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The ancient settlement of Taxila in the western outskirts of the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; it is considered one of the most important archaeological sites of South Asia, and for good reason. There is a modern town with the archaeological sites scattered nearby.
Taxila was originally Takshashila meaning the hill capital of the Takshakas, a bronze age (3rd and 2nd millennium BCE) tribe. In its glory days it was one of the main cities of the ancient Kingdom of Gandhara, which existed from roughly 1000 BCE to 1000 CE and included much of what are now northern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan. What makes Taxila unique and fascinating is the mainly Buddhist art and architecture of the Gandharan period, though there are also a few attractions that date from earlier or later periods.
Taxila is easily the most important Buddhist site in Pakistan; it was a centre of learning from the 5th century BCE to the 5th century CE with many large monasteries and one of the earliest universities in the world. The city attracted monks, nuns, pilgrims and students from across Asia; even today it attracts Buddhist pilgrims from as far as Southeast Asia and Japan. However, it was never exclusively a Buddhist city; there is a Jain temple among the ruins and the Hindu scholar Pāṇini — who wrote the definitive grammar of Vedic Sanskrit — was certainly a Gandharan and quite likely worked in Taxila.
There is also much to interest modern non-Buddhists; almost anyone with an interest in archaeology, history, art or architecture will find the place fascinating. It was occupied by various empires and was a regional or national capital for many dynasties over the centuries. Persians, Greeks, Central Asians and Hindus have all left their marks on the area.


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