Monday 23 November 2009
TAXILA, Pakistan — Archaeologists warn that the Taliban are destroying Pakistan’s ancient Gandhara heritage and rich Buddhist legacy as pilgrimage and foreign research dries up in the country’s northwest.
«Militants are the enemies of culture», said Abdul Nasir Khan, curator of Taxila Museum, one of the premier archaeological collections in Pakistan.
«It is very clear that if the situation carries on like this, it will destroy our culture and will destroy our cultural heritage», he told AFP.
Taxila, a small town around 20 kilometres south of Islamabad, is one of Pakistan’s foremost archaeological attractions given its history as a centre of Buddhist learning from the 5th century BC to the 2nd century. Situated in the Punjab province of Pakistan, it dates back to the Ancient Indian period and contains the ruins of the Gandhāran city of Takshashila (also Takkasila or Taxila) an important Vedic/Hindu and Buddhist centre of learning from the 6th century BCE to the 5th century CE. Takshashila, the place where this university existed, is currently in Pakistan, and gets its name from Taksha, who was the son of Bharata (the brother of Rama). Taksha ruled over the kingdom of Taksha Khanda which even extended beyond modern day Uzbekistan, and Tashkent — the present day Uzbek capital also gets its name from Taksha/Takshashila. In 1980, Taxila was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site with multiple locations. Recently it has been ranked as the top Tourist Destination in Pakistan by The Guardian.
Historically, Taxila lay at the crossroads of three major trade routes: the royal highway from Pāṭaliputra; the north-western route through Bactria, Kāpiśa, and Puṣkalāvatī (Peshawar); and the route from Kashmir and Central Asia, via Śrinigar, Mansehra, and the Haripur valley across the Khunjerab pass to the Silk Road.