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Buddhist Sites of Pakistan

Takht-i Bahi

Chai stand where I spent an enjoyable half hour waiting for a bus transfer on way to Takht-i Bahi. These are everywhere along the roads and where buses stop. This one was run by some young men, who were happy to take a smoke break with a friendly American.

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Table of Contents

Indus Valley Archaeology
Harappa Main
Mohenjo Daro

Buddhist Era
Takht-i Bahi

Later Periods
Udegram, Swat

Gandhara, an ancient region of northern Pakistan containing Swat Valley, Peshawar area, and the north Indus Plain, was a heartland of early Buddhist development. According to stories, later in the Buddha's life he came to this part of the subcontinent to teach; including stopping at Taxila and Peshawar. During my trips, I made a point to see the fantastic sites and developed sculptural tradition which remains from this period. While Buddhism has left this area, Gandhara was an important core in the spread of this philosophy.


Takht-i Bahi, Buddhist Monastery | Looking North with Hindu Kush in Background

View from angle of central courtyard and stupa area, with gate tower to right and road going down.

Across the hill there were outbuildings along the ridges: some mediation locations, some guard towers, some monks cells.

The most striking Buddhist site I visited was Tahkt-i Bahi near Mardan. This site was a large monastery located on a hilltop, occupied from the 1st to 7th century A.D. Much of the friezes and statuary was removed between 1907 and 1913, some of which can be seen on site and in museums in Pakistan. Around this site are many smaller stupas and monasteries, but the amazing views from Takht-i Bahi make this monastery worth the long hike up.

Village on other side of hill from monastery

When visiting Takht-i Bahi, I had just returned from the Swat Valley to the north. There I had been given a linda [slingshot] which I had attached to the outside of my backpack. This proved handy while hiking along the ridge. I was accosted by a goat herd [40 or so] hiking along a promontory to a tower ruin. I was on a one way precipitous path, the goats were coming at me like they meant business. I remembered the `stone trick' of herding goats, used my slingshot, and saved my life. [Well ... maybe not]. The `stone trick' involved lobbing stones 10 to 20 feet away from the straying edge of the herd. This scared the goats enough to change their path back to the main group. It was a simple and easy method of controlling goats, without harming the goats or requiring much labor from the shepherd.

On the way back from this monastery, I gathered large groups of Pathan boys who were amazed to see their favorite tool for causing trouble with an American. I was escorted the miles back to the main highway by a crowd of boisterous boys, an experience which caused me to be more careful displaying my slingshot. While testing me, the boys provided a wealth of insight and smiling waving relatives who made me feel like a long-lost cousin, walking down the road meeting everyone I passed.

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All Material Copyright Mark Felten 1999 - All rights reserved.