Badalpur, near Taxila

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Badalpur, near Taxila 1

Badalpur — a newfound ancient site

By Mahmood Zaman

Dawn

Badalpur, near Taxila

Taxila has been the proud cradle of one of the most ancient universities in this part of the world when it was known as Takshasila and where Buddhism flourished since the reign of Ashoka the Great in 272-232 BC. This university imparted learning in art, music, logic, mathematics, medicine, astronomy and many other disciplines. Though the site is now in ruins, the lingering presence of monasteries shows that religious learning was the paramount feature of one of these oldest seats of learning.

The imposing monasteries and cells for monks at Julian, a village north of the main remains of Taxila, show how important was the teaching of religion in those days. Taxila witnessed the rule of several major powers of the time starting from Iranians (600-400 BC) Greeks (326-324 BC), Mauryans (324-185 BC), Indo-Greeks (250-190 BC), Scythians (second century to first century BC), Parthians (first century BC to first century AD), Kushans (first to fifth century AD), White Huns (fifth century AD) and Hindu Shahi (ninth to 10th century AD). During the period, Ashoka the great Buddhist acquired a foothold here and his rule reached its climax during the Kanishka rules in AD 128.

Badalpur, near Taxila

Sir John Marshal, the first director-general of the Archaeological Survey of India, discovered Taxila between 1913 and 1934. He and other archaeologists of eminence, including Sir Alexander Cunningham and V Natesa Aiyar, superintendent of the Frontier Circle of the Archaeological Survey of India, also mentioned an extension of Taxila at Badalpur, located near village Behra in the valley of river Haro, close to district Haripur Hazara in the NWFP. The site, protected as an archaeological mound since 1930, extends to three acres of land some 10 kilometers north-east of the Taxila Museum.

This is the first time that the site at Badalpur was excavated between June and August 2005 by an 11-member team of archaeologists, headed by Dr Mohammad Arif. This team found the site almost congruous to Taxila but different from its structures which are held with mud plaster from the exterior and interior surfaces, a distinguished feature of this site which is absent in Taxila. Another major find is a complex of eight cells for monks with the main entrance still intact on its western front.

Badalpur, near Taxila

A gold coin of the Early Kushan period, five complete copper 'chattars (Umbrellas) of votive stupas, a big iron pan of one meter diameter, a ritual pot in copper, a surgical instrument, copper plates and pendants, a copper bell and a strainer, and iron objects like nails, clamps, hinges, a saw, a pair of tongs, door bosses and stripes with nails were also recovered from the site. Besides, a large number of pottery pieces like storage jars, pots, cups, bowls, a terracotta oil lamp and a heart-shaped schist stone lamp were also found in addition to 188 copper coins and a hoard of 128 seals.

Dr Arif has said in his report, since submitted to the federal government, that the use of lime stone on mud mortar for the construction of the walls around monasteries, which also have verandas in front, is the most startling feature of Badalpur. Sir John Marshal said in his report on Taxila that the remains do not have mud plaster support of walls. But the site at Badalpur tells a different story. He says that the cells (307 cm thick on eastern side, 316 cm thick on the north-south side and 110 cm wide) were used by monks who used to come here from all corners of India to learn Buddhism. Fire hearths in verandas were also found to show that monks used to cook food for them. They were identified with the help of 37 cm thick debris of fire ash of charred timber and charcoal. The masonry of the cells is in diaper and some places are as high as 234 centimeters.

As for the pair of tongs, he says that they may have been in the use of a goldsmith or a silversmith and it was similar to those discovered in the Taxila site of Bhamala. Copper coins were scattered on floor all around, most of them were found in cells or verandas. Seals bear animal figures like bull, horse, fish, snake and frog. Human figures, deities and religious inscriptions are also found on seals. Coins are illustrated with the human head and the Buddhist symbols. The human head on coins is certainly that of the ruler of the time. Most of the coins belong to the Kushan period and this also is an evidence that Badalpur was once part of Taxila from where similar coins were recovered.

Badalpur, near Taxila
Badalpur, near Taxila

The only gold coin of the Kushan period belongs to the rule of Kanishka-I and is essentially of the pedigree of the coins on display at Sri Partap Singh Museum in Srinagar and the British Museum, London. This coin has a Greek inscription "Shaonanoshao Kaneshki Koshano' (The king of kings Kanishka the Kushan) on the obverse and a legend on the reverse.

Dr Arif says in his report that the period in which the cells were built and other structures raised is estimated and calculated on the basis of the evidence supplied by coins, inscribed seals and stone masonry of the cells of the monasteries. This type of masonry is found in early diaper which represents around late second century AD. It may, therefore, be concluded that all the structures of Badalpur were constructed around the same time.

Badalpur, near Taxila

He says that type of Kushan coins and seals was found in the periods of Greek, Romans, Zoroastrians, Hindus and Buddhist rulers of the area and the same pattern was used by the kings of Kashmir till 10th century AD. It appears from the large number of coins and seals recovered from Badalpur monasteries, that Haripur district of the NWFP was once under the domination of the big empires on its border and was under the influence of Indo-Greek, Sakas, Parthians and Kushans until the region was invaded by White Huns.

The rich material excavated from Badalpur also suggests that fresh facts relating to the Gadhara culture has surfaced and this will need the re-writing of the history of Taxila in the light of the new and substantial evidence.

Badal Pur

Badalpur, near Taxila-2

2nd century Buddha statue found

By Amjad Iqbal

Dawn

TAXILA, June 19: Archeologists have discovered a statue of Bodhisattva Maitreya at the remains of a Buddhist monastery in Badal Pur area some 13 kilometres north-east of Taxila Museum.

Talking to Dawn here on Thursday, Federal Department of Archaeology and Museums’ director exploration Dr Mohammad Ashraf Khan, who is conducting the excavation and preservation of the ancient site, said the sculpture belonging to 2nd Century AD of Kanishka-I dynasty was made of black schist stone and measured two feet high and 16 inches wide.

Dr Khan said other important antiquities were also discovered recently, including a relic casket made of soap stone, three grinding mills with Kharashoti inscription in which name of the owner is engraved, 10 coins, four iron and copper monastery bells and more than 10 beads.

He said a assembly hall was also found in the monastery in good shape, adding that it was being excavated and preserved accordingly.

“These are important discoveries in Taxila valley as they will not only open new chapters of the history for the archeologists and researchers of Gandhara as well as Buddhism, but also attract more tourists, especially from Buddhist countries” Dr Khan said.

During last couple of months, many more significant discoveries were also made which included five umbrellas of votive stupas, a big iron pan, 188 copper coins, a surgical instrument, copper pendants, iron objects like nails, clamps, hinges, a saw, and a number of potteries like storage jars, pots, bowls, terra-cotta oil lamps and a heart-shaped schist stone lamp.

Besides, the remains of eight monks’ cells have been discovered. The walls of the cells still retain mud plasters both on interior and exterior surfaces, which are in a good state of preservation.

The director said this stupa and monastery built on 2.9 acres belonged to early Kushan period (first century AD).

Dr Khan, who possesses doctoral degree from Sorbonne University France in Buddhist art and culture and has over 27 years of experience in archaeology, said the stupa would be preserved in future.

He said the stupa had its own significance and importance, as it was one of the biggest stupas discovered in the Taxila valley.

He said in year 1925, Natisa Aiyar had partially excavated the stupa.

According to Dr Khan, renowned British archeologist Sir John Marshall, who conducted the first excavation at Taxila valley in 1916-17, in his initial report mentioned this site as “non- potential site” for lack of antiquities.

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