takht bahi mardan

Buddhist Asoka advice to Pakistanis at Takht Bahi Mardan

Takht Bahi Buddhist temple at Mardan, Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa, Pakistan is the ultimate tribute to the strong Buddhist presence in Northern Pakistan up till 5th century BC.

Takht Bahi Buddhist temple History

The Mauryan Buddhist King Asoka (299-237 BC) ruled the old country of Northern Pakistan for about 40 years, with the Takht Bahi area within his jurisdiction. While other rulers left coins, this philosopher-king left a checklist of life skills for his people. He was very much the product of Pakistani soil as he studied under the tutelage of his grandfather the strategist Chandragupt Maurya, at the ancient Taxila University of government and society.


Asoka, a Buddhist convert from Hinduism, chose the nonviolent ways of Buddhists for himself.

Ashoka Edict inscription at Mardan, Pakistan

Asoka’s edict, probably etched in 274 BC, is still visible on a rock at Shahbaz Garhi town, Mardan.

The edict advises his Buddhist followers and subjects to drop wasteful religious and cultural rituals and focus on the essence of what Lord Buddha taught them — love for humanity, love for God’s creations, and humility. Asoka tells them the civilized way of living is to plant trees, build wells, protect animals and respect people around you. He speaks of love for humans, animals, and the environment. Elders, teachers, scholars are all to be respected to make a healthy society.

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So, is anyone listening?

Shahbaz Garhi was the original market town on the bank of a rivulet, 25 Kms from Takht Bahi, at the crossroads of trade coming directly South from Tajikistan & Kazakhstan. That’s why Asoka etched his edict for everyone to see. The British abandoned this route because of their abhorrence of anything Russian.

Buddhist sites around Mardan Pakistan

There are several Buddhist sites from the 1st century AD to the 7th century BC, around Shahbaz Garhi. The most significant of these sites are Jamal Garhi, Sehr-e-Behlol, and Takht Bahi. The Google map of Takht Bahi, Sehr e Behlol, and Shahbaz Garhi are pasted below for your reference along with pictures and images.

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My visit to Takht Bahi Buddhist temple and monastery

We went to Takht Bahi or the ‘throne of springs’ site, a short distance from Mardan city. The bazaar of Takht Bahi Mardan looks like it is still in BC times. Takht Bhai Buddist temple Mardan itself is 165 Kms distance from Rawalpindi (2.5 hours). The road is quite smooth.

Takht Bahi is the best surviving Buddhist monastery in South Asia, similar to Taxila. Its 500-foot elevation has helped it survive the raids of white-Huns and robbers.

Inside the Takht Bahi Buddist temple

This beautiful Buddhist monastery has a central square with chambers for Buddha statues, assembly halls, meditation chambers, rainwater harvesting tanks, double-story lecture halls, and separate residential complexes for the students and professors.

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The place has a breathtaking view of the surrounding planes. You can see Malakand Mountains to the north, Peshawar in the distance towards the West.

The most interesting thing about this monastery is the pitch-dark, 40-day meditation chamber where the graduating monks were sealed tight for the duration. Their assignment was to propose a life’s question to themselves and also to answer it. Only then were they granted Monk status.

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The time span of the site is 100 BC – 700 AD.

The original complex was a Zoroastrian religious site but was converted to a Buddhist structure by Persian Gondopharis in 10-20 AD. This was confirmed by a tablet found from the site and several coins inscribed with the word Gondopharis. Kanushkas’ expanded it further in the next 500 years.

Takht Bahi survived the white-Hun destruction of Buddhist temples in 450 AD — probably just about. A Chinese pilgrim of the 5th century has recorded a damaged Stupa.

Central Asian White Huns were pagan worshipers and not really mongoloid. They buried their dead and followed some civilized rules like tolerance towards other religions. Why they tore down monasteries and spared this one, is a mystery.

Anyways, the place survived and thrived till 700 AD when its donors in the plains below, mostly in the walled city of Sehr I Behlol converted or were overrun. After 700 AD the monastery was probably abandoned.

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Sehr, I Behlol has been encroached upon by locals and can hardly be recognized.

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Best archaeological treasure of Takht Bahi Buddhist temple monastery

The best archaeological treasure found from the Takht Bahi site is the sculpture of the ‘birth of Buddha’, presently stolen by the US metropolitan museum of Art. The British museum also commandeered a priceless sculpture of ‘standing Buddha’.

If you have to go to Takht Bahi then I recommend visiting the tiny museum of Mardan on the way back to see the figurines.

Oh did I mention that the construction technique of using rock shards to hold building blocks together is still being practiced by mazdoorabad town folk down below? So much for progress!

Origins of Buddhism here in Takht Bahi Mardan, Pakistan

Many Buddhist pilgrims from Srilanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and Korea visit the site — none from India though.

This is because the sect of Buddhism in practice in these countries has its origins at Taxila, Pakistan.

On the way back, the misty agricultural lands full of yellow saffron farms spread out before you; add to this scene a setting sun and you have pure heaven.

So, if anyone says what does Pakistan have to show to the world? Show them Asoka’s edict about civilized living at Takht Bahi & Shahbaz Garhi

If you are interested in Buddhist archaeological sites do visit the following links. Chilas, Shigar, Khaplu, Hunza, Swat  and Jaulian monastry in Taxiala.

By clicking this link, you can see the video of Takht Bahi.


Takht Bahi Buddhist ruins and remains require a business plan involving tourist money to be used for further excavations. Who knows we might end up with Lord Buddha’s relic under any one of the Buddhist stupas of Takht I Bahi. HBL Takht Bhai Branch code is 1957, UBL is 1188, and postcode Takht Bahi Mardan is 23160. Takht Bahi temperature and weather get very hot in Mardan, but at the monastery site, which is on a hill, the wind brings down the temperature somewhat. Takht e Bahi ruins means the “remains at the throne of flowing water” and in Urdu means “paani kay takht ke khandraat”; the water is long evaporated.

Do enjoy the video!

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