Mohra Moradu Monastery

Mohra Moradu Monastery


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The Lizard in the Artifacts

Taxila day finally arrived and all of us were sitting out front waiting at 9:30 sharp. The road took us outside Islamabad and into Pakistani countryside—unplanned villages lined with markets, food and the local specialty which near Taxila was stone carving. Shop after shop of paving stone and mortuary markers lined the road. The countryside is brown, dry and hilly in the distance. Even though it is spring, the few farms required irrigation. Dust from stone quarrying and cutting hung thick in the air.

Once we arrived, we had to sort things out at the ticket hut. As foreigners we were required to sign in and show our travel letter. Inside and well-arranged were the artifacts from the sites around the valley and into the nearby hills. The large contemplative Buddhas lent serenity. In the small space, history swept from the spiritual to the utilitarian. From Bodhisattvas to baby buggies, measuring weights to water jugs and exquisite beads in the shapes of animals all smaller than a half inch the makings of daily life from two thousand years ago were spread out for our eyes.

You’re wondering about the lizard I suppose. As I was ready to move from observing the statues in one encased display, I noticed movement. There was a small lizard inside the display case. Clearly these were not the airtight, display cases.

Four UNESCO World Heritage Sites in One Day—Not Bad

Throughout the area are sites that have served many masters, Buddhists, Christians, local Lords. Some went into disuse when their rich patron departed earthly life. Others succumbed to the Huns. Some were covered by the dirt of ages and others damaged in the quake of 40 A.D. Sirkap, Sirsuhk, Mohra Moradu, and Dharmarajika Stupa are names the do not fall easily from the western tongue.

The foundations of Sirkap speak of a planned city with a long, straight main street and right angled cross streets. Small shops fronted the main street in one block. Temples dominated another. The Jains had used one temple. Like all good real estate, one civilization had simply built on top of another. In Sirkap, they have only excavated a few levels, there are more beneath.

With a washed-out sky and haze, it was difficult to make Sirpak look interesting in the photos. The decorative pieces of the temples had long since been stolen or moved to the museum in Taxila. Sirsuhk was likewise difficult to capture. As a former Buddhist monastery, it was austere to begin with. Thousands of years erased still more. There were walls to contemplate and little else.

Mohra Moradu, also a Buddhist Monastery proved more robust. The Buddhists chose it because it was far enough from town for peace and privacy and close enough to walk to with rice bowl for begging. The stupa there is partially preserved as are some of the statues. A stupa is the crypt of a holy person or persons. The design of the monastery is clear, large sections of the walls remain and with a little modern repair visualizing the daily lives of the monks is simple, as simple as their lifestyle. The Sufi people come here to pray as well as the Buddhists. They leave behind them the colorful cloths or ribbons or flower strands that mark thanks for a blessing received.

The afternoon was yet young and so we decided to visit one more site, Dharmarajika Stupa. Like Sirkap, this site covers acres. Like Mohra Moradu, it possesses a large circular stupa as its centerpiece. Unlike the others, it feels more expansive, more used, more livable. It has the easy feel of community. The communal clothes washing pools are in sight of the stupa where the faithful would walk the circular path at least eight times and depending upon their vows, perhaps as much as one hundred and eight.

There is too little history of this place and of those times in my head for the pieces to come together in a single story. What I did feel was the small sense of freedom, breathing room, that came with the this Buddhist space in.

“We sure covered a lot of history today. What time is it?”

We all laughed at J’s observation which summed things up perfectly. We’d walked quite a bit in temperatures hanging about 90 and were not energetic enough to head for even one more sight.


SIRKAP

The Greeks came to Taxila under the banner of the conqueror, Alexander the great. They built Taxila 1 st city and called it Sirkap. The city was first of its kind in South Asia using the same building style that was found in the Asian Greek capital of Athens. Today all that is left is roads and building foundations. Sirkap history spends for over 1000 years that involves different empires conquering and rebuilding it.

It is the second major ancient city at Taxila. It is known as Sirkap after the name of a wicked character of a folk legend, “Raja Rasalu and seven demons” that is said to have lived on this site. The excavation of this old city was carried out by H. Hargreaves during 1912-1930 under the direction of Sir John Marshall and in 1944-45 by Sir Mortimer Wheeler and his colleagues.

Sirkap is part of the larger archaeological complex at Taxila, now located in the modern state of Pakistan, in the province of Punjab. The archaeological complex at Taxila, of which Sirkap is one site, is located about 22 kilometers to the west of Islamabad, and about 25 kilometers to the northwest of the city of Rawalpindi.

The great city was one time termed the greatest university for law, history and medicine on subcontinent. And the ancient city architectural design plans was so ahead of its time that it was put to use when Islamabad was built some 50 years ago.

It was a well planned city islamabd is built on this design. It has 2 cities beneath it which is still to be dugged. When in 1912 digging was carried out, just to show the signs of 2 cities under it, on one corner of the city 3 layers were digged which represents 3 periods

Archaeologists have identified three phase

1-The first, Demetrian phase of the Greek city, second century AD.(picture, bottom)

2- The Saca period, until an earthquake in ca. 30 CE. (Picture, center)

3- The Parthian period (picture, thin layer at the top).

The city is heavily influenced by Greek city planning principles. The streets of the city were more regular than those at Bhir, and the houses were mostly made of coursed stone. There were temples, houses, shrines, and stupas. A stupa is a funeral mound, usually associated with the death and nirvanas of Buddha. Buddhists always were the main religious group, and we find many stupas in Sirkap.

A straight line, dividing the 1200 m long town into two halves. The private houses were constructed of rubble masonry covered with mud plaster. Usually, they had a small court, a second floor and a flat roof. After the earthquake that marks the break between the Indo-Scythian and Indo-Parthian periods, many houses were rebuilt with stronger walls and deeper foundations.

THE MAIN ROAD OF SIRKAP


Mohra Moradu Monastery - History

There are a number of world heritage sites present in Pakistan and Taxila is one of them. It is a city situated 31 km to the west of Islamabad and to the 36.40 km to the northwest of Rawalpindi off the Grand Trunk Road. Its other close neighboring cities include Hassanabdal, khanpur and Wah. Wah Cantt and Taxila are twin cities. It is a city with a population of 151000 people according to the 1998 census.

Taxila is among the seven tehsils of Rawalpindi district. It is a city spread in the periphery of the Potohar plateau of Punjab. Taxila was historically known as Takshashila and is a city that dates back to 5 century BCE. The recorded history of Taxila starts from 6th century BC, when this Gandharan kingdom became part of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia.

An overall Punjabi culture prevails in the city with people understanding both English and Urdu languages but speak Punjabi language with a different dialect native to the region. The dressing and food in the city are heavily influenced by those in the Punjab province as a whole and the one factor that helps in distinguishing this city from the rest of the cities in Pakistan is not its food, it’s not its native clothing nor its language but its history. The culture of Taxila as a city is heavily influenced by the cities strong historical background.

Taxila is one of the most important archeological sites in the world. It is a city that is very well known for having strong ties and being the centre of Buddhism in the country. Many statues of Buddha depicting the various stages of his life have been excavated and are currently present both at the Taxila museum as well as various stupas in the city however the best of these statues have been taken abroad and are displayed in museums there.

There are 5 small stupas in the city. The first one being the Dharmarajika stupa, which is locate two miles from Taxila museum. Then is the Glen of Giri, which is about three-and-half miles from Dharmarajika stupa, this is atop the highest peak of the range of hills are two stupas and a fortress built in a cleft near a spring of pure, sweet water. Jaulian is another marvelous complex of chapels, stupas and a monastery with assembly hall, store rooms, refectory, kitchen and bathrooms still very well preserved. Two miles west of Jaulian is another well-preserved monastery at Mohra Moradu. In one of the monk’s cells here there was found a stupa with almost all the details intact. At Jandial, a mile-and-a-half from Sirsukh, is an image-less temple in the classic Greek style, with sandstone columns and cornices.

Statues of other famous people in history such as Alexander the Great and the eminent ruler Asoka are also be found in the city of Taxila. All these statues show great skill and craftsmanship because of the detail and intricacy that went into the making of these statues. Taxila was taken over by Alexander the Great in 327 BC after which it was ruled by the Mauryans. Towards the end, it came under Asoka’s rule during which time it reached the zenith of its development and culture. Eventually, Taxila was taken over and destroyed. The last significant historical period for Taxila was the Gandhara period. It was during this time that Taxila became a world known centre for philosophy and art. The city has a dtrong tourist base and also attracts many tourist from the region of China and Greece, primarily because of it being a centre for Buddhism and Buddhists from all over the world come and visit the stopas in the city because of their religious significance to them.

One of the oldest recognized universities of the world is also present in Taxila. This university came into being in the Gandhara period. At one stage, it had 10,500 students including those from Babylon, Greece, Syria, and China. Experienced teachers taught languages, Vedas, philosophy, medicine, politics, warfare, accounts, commerce, documentation, music, dance and other performing arts, futurology, the occult and mystical sciences and complex mathematical calculations.

Like the historical cities Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, Taxila was also a well-planned city with wide streets and well-built houses as well as stupas for the priests. The royalty of the time lived in splendid palaces in the city. Gold, silver coins and other jewellery items have also been excavated from Taxila. The present day Taxila is not as well maintained as it was in the past with the shops encroaching on the main city roads and the town planning over all has been very poor since after the fall of the Gandhara civilization.

Taxila is famous for its handicrafts which not only reflect the city’s culture but the history of the place as well. Apart from the handicrafts the city’s stone work is also very famous and a small cottage industry for stone works has emerged in the city.

Taxila museum is one of the most famous museums in Pakistan. The artifacts displayed at the museum depict the ancient cultural as well as the history of the area and displays countless artifacts from the Gandhara civilization. The major jewels and statues found in the stupas around the museum are not present in the museum. The city has its own railway station but no airport and the nearest airport lies in Islamabad.

The city of Taxila also has an industrial significance. Pakistan ordinance factory, heavy industry Taxila, cement factories as well as small cottage industry for stoneware, pottery and footwear add to the significance of the city. The industry found in Taxila is important both from the military as well as other commercial reasons.

Taxila is a fairly educated city over all and it was also known as the centre of learning and culture in the past. Taxila was the prime seat of learning in the subcontinent as well. The city has two prominent universities namely HITEC university and university of engineering and technology Taxila. Apart from this several small local school systems are also present. Heavy industries Taxila Education City was a monumental addition to the cities educational institutes.

The politics of the city is dominated by the two prominent families in the city namely the Syed family and the chaudary family.

The historical significance of the city overall has no impact on the lives of the people of the area, there are no ruminants of the Buddhist culture in the lives of the natives of Taxila and they lives are dictated primarily by the Punjabi culture, whether these are their own personal individual lives or their lives in a social capacity.


Buddhist Sites In Pakistan: History & Remains

Ancient Gandhara Kingdom

Pakistan is home to the ancient Gandhara Kingdom which historically had four capitals that spread from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to Punjab. These capitals include Kapisa (Bagram), Pushkalavati (Charsadda), Takshashila (Taxila), and Purusapura (Peshawar). Gandhara translates into ‘The Land of Fragrance’ and was the central meeting point for Southern, Western and Central Asia regions.

These four capitals have produced numerous Buddhist philosophers and together this has contributed as a center of Buddhist learning. The emperors and kings of this great empire took a number of initiatives to ensure the sanctity of this region remains preserved. King Ashoka chose Dharmarajika stupa at Taxila as one of the main sites in his empire, to preserve the remains of Lord Buddha. Later, Kushan ruler, Kanishka’s role was of paramount importance as he worked for the promotion of Gandhara sculpture, fusing Buddhist and classical Greek themes.

It is because of these efforts that centuries later, today, these archaeological ruins have managed to retain much of their former glory. Pilgrims from India, Central Asia, East Asia and Southeast Asia regularly come to Pakistan to visit these sites. It is interesting to note that Gautam Buddha never visited the Gandhara Kingdom, however, it has played a pivotal role in the spread of Buddhism, particularly to China and Tibet.


Multicultural Buddhist Jaulian monastery in Pakistan

We drove to Taxila town, which was the Mecca of Buddhism in the 2 nd century BC. Jaulian monastery (2 nd Century – 450 AD) like many other Buddhist retreats in the area is perched on top of a small hill, a short distance from Taxila.

I guess Buddhist monks needed some peace of mind to meditate Jaulian monastery was the perfect spot to do so. Water streams ran on both sides of the hill with a birds-eye-view of the sprawling land below.

Jaulian monastery site was built during the syncretic Kushan rulers’ time, hence the representation of Indians, Europeans and Nepali monks in their symbols

I have found Jaulian monastery to be the most revealing and better preserved amongst the various sites peppered around these mountain ranges like Mohra Moradu, Pipplan, Srikap, Badalpur, SirSukh etc.

The most interesting statue was that of Buddha’s image in the form of three ethnicities that ruled the region over the years. One image was that of a Greek monk with wavy hair, the second was that of a Nepali bald head monk and the third was an Indian monk with curly hair.

One Qigong master once remarked about this Jaulian monastery site, “I still feel the presence of spirit of monks from 2000 years back”

Lots of Buddhists still perform their religious rituals at this site — it is still sacred ground to them.

Then this is the only site where I saw the image of the fasting Buddha carved on the base of sacred tower (reliquary) that is Omni present on every site.

Oh in case I forget, the gold cased relics of Buddha from Jaulian are now in British Museum in London

I saw an inscription dating back 2 nd century AD, in Khroshti text. It seemed gibberish to me. I wish someone translates it to me.

The spiritually inclined would place their index finger inside an opening on the torso of Buddha’s statue, to have their prayers answered by the divine himself.

What I found profoundly fascinating was the evidence that this monastery was burnt to the ground by White Huns in around 450 AD — looking at the charred window frames.

The current level of research shows that most of the Buddhist towns and monastery complexes around Taxila were abandoned after the White Huns invasion around the same time.

A well preserved chamber had the perfect image of Buddha in meditation (hands overlapping) with the preaching Buddha (one hand across the chest) overlooking him.

Lo and Behold! The double storey monastery had a lotus lake smack in the middle, fed by rain water.

The statue of Buddha teaching (one hand clasping the other) that I saw at Jaulian was nowhere to be seen at Takht Bahi.

The votive stupas (devotees burial grounds) surrounding the main Stupa were elaborately carved in Greek-European style —all telling a story. The various levels of these stupas talk of burden of man, the distraction of women, the significance of snake & elephant characteristics and the seven heavens.

I loved Jaulian monastery site, which was probably the best preserved good job KPK archaeology!

I wish the artifacts and statues be returned to their natural locations so that visitors can have a complete spiritual and history experience.


Mohra Moradu Monastery - History

Updated Nov 22, 2014 – Amjad Iqbal

TAXILA: Scores of stucco sculptures dating back to the 4th and 5th centuries A.D. are crumbling at the Mohra Moradu Stupa and Monastery due to the lack of maintenance.

The monastery has its own significance and importance in the archaeological history of Pakistan as it is among three of the 18 Buddhist sites of the Taxila valley with the intact stucco sculptures and figures of Buddha.

The monastery flourished as a beacon of knowledge from 4th to 5th centuries A.D. It is located in a small valley between Sirkap called the second city of ancient Taxila valley civilisation and Jaulian, known as the ancient Taxila Buddhist University.

In the past, the site was damaged by treasure-hunters who split the main stupa hoping to find gold inside.

The lower portions of the stupa were protected, however, as earth covered most of the site before an excavation began under the supervision of John Marshall in the early 20th century.

A Buddhist shrine, the monastery was once a place of meditation in the rural areas.

Because of its importance, Unesco included the monastery in its list of the world cultural heritage sites in 1980.

But the officials of the Punjab archaeology and museums department have failed to ensure proper maintenance of the sheds erected to protect the stucco sculptures from climatic agents, especially rain.

During a visit to the site, it was observed that sheds over the ancient stupa and cells were damaged and rainwater entered the cells and damaged around 80 per cent of the sculptures and figures.

The rainwater had also dissolved parts of stucco sculptures and figures of the Buddha. A caretaker at the monastery said he had informed authorities about the poor condition of the sheds but no action had been taken as yet.

There was seepage on the walls of the cells which was proof of the fact that huge quantity of water absorbed in the walls of the cells due to negligence of the the officials concerned.

Sources in the Department of Archaeology and Museums’ sub-regional office said senior officials were aware of the situation at the site but they never contacted national as well as international donor agencies for preparing any contingency plan to save the site.

When contacted, Irshad Hussain, the deputy director of the archaeology department, said due to the lack of funds a preservation project could not be prepared for the safety of the stucco sculptures.

He said due to the limited financial resources, the department was unable to launch a preservation and restoration plan.

He said after the 18th amendment the site had been handed over to the provincial government.

Published in Dawn, November 22th , 2014

It’s difficult to understand the wanton passive destruction of ancient historical monuments.


Muslims at a Buddhist monastery

The guides that force themselves upon you at every Taxila site at the end of the tour show you poorly carved hand-made figures of Buddha, similar in design to those that are carved on the ancient stupas. These replicas are poorly imitated versions of the original. Most of the time they are asymmetrical, the nose is headed in one direction while the arms are unequal. For the carvers of the original sculptors, chiseling out figurines of Buddha, Bodhavista and other supernatural beings was an act of religious devotion, not much different from how Muslim artisans now decorate shrines of Sufis. This is not only a job but an act of worship. The modern imitators of the Buddha figures have no devotional association with the figures they make. It is yet another way of making money, a bit un-Islamic if one espouses to the puritanical school of thought of Islam, but effective.

In the outskirts of the ruins, which is now where the city has moved there are masons working on decorating graves. They carve out floral patterns on them and then carve out the name of the deceased on the tombstone as the demand comes. Here though one can notice the attention to detail. Unlike our guides that we meet at the ruins these are professionals who have been engaged in this art for several generations now.

A view of the monastery Detail of a Budhist carving

The two worlds of ancient Taxila and that of today are separated by thousands of years. Many civilizations came and vanished in between these two eras. Today it seems as if these two worlds are not related to each other in any way. The first time I visited the ancient ruins of Taxila I was blown away by what I saw. I particularly enjoyed the site of Julian, believed to be the oldest university in the world where the legendary teacher, Chanakya taught and trained the future conqueror of India Chandra Gupta Maurya. Looking at how the artisans of that time had carved out a civilization out of mountains I could not come to terms with the fact that it is the descendants of those people that populate the region of Taxila today. Where has the sensibilities of that time vanished, I wondered.

In my passion though, I failed to notice a thin thread joining these disparate worlds. Over the years as I visited the ruins at Taxila several times more the connection between the past and the present became clearer. The first link that I noticed was in the form of the tool of the artisans that once beautified a stupa and now beautifies a grave. There is no doubt that an artistic tradition that reached its zenith in the ancient times is still practiced. The stupas have been replaced by graves.

Double-headed eagle shrine in Taxila

Another of my favorite sites here is that of Mohra Moradu. It was here that I found the most fascinating connection. At the centre of this site which lies in between a giant stupa and an ancient monastery there is a small platform covered by trees. As I walked into the site I noticed colorful pieces of cloth tied on the branches of these trees, next to an Alam. I asked the tour guide about this Muslim shrine. It turns out that this shrine is known as the baithak of the five Sufis. Sometime in the antiquity of religious history five Muslims saints came and mediated in the ruins of this ancient site, sitting under the grove of these trees, believe the locals who frequently visit this place to get the blessings of the saint. But how can that be? These sites were excavated only about a hundred years ago and after that they came under the protection of the Government. It therefore seems highly implausible that these five saints mediated at this archaeological site.

I listened to the story of the guide about this Muslim shrine. “This place is still occupied by spirits. Devotees present eatables to them. They place them at the platform and overnight all the offerings disappear.” This sounded similar to Buddhist tales that must have been part of the religious culture of that time. A few trees are sacred in Buddhist mythology and it is believed that spirits reside in them. Devotees present them food. This was also how monks living in Buddhist monasteries were fed. They were known as Bhikshus, a word from which the contemporary Bhek (beg) is derived from. They were known as Bhikshus because they asked for food.

Budhist carvings at Taxila

Listening to the story of the guide I knew that there was a deeper connection between the Muslim shrine and the Buddhist monastery than the guide was willing to admit or was even aware of. I believe that when slowly this Buddhist civilization known as the Gandhara civilization faded away after the White Hun conquest its memory remained in the collective consciousness of the people of that region. Over years, tales of monasteries and sacred spaces that were occupied by them became part of the folk tales and the distinction between fiction and fact became blurred. When all signs of the monastery disappeared, the space that it once occupied continued to remain sacred for the people living in the neighbouring villages. This Muslim shrine I believe is reclamation of that sacred space.

I believe that there was no Muslim saint who came here, but that this story was created since this Buddhist monastery has remained a sacred site for the people of this region and one now needed a Muslim shrine to continue regarding this space as sacred.

Haroon Khalid is the author of A White Trail: a journey into the heart of Pakistan’s religious minorities (Westland Publishers, 2013)


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(video) Rohtas Fort – Legacy of Sher Shar Suri

Rohtas Fort is one of the six World Heritage Sites in Pakistan.

A fortress built by Sher Shah (Founder of Sur Empire, a short-lived empire from 1539 to 1555) who built the transportation networks that served as the foundation for Mughal empire.

Sher Shah built ” The Grand Trunk Road “between Kabul and the Punjab Plain and built Rohtas Fort on it’s middle way.


Watch the video: Монашење - Сања постаје Тавита


Comments:

  1. Jameel

    i don't know

  2. Fonteyne

    And what is ridiculous here?



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