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Islamabad

December 31, 2015

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Taxila is a treasure; it needs more attention and soon!

One fine morning of April, 17 years back, there was a place where some green trees and fragrance of mud were making the whole atmosphere pleasant. An orphan was sitting under a tree with a stone in his hand, a passenger passed by him while looking towards him with kindness. He was far from that passage and did not even notice him and kept on digging the mud with random thoughts in his mind. Suddenly he felt there was something hard under the surface; he gently removed the mud, and found something which was shining in the sunlight. He was a little bit surprised to see that but then he started removing mud from its sides. Right after 2 hours of this incident, there were gossips and suspense everywhere, about the treasure gifted by God to the orphans. All that happened in Taxila.

Taxila is a place where rich civilisations crumbled and the world saw their decline. Taxila is a tehsil in the Rawalpindi District of Punjab province of Pakistan. It is an important archaeological site. Taxila is situated about 32 kms northwest of Islamabad Capital Territory and Rawalpindi in Punjab, just off the Grand Trunk Road. Takshila lies 549 metres (1,801 feet) above sea level. The city dates back to the Gandhara period and contains the ruins of the Gandharan city of Takshila which was an important Hindu and Buddhist centre, and is still considered a place of religious and historical sanctity in those traditions. In 1980, Taxila was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site with multiple locations.

Gandhara region had once been the hallowed centre of Buddhism, the cradle of the world famous Gandhara sculpture, culture, art and learning. The archaeological remains found in Taxila, Peshawar, Charsadda, Takht Bhai, Swat and rock carvings along the ancient Silk Road (KKH) have well recorded the history of Gandhara. Lying in Haro river valley near Islamabad, Taxila, the main centre of Gandhara, is over 3,000 years old. Taxila has attracted the attention of the great conqueror, Alexander the Great in 327 B.C., when it was a province of the powerful Achaemenid Empire. It later came under the Maurian dynasty and reached a remarkable mature level of development under the great Ashoka. Then appeared the Indo-Greek descendants of Alexander's warriors and finally came the most creative period of Gandhara. They were religious as well as social. But how common man can know about their life style, their religion, fashion, architecture, professions and culture and customs? Now we can surmise the set up in those days by visiting Taxila museum. We can know a lot about civilisation in Taxila, like Buddhism and Gandhara art and lifestyle.

The foundation stone of Taxila Museum was laid by Sir John Marshal in 1918. In 1928 when Sir John Marshal was going to retire from the post of Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India, then Taxila Museum was opened to public by the then minister of education, Sir Habibullah. After that the northern gallery of museum was constructed in 1998 by the government of Pakistan. From 1902 to 1928 Marshal was responsible for the excavation that led to the discovery of Harappa and Mohenjodaro, two of the main cities that comprise the Indus Valley Civilisation. The excavations at Taxila, which lasted for twenty years were started by him.

This beautiful green and grey building attracts the visitors from far away. It always attracts the people who have good aesthetic sense. When you enter Taxila Museum, there is a 'ticket ghar' on the left side. Near that 'ticket ghar' there is a book on display for the visitors having enjoyed to their hearts content the beauty and grandeur of Gandhara Civilisation, Buddhism and Taxila Museum. You can seek the help of a guard to guide you through the museum. A wide passage with greenery at its sides leads you to the building where historical items are displayed. A museum attendant standing in the entrance of Doric architecture checks the ticket and welcomes you. 

The right side of entrance gallery where Sir John Marshall's portrait is displayed is dedicated to him for playing a laudable role in the formation of Taxila Museum. At the opposite side, a large sculpture of Buddha is standing with its heavy dress in grey colour. While standing between these two small galleries when you look at the front, you can see a huge stupa, which stands in centre of the Taxila Museum. This stupa is basically present in its real condition. But in museum, its replica is placed. It belongs to the age of 2nd-5th century AD. It has seven tiers and reliefs of Buddha. 

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