated by pilasters. Many of the figures had pre- served their original red colouring and were as perfect as if they had but yesterday left the craftsman's hand. On the south face of the stupa on the mouldings of the upper frieze was a stucco relief unfortunately much damaged. Traces of eight figures were remaining one on the left was an adoring male figure.

The stupa to the east was similar, but here sitting figures predominated and the superposed pilasters' showed variation, the lower ones had circular, the upper suqare shafts.

The greater part of the western half of the court was occupied by a large stupa, 21' square, larger, therefore, than the Main Stupa at this site. The base is almost complete; but the frieze, except on the south, is entirely destroyed. Here, to a height of 4', the lowest terrace still exists. It is of the usual type-a low plinth with crouching lions supporting a cornice with plain mouldings above which is a series of nine panels separated by Indo-Corinthian pilasters, the whole surmounted by a modillion cornice. The ornamentation is entirely in stucco and, with one exception, each panel contained a well modelled figure of the Buddha seated in the attitude of meditation (dhyana-mudra). The ex- ception was the central panel which showed a variation entirely novel, for instead of a Buddha figure or legendary scene we had here what has been generally accepted as a representation of Kubera, the god of wealth and his consort Hariti, the goddess of fertility. These figures in stucco .do not exist today, but Mr. Hargreaves in 1910-11 had described them with great accuracy when they were in situ. I reproduce photo- graph No. 20 of that time. He writes, "They are shown seated in European fashion side by side, on a low throne, the female to the proper left. The right hand of the god rests on his thigh, while the left grasps a money bag, the left elbow resting in a natural and familiar attitude on the right shoulder of his consort who bears in both hands a cornucopiae by her left side. The god is clad in a short garment terminating just above the bare knees. Over this is a sleeveless robe which covering the upper part of the body and held at the waist by a girdle, falls as a second and shorter skirt almost to the edge of the under vestment. The arms are bare save at the shoulders where short frilled sleeves of some undergarment are seen under the edge of the uppermost robe. On each wrist is a bracelet and round the neck a jeweled torque, the upper garment being caught near the right breast by a large circular brooch-like ornament. The hair is elaborately treated showing below a fillet a ring of spiral curls covering the forehead, while above is a Krobulos- like top-knot. The feet are clad in buskins reaching to the middle of the calf.

The right foot appears to have rested on a footstool, the left, slightly raised, resting against the front of the throne. The face is turned towards the female who is clothed in well-draped garments falling to the feet. A short tight-fitting bodice terminating just below the well-developed breasts covers the upper part of the body. The gracefully curled hair is dressed high above the forehead and shows in front a circular star-like ornament. The cornucopias is held on her left, the lower and which rests in the lap being grasped by the right hand, the left hand supporting it near the breast. Indications of a nimbus round the head of the female figure still exist and apparently the head of Kubera was similarly adorned.

"As to the identification of this figure as Kubera, there can be little doubt; for the money-bag is obviously the attribute of the god of wealth. His consort, be she called Hariti or not, is undoubtedly a goddess of fertility".

The excavations of 1910-11 revealed that this large stupa was robbed long ago by the treasure hunters, as it did not yield any of relics, which it once contained.


To the south of the Court of Three Stupas is a wall 17' 8" in height, which extends from the arched doorway some 40' to the west. The purpose of this wall has always been a matter of conjecture, as it was improbable that the courtyard was roofed. The existence of the large stupa within a structure which, when surmounted by its pinnacle of umbrellas, must have been of considerable height precludes such a possibility. The discovery, however, at the base of this wall of a low platform, 4' 6" wide, on which were found in situ and almost intact, six pairs of feet, the remains of as many colossal standing Buddha figures, leaves no doubt but that it was the wall which supported both the figures themselves and the pent roof which, projecting to the edge of the platform, sheltered them from the effects of the weather. Each foot is 2' in length and between the separate pairs of feet were found two small stucco Buddha figures. Portions of the drapery and limbs of these six colossi were found in the debris and also the greater portion of two heads in good con- dition. From chin to forehead these measure 2' 2", so that, if anything like classical standards had been maintained, the complete statues could not have been less than 20' high; but if the purpose of the wall has been correctly interpreted, they cannot have been more than 16'. In the case of most of the colossi of this period, there is a tendency to coarseness in the modelling of the face; but here, perhaps, less than usual, while the naturalistic treatment of the hair is particularly graceful and pleasing.

The sculptural finds included several Buddha statuettes, all of good type, the majority representing the Buddha seated in the preaching attitude (dharma-chakra-mudra) and the pedestals showing a Buddha, Bodhisattva or object of worship with kneeling adorers on either side. Of interesting fragments the most notice- able were a number of elephant brackets. In one case the elephant was six-tusked, in the others garlands adorned their massive forheads, while a well-carved full-blown lotus flower was held in the extended trunk.


Sir Alexander Cunningham in his late visit to the ruins of Takht-i-Bahi in January 1873 had studied these buildings carefully on the spot. He recorded their condition, made their measurements, plans and sketches. About the secular buildings, he writes, "The great number of private dwellings, which are still standing on the hill of Takht-i-Bahi, show that the place must once have been of some consequence. Most of the houses are two-storeyd, the access to the upper storey being invariably on the outside. In some cases the steps were mere projecting stones inserted at intervals in the outside wall; but in most instances there was a substantial flight of steps, supported on a pointed arch of overlapping stones. In one case I found a much more elaborate stair-case, which occupied three sides of a room upwards of 10 feet square. But under each flight there was the same pointed arch as in the smaller stair-cases.

"Most of the private houses which I saw consisted of two rooms, from 10 to 12 feet square, placed one above the other. But Dr. Bellew, who has several times visited these ruins when they were in a more perfect condition, states that "in positions where there is a sufficiency of level surface they are in the form of quadrangles, with rooms along each side opening into a central courtyard". At present we see only bare walls, but, as we learn from Hwen-Thsang, the private dwellings of the people were ornamented inside, and were covered with a plain coat of plaster outside. In accordance with this description. Dr. Bellew notices that "over all was applied a thick coating of coarse gravelly mortar, patches of which still cling 10 the walls in many places". This fact I observed myself, and I find also that it did not escape the notice of Sergeant Wilcher.

"The walls of the houses are built of uneven blocks of stone, very carefully laid so as to present a tolerably smooth surface outwards, the interstices of each course being filled up with thin flat pieces to bring them to a level. Dr. Bellew remarks that "no mortar seems to have been used to bind them together; "but Sergeant Wilcher, who excavated the ruins, describes the walls as "built of stones quarried on the spot, small wedges or slips of similar material being inserted to ensure accurate fitting, which is further provided for by the pouring in of a kind of liquid mud". It seems most probable, therefore, that a thin mud mortar was used, at least in some buildings, to fill up the interstices inside the walls, while the exterior was invariably covered with a coating of lime mortar mixed with sand.

"The doors of the private dwellings were generally low, many of them being only U feet in height. The rooms would therefore have been very dark; but the use of windows, which are also noticed by Hwen- Thsang, would appear to have been very general. Some- times these were placed just over the door, but more usually in the opposite wall just under the roof. In the latter case, the sill or lower edge was bevelled from the outside downwards, so as to distribute the light over the room. A specimen of this kind will be seen in the plan and section of the single chapel to the west of the stupa. In the winter I suppose that these small window were covered with a sheet of thin paper to keep out the wind, in the same way that the large openings of wooden trellis-work are now covered in Kashmir for the same purpose''.


Sergeant Wilcher in 1871 had excavated and cleared enough parts of the monastery and found the sculptures in large numbers lying as they had fallen in the passage that connects the Monastery with the Main Stupa as well as at the flight of steps leading up to the latter. This was attested by the excavations of 1907-08 conducted by Dr. Spooner. Stone fragments alone numbering 472 specimens and some dozen larger sculptures were also found. Spooner classified his findings as archaic elements in Gandhara art which were pre- viously known to Indian art before the appearance of the Gandhara school, whether of indigenous or of foreign origin. To the second category, belonged stone sculptures which chiefly revealed foreign elements for the first time in Gandhara art. The third category of sculptures contained the stories from the life of the Buddha. The fourth category-contained fragments that appeared to have been related more directly devotional cult of Buddhism. These sculptures can be termed as a devotional type. This category included the Buddha and the Bodhisattva figures as well. Then there were such sculptures, which did not fall into the above categories.

The majority of the stucco fragments were the heads and a few legendary scenes, which formed part of the stucco ornamentation on some of the votive stupas in the court. Dr. Spooner writes ... "al- though I believe this is almost the first time that such scenes have been found in stucco in this Province". A single head in one of the stuccos reminds us of Mara's host in the temptation scene of the Buddha. He has an ugly face like a demon having a broad nose and high eye-brows.

The archaic elements in Gandhara art was a small collection. Some halt dozen lion's heads of varying degrees of excellence were also found. There were graceful floral patterns and clumsy elephants.

There were fragments of modillion cornices, showing the newly introduced brackets with Corinthian capitals. The triangular stone panels consisted of marine monsters. One of them had the body and head of a man, the forelegs and feet of a bull, wings and a long serpentine tail with well-defined spots. There were Erotes bearing a long garland on their shoulders.

Among the legendary scenes the important sculptures included; the Buddha's First Sermon at Benares, the so-called Turning the Wheel of the Law, the Buddha's death or the mahaparinirvana, the Presentation of the Four Bowls to the Buddha, the Great Renunciation, the White Dog which barked at the Buddha, the Buddha in the Fire Temple, the Emaciated Siddhartha, the Naga Raja Kalika and his spouse Nagi Suvarnapr- abhasa, and finally the Approach to the Bodhi Tree and Panchasikha's Visit to the Buddha.

The individual images of the Buddha, Maitreya and Avalokiteshvara (either seated or standing) with their small heads detached from the body were also recovered in stone and stucco during the excavations of 1907-08.

An unfinished seated Buddha in stone was found which gives us a clue that the stone sculptures were carved at the site to embellish the stupas and chapels of the monastery.

Takht-i-Bahi has yielded a large number of sculptures in which the "birth, childhood, youth, old age end death of Gandhara art is visible. They reveal Persian, Greek, Scythian, and Parthian. Roman, Indian and indigenous styles in it.

Prof. A.H. Dani concludes, "This does not make Gandhara art foreign. It must be regarded as the creation of the people of Gandhara. It was indeed their national art during the Kushana period".

The Buddhist schools of Indian art did not produce as' many individual images of the Buddha, Maitreya, and other Bodhisattvas as Gandhara had made. It was the personality of the Buddha, which inspired the sculptors of this region to carve him abundantly in stone. Thus the Peshawar Valley conquered the whole of Asia spiritually and artistically. The credit goes to the Mahayana monks, nuns and sculptors of this region.

Prof. R.C. Majumdar writes....”outside India the Gandhara School achieved a grand success by becoming the parent of the Buddhist art of Eastern or Chinese Turkistan, Mongolia, China, Korea and Japan".