Thursday, April 25, 2013

Buddhist archeology: "High Well" (Takht-i-Bahi)

Dhr. Seven, Wisdom Quarterly Wikipedia edit Takht-i-Bahi; The Red List (
High Well's Stupa Court with its magnificent hilltop views (
Takht-i-Bahi (also Takht Bhai) is a Buddhist monastic complex in Indo-Pakistan (ancient Gandhara) dating to the 1st century BCE.

It is regarded by archaeologists as being an excellent representation of the architecture of Buddhist monastic centers from the era. In 1980 it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The name Takht Bhai (Urdu, تخت بھائی) admits various translations. In Sanskrit, takht means "well," and bhai means "on a high surface." (The world-famous Mes Aynak in adjacent Afghanistan means "Little Copper Well"). So altogether it means "well on a high surface." 
But in Persian, which over the much more ancient Sanskrit and proto-Sanskrit of the Indus River Valley Civilization, takht means "throne."
The ruins are located about nine miles (15 km) from Mardan in Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. The ruins sit near a modern village known by the same name. A small fortified city dating from the same era sits nearby. The surrounding area is famous for sugar cane cultivation.

There are four main areas of the Takht-i-Bahi complex:
  • The Stupa Court, a cluster of Buddhist burial mounds 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 sacred reliquaries 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.
Additional structures on the site may have served as residences for Buddhist nuns and monks or meeting halls or utilized for secular purposes. The buildings on the site are constructed out of local stone using lime and mud as mortar.
Indo-Pakistan, former Gandhara, at the Takht-i-Bahi archeological site (
The monastic complex likely was founded in the early 1st Century BCE. Despite numerous invasions into the area, High Well's hilltop location seems to have protected it from destruction, unlike many comparable early Buddhist monastic complexes.

It was occupied continuously until the modern era, when charitable funding for the site ended in the absence of a supportive Buddhist community.
Archaeologists divide the history of the complex at High Well into four periods, beginning in the 1st Century BCE. This first era continued until the 2nd Century CE. It 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.

On the ground in High Well looking at meditation rooms (
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, overseen by invading Hun rulers.
The first modern historical reference to these ruins was made in 1836 by a French officer. The Buddhist remains are in a village named Mazdoorabad. Explorations and excavations on the site began in 1864. It underwent a major restoration in the 1920s.
[By contrast, Afghanistan's massive "Little Copper Well" (Mes Aynak) will scarcely be documented before being annihilated by the Chinese government's mining concern MCC.] More 
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