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Balkh  

City in northern Afghanistan, believed to be the site of Bactra, capital of ancient Bactria, and a major city in the province of Khurasan during the Islamic period. Located on a fertile plain, Balkh commanded trade routes between India, China, Turkestan and Iran. It was already a wealthy city under the Achaemenid dynasty (538–331 bc) and a centre of Zoroastrianism. Following the conquests of Alexander the Great, it became important under the Bactrian monarchies (323–87 bc) and then under the Kushana and Hephthalites, and it was a Buddhist centre. The most substantial remains from the early periods are the mud ramparts, which stand more than 20 m at several places. The circular plan around the citadel (modern Bala-Hisar) may date back as far as the Achaemenid period. The only other monuments to survive from the pre-Islamic period are four Buddhist stupas. That excavated at Tepe Rustam in the south of the city is the most monumental found north of the Hindu Kush (platform 54 m on a side; cylindrical dome 47 m in diameter; total height ...

Article

Hadda  

E. Errington

[Haḍḍa; Hilo]

Site of numerous Buddhist monasteries, 8 km south-west of Jalalabad, Afghanistan. It flourished from the 1st century bc to the 8th century ad. The ancient site, known as Hilo to Chinese pilgrims of the 5th–8th century, is partially covered by a modern village. The earliest archaeological reports were compiled by Claude-Auguste Court (1827), Charles Masson (1834) and William Simpson (1878–9). Masson excavated 14 stupas, primarily at Gundi Kabul (also known as Tepe Kabul and Tepe Safed). He also uncovered the stupa at Tepe Kalan (also known as Tapa-é-Top-é-Kalan, Tope Kelan and Bordji-i Kafariha). A French delegation excavated most of the remaining ruins, including Tepe Kafariha and Bagh Gai, between 1926 and 1928. In 1965 a Japanese mission investigated Lalma, 3 km south-west of Hadda. Tepe Shotor (also known as Tapa-é-Shotor) and Tepe Kalan were excavated by the Afghan Institute of Archaeology between 1965 and ...

Article

Frederick M. Asher

[anc. Sāṅkāśya; Sankisa]

Buddhist site in Farrukhabad District, Uttar Pradesh, India. The Buddha is said to have descended at Sankasya, accompanied by the gods Indra and Brahma, after preaching to his deceased mother in the Trayastrimsha Heaven. When the Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang visited the site in the 7th century ad, he observed a great monastery with three staircases representing those on which the Buddha, Indra and Brahma descended, as well as several stupas and a lion pillar. Today little remains, although the site has not been formally excavated. Several mounds are apparent within an earthen rampart about 5.8 km in circumference. The principal monument is an elephant capital (not the lion capital recorded by Xuanzang) carved from buff-coloured sandstone. Only the pedestal is polished, but it is sufficiently like other animal capitals on pillars of Ashoka (reg c. 269–232 bc) of the Maurya dynasty that it, too, probably dates to that time. The pillar’s shaft has not been found. Other objects found at the site are very small, among them a fragmentary relief medallion, possibly as early as the ...

Article

[anc. Ānandapura]

Town and temple site in northern Gujarat, India. While the date of its foundation is uncertain, references in the ancient religious text known as the Skanda purā ṇa and the writings of the Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang (7th century ad) indicate the considerable importance the town enjoyed by this date as a centre of Hindu and Jaina learning. Two elaborately carved monumental arched gateways (tora ṇas) dating to the 11th century and located just outside the northern walls are the major artistic remains. In form, sculptural style and trabeate construction technique they resemble the gateways at Modhera and Sidhpur. Nothing remains of the temple to which they were originally attached. Several stone-lined, stepped tanks of the 11th and 12th centuries also survive, the largest being the Sarmishta Tank; these were embellished with figurative relief sculptures. A stone inscription embedded in one of Vadnagar’s six gates commemorates the building of the town’s walls and dates to ...