|Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (Retd.)|
Variants of name
- Chu-sha-shi-lo (Fahian)
- Ta-cha-shi-lo (Xuanzang)
- Takhasila (Pali form)
- Takkasila (Pali form)
- Taxiles (by Arrian)
Mention by Panini
"When the men of Alexander the great came to Taxila in India in the fourth century BC they found a university there the like of which had not been seen in Greece, a university which taught the three Vedas and the eighteen accomplishments and was still existing when the Chinese pilgrim Fa-Hsien went there about AD 400."
In 1980, Taxila was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site with multiple locations.
Historically, Taxila lay at the crossroads of three major trade routes: the royal highway from Pāṭaliputra; the north-western route through Bactria, Kāpiśa, and Peshawar; and the route from Kashmir and Central Asia, via Srinigar, Mansehra, and the Haripur, Pakistan valley across the Khunjerab pass to the Silk Road.
Legend has it that Takshak, an ancient Indian king who ruled in a kingdom called Taksha Khanda (Tashkent) founded the city of Takshashila. The word Takshashila, in Sanskrit means "belonging to the King Taksha". Taksha was the son of Bharata and Mandavi, characters who appear in the Indian epic Ramayana.
Ahmad Hasan Dani and Saifur Rahman Dar trace the etymology of Taxila to a tribe called the Takka. According to Damodar Dharmanand Kosambi, "Taxila" is related to "Takṣaka," which means "carpenter" and is an alternative name for the Nāga.
- c. 518 BCE – Darius the Great annexes the North-West of the Indian-Subcontinent (modern day Pakistan), including Taxila, to the Persian Achaemenid Empire.
- 326 BCE – Alexander the Great receives submission of Āmbhi, king of Taxila, and afterwards surrender to Porus at the Jhelum River.
- c. 317 BCE – In quick succession, Alexander's general Eudemus and then the satrap Peithon, son of Agenor withdraw from India. Peithon was named by Alexander satrap of Sindh, and was again confirmed to the Gandhara region by the Treaty of Triparadisus in 320 BCE: "The country of the Paropamisadae (Parapamisians) was bestowed upon Oxyartes, the father of Roxane; and the skirts of India adjacent to Mount Paropamisadae (Parapamisus), on Peithon the son of Agenor. As to the countries beyond that, those on the river Indus, with the city Patala (the capital of that part of India) were assigned to Porus. Those upon the Hydaspes, to Taxiles the Indian." Arrian "Anabasis, the Events after Alexander". He ultimately left in 316 BCE, to become satrap of Babylon in 315 BCE, before dying at the Battle of Gaza in 312 BCE.
- 321-317 BCE Chandragupta Maurya, founder of the Mauryan empire in eastern India, makes himself master of the northern and northwestern India, including Punjab. Chandragupta Maurya's advisor Kautilya (also known as Chanakya) was a teacher at Taxila.
- During the reign of Chandragupta's grandson Aśoka, Taxila became a great Buddhist centre of learning. Nonetheless, Taxila was briefly the center of a minor local rebellion, subdued only a few years after its onset.
- 185 BCE – The last Maurya emperor, Bṛhadratha, is assassinated by his general, Puṣyamitra Śunga, during a parade of his troops.
- 183 BCE – Demetrios conquers Gandhāra, the Punjab and the Indus valley. He builds his new capital, Sirkap, on the opposite bank of the river from Taxila. During this new period of Bactrian Greek rule, several dynasties (like Antialcidas) likely ruled from the city as their capital. During lulls in Greek rule, the city managed profitably on its own, managed independently and controlled by several local trade guilds, who also minted most of the city's autonomous coinage.
- c. 25 CE – Gondophares, founder of the Indo-Parthian Kingdom, conquers Taxila and makes it his capital..
- 76 – The date of and inscription found at Taxila of 'Great King, King of Kings, Son of God, the Kushana' (maharaja rajatiraja devaputra Kushana).
- c. 460–470 – The Ephthalites sweep over Gandhāra and the Punjab; wholesale destruction of Buddhist monasteries and stūpas at Taxila, which never again recovers.
Before the fall of these invader-kings, Taxila had been variously a capital for many dynasties, and a centre of Vedic and Buddhist learning, with a population of Buddhists, Classical Hindus, and possibly Greeks that may have endured for centuries.
The British archaeologist John Marshall (archaeologist) conducted excavations over a period of twenty years in Taxila.
Arrian writes....THIS has been the method of constructing bridges, practised by the Romans from olden times; but how Alexander laid a bridge over the river Indus I cannot say, because those who served in his army have said nothing about it. But I should think that the bridge was made as near as possible as I have described, or if it were effected by some other contrivance so let it be. When Alexander had crossed to the other side of the river Indus, he again offered sacrifice there, according to his custom1. Then starting from the Indus, he arrived at Taxila, a large and prosperous city, in fact the largest of those situated between the rivers Indus and Hydaspes. He was received in a friendly manner by Taxiles, the governor of the city, and by the Indians of that place; and he added to their territory as much of the adjacent Country as they asked for. Thither also came to him envoys from Abisares, king of the mountaineer Indians, the embassy including the brother of Abisares as well as the other most notable men. Other envoys also came from Doxareus, the chief of the province, bringing gifts with them. Here again at Taxila Alexander offered the sacrifices which were customary for him to offer, and celebrated a gymnastic and equestrian contest. Having appointed Philip, son of Machatas, viceroy of the Indians of that district, he left a garrison in Taxila, as well as the soldiers who were invalided by sickness, and then marched towards the river Hydaspes.
For he was informed that Porus2, with the whole of his army, was on the other side of that river, having determined either to prevent him from making the passage, or to attack him while crossing. When Alexander ascertained this, he sent Coenus, son of Polemocrates, back to the river Indus, with instructions to cut in pieces all the vessels which he had repared for the passage of that river, and to bring them to the river Hydaspes. Coenus cut the vessels in pieces and conveyed them thither, the smaller ones being cut into two parts, and the thirty-oared galleys into three. The sections were conveyed upon waggons, as far as the bank of the Hydaspes; and there the vessels were fixed together again, and seen as a fleet upon that river. Alexander took the forces which he had when lie arrived at Taxila, and the 5,000 Indians under the command of Taxiles and the chiefs of that district, and marched towards the same river.
1. The place where Alexander crossed the Indus was probably at its junction with the Cophen or Cabul river, near Attock. Before he crossed he gave his army a rest of thirty days, as we learn from Diodorus, xvii. 86. From the same passage we learn that a certain king named Aphrices with an army of 20,000 men and 15 elephants, was killed by his own men and his army joined Alexander.
ठाकुर देशराज ने लिखा है ....[पृ.561]: भाट ग्रन्थों का कहना है शिव के प्रसिद्ध गण वीरभद्र की चार स्त्रियां थी। उनमें आशादेवी से सोनभद्र और स्वर्णभद्र, भद्रादेवी से पवनभद्र, अलका देवी से झषभद्र, और मायादेवी से धीरभद्र नामक पुत्र उत्पन्न हुए।
धीरभद्र के पुत्र रुद्रदेव ने कश्मीर में रूद्रकोट नाम का नगर बसाया। रूद्रभद्र के आगे ब्रह्मभद्र, कर्णभद्र, जयभद्र, ताम्रभद्र, ज्ञानभद्र, चक्रभद्र पीढ़ी दर पीढ़ी राजा इस वंश में हुए। चक्रभद्र के 2 पुत्र नागभद्र और वज्रभद्र।
नागभद्र के दूसरे भाई वज्रभद्र क्रीटभद्र, चंद्रभद्र, रोरभद्र, कोकभद्र, तमालभद्र, मेपभद्र, पुलिंगभद्र, पीढ़ी दर पीढ़ी राजा हुए। इनमें पुलिंगभद्र ने कश्मीर से हटकर गंगा किनारे मायापुरी नामका नगर बसाया जो आगे चलकर हरिद्वार के नाम से प्रसिद्ध हुआ।
इनसे आगे इस वंश में तुंगभद्र, पूर्णभद्र, तेजभद्र, राजभद्र, मेघभद्र और (द्वितीय) स्वर्णभद्र हुए। स्वर्णभद्र की 40 वी पीढ़ी में राणा हरिआदित्य हुए। मायापुरी नगरी इन्हीं के नाम पर हरिद्वार के नाम से प्रसिद्ध हुई। हरिआदित्य भीम द्वारा पांडवों की राज सूर्य दिग्विजय में मारे गए।
राणा हरिआदित्य जी की 16वीं पीढ़ी के राजा पेजसर ने हरिद्वार को छोड़ दिया और यमुना के तटवर्ती इलाके में उनकी संतान के लोगों ने आबादी की।
[पृ.562]: उधर संघ विजय ने 270 वर्ष पंजाब पर सिकंदर के हमले में तक्षक वंशी राजा वीरसिंह लड़ते हुए मारे गए। उनके दो पुत्र थे: 1. अमरसेन और 2. मदनसेन। अमरसेन अभिसार का अधिपति था। ज्ञात होता है कि यूनानी लेखकों ने अमरसेन (अभिसार) को ही आम्भी लिखा है।
अमरसेन (अभिसार) के दो पुत्र विजयदेव और स्वर्णदेव थे। इससे आगे की कई पीढ़ियों का पता नहीं चलता।
Ancient centre of learning
Takshashila was an early center of learning dating back to at least the 5th century BCE. There is some disagreement about whether Takshashila can be considered a university. While some consider Taxila to be an early university   or centre of higher education, 
Takshashila is considered a place of religious and historical sanctity by Hindus and Buddhists. The former do so not only because, in its time, Takshashila was the seat of Vedic learning, but also because the strategist, Chanakya, who later helped consolidate the empire of Emperor Chandragupta Maurya, was a senior teacher there. The institution is very significant in Buddhist tradition since it is believed that the Mahāyāna sect of Buddhism took shape there.
Some scholars date Takshashila's existence back to the 6th century BCE or 7th century BCE. It became a noted centre of learning at least several centuries before Christ, and continued to attract students from around the old world until the destruction of the city in the 5th century CE. Takshashila is perhaps best known because of its association with Chanakya. The famous treatise Arthashastra (Sanskrit for The knowledge of Economics) by Chanakya, is said to have been composed in Takshashila itself. Chanakya (or Kautilya), the Maurya Emperor Chandragupta and the Ayurvedic healer Charaka studied at Taxila.
Generally, a student entered Takshashila at the age of sixteen. The Vedas and the Eighteen Arts, which included skills such as archery, hunting, and elephant lore, were taught, in addition to its law school, medical school, and school of military science.
Visit by Fahian
James Legge writes that Seven days’ journey from this to the east brought the travellers to the kingdom of Takshasila,1 which means “the severed head” in the language of China. Here, when Buddha was a Bodhisattva, he gave away his head to a man;2 and from this circumstance the kingdom got its name.
Going on further for two days to the east, they came to the place where the Bodhisattva threw down his body to feed a starving tigress.2 In these two places also large topes have been built, both adorned with layers of all the precious substances. The kings, ministers, and peoples of the kingdoms around vie with one another in making offerings at them. The trains of those who come to scatter flowers and light lamps at them never cease. The nations of those quarters all those (and the other two mentioned before) “the four great topes.”
1 See Julien’s “Methode pour dechiffrer et transcrire les Nomes Sanscrits,” p. 206. Eitel says, “The Taxila of the Greeks, the region near Hoosun Abdaul in lat. 35d 48s N., lon. 72d 44s E. But this identification, I am satisfied, is wrong. Cunningham, indeed, takes credit (“Ancient Geography of India,” pp. 108, 109) for determining this to be the site of Arrian’s Taxila — in the upper Punjab, still existing in the ruins of Shahdheri, between the Indus and Hydaspes (the modern Jhelum). So far he may be correct; but the Takshasila of Fa-hien was on the other, or western side of the Indus; and between the river and Gandhara. It took him, indeed, seven days travelling eastwards to reach it; but we do not know what stoppages he may have made on the way. We must be wary in reckoning distances from his specifications of days.
2 Two Jataka stories. See the account of the latter in Spence Hardy’s “Manual of Buddhism,” pp. 91, 92. It took place when Buddha had been born as a Brahman in the village of Daliddi; and from the merit of the act, he was next born in a devaloka.
Visit by Xuanzang in 631 & 643 AD
Alexander Cunningham writes that - [p.104]: The position of the celebrated city of Taxila has hitherto remained unknown, partly owing to the erroneous distance recorded by Pliny, and partly to the want of information regarding the vast ruins which still exist in the vicinity of Shah-dheri. All the copies of Pliny agree in stating that Taxila was only 60 Roman, or 55 English, miles from Peucolaitis, or Hashtnagar, which would fix its site somewhere on the Haro river, to the west of Hasan Abdal, or just two days' march from the Indus.
The people of Taxila rebelled against Bindusara: [p.106]: About fifty years after Alexander's visit, the people of Taxila rebelled against Bindusara, king of Magadha, who sent his eldest son Susima to besiege the place. On his failure, the siege was entrusted to his younger son, the celebrated Asoka ; but the people came out 2½ yojanas, or 17½ miles, to meet the young prince and offer their submission. At the time of Asoka's accession the wealth of Taxila is said to have amounted to 36 kotis or 360 millions of some unnamed coin, which, even if it was the silver tangka, or sixpence, would have amounted to nine karors of rupees, or £9,000,000. It is probable, however, that the coin intended by the Indian writer was a gold one, in which case the wealth of this city would have amounted to about 90 or 100 millions of pounds. I quote this statement as a proof of the great reputed wealth of Taxila within fifty years after Alexander's expedition. It was here that Asoka himself had resided as Viceroy of the Panjab during his father's lifetime ; and here also resided his own son Kunala, or the "fine-eyed," who is the hero of a very curious Buddhist legend, which will be described hereafter.
Just before the end of the third century B.C. the
[p.107]: descendants of the Maurya kings must have come in contact with the Bactrian Greeks under Demetrius, the son of Enthydemus, and in the early part of the following century Taxila must have formed part of the Indian dominions of Eilkratides. In 126 B.C. it was wrested from the Greeks by the Indo-Scythian Sus or Abars, with whom it remained for about three-quarters of a century, when it was conquered by the later Indo-Scythians of the Kushan tribe, under the great Kanishka. During this period Parshawar would appear to have been the capital of the Indo-Scythian dominions, while Taxila was governed by satraps. Several coins and inscriptions of these local governors have been found at Shah-dheri and Manikyala. Of these the most interesting is the copper plate obtained by Mr. Roberts, containing the name of Takhasila, the Pali form of Takshasila, from which the Greeks obtained their Taxila.
Visits of Chinese pilgrims: [p.108]: We now lose sight of Taxila until A.D. 400, when it was visited by the Chinese pilgrim Fa-Hian, who calls it Chu-sha-shi-lo, or the "severed head;" and adds, that " Buddha bestowed his head in alms at this place, and hence they gave this name to the country. The translation shows that the original Sanskrit name must have been Chuiyasira, or the "fallen head," which is a synonym of Taksha-sira, or the "severed head," the usual name by which Taxila was
[p.109]: known to the Buddhists of India.
We now come to Hwen Thsang, the last and best of the Chinese pilgrims, who first visited Ta-cha-shi-lo, or Takshasila, in A.D. 630, and again in A.D. 643, on his return to China. He describes the city as about 10 li, or 1⅔ mile, in circuit. The royal family was extinct, and the province, which had previously been subject to Kapisa, was then a dependency of Kashmir.
Shah-dheri identified with Taxila: [p.111]: The ruins of the ancient city near Shah-dheri, which I propose to identify with Taxila, are scattered over a wide space extending about 3 miles from north to south, and 2 miles from east to west. The remains of many stupas and monasteries extend for several miles further on all sides, but the actual ruins of the city are confined within the limits above-mentioned. These ruins consist of several distinct portions, which are called by separate names even in the present day.
Taxila as is described by Hwen Thsang: [p.120]: The district of Taxila is described by Hwen Thsang as being 200 li, or 333 miles, in circuit. It was bounded by the Indus on the west, by the district of Urasa on the north, by the Jhelam or Behat river on the east, and by the district of Sinhapura on the south. As the capital of the last was in the Salt range of mountains, either at or near Ketas, the boundary of Taxila on that side was most probably defined by the Suhan river to the south-west, and by the Bakrala range of hills to the south-east. Accepting these limits as nearly correct, the frontier lines of the Indus and Jhelam will be respectively 80 miles and 50 miles
[p.121]: in length, and those of the northern and southern boundaries 60 and 120 miles, or, all together, 310 miles, which accords very nearly with the measurement given by Hwen Thsang.
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