14 January 2006

Of Greek gods alongside Asian Buddhas

TAXILA - A very interesting day at the ancient city of Taxila despite the slightly chilly weather. We visited 3 archaelogical sites - Dharmarajika (stupa / monastic buildings), Sirkap (city) and Jaulian (university-monastery).

I had no time at all to read up on Islamabad before this trip, so I didn't know that there was a World Heritage site - Taxila - right at the doorstep of the capital city until my colleagues told me. At the crossroads of three great trade routes linking the West with India and China, Taxila predated even Borobodur and had an illustrious history of being ruled by Persia, Alexander the Great, King Asoka, the Bactrian Greeks, before it was eventually destroyed by the Huns.

The Taxila museum contained an excellent collection of exacuvated archaelogical remains - beautiful Buddha statues, burnt birch bark manuscripts in Sanskrit, and artifacts like ladles, candle holders, toys etc. Unfortunately, photos were not allowed in the museum. I was really intrigued by the fact that European-looking Buddha statues were being found alongside with Greek gods such as Aphrodite. And when I saw the stupas, I was awed:

Holding up the Buddhist stupas at the bottom are... Atlases. What extraordinary intersection of cultures indeed!

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