10th cent BC - 11th cent AD

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GE Overlay Map: Gandhara Overlay
Buddhist Gandhara

The center of Gandhara was located mainly in the valley of Peshawar, the Potohar plateau (Taxila) and on the Kabul River. Its main cities were Purushapura (modern Peshawar) and Takshashila (modern Taxila). The Kingdom of Gandhara lasted from early 1st millennium BC to the 11th century AD. It attained its height from the 1st century to the 5th century under the Buddhist Kushan Kings. After it was conquered by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1021 AD, the name Gandhara disappeared. During the Muslim period the area was administered from Lahore or from Kabul. During Mughal times the area was part of Kabul province.
The region shows an influx of southern Central Asian culture in the Bronze Age with the Gandhara grave culture showing a continuum between the early neolithic culture with close ties and relations to the Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex. This culture survived till 600 BC. Its evidence has been discovered in the hilly regions of
the Swat and Dir, and even at Taxila (Malayo, Melanesian, Wabanaki, Nahuatl Cultures)
For further reading:

Buddhist Gandhara
180 BC- 11th cent AD

The Kingdoms of Gandhara (Greco-Bactrians, Sakas, and Indo-Parthians) lasted from 180 BC to the 11th century. Ghandara attained its height during the 1st - 5th cent AD under the Buddhist Kushan emperors. After that it was conquered by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1021 AD, the area became Moslem and the name Gandhara disappeared.
Gandhara is noted for the distinctive Gandhara style of Buddhist art, a consequence of a unique merger of Hellenistic, Syrian, Persian, and Indian artistic traditions. This development started in the Parthian Period (50 BC – 75 AD). The visual appearance of the Greco-Gandharan sculptures is most intriguing. Three examples follow (Text and images from

chiton, Gandharan Greco-Buddhist sculpture from Hadda , 1st cent AD

The Buddha with Herakles as Vajrapani, Gandharan Greco-Buddhist relief, 2nd-3rd cent AD/P>

The Buddha's Paranirvana, 2nd-3rd cent

For a detailed time table see the History of Ghandara and Afghanistan,
5th Millenium BC - 2001 AD

The Swat
3000 BC- 800 AD

The very recently (Oct. 2007) mutilated rock-carved Buddha near Janabad,
Swat, 7th-8th cent. AD


The Swat comprises several valleys which empty into the Swat river. The area has been inhabited since prehistoric times (3rd millenia BC).
Around the 3rd cent AD it became an important Buddhist center (Udayana). Some 1400 stupas and monasteries were spread throughout the valley. The Chinese travelers Faxian (337 - 422 AD) and Xuanzang (602 - 664 AD) have left us detailed descriptions of these times.
Tibetan-Buddhist Tantrayana (9th-11th cent AD) probably originated here and spread from the Swat to Tibet. Padmasambhava is said to have been born in the Swat, the "Guru from Udayana".
In the 11th cent AD Islam was introduced by Mahmud of Ghazni who invaded the area. The Buddhist monuments went into decay and have only recently been excavated. The Swat became part of Pakistan during the Indian division.

For Information on the Harappan culture 3200-2600 BC see Wikipedia, Early Harappan
The Swat Grave Culture 1600 - 500 BC at Aligrama is described in
Wikipedia, Gandhara Grave Culture
A cultural history of the Swat is found at
Archeological maps by the Italian excavators of the Swat are found as a pdf at

Udegram, Swat
10th cent BC - 14th cent AD

Udegram is located 8 kilometres from Saidu Sharif. Aurel Stein identified this with Ora, a city where Alexander fought one of his battles. Italians excavated this site in the

The "Bazaar"

excavation site of the lower city (Arrian’s Ora) which Alexander stormed in 326 BC. In a second level area further downhill the monumental remains of an entire vast inhabited district were brought to light (Gullini called it a “bazaar” so that, as Tucci wrote, “Alexander’s presence may gently blow all around us”) and was dated between the end of the 4th century BC and the 4th century AD."
Photo and text quoted from

Gogdara Rock Carvings
12th cent BC - 400 AD

Gogdara's prehistoric rock carvings

Based on sherds found, the settlement was inhabited continously between the 12th cent. BC and the Parthian period.

6th cent BC - 5th cent AD

The Stupa at Taxila-Sirkap, decorated with Hindu, Buddhist, and Greek tsculptures
Photo and text from

Taxila is an archaeological site in Pakistan containing the ruins of the Gandharan city of Takshashila (also Takkasila or Taxila) an important Vedic/Hindu and Buddhist centre of learning from the 6th BC century to the 5th cent AD. Taxila lay at the crossroads of three major trade routes: the royal highway from Pa?aliputra; the north-western route through Bactria, Kapisha, and Puskalavati (Peshawar); and the route from Kashmir and Central Asia, via Srinigar, Mansehra, and the Haripur valley across the Khunjerab pass to the Silk Road.
In 326 BC Alexander the Great received the submission of Ambhi, king of Taxila.
During the reign of
Ashoka (3nd cent AD), Taxila became an influential centre of Buddhist learning.
Assorted Greek satraps held sway in Taxila until in 460–470 AD the Ephthalites sweep
t over Gandhara and the Punjab, resulting in the destruction of Buddhist monasteries and stupas at Taxila. The invasion of Islam in the 8th cent AD did the rest.

For an excellent, detailed article on the art and history of Taxila see Jona Lendering,

2nd cent AD

Begram, was founded as Alexandria Caucasia by Alexander the Great. It later became the summer residence of the Kushan emperors in the 2nd cent AD

Ivory carvings from a trasure found in a merchant's house in Begram
2nd cent AD

Large plaque with engraved decoration, with a girl playing a flute and a woman at the foot of a tree.

River Deity standing on a makara.

A woman and child and a pair of ladies in a doorway.

Within walking distance of the US military airfield at the site of the ancient Alexandria Caucasia a treasure of some 200 sophisticated Greco-Gandharan ivory objects was found. Most likely the contents of a warehouse of an exporter of ivories carved in the area. The panels and sculptures depict scenes of ordinary and royal court life.

These items and several more from the Kabul Treasure were recenyly exhibuted at the Musee Guimet in Paris
he Guimet's catalogue asks the question:
"Should we view this as a Kushan collection from Augustus’s era (1st century AD) or even of Kaniska's (2nd century.), or should we assign a much earlier date, back to the Indo-Parthian period, when the sovereign Gondopharnes governed Taxila, or indeed the Indo-Greek epoch, the time of the very last Greek king in the south of the Hindukush, Hermaios who reigned over Kabul? Whether this Treasure was hidden through fear of invasions, was a merchant’s stock or was just a simple collection, even today the collection refuses to give up its secrets."
Text and Photographs from Dorothy Lobel King's blogpage Original photographs © Thierry Ollivier / Musée Guimet, Paris.

Tilia Tepe
100 BC - 100 AD

In 1978 the Soviet-Greek archeologist Viktor Sarianidi discovered a citadel at Tillia Tepe near Shebergan dating back to the 1st cent BC and six tombs displaying unprecedented wealth. The tombs held five women and one man. The bodies were dressed in clothes sewn with gold and encrusted with turquoise, garnet and lapis lazuli.
The Tilia Tepe Necropolis, Greco-Bactrian-Buddhist gold jewelery find extraordinary
was housed at the Kabul Museum. They miraculously survived the Taliban destruction in a bank safe:

This Greco-Baktrian gold pendant with turquoise, garnet, lapis lazuli, carnelians, and pearls depicts a lady taming two dragons, 1st cent AD

Belt with depictions of Dionysus riding a lion.
1st cent AD

Clasp with erotes on dolphins.
Dorothy Lobel King's blogpage,
Original photographs © Thierry Ollivier / Musée Guimet, Paris.

1 st - 6th cent AD

Takht-i-Bahai was the center of Greco-Buddhism in Gandhara. Large ruins of a Buddhist monastery and an academy are found in a mountain valley. Many of the celebrated Greco-Gandharan Buddhist sculptures in Western museums come from here. A few may still be in the Peshawar Museum. The monastery is relatively well preserved.
Two reliefs from Takht-i-Bahai:

Ghandara Buddha Avalokiteshvara

The miraculous birth of the Buddha
Photos from
Le Coq, "Buddhistische Spätantike"

Shaikhan Dheri
early 2nd cent AD

The Bactrian Greeks built a new city across the river Jinde from Pushkalavati. This city was occupied by Parthian, Sakas and Kushans. In 2nd AD, the river changed its course and the city was relocated to the modern village of Rajar.
The city was partly excavated by Ahmad Hasan Dani in 1960’s. There are still many mounds at Mir Ziarat, at Rajar and Shahr-i-Napursan which are unexcavated.


This area is where Hariti found a new home. Some say she came from Beiruth with the Greeks, other consider her Iranian, in either case she was a terrible ogress. In Ghandara she was converted to Buddhism, laying off her child-eating habit. She beomes the protectress of children and pregnant women. She appears everywhere in Gandhara. Later (8th-9th century) she wandered with Buddhism as far as Japan and Java

Greco-Buddhist sculpture: Hariti with her children in the "House of Naradakha", Shaikhan Dehri
Jennifer Gowan, U of Oregon

Hariti with her husband Panchala. A true Hellenistic image.
The Greeks identified her with the Greek goddess Tyche for which reason she holds a cornucopia.

Sahri Bahlol
2nd - 3rd cent ADI

"Yusufzai" Hariti fom the upper Peshawar Valley

The complete figure.

Greco-Buddhist sculpture of a standing, four-armed Hariti
a trident from Sahri-Bahlol, 2nd-3rd cent AD.

Saidu Sharif, Swat
200 - 300 AD

Sculptural elements from a Buddhist Stupa 200-300 AD.

The Buddha and local disciples


4th cent AD

The Bamiyan Buddha before its destruction in the 1980s.

The large Buddha of Bamiyan, newly notorious because of its destruction by Talibans in the 1980s, go back to the Sassanian period (4th cent AD). During the following two centuries this Iranian-Gandharan Buddha style was carried through Gansu (Bingling Si, Maiji Shan, Zhangye ) deep into China (Lomgmen, Yungang, Leshan), where such gigantic sculptures were much appreciated at the time.

Shah-i-Dheri, Kanishka Stupa
2nd - 6th cent AD

The stupa was a monumental building erected by the Kushan emperor Kanishka in 127 AD.
Three Chinese travelers, Faxian in 399-412 AD, Sung Yun in 518 AD, and Xuanzang in 630 AD described it as the largest stupa in India
Today there are only the foundations left.

A British team excavating at the site in 1908-09 found a reliquary casket ("Kanishka's Casket")
with bone
-splinters supposed to be the Buddha Gautama's.

Gumbat, Swat
2nd cent AD

Gumbat Stupa and monastery.

Aurel Stein in the Memoirs of the Archaeological Survey of India first mentioned the site of Gumbatuna in 1930. Berger and Wright who carried out some small-scale excavation (Berger et al. 1941). Professor G. Tucci followed it in 1955-56

Buddhist sculpture: Ardokhsho-Hariti with donors and attendants from Gumbat,
2nd cent AD.
Jennifer Gowan, U of Oregon

Butkara, Swat
2nd cent AD

The Butkara Stupa is one of the most important Buddhist shrines of Swat . It may have been originally built by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka, but it is now dated slightly later to the 2nd century BC. The stupa was enlarged on five occasions during the following centuries, every time by building over, and encapsulating, the previous structure.

Photo from

The site was excavated by an Italian mission (IsIAO: Istuto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente),led by archaeologist Pierfrancesco Callieri from 1955, to clarify the various steps of the construction and enlargements. The mission established that the stupa was "monumentalized" by the addition of Hellenistic architectural elements during the 2nd century BC, suggesting a direct involvement of the Indo-Greek rulers of northwestern India during that period. An Indo-Corinthian capital representing a Buddhist devotee within foliage was found which had a reliquary and coins of Azes II's time buried at its base, securely dating the capital to earlier than 20 BC.

6th cent BC to 2nd cent AD

Pushkalavati, Peukelaotis in Greek, also known as Bala Hissar was the capital of the kingdom of Gandhara from the 6th century BC to 2nd century AD. For over a century, the monumental mound of Bala Hisar north of Charsadda has been regarded as the pre-eminent archaeological site in the Peshawar Valley, and it is potentially one of the most important archaeological sites in all of South Asia. It is still unexcavated.

The rock of Bala Hissar

Mingora, Swat
1st cent AD

Many Buddhist remains and carvings have been discovered near Mingora in the Jambill River Valley. At Panr, a stupa and monastery dated to the 1st century AD has been excavated.

Mingora (also spelled Mangora or Mingaora) is the largest city in the Swat.

Topdara Swat
5th cent AD

The Buddhist stupa at Topdara, 5th cent AD

Nimogram Swat
2nd - 6th cent AD

Well preserved Budhist monastery with three stupas in wild and beautiful country. Many Budhist items have been excavated from the site and are displayed in various museums.

Nimogram Stupas, 3rd cent AD?.
Photo from

7th cent AD

Greco-Buddhist sculptures from Fondukistan 7th cent AD

The Kabul Museum housed a number of unusually beautiful Greco-Buddhist sculptures and Serindia-influenced frescoes from Fondukistan, a few are at the Musee Guimet in Paris.

This fragile, most remarkable Buddha used to be among the Kabul Museum treasure (painted clay, early 7th century). - Has it survived? - Does anyone know its present location?
Photo from : Madelleine Hallade, "Indien, Gandhara, Begegnung zwischen Orient and Okzident", Pawlak Verlag, Herrsching, 1975 (in German)