|Buddhist Ruins of Takht-i-Bahi and Neighbouring City Remains at Sahr-i-Bahlol|
|Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List|
|Inscription||1980 (4th Session)|
Takht Bhai (or Takht Bahi) is a Parthian archaeological site in Mardan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. It was first a Zoroastrian complex which, after the later arrival of Buddhism, was then converted into a Buddhist monastic complex. It is dated to the 1st century BCE. The complex is regarded by archaeologists as being particularly representative of the architecture of Buddhist monastic centers from its era. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.
The word Takht Bhai (Urdu: تخت بھائی) may have different explanations. In Avestan, takht means "capital" and bahi means "good", so the whole word means "the good capital". The ruins are located about 15 kilometers from Mardan in Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. A small fortified city, dating from the same era, sits nearby. The ruins also sit near a modern village known by the same name. The surrounding area is famous for sugar cane cultivation.
There are four main areas of the Takht Bahi complex:
- The Stupa Court, a cluster of stupas 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 stupas and 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 or meeting halls, or filled secular purposes. All of the buildings on the site are constructed from local stone, and are mortared with lime and mud.
The monastic complex likely was founded in the early 1st Century BCE. Despite numerous invasions into the area, Takht Bhai's hilltop location seems to have protected it from destruction, unlike many comparable early Buddhist monastic complexes. The complex was occupied continuously until the modern era, when charitable funding for the site ended.
Archaeologists have divided the history of the complex at Takht Bhai into four periods, beginning in the 1st Century BCE. This first era continued until the 2nd Century CE, and 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. 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, and was overseen by invading Hun rulers.
The first modern historical reference to these ruins was made in 1836 by the French Officer, the Buddhist remains are in a village named Mazdoorabad. Explorations and excavations on this site began in 1864. The site underwent a major restoration in the 1920s.
The villages of Lund Khwar, Sher Garh, Charsadda, Sehri-Bahlol and Takkar are other historical places in the vicinity of Takht-Bhai. The most historical location in the era is Sehri Bahlol. This Buddhist monastery is situated on Malakand Road. The word "Sehri-Bahlol" has been explained by various people in different ways. Local people claim that this is a Hindko word meaning "Sir Bahlol", a prominent political and religious leader of the area. However, the name is not as old as the village of Sehri-Bahlol. Meager economic conditions, poor educational facilities, and the nefarious effect of dealers of antiquities often result in severe hazard for the proper preservation of archaeological heritage in minor, less controlled sites. Sardar Ali Takkar, a well known Pashto singer, was born in the village of Takkar.
- Buddhist Ruins of Takht-i-Bahi and Neighbouring City Remains at Sahr-i-Bahlol - UNESCO World Heritage List
- UNESCO Periodic Report Summary - Includes a map of the complex.
- Map of Gandhara archeological sites, from the Huntington Collection, Ohio State University (large file)