Essay on a Visit to a Historical Place

I once visited the ruins of Taxila, in north-west of India. Leaving Madras, I took four days to reach Lahore; it took me twelve hours to reach Taxila (Thakshasila), a distance of two hundred and fifty miles. The ruins of ancient Taxila are on the mountain sides in the lower ranges of the Himalayas. Getting down at the railway station, I had to take a tonga (a sort of phaetos plying for hire in Northern India) for five rupees to show me round all the places. It was a circuit of six miles comprising five different places and it took me four hours to do it.

The first place I went to see was a monastery surrounding a stupa adorned with terracotta figures of the Buddha, life-size and life-like in artistic execution, different from the massive though bold figures in South Indian temples. It was quite evident that there was Greek influence in the architecture and sculpture in them and they were built by the softer material, viz., and terracotta. The clay figures and bricks of the Himalayan slops, when baked, are quite as hard as stone.

The figures reflected the grace and sublimity of the Indian mind under spiritual inspiration with the purely artistic perfection of the Greek sculptor of the Classic Era, the period of their execution dating 300 B.C. 200. A.D., i.e., soon after the invasion of India by Alexander. But most of the figures have been mutilated by barbarians, the Hums, who invaded India in 400 A.D., and destroyed towns and villages, and temples and monasteries.

Next I went to a small town. There were half a dozen streets with the wall of the houses standing alone without any sign of a roof. I was told that after the streets were destroyed by the Huns by fire, only the walls were left. The streets were perfectly straight and at right angles to one another and with a perfect drainage system. What must have been the palace was adilapidaied pile of building with more spacious rooms. The palace looked much less imposing than the big houses of zamindars of these days. The temple of the Buddha was on an eminence, quarter a mile off from the town.

I visited a temple dedicated to Marthand,the sun; afterwards I went to Kunala, the capital of Ashoka's son, who was sent out by Ashoka as the Governor of Gandhara.

Last place in my itinerary was a large village where excavation was still going on. Takshasila in ancient times was one of the two or three great universities of India. After its destruction by Huns in about 400 A.D., it was completely abandoned and forgotten and the place was covered with mud for over 1500 years, so that nothing but mounds of soft mud is to be seen for miles around. About fifty years ago, some villagers dug in those regions for mud to build their house and had come against a stone wall.

The Archaeological Department has since excavated and unearthed the most celebrated seat of learning of ancient India.