|Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (Retd.)|
Charsadda (चारसद्दा ) is a city and name of a district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. The town was part of the Peshawar ex-metropolitan region. The city of Charsadda originally known as Pushkalavati is first mentioned in the Hindu epic story the Ramayana.
Variants of name
The district lies between 34-03' and 34-38' north latitudes and 71-28' and 71-53' east longitudes. Charsadda is located in the west of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and is bounded by Malakand District to the north, Mardan district to the east, Nowshera and Peshawar districts to the south and the Mohmand Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas to the west.
Origin of name
Charsadda was once part of the kingdom of Gandhara, however around 516 BC Gandhara became part of the seventh satrapy or province of the Achaemenid Empire and paid tribute to Darius the Great of Persia, until its overthrow by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC.
According to a popular tradition, Emperor Ashoka built one of his stupas there. This stupa was mentioned by the famous Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Hieun Tsang, who visited in 630, according to him Po-Lu-Sha (as he called the stupa) was 2.5 miles (4.0 km) in circumference.
A Brahminical temple to the east and a monastery to the north which according to Buddhist legends was the place where Buddha preached the Law. The name Gandhara disappeared after Mahmud of Ghazni conquered the area and converted it to Islam in 1026.
Bactrian Greeks: This area was also ruled by the Bactrian Greeks between 250–125 BC which was succeeded by the Indo-Greek Kingdom who ruled until 10 AD.
Shabqadar: Shabqadr is a small town in Charsadda tehsil 17 miles (27 km) north west of Peshawar. Here is a fort built by the Sikhs called Sharkargarh. The town was burnt by Mohmands in 1897 It has since been rebuilt.
Bibi Syeda Dheri: Bibi Syeda Dheri is a site half a mile to the north of Umarzai village in Charsadda tehsil here is a mound 60 ft (18 m) high. Believed to be the site of the stupa erected to commemorate the conversion by Lord Buddha of goddess Hariti who used to devour children of the locality. There is also a shrine of a lady saint Bibi Syeda.
Shar-i- Napursan: Shar-i-Napursan is an archaeological site in Charsadda tehsil near the village Rajjar Excavations have unearthed two distinct settlements of the Buddhist period and two of the Muslim period. Coins of Manander, Hermaeous and Kanishka have been unearthed.
Palatu Dheri: Palatu Dheri is another archaeological site near Charsadda tehsil. A mile from Shar-i-Napursan A mound which contains the remains of a stupa, which according to Hieun Tsiang, was built by one Deven and some coins which connect them both to the first century AD have been unearthed Other finds include the image of the goddess Kalika-devi. Three inscribed jars, which were presented by some laymen to "the Community of the Four Quarters", are now in the Peshawar Museum.
Bala Hisar of Charsadda: Bala Hisar was excavated twice by the head of the Archaeological Survey of India, Sir John Marshall, in 1902 and by Sir Mortimer Wheeler in 1958. According to South Asian Archaeology Research Group of Bradford University Wheeler suggested that Bala Hisar "was founded by the Persians in the sixth century BC as a colony guarding the eastern edge of their empire".
Visit by Xuanzang in 630 AD
Alexander Cunningham writes about Pushkalavati or Peukelaotis: The ancient capital of Gandhara was Pushkalavati, which is said to have been founded by Pushkara, the son of Bharata, and the nephew of Rama. Its antiquity is undoubted, as it was the capital of the province at the time of Alexander's expedition. The Greek name of Peukelaotis, or Peucolaitis, was immediately derived from Pukkalaoti, which is the Pali, or spoken form of the Sanskrit Pushkalavati. It is also called Peukelas by Arrian, and the people are named Peukalei by Dionysius Periegetes, which are both close transcripts of the Pali Pukkala. The form of Proklais, which is found in Arrian's ' Periplus of the Erythraean Sea,' and also in Ptolemy's ' Geography,' is perhaps only an attempt to give the Hindi name of Pokhar instead of the Sanskrit Pushkara.
According to Arrian, Peukelas was a very large and populous city, seated not far from the river Indus. It was the capital of a chief named Astes, perhaps Hasti, who was killed in the defence of one of his strongholds, after a siege of thirty days, by Hephsestion. Upon the death of Astes the city of Peukelaotis was delivered up to Alexander on his march towards the Indus. Its position is vaguely described by Strabo and Arrian as "near the Indus." But the geographer Ptolemy is more exact, as he fixes it on the eastern bank of the river of Suastene, that is, the Panjkora or Swat river, which is the very
[p.50]: locality indicated by Hwen Thsang. On leaving Parashawar the Chinese pilgrim travelled towards the north-east for 100 li, or nearly 17 miles; and, crossing a great river, reached Pu-se-kia-lo-fa-ti, or Pushkalavati. The river here mentioned is the Kophes, or river of Kabul; and the bearing and distance from Peshawar point to the two large towns of Parang and Charsada, which form part of the well-known Hasht-nagar, or "Eight Cities," that are seated close together on the eastern bank of the lower Swat river.
These towns are Tangi, Shirpao, Umrzai, Turangzai, Usmanzai, Rajur, Charsada, and Parang. They extend over a distance of fifteen miles ; but the last two are seated close together in a bend of the river, and might originally have been portions of one large town. The fort of Hisar stands on a mound above the ruins of the old town of Hashtnagar, which General Court places on an island, nearly opposite Rajur. "All the suburbs," he says, " are scattered over with vast ruins." The eight cities are shown in No. iv. Map. It seems to me not improbable that the modern name of Hashtnagar may be only a slight alteration of the old name of Hastinagara, or " city of Hasti," which might have been applied to the capital of Astes, the Prince of Peukelaotis. It was a common practice of the Greeks to call the Indian rulers by the names of their cities, as Taxiles, Assakanus, and others. It was also a prevailing custom amongst Indian princes to designate any additions or alterations made to their capitals by their own names. Of this last custom we have a notable instance in the famous city of Delhi ; which, besides its ancient
[p.51]: appellations of Indraprastha and Dilli, was also known by the names of its successive aggrandizers as Kot-Pithora, Kila-Alai, Tughlakabad, Firuzabad, and Shabjahanabad. It is true that the people themselves refer the name of Hashtnagar to the " eight towns " which are now seated close together along the lower course of the Swat river ; but it seems to me very probable that in this case the wish was father to the thought, and that the original name of Hastinagar, or whatever it may have been, was slightly twisted to Hashtnagar, to give it a plausible meaning amongst a Persianized Muhammadan population, to whom the Sanskrit Hastinagara was unintelligible. To the same cause I would attribute the slight change made in the name of Nagarahara, which the people now call Nang-nihar, or the "Nine Streams."
In later times Pushkalavati was famous for a large stupa, or solid tower, which was erected on the spot where Buddha was said to have made an alms-offering of his eyes. In the period of Hwen Thsang's visit, it was asserted that the " eyes gift " had been made one thousand different times, in as many previous existences : but only a single gift is mentioned by the two earlier pilgrims, Fa-Hian in the fifth century, and Sung-Yun in the sixth century.
- Bradford University - The Bala Hisar of Charsadda
- The Ancient Geography of India/Gandhara, p. 49-51
- Wilson's ' Vishnu Purana,' edited by Hall, b. iv. c. 4.
- Arrian, - 'Indica,' i.
- Arrian, ' Anabasis,' It. 22.
- Journ. Asiat. Soc. Bengal, 1836, p. 479.
- ibid 1836, p. 394.
- Baber's ' Memoirs,' p. 141. — Wood's ' Journey to the Source of the Oxus,' p. 167. — Macgregor's 'Greography of Jalalabad,' in Journ. Asiat. Soc. Bengal, xi. 117, and xiii. 867.
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