The Buddhist monastic complex of Takht-i-Bahi (Throne of Origins) was founded in the early 1st century. Owing to its location on the crest of a high hill, it escaped successive invasions and is still exceptionally well preserved. Nearby are the ruins of Sahr-i-Bahlol, a small fortified city dating from the same period.
The Buddhist ruins of Takht-i-Bahi and the neighbouring city remains at Sahr-i-Bahlol are among the most characteristic of this type of structure.
The Buddhist monastic complex of Takht-i-Bahi (Throne of Origins) is situated on top of a 152 m high hill, about 80 km from Peshawar and 16 km north-west of the city of Mardan. It was founded in the early 1st century AD, and was successively occupied and expanded from that time until it fell into disuse through the discontinuation of charitable endowments in modern times. Owing to its location on the crest of a hill, it escaped the invasions of the Huns and other antagonistic peoples, leaving it today with much of its original character intact. The name Takht-i-Bahi derives from the spring on the hilltop and is literally translated as 'Spring Throne'.
The complex, the most impressive and complete Buddhist monastery in Pakistan, consists of four main groups:
- the Court of Stupas with a cluster of stupas beside the main stupa in the middle courtyard, embellished with a series of tall niches to enshrine Buddhist statues;
- the early monastic complex with residential cells around an open court, assembly hall and refectory;
- the temple complex with a main stupa in the middle of a courtyard adorned with statues niches similar to the earlier stupa court;
- the tantric monastic complex with an open courtyard in front of a series of dark cells with low openings for mystical meditation, in keeping with tantric practice.
In 1871, many sculptures were found at Takht-i-Bahi. Some depicted stories from the life of the Buddha while others, more devotional in nature, included the Buddha and Bodhisattava.
The Court of Stupas is surrounded on three sides by open alcoves or chapels. The excavators were of the view that originally they contained single plaster statues of the Buddha sitting or standing, dedicated in memory of holy men or donated by rich pilgrims. The monastery to the north was probably a two-storey structure consisting of an open court, ringed with cells, kitchens and a refectory. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC