Pushkalavati

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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.

Origin

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

Location

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

History

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).

Visit by Xuanzang in 630 AD

Alexander Cunningham[4] 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.[5] 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.[6] It was the capital of a chief named Astes,[7] 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.[8] "All the suburbs," he says, " are scattered over with vast ruins."[9] 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,[10] 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 .

Bala Hisar

Bala Hisar site in this area was first occupied in the 2nd millennium BC.[11][12]

In later 6th century BC, Pushkalavati became the capital of the Achaemenid Gandhara satrapy.[13] 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.

References

  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 Ancient Geography of India/Gandhara, p. 49-51
  5. Wilson's ' Vishnu Purana,' edited by Hall, b. iv. c. 4.
  6. Arrian, - 'Indica,' i.
  7. Arrian, ' Anabasis,' It. 22.
  8. Journ. Asiat. Soc. Bengal, 1836, p. 479.
  9. ibid 1836, p. 394.
  10. 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.
  11. Bala Hisar Pakistan
  12. Ali et al. 1998: 6–14; Young 2003: 37–40; Coningham 2004: 9.
  13. 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