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The ruins of an ancient Buddhist monastery are situated on the top of a 152-meter (500 feet) high hill. It is located about 80 kms from Peshawar and 16 kms northwest of the city of Mardan. The monastry of Takht-i-Bahi was first mentioned by General Court, the French officer of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1836. Takht-i-Bahi is the most impressive and complete Buddhist monastery in Pakistan. From the top of the hill behind monastery one can look down across the plains as far as Peshawar on one side and up to the Malakand Pass and the hills of Swat on the other. This site has produced fragmentary sculptures in stone and stucco that indicate the highly developed sculptural sense of their creators. But the most remarkable feature is the design and arrangement of the range of small shrines, which surrounds the main stupa-court. This site, dating back to 2nd-3rd century A.D., consists of a large rectangular court, on the north of which is the main monastery and to the south is a well-planned monastic shrine of high terrace.
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.
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 sorrounded 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, ringged with cells, kitchens and a refactory.
A visit to Takht-i-Bahi is an informative experience particularly to those interested in archaeological excavations. Walking further, you will come accross the monestary court which was a residential area and as such a small number of sculptures were recovered. However, a beautiful emaciated Siddhartha in three parts was discovered. Likewise the other courts with Buddha's images in stucco are equally interesting and they were used either for meditation, meetings or storage. A truly majestic place!