Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Takht Bahi Monastery & Early Tantric Buddhism (520 AD)

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"The ruins of Takht-i-Bahi and neighbouring Sahr-i-Bahlol, in their setting, architectural form, design and construction techniques are most characteristic examples of the development of monastic and urban communities in the Gandharan region between the 1st to 7th century AD.....Due to the location of on the Buddhist Ruins of Takht-i-Bahi on high hills, it escaped successive invasions and is exceptionally well preserved."....http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/140

"The Buddhist Ruins of Takht-i-Bahi and Neighbouring City Remains at Sahr-i-Bahlol are one of the most imposing relics of Buddhism in the Gandhara region of Pakistan. The inscribed property is composed of two distinct components both dating from the same era.....The Buddhist Ruins of Takhi-i-Bahi (Throne of Origins) are a monastic complex, founded in the early 1st century A.D., is spectacularly positioned on various hilltops ranging from 36.6 metres to 152.4 metres in height, typical for Buddhist sites. The complexes cover an area of around 33ha.....The Buddhist monastery was in continual use until the 7th century AD. It is composed of an assemblage of buildings and is the most complete Buddhist monastery in Pakistan. The buildings were constructed of stone in Gandhara patterns (diaper style) using local dressed and semi-dressed stone blocks set in a lime and mud mortar.....Today the ruins comprise a main stupa court, votive stupas court, a group of three stupas, the monastic quadrangle with meditation cells, conference hall, covered stepped passageways and other secular buildings......The second component, the Neighbouring City Remains at Sahr-i-Bahlol, is located approximately 5 km away in a fertile plain. The Sahr-i-Bahlol ruins are the remnants of a small ancient fortified town of the Kushan period. The town is set on an elongated mound up to 9 metres high and surrounded by portions of the defensive walls in “diaper” style characteristic of the first two or three centuries A.D. The area covered is 9.7 hectares.".....http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/140

"Takht Bhai (or Takht Bahi)......is a Parthian archaeological site in Mardan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. It was first a Zoroastrian complex which, after the later arrival of Buddhism, was then converted into a Buddhist monastic complex. It is dated to the 1st century BC..... The complex is regarded by archaeologists as being particularly representative of the architecture of Buddhist monastic centers from its era.... It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.....The ruins are located about 15 kilometers from Mardan in Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province.....A small fortified city, dating from the same era, sits nearby.".....UNESCO Advisory Body Evaluation of Takht Bhai

"There are four main areas of the Takht Bahi complex:
The Stupa Court, a cluster of stupas located in a central courtyard.
The monastic chambers, consisting of individual cells arranged around a courtyard, assembly halls, and a dining area.
A temple complex, consisting of stupas and similar to the Stupa Court, but of later construction.
The Tantric monastic complex, which consists of small, dark cells with low openings, which may have been used for certain forms of Tantric meditation."
UNESCO Advisory Body Evaluation of Takht Bhai

Click on the map to enlarge

"The monastic complex was likely founded in the early 1st Century BC.... Despite numerous invasions into the area, Takht Bhai's hilltop location seems to have protected it from destruction, unlike many comparable early Buddhist monastic complexes..... The complex was occupied continuously until the modern era, when charitable funding for the site ended.....Archaeologists have divided the history of the complex at Takht Bhai into four periods, beginning in the 1st Century BC..... This first era continued until the 2nd Century CE, and is associated with the Kushan king Kanishka, as well as early Parthian and later Kushana king..... The second construction period, which included the creation of the Stupa Court and assembly hall, took place during the 3rd and 4th Centuries CE. A third construction period, associated with the later Kushan dynasty and the Kidara Kushana rulers, occurred during the 4th and 5th centuries. The final construction period, which saw the creation of the so-called Tantric complex, took place in the 6th and 7th Centuries CE, and was overseen by invading Hun rulers."

"The first modern historical reference to these ruins was made in 1836 by General Court, the French officer of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1836. ....the Buddhist remains are in a village named Mazdoorabad..... Explorations and excavations on this site began in 1864..... A significant number of objects from the site can be found in the British Museum..... The site underwent a major restoration in the 1920s."....

"Trisong Detsen, Emperor of Tibet, ruled from 755 until 804 AD.......he invited Padmasambhava, Śāntarakṣita, Vimalamitra, and various other Indian teachers to come to Tibet to spread the latest understanding of the teaching. ... the Tantric complex at Takht Bahi was constructed as early as 520 AD. "

"The reign of one king calling himself Gondophares has been established at 20 AD by the rock inscription he set up at Takht-i Bahi (also known as Takht Bahi) in Mardan, western Pakistan, in 46 AD......and he has also been connected with the third-century Acts of Thomas. Recent research has however shown unambiguously that "Gondophares" was a title held by many kings.....

"The Vinaya text throws light on the architecture of the monastery. The village is built on the ruins of the ancient town, the foundation walls of which are still in a tolerably good formation......As a proof, that it was in the past occupied by the Buddhists and Hindu races, coins of those periods are still found at the site. the monks constructed it for their convenience. Spring water was supplied to them on hill tops; living quarters for ventilators for light and alcoves for oil lamps were made in the walls. From the description of Song Yun, a Chinese pilgrim, it appears that it was on one of the four great cities lying along the important commercial route to India. It was a well-fortified town with four gates outside the northern one, on the mound known as Chajaka Dehri which was a magnificent temple containing beautiful stone images covered in gold leaves. Not far from the rocky defile of Khaperdra did Ashoka build the eastern gate of the town outside of which existed a stupa and a sangharama. ".....http://www.travel.web.pk/destinations/archaeological_sites/takht_i_bahi.asp

"The group of buildings unearthed after archeological excavations at Takht-i-Bahi may include; the court of many Stupas, the monastery, the main stupa, the assembly hall, the low-level chambers, the courtyard, the court of three stupas, the wall of colossi and the secular building. ......In 1871, Sergeant Wilcher found innumerable sculptures at Takht-i-Bahi. Some depicted stories from the life of Buddha, while others more devotional in nature included the Buddha and Bodhisattava. The Court of Stupas is surrounded on three sides by open alcoves or chapels. The excavators were of the view that originally they contained single plaster statues of Buddha either sitting or standing, dedicated in memory of holy men or donated by rich pilgrims. The monastery on the north, was probably a double storied structure consisting of an open court, ringed with cells, kitchens and a refactory."........http://www.travel.web.pk/destinations/archaeological_sites/takht_i_bahi.asp

"The actual Road to Swat bifurcates from the great Grand Trunk Road near Nowshera. About a kilometre below the highest point on the Road to Swat, the commuters can see the view of Takht-i-Bahi Mountains in the middle distance standing from the road. The ruins of one of the grand monastery of the past are situated on the top of a 152-meter high hill, about 80 kilometres from Peshawar and 16 kilometres northwest of the city of Mardan......Takht-i-Bahi - a Buddhist monastery developed between 1st and 7th centuries AD.....village of Sahr-i-Bahlol, which occupies an extensive mound containing the remains of an ancient city, dating back to the same period. The site is located on the northern flanks of a rocky spur gradually rising above the idyllic plains and well tended fields......Of all the Buddhist monasteries built through the length and breadth of Gandhara, Takht-i-Bahi is renowned as the most splendid. This reputation is based partly on its state of preservation, its careful restoration, and partly on its location. The monastery of Takht-i-Bahi was first discovered in 1852 by European Lieutenants Lumsden and Stokes. The remains were earlier mentioned by General Court, the French officer of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1836. In 1871, Sergeant Wilcher found innumerable sculptures at Takht-i-Bahi - some depicted stories from the life of Buddha, while others more devotional in nature included the Buddha and Bodhisattava. The first scientific excavations on the site were carried out between 1907 and 1911 and than in 1913. Unfortunately the results were never properly coordinated and recorded and so no sequence has ever been established for the site of intrinsic value. The extensive remains of the Buddhist monastic establishment or Sangharama were placed on the World Heritage List in 1980. These remains are sometime known as the "throne of origins"......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 the lore, the Buddha's came to this part of the world stopping at Taxila and Peshawar. While Buddhism has left this area, signs of Gandhara are still spread all around.....The Takht-i-Bahi Complex, a gigantic Buddhist establishment comprises several well-knit units: Court of Many Stupas, Monastery, Main Stupa, Assembly Hall, Low Level Chambers, Courtyard, Court of Three Stupas, Wall of Colossi and some secular buildings. All these structures are built in grey-coloured limestone, in mud mortar. The excavations at Takht-i-Bahi and Shar-i-Bahlol have yielded a large number of fine sculptures of Buddha, Boddisattavas and other deities, both in stone and stucco. Other valuable antiquities have also been found in the vicinity."......http://www.contactpakistan.com/ExplorePakistan/Takht-i-Bahi.html

"Gandhara art and architecture displays considerable Greek influence which may have been due to its interactions with Bactria in the 4th century BC.....Colonial historians have gone so far as to suggest that it was the Greek influence in Gandhara that may have led to the widespread use of idols in India, and even to say that Indian epics bear in them traces of Greek and early Christian culture. It is undeniable that Gandharan Buddha images bear traces of the Greek influence, especially in the so-called ‘wet drapery’ style of the graven images of the Buddha. But it is difficult to believe that this influence could have been only in one direction: indeed, as the transfer of the decimal system from India to Europe via the early Arabian civilization has shown, the most probable conclusion is that the Greek invasion, and subsequent rule of the Gandharan region by the Kushan kings, led to a far greater mixing of cultures than normal geography would allow, and was a change from the later insularity of India under the Gupta Empire.....Much of the Gandharan heritage has been lost: the early Islamic settlers in this region were assiduous in wiping out images that they felt represented human beings, and in modern times the giant statues of the Buddha at Bamiyan in Afghanistan were destroyed too. However, this region is a vital link to India’s past and its interaction – and influence of – the Western world via the Bactrian Greeks and the Kushan Empire.".... Gandhara: Greek Influence and Buddhist Monasteries.....by Ashish Nangia

"The Buddhist Monastery Takht-i-Bhai (Throne of Origins) is an archaeological wonder, considered to be significant because of its unique design. "The site is extremely important for its integrity and unique state of conservation; important also for its antiquity, being built certainly during the 1st century CE, as proven by the important inscriptions bearing the name of Gondophares (20-46 CE)," says the Director of the Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan, Dr Luca Maria Olivieri......He says Gondophares was a Parthian King of the Suren House, from Sakastan, or Sistan...."Soon after Gondophares, Takht-i-Bahi was under the control of Kujula Kadphises, the first Kushan King. The site remained in use certainly until Late Antiquity (7th CE).....the site is a symbol of architectural complexity of a Buddhist monastic complex, and it should be considered a wonderful introduction to Gandharan Buddhist architecture, a must stop for tourist heading towards Swat.".....http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2015/06/14/spe-her-01.asp

"Takht Bhai (or Takht Bahi)......was first a Zoroastrian complex which, after the later arrival of Buddhism, was then converted into a Buddhist monastic complex."

"The Hephthalite Huns captured Gandhara around 451, and did not adopt Buddhism.....Mihirakula became a "terrible persecutor" of the religion. During their rule, Hinduism revived itself and the Buddhist Gandharan civilization declined. The Sassanids, aided by Turks from Central Asia, destroyed the Huns' power base in Central Asia, and Gandhara once again came under Persian suzerainty in 568.....The travel records of many Chinese Buddhists pilgrims record that Gandhara was going through a transformation during these centuries. Buddhism was declining and Hinduism was rising. Fa-Xian travelled around 400, when Prakrit was the language of the people and Buddhism was flourishing. 100 years later, when Song-Yun visited in 520 AD, a different picture was described: the area had been destroyed by the White Huns and was ruled by Lae-Lih, who did not practice the laws of the Buddha. Xuan-Zang visited India around 644 and found Buddhism on the wane in Gandhara and Hinduism in the ascendant. Gandhara was ruled by a king from Kabul, who respected Buddha's law, but Taxila was in ruins and Buddhist monasteries were deserted. Instead, Hindu temples were numerous and Hinduism was popular."

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Email....okarresearch@gmail.com

October 2015

John Hopkins....Northern New Mexico

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