From Jatland Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (Retd.)

Map of Ancient Rigvedic geography

Pushkalavati (पुष्कलावती नगरी) is an ancient site situated in Peshawar valley in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (formerly NWFP) of Pakistan. It is known by the name of Charsadda in present times.


City was founded by Rama's brother Bharata's second son Pushkara.[1][2]

Variants of name


It is located on the banks of Swat River, near its junction with Kabul River.


The ruins of Pushkalavati consist of many stupas and sites of two old cities. Pushkalavati meaning Lotus City was the capital of ancient kingdom Gandhara from the 6th century BC, when it became an Achaemenid local capital, to 2nd century AD.

V S Agarwal [3] writes names of some important tribes in the Ganapatha, which deserve to be mentioned as being of considerable importance. We are indebted to the Greek historians of Alexander for the information that most of these were republics. These tribes include - Hāstināyana, Āśvāyana, Āśvakāyana. The first is mentioned in Sutra VI.4.174, the second in IV.1.110, and the third in Naḍadi gana (IV.1.99)

[p.454]: While describing Alexander’s campaign from Kapisa towards the Indus through Gandhara, the Greek historians mention three warlike peoples, viz., Astakenoi, with capital at Peukelaotis, the Aspasioi in the valley of Kunar or Chitral River and the Assakenoi settled between the Swat and the Panjkora rivers, with the capital at Massaga, and more especially in the mountainous regions of the Swat. The Paninian evidence throws light on these three names for the first time:

The Asvayanas and the Asvakayanas were the bravest fighters of all, being strongly entrenched in their mountainous fortresses. Alexander himself directed the operations against them. The Ashvakayana capital at Massaga or Masakavati is given in Bhashya as the name of a river (IV.2.71), that should be looked for in that portion of the Suvastu in its lower reaches where Mazaga or Massanagar is situated on it at a distance of 24 miles from Bajaur in the Yusufzai country. In times of danger the Asvakayanas withdrew into the impregnable defences of their hilly fortress which the Greeks have named Aornos. It appears to be same as Varaṇā of the Ashtadhyayi (see ante, p.69, for its identification with modern Uṇrā on the Indus). The Greeks also mention another of their towns, viz., Arigaeon, which commanded the road between the Kunar and Panjkora valleys, and is comparable with Ārjunāva of the Kashika (ṛijunāvām nivāso deshaḥ, IV.2.69).

Peucelaotis of Greeks

Arrian[4] has mentioned Astes, the ruler of the land of Peucelaotis, effected a revolt, which both ruined himself and brought ruin also upon the city into which he had fled for refuge. For Hephaestion captured it after a siege of thirty days, and Astes himself was killed. Sangaeus, who had some time before fled from Astes and deserted to Taxiles, was appointed to take charge of the city.

Visit by Xuanzang in 630 AD

Alexander Cunningham[5] 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.[6] 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.[7] It was the capital of a chief named Astes,[8] 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.[9] "All the suburbs," he says, " are scattered over with vast ruins."[10] 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,[11] 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.

Pushkalavati in the Ramayana

In the concluding portion of the (Ramayana) Uttara or Supplemental Book, the descendants of Rama and his brothers are described as the founders of the great cities and kingdoms which flourished in Western India.

Bharata the brother of Rama had two sons, Taksha and Pushkala. The former founded Taksha-sila or Taxila, to the east of the Indus, and known to Alexander and the Greeks as Taxila. The latter founded Pushkalavati or Pushkalawati, to the west of the Indus, and known to Alexander and the Greeks as Peukelaotis. Thus the sons of Bharat are said to have founded kingdoms which flourished on either side of the Indus river .

Ch.22: Alexander reaches the River Cabul, and Receives the Homage of Taxiles

Arrian[12] After performing this exploit, Alexander himself went to Bactra; but sent Craterus with 600 of the cavalry Gompanions and his own brigade of infantry as well those of Polysperchon, Attalus, and Alcetas, against Catanes and Austanes, who were the only rebels still remaining in the land of the Paraetacenians.[1] A sharp battle was fought with them in which Craterus was victorious; Catanes being killed there while fighting, and Austanes being captured and brought to Alexander. Of the barbarians with them 120 horsemen and about 1,500 foot soldiers were killed. When Craterus had done this, he also went to Bactra, where the tragedy in reference to Callisthenes and the pages befell Alexander. As the spring was now over, he took the army and advanced from Bactra towards India,[2] leaving Amyntas in the land of the Bactrians with 3,500 horses and 10,000 foot. He crossed the Caucasus[3] in ten days and arrived at the city of Alexandria, which had been founded in the land of the Parapamisadae when he made his first expedition to Bactra. He dismissed from office the governor whom he had then placed over the city, because he thought he was not ruling well. He also settled in Alexandria others from the neighbouring tribes and the soldiers who were now unfit for service in addition to the first settlers, and commanded Nicanor, one of the Companions, to regulate the affairs of the city itself. Moreover he appointed Tyriaspes viceroy of the land of the Parapamisadae and of the rest of the country as far as the river Cophen.[4] Arriving at the city of Nicaea, he offered sacrifice to Athena and then advanced towards the Cophen, sending a herald forward to Taxiles[5] and the otter chiefs on this side the river Indus, to bid them come and meet him as each might find it convenient. Taxiles and the other chiefs accordingly did come to meet him, bringing the gifts which are reckoned of most value among the Indians. They said that they would also present to him the elephants which they had with them, twenty-five in number. There he divided his army, and sent Hephaestion and Perdiccas away into the land of Peucelaotis,[6] towards the river Indus, with the brigades of Gorgias, Clitus,[7] and Meleager, half of the Companion cavalry, and all the cavalry of the Grecian mercenaries. He gave them instructions either to capture the places on their route by force, or to bring them over on terms of capitulation; and when they reached the river Indus, to make the necessary preparations for the passage of the army. With them Taxiles and the other chiefs also marched. When they reached the river Indus they carried out all Alexander's orders. But Astes, the ruler of the land of Peucelaotis, effected a revolt, which both ruined himself and brought ruin also upon the city into which he had fled for refuge. For Hephaestion captured it after a siege of thirty days, and Astes himself was killed. Sangaeus, who had some time before fled from Astes and deserted to Taxiles, was appointed to take charge of the city. This desertion was a pledge to Alexander of his fidelity.

1. This term is a Persian word meaning mountaineers. The tribe mentioned here lived between the rivers Oxus and Jaxartes, on the borders of Bactria and Sogdiana.

2. Curtius (viii. 17) says Alexander took with him 30,000 select troops from all the conquered provinces, and that the army which he led against the Indians numbered 120,000 men.

3. This is the Indian Caucasus, or mount Parapamisus, now called Hindu-Koosh.

4. The Cophen is now called Cabul. Nicaea was probably on the same site as the city of Cabul. Others say it is Beghram. The Greek word Satrapes denotes a Persian viceroy. It is a corruption of a word meaning court-guardian, in the Behistun Inscriptions written Khshatrapa. See Rawlinson's Herod., i. 192.

5. Curtius (viii. 43) says that Taxiles was the title which the king of this district received. His name was Omphis.

6. A district between the rivers Indus and Attock. Its capital, Peucela, is the modern Pekheli.

7. The brigade of Clitus still bore the name of its commander after his death. Cf. Arrian, vii. 14 infra.


Ch.28: Capture of Oazira by Alexander.— advance to the rock of Aornus.

Arrian[13] writes.... WHEN the men in Bazira heard this news, despairing of their own affairs, they abandoned the city about the middle of the night, and fled to the rock as the other barbarians were doing. For all the inhabitants deserted the cities and began to flee to the rock which is in their land, and is called Aornus1. For stupendous is this rock in this land, about which the current report is, that it was found impregnable even by Heracles, the son of Zeus. I cannot affirm with confidence either way, whether the Theban, Tyrian, or Egyptian Heracles2 penetrated into India or not; but I am rather inclined to think that he did not penetrate so far for men are wont to magnify the difficulty of all difficult enterprises to such a degree as to assert that they would have been impracticable even to Heracles. Therefore, I am inclined to think, that in regard to this rock the name of Heracles was mentioned simply to add to the marvellous-ness of the tale. The circuit of the rock is said to be about 200 stades (i.e., about twenty-three miles), and its height where it is lowest, eleven stades (i.e., about a mile and a quarter). There was only one ascent, which was artificial and difficult; on the summit of the rock there was abundance of pure water, a spring issuing from the ground, from which the water flowed; and there was also timber, and sufficient good arable land for 1,000 men to till3. When Alexander heard this, he was seized with a vehement desire to capture this mountain also, especially on account of the legend which was current about Heracles. He then made Ora and Massaga fortresses to keep the land in subjection, and fortified the city of Bazira. Hephaestion and Perdiccas also fortified for him another city, named Orobatis, and leaving a garrison in it marched towards the river Indus. When they reached that river they at once began to carry out Alexander’s instructions in regard to bridging it. Alexander then appointed Nicanor, one of the Companions, viceroy of the land on this side the river Indus; and in the first place leading his army towards that river, he brought over on terms of capitulation the city of Peucelaotis, which was situated not far from it. In this city he placed a garrison of Macedonians, under the command of Philip, and then reduced to subjection some other small towns situated near the same river, being accompanied by Cophaeus and Assagetes, the chieftains of the land. Arriving at the city of Embolima4, which was situated near the rock Aornus, he left Craterus there with a part of the army, to gather as much corn as possible into the city, as well as all the other things requisite for a long stay, so that making this their base of operations, the Macedonians might be able by a long siege to wear out the men who were holding the rock, supposing it were not captured at the first assault. He then took the bowmen, the Agrianians, and the brigade of Coenus, and selecting the lightest as well as the best-armed men from the rest of the phalanx, with 200 of the Companion cavalry and zoo horse-bowmen, he advanced to the rock. This day he encamped where it appeared to him convenient; but on the morrow he approached a little nearer to the rock, and encamped again.

1. This seems to be the Greek translation of the native name, meaning the place to which no bird can rise on account of its height. Cf. Strabo, xv. 1. This mountain was identified by Major Abbot, in 1854, as Mount Mahabunn, near the right bank of the Indus, about 60 miles above its confluence with the Cabul.

2. Cf. Arrian, ii. 16 supra.

3. Curtius (viii. 39) says that the river Indus washed the base of the rock, and that its shape resembled the meta or goal in a race-course, which was a stone shaped like a sugar-loaf. Arrian's description is more likely to be correct as he took it from Ptolemy, one of Alexander's generals.

4.Near mount Mahabunn are two places called Umb and Balimah, the one in the valley of the river and the other on the mountain above it. See Major Abbot's Gradus ad Aornon.


Bala Hisar

Bala Hisar site in this area was first occupied in the 2nd millennium BC.[14][15]

In later 6th century BC, Pushkalavati became the capital of the Achaemenid Gandhara satrapy.[16] The location was first excavated in 1902 by Marshall. Sir Mortimer Wheeler conducted some excavations there in 1962, and identified various Achaemenid remains.

Later, King Ashoka built a stupa there which was described by Xuan Zang when he visited in 630 AD, which is still not found.


  1. Alexander Cunningham: The Ancient Geography of India/Gandhara, p. 49-51
  2. Wilson's 'Vishnu Purana,' edited by Hall, b. iv. c. 4.
  3. V S Agarwal, India as Known to Panini,p.453-454
  4. The Anabasis of Alexander/4b, Ch.22
  5. The Ancient Geography of India/Gandhara, p. 49-51
  6. Wilson's ' Vishnu Purana,' edited by Hall, b. iv. c. 4.
  7. Arrian, - 'Indica,' i.
  8. Arrian, ' Anabasis,' Ch. 22.
  9. Journ. Asiat. Soc. Bengal, 1836, p. 479.
  10. ibid 1836, p. 394.
  11. 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.
  12. Arrian:The Anabasis of Alexander/4b, Ch.22
  13. Arrian Anabasis Book/4b, Ch.28
  14. Bala Hisar Pakistan
  15. Ali et al. 1998: 6–14; Young 2003: 37–40; Coningham 2004: 9.
  16. Rafi U. Samad, The Grandeur of Gandhara: The Ancient Buddhist Civilization of the Swat, Peshawar, Kabul and Indus Valleys. Algora Publishing, 2011, p. 32 ISBN 0875868592