For genus of butterflies, see Taxila haquinus.
Punjabi: ٹيکسلا

View of the Dharmarajika, an ancient stupa
Shown within Pakistan
Location Rawalpindi District, Punjab, Pakistan
Coordinates 33°44′45″N 72°47′15″E / 33.74583°N 72.78750°E / 33.74583; 72.78750Coordinates: 33°44′45″N 72°47′15″E / 33.74583°N 72.78750°E / 33.74583; 72.78750
Type Settlement
Founded Possibly c. 370 BCE[1]
Abandoned 5th century
Official name Taxila
Type Cultural
Criteria iii, vi
Designated 1980 (4th session)
Reference no. 139
Region Southern Asia

Taxila (Urdu: ٹيکسلا, Sanskrit: तक्षशिला, Punjabi: ਟਕਸਿਲਾ, IAST: Takṣaśilā, meaning "City of Cut Stone" or "Takṣa Rock") is a town and an important archaeological site in the Rawalpindi District of the Punjab, Pakistan, situated about 32 km (20 mi) north-west of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, just off the famous Grand Trunk Road. The town lies 549 metres (1,801 ft) above sea level. It is the headquarters of the Taxila Tehsil in the Rawalpindi district.

Ancient Taxila was situated at the pivotal junction of South Asia and Central Asia. Some of the earliest ruins in this area date to the time of the Achaemenid Empire in the 6th century BCE.

Owing to its strategic location, Taxila has changed hands many times over the centuries, with many empires vying for its control. When the great ancient trade routes connecting these regions ceased to be important, the city sank into insignificance and was finally destroyed by the nomadic Hunas in the 5th century. The renowned archaeologist Sir Alexander Cunningham rediscovered the ruins of Taxila in the mid-19th century. In 1980, Taxila was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[2] In 2006 it was ranked as the top tourist destination in Pakistan by The Guardian newspaper.[3]

By some accounts, Taxila was considered to be one of the earliest (or the earliest) universities in the world.[4][5][6][7][8] Others do not consider it a university in the modern sense, in that the teachers living there may not have had official membership of particular colleges, and there did not seem to have existed purpose-built lecture halls and residential quarters in Taxila,[9][10][11] in contrast to the later Nalanda university in eastern India.[11][12][13]

In a 2010 report, Global Heritage Fund identified Taxila as one of 12 worldwide sites most "On the Verge" of irreparable loss and damage, citing insufficient management, development pressure, looting, and war and conflict as primary threats.[14]

References in ancient texts

Hindu mythology has it that Taxila derived its name from Takṣa, who was the son of Bharata, the brother of the Hindu deity Rama.[4] Takṣa's kingdom was called Takṣa Khanda and its capital that he founded was named Taxila.[15] According to another theory propounded by Damodar Dharmananda Kosambi, Taxila is related to Takṣaka, Sanskrit for "carpenter", and is an alternative name for the Nāga, a non-Indo-Iranian people of ancient India.[16] In the great Hindu epic, the Mahābhārata, the Kuru Kingdom's heir, Parikṣit (grandson of the Arjuna) was enthroned at Taxila.[17] Traditionally, it is believed that the Mahabharata was first recited at Taxila by Vaisampayana, student of Vyasa at the behest of the seer Vyasa himself, at the Snake Sacrifice.[18]

Scattered references in historical works indicated that Taxila may have dated back to at least the 8th century BCE.[19][20][21]

Historically, Taxila lay at the crossroads of three major ancient trade routes. Owing to this strategic location, Taxila has changed hands many times over the centuries.

Archaeological excavations later showed that the city may have grown significantly during the Achaemenid Empire of the 6th century BCE. In 516 BC, Darius I embarked on a campaign to Central Asia, Ariana and Bactria and then marched into Afghanistan to Hindush in modern Pakistan. Darius spent the winter of 516-515 BCE in Gandhara, preparing to conquer the Indus Valley. Darius conquered the Indus in 515 BCE.[22] He controlled the Indus Valley from Gandhara to modern Karachi and appointed the Greek Scylax of Caryanda to explore the Indian Ocean from the mouth of the Indus to the Suez. Darius then marched through the Bolan Pass and returned through Arachosia and Drangiana back to Persia.

Taxila is also described in some detail in the Buddhist Jataka tales,[23] which date from about the 4th century BCE. The Jataka literature mentions it as the capital of the kingdom of Gandhara and as a great centre of learning.

Greek invaders arrived during the 4th century BCE. According to Joseph Needham: "When the men of Alexander the Great came to Taxila ... 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."[24]

Eastern border of the Achaemenid Empire
Taxila is in western Punjab, and was an important city during Alexander's campaign in ancient India.
Statue of a Hellenistic couple excavated in Taxila (IV).

In about the 1st century BCE or 1st century CE, an Indo-Scythian king named Azilises had three mints, one of which was at Taxila, and struck coins with obverse legends in Greek and Kharoṣṭhī.

The Chinese monk Faxian, writing of his visit to Taxila in 405 CE, mentions the kingdom of Takshasila, meaning "the Severed Head". He says that this name was derived from an event in the life of Buddha because this is the place "where he gave his head to a man".[25]

Xuanzang, another Chinese monk, visited Taxila in 630 and in 643. It appears to have already been overrun by the Hunas and been in ruins by his time. Taxila is called Taxiala in Ptolemy’s Geography.[26] In the Historia Trium Regum (History of the Three Kings) composed by John of Hildesheim around 1375, the city is called Egrisilla.[27]

Panorama of site

Political history

The street scene Taxila A.D. 260

Ancient centre of learning

Taxila became a noted centre of learning (including the religious teachings of Hinduism) at least several centuries BCE, and continued to attract students from around the old world until the destruction of the city in the 5th century. At its height, it has been suggested that Taxila exerted a sort of "intellectual suzerainty" over other centres of learning in India.,[7] and its primary concern was not with elementary, but higher education.[8] Generally, a student entered Taxila at the age of sixteen. The Vedas, the ancient and the most revered Hindu scriptures, and the Eighteen Silpas or 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.[42] Students came to Taxila from far-off places such as Kashi, Kosala and Magadha, in spite of the long and arduous journey they had to undergo, on account of the excellence of the learned teachers there, all recognized as authorities on their respective subjects.[43][44]

Notable students and teachers

Taxila had great influence on the Hindu culture and the Sanskrit language. It is perhaps best known because of its association with Chanakya, also known as Kautilya, the strategist who guided Chandragupta Maurya and assisted in the founding of the Mauryan empire. The Arthashastra (Sanskrit for The knowledge of Economics) of Chanakya, is said to have been composed in Taxila itself.[45][46] The Ayurvedic healer Charaka also studied at Taxila.[42] He also started teaching at Taxila in the later period.[47] The ancient grammarian Pāṇini, who codified the rules that would define Classical Sanskrit, has also been part of the community at Taxila.[48]

The institution is significant in Buddhist tradition since it is believed that the Mahāyāna branch of Buddhism took shape there. Jivaka, the court physician of the Magadha emperor Bimbisara who once cured the Buddha, and the enlightened ruler of Kosala, Prasenajit, are some important personalities mentioned in Pali texts who studied at Taxila.[49]

Nature of education

By some accounts, Taxilla was considered to be amongst the earliest universities in the world.[4][5][6][7][8] Others do not consider it a university in the modern sense, in that the teachers living there may not have had official membership of particular colleges, and there did not seem to have existed purpose-built lecture halls and residential quarters in Taxila,[9][10][11] in contrast to the later Nalanda University.[11][12][13]

No external authorities like kings or local leaders subjected the scholastic activities at Taxila to their control. Each teacher formed his own institution, enjoying complete autonomy in work, teaching as many students as he liked and teaching subjects he liked without conforming to any centralized syllabus. Study terminated when the teacher was satisfied with the student's level of achievement. In general, specialisation in a subject took around eight years, though this could be lengthened or shortened in accordance with the intellectual abilities and dedication of the student in question. In most cases the "schools" were located within the teachers' private houses, and at times students were advised to quit their studies if they were unable to fit into the social, intellectual and moral atmosphere there.[50]

Knowledge was considered too sacred to be bartered for money, and hence any stipulation that fees ought to be paid was vigorously condemned. Financial support came from the society at large, as well as from rich merchants and wealthy parents. Though the number of students studying under a single Guru sometimes numbered in the hundreds, teachers did not deny education even if the student was poor; free boarding and lodging was provided, and students had to do manual work in the household. Paying students like princes were taught during the day; non-paying ones, at night.[51] Guru Dakshina was usually expected at the completion of a student's studies, but it was essentially a mere token of respect and gratitude - many times being nothing more than a turban, a pair of sandals, or an umbrella. In cases of poor students being unable to afford even that, they could approach the king, who would then step in and provide something. Not providing a poor student a means to supply his Guru's Dakshina was considered the greatest slur on a King's reputation.[52]

Examinations were treated as superfluous, and not considered part of the requirements to complete one's studies. The process of teaching was critical and thorough- unless one unit was mastered completely, the student was not allowed to proceed to the next. No convocations were held upon completion, and no written "degrees" were awarded, since it was believed that knowledge was its own reward. Using knowledge for earning a living or for any selfish end was considered sacrilegious.[50]

Students arriving at Taxila usually had completed their primary education at home (until the age of eight), and their secondary education in the Ashrams (between the ages of eight and twelve), and therefore came to Taxila chiefly to reach the ends of knowledge in specific disciplines.[53]


Map of Taxila

The British archaeologist Sir John Marshall (1876-1958) conducted excavations over a period of twenty years in Taxila.[54]

Sarai Kala

This is an archaeological site 3 km southwest of Taxila that has the earliest occupation, and preserves Neolithic remains going back to 3360 BC. It also has Early Harappan remains of 2900-2600 BC. A later settlement in this area has parallels with Hathial in the Taxila area.[55]

Other sites

The ruins of Taxila contain buildings and Buddhist stupas located over a large area. The main ruins of Taxila are divided into three major cities, each belonging to a distinct time period.

In addition to the ruins of the city, a number of buddhist monasteries and stupas also belong to the Taxila area. Some of the important ruins of this category include the ruins of the stupa at Dharmarajika, the monastery at Jaulian, the monastery at Mohra Muradu in addition to a number of stupas.


Modern Taxila is a mix of wealthy urban and rustic rural environs. Urban residential areas are in the form of small neat and clean colonies populated by the workers of heavy mechanical complex & heavy industries, educational institutes and hospitals that are located in the area. The city has many educational institutes including CIIT Wah Campus, HITEC University and the University of Engineering and Technology Taxila.

In addition to the ruins of ancient Taxila, relics of Mughal gardens and vestiges of historical Grand Trunk Road, which was built by the Mauryan Empire, are also found in Taxila region. Nicholson's Obelisk, a monument of British colonial era situated at the Grand Trunk road welcomes the travellers coming from Rawalpindi/Islamabad into Taxila. The monument was built by the British to pay tribute to Brigadier John Nicholson (1822–1857) an officer of the British army who died in India during the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

Taxila Museum, dedicated mainly to the remains of ancient Taxila, is also situated in the city.


The industries include heavy machine factories and industrial complex, Pakistan Ordnance Factories at Wah Cantt and the cement factory. Heavy Industries Taxila and Heavy Mechanical Complexes are also based here. Small, cottage and household industries include stoneware, pottery and footwear.

Further information: Taxila Tehsil
Archaeological artifacts from the Indo-Greek strata at Taxila (John Marshall "Taxila, Archeological excavations"). From top, left: * Fluted cup (Bhir Mound, stratum 1) * Cup with rosace and decoratice scroll (Bhir Mound, stratum 1) * Stone palette with individual on a couch being crowned by standing woman, and served (Sirkap, stratum 5) * Handle with double depiction of a philosopher (Sirkap, stratum 5) * Woman with smile (Sirkap, stratum 5) * Man with moustache (Sirkap, stratum 5)

See also


  1. S. K. Agarwal (1 September 2008). Towards Improving Governance. Academic Foundation. p. 17. ISBN 978-81-7188-666-1. Retrieved 2012-06-06.
  2. UNESCO World Heritage Site, 1980. Taxila: Multiple Locations. Retrieved 13 January 2007.
  3. Windsor, Antonia (17 October 2006). "Out of the rubble". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 24 May 2010.
  4. 1 2 3 Needham, Joseph (2004). Within the Four Seas: The Dialogue of East and West. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-36166-4.
  5. 1 2 Kulke, Hermann; Rothermund, Dietmar (2004). A History of India (4th ed.). Routledge. ISBN 0-415-32919-1. In the early centuries the centre of Buddhist scholarship was the University of Taxila.
  6. 1 2 Balakrishnan Muniapan, Junaid M. Shaikh (2007), "Lessons in corporate governance from Kautilya's Arthashastra in ancient India", World Review of Entrepreneurship, Management and Sustainable Development 3 (1):
    "Kautilya was also a Professor of Politics and Economics at Taxila University. Taxila University is one of the oldest known universities in the world and it was the chief learning centre in ancient India."
  7. 1 2 3 Radha Kumud Mookerji (2nd ed. 1951; reprint 1989), ''Ancient Indian Education: Brahmanical and Buddhist (p. 478), Motilal Banarsidass Publ., ISBN 81-208-0423-6:
    "Thus the various centres of learning in different parts of the country became affiliated, as it were, to the educational centre, or the central university, of Taxila which exercised a kind of intellectual suzerainty over the wide world of letters in India."
  8. 1 2 3 Radha Kumud Mookerji (2nd ed. 1951; reprint 1989), Ancient Indian Education: Brahmanical and Buddhist (p. 479), Motilal Banarsidass Publ., ISBN 81-208-0423-6:
    "This shows that Taxila was a seat not of elementary, but higher, education, of colleges or a university as distinguished from schools."
  9. 1 2 Anant Sadashiv Altekar (1934; reprint 1965), Education in Ancient India, Sixth Edition, Revised & Enlarged, Nand Kishore & Bros, Varanasi:
    "It may be observed at the outset that Taxila did not possess any colleges or university in the modern sense of the term."
  10. 1 2 F. W. Thomas (1944), in John Marshall (1951; 1975 reprint), Taxila, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi:
    "We come across several Jātaka stories about the students and teachers of Takshaśilā, but not a single episode even remotely suggests that the different 'world renowned' teachers living in that city belonged to a particular college or university of the modern type."
  11. 1 2 3 4 Taxila Archived 22 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine. (2007), Encyclopædia Britannica:
    "Taxila, besides being a provincial seat, was also a centre of learning. It was not a university town with lecture halls and residential quarters, such as have been found at Nalanda in the Indian state of Bihar."
    Archived 22 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  12. 1 2 "Nalanda" (2007). Encarta.
  13. 1 2 "Nalanda" (2001). Columbia Encyclopedia.
  14. Global Heritage Fund | GHF
  15. Invasion of the Genes Genetic Heritage of India, By B. S. Ahloowalia. p81
  16. Kosambi 1975:129
  17. Kosambi, Damodar Dharmanand (1975) [1956]. An Introduction to the Study of Indian History (Revised Second ed.). Bombay: Popular Prakashan. p. 126.
  18. Britannica Online Encyclopedia, article:Taxila. "The great Indian epic Mahabharata was, according to tradition, first recited at Taxila at the great snake sacrifice of King Janamejaya, one of the heroes of the story."
  19. UNESCO World Heritage Centre: Taxila
  20. Scharfe, Hartmut (2002). Education in Ancient India. Brill Academic Publishers. p. 141. ISBN 90-04-12556-6.
  21. "History of Education", Encyclopædia Britannica, 2007.
  22. Darius the Great
  23. Marshall 1975:81
  24. Needham 2004.
  25. A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms, Being an Account by the Chinese Monk Fa-Hien of his Travels in India and Ceylon in Search of the Buddhist Books of Discipline, Chapter 11
  26. J. W. McCrindle, The Invasion of India by Alexander the Great as Described by Arrian, Q. Curtius, Diodorus, Plutarch and Justin, Westminster, Constable, 1893, pp.343-344.
  27. Frank Schaer, The Three Kings of Cologne, Heidelberg, Winter, 2000, Middle English Texts no.31, p.196.
  28. Thapar, Romila (1997) [1961]. Aśoka and the Decline of the Mauryas. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 237. ISBN 0-19-563932-4.
  29. Raymond Allchin, Bridget Allchin, The Rise of Civilization in India and Pakistan. Cambridge University Press, 1982 p.127 ISBN 052128550X
  31. Mohan Pant, Shūji Funo, Stupa and Swastika: Historical Urban Planning Principles in Nepal's Kathmandu Valley. NUS Press, 2007 ISBN 9971693720, citing Allchin: 1980
  32. 1 2 Marshall, John (1975) [1951]. Taxila: Volume I. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. p. 83.
  33. Thapar 1997
  34. Kulke, Hermann; Rothermund, Dietmar (1998). A History of India (3rd ed.). London: Routledge. p. 68. ISBN 0-415-15481-2.
  35. Kulke and Rothermund 1998:70
  36. arshall 1975:84
  37. Marshall 1975:85
  38. Medlycott, A.E. (1905). "The Apostle Thomas and Gondophares the Indian King". India and the Apostle Thomas. London: David Nutt.
  39. Medlycott, A.E. India and the Apostle Thomas in George Menachery ed., Indian Church History Classics Vol.I, Ollur 1998.
  40. Kulke and Rothermund 1998:75
  41. Marshall 1975:86
  42. 1 2 Radha Kumud Mookerji (2nd ed. 1951; reprint 1989). Ancient Indian Education: Brahmanical and Buddhist (p. 478-489). Motilal Banarsidass Publ. ISBN 81-208-0423-6.
  43. Political and social movements in ancient Panjab (from the Vedic age up to the Maurya period), by Buddha Prakash (Motilal Banarsidass, New Delhi, 1964)"Students from Magadha traversed the vast distances of northern India in order to join the schools and colleges of Taxila. We learn from Pali texts that Brahmana youths, Khattiya princes and sons of setthis from Rajagriha, Kashi, Kosala and other places went to Taxila for learning the Vedas and eighteen sciences and arts."
  44. Universities in Ancient India, by DG Apte. Page 9
  45. Kautilya. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Archived 10 January 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  46. Radhakumud Mookerji (1941; 1960; reprint 1989). Chandragupta Maurya and His Times (p. 17). Motilal Banarsidass Publ. ISBN 81-208-0405-8.
  47. "Takshila university". Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  48. Political and social movements in ancient Panjab (from the Vedic age up to the Maurya period), by Buddha Prakash (Motilal Banarsidass, New Delhi, 1964)."Pāṇini and Kautilya, two masterminds of ancient times, were also brought up in the academic traditions of Taxila"
  49. Political and social movements in ancient Panjab (from the Vedic age up to the Maurya period), by Buddha Prakash (Motilal Banarsidass, New Delhi, 1964)"Likewise, Jivaka, the famous physician of Bimbisara who cured the Buddha, learnt the science of medicine under a far-famed teacher at Taxila and on his return was appointed court-physician at Magadha. Another illustrious product of Taxila was the enlightened ruler of Kosala, Prasenajit, who is intimately associated with the events of the time of the Buddha."
  50. 1 2 Universities in Ancient India, by D.G Apte. Page 9-10.
  51. Universities in Ancient India, by D.G Apte. Page 16-17.
  52. Universities in Ancient India, by D.G Apte. Page 18-19.
  53. Universities in Ancient India, by D.G Apte. Page 11.
  54. Marshall, Sir John (1918). A Guide to Taxila. Calcutta: Government Press.
  55. Raymond Allchin, Bridget Allchin, The Rise of Civilization in India and Pakistan. Cambridge University Press, 1982 p.127 ISBN 052128550X
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