Pushkalavati is located in Pakistan
Shown within Pakistan
Pushkalavati is located in Gandhara
Pushkalavati (Gandhara)
Pushkalavati is located in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Pushkalavati (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa)
Alternative namePushkalavati
LocationOutskirts of Charsadda, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan
Coordinates34°10′05″N 71°44′10″E / 34.168°N 71.736°E / 34.168; 71.736
TypeAncient capital city
Foundedc. 1400 BCE
Site notes
Excavation dates1902
ArchaeologistsSir John Marshall
Sir Mortimer Wheeler

Pushkalavati (Pashto: پشکلاوتي; Urdu: پُشْكَلآوَتی; Sanskrit: Puṣkalāvatī पुष्कलावती; Prākrit: Pukkalāoti; Ancient Greek: Πευκελαῶτις Peukelaôtis) or Pushkaravati (Sanskrit: Puṣkarāvatī; Pāli: Pokkharavatī), and later Shaikhan Dheri (Pashto: شېخان ډېرۍ; Urdu: شیخان ڈھیری), was the capital of the ancient region of Gāndhāra, situated in present day's Pakistan.[1] Its ruins are located on the outskirts of the modern city of Charsadda, in Charsadda District, in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 28 kilometres (17 miles) northeast of Peshawar. Its ruins are located on the banks of Swat River, near its junction with Kabul River, with the earliest archaeological remains from 1400 to 800 BCE in Bala Hisar mound.[2][3] Pushkalavati became an Achaemenid regional capital around 600 BCE, and it remained an important city through to the 2nd century CE.

The ruins of Pushkalavati consist of two sites, separated by the small Sambor river.[4]: 4–5  To the south is Bala Hisar, which consists of two separate mounds, one eastern and one western.[4]: 4–5  To the north is Shaikhan Dheri, wedged between the Sambor and Jinde rivers.[4]: 5 


Pushkalavati (Sanskrit: पुष्कलावती, IAST: Puṣkalāvatī) means "Lotus City" in Sanskrit. According to Hindu mythology as per the Ramayana, it was named Pushkalavati because it was given to Pushkala, the son of Bharata.[5]

The region around ancient Pushkulavati was recorded in the Zoroastrian Zend Avesta as Vaēkərəta, or the seventh most beautiful place on earth created by Ahura Mazda. It was known as the "crown jewel" of Bactria, and held sway over nearby ancient Taxila'.[6]


The ruins of Pushkalavati consist of many stupas and the sites of two ancient cities.

Bala Hisar

Bala Hisar site (34°10′05″N 71°44′10″E / 34.168°N 71.736°E / 34.168; 71.736) in this area was first inhabited in the 2nd-millennium BCE.[7][8] The C14 dating of early deposits in Bala Hisar, bearing "Soapy red"/red burnished ware, is 1420-1160 BCE, and this early phase lasted from 1400 to 800 BCE.[9]

Along with the continuity of red burnished ware, but now decorated with grooves (the so-called "grooved" red burnished ware), in the period (c. 750-500 BCE) there was influence from Ganges Valley in the appearance of upright-sided open bowls made of grey ware, similar to Painted Grey Ware culture's pottery shapes.[10]

The site could have been incorporated to Achaemenid empire c. 520 BCE, although there is no archaeological evidence of administrative buildings or palaces in Bala Hisar, but only "some evidence of the emulation of Achaemenid drinking vessels" which local elites could have adopted from the empire.[11] Pottery known as "Tulip bowls," which attests to emulation of Achaemenid shapes, is only present in Bala Hisar in (c. 400-325 BCE).[12]

According to Arrian, the city then surrendered in 327/326 BCE to Alexander the Great, who established a garrison in it.[13]

In 630 CE, Xuanzang visited the area and described a stupa built by Ashoka, which remains unidentified and undiscovered.[14]

Peucela and Shaikhan Dheri

Buddhist statuary from Charsadda.

The Bactrian Greeks built a new city (Peucela (Greek: Πευκέλα) or Peucelaitis (Greek: Πευκελαώτις) at the mound currently known as Shaikhan Dheri (34°10′41″N 71°44′35″E / 34.178°N 71.743°E / 34.178; 71.743), which lies one kilometre north from Bala Hissar on the other side of Sambor River, the branch of River Jinde.[15][16] This city was established in the second century BCE and inhabited until the second century CE,[17] occupied by Parthian, Sakas and Kushans.

Two early Buddhist manuscripts recently found in the region, known as avadanas, written in Gandhari language around 1st century CE (now in the British Library Collection of Gandharan Scrolls)[18] mention the name of the city as Pokhaladi.[19][20][21]

Buddhist statues from Charsadda.

In the 2nd century CE, river changed its course and city was flooded. The town moved to the site of the modern village of Rajjar. The last reference to Pushkalavati as Po-shi-kie-lo-fa-ti[22] was recorded in the account of the Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang in 7th century C.E.,[23] and subsequently, after the region was conquered by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1001 AD, the name Gandhara was not used anymore, and in all probability the following period is when Pushkalavati became known as Shaikhan Dheri, as deri means mound/hill in Pashto.[24][25]

The former city's ruins were partly excavated by Ahmad Hasan Dani in 1960s. There are still many mounds at Mir Ziarat, at Rajar and Shahr-i-Napursan which are still unexcavated.

Pushkalavati and Prang

Athenian "Owls" coin (Circa 500/490–485 BCE) discovered in the Shaikhan Dehri hoard in Pushkalavati. This coin is the earliest known example of its type to be found so far east.[26]
Achaemenid period silver ingot, circa 5th century BCE, Pushkalavati, Gandhara.[27][26]

The city of Pushkalavati was situated at the confluence of Swat and Kabul rivers. Three different branches of Kabul river meet there. That specific place is still called Prang and considered sacred. A grand graveyard is situated to the north of Prang where the local people bring their dead for burial. This graveyard is considered to be among the largest graveyards in the world.

Pushkalavati in the Ramayana

Pushkalavati mint. Obverse: Zebu with greek ταυροϛ ('tauros' meaning 'bull) above, vaṣabha (cf. Sanskrit vṛṣabha = bull) in Kharosthi at the bottom. Reverse: Tyche of Pushkalavati, wearing mural crown, holding a flower. Pakhalavati [Devata] (cf. Sanskrit 'Puṣkalāvatī devatā' i.e. 'the goddess of Puṣkalāvatī city') in Kharosthi[28] up right, Drupasaya in Kharosthi down left. Time of Azes I, circa 58-12 BCE.[29]

In the concluding portion of the (Ramayana) Uttarakanda or Supplemental Book, the descendants of Rama and his brothers are described as the receivers of the great cities and kingdoms which flourished in Western India.[30][31]

According to this mythical book, Bharata the brother of Rama had two sons, Taksha and Pushkala. Bharata gave to the former Taksha-sila or Taxila, to the east of the Indus, known to Alexander and the Greeks as Taxila. To the latter he gave Pushkala-vati or Pushkalavati, to the west of the Indus,[5] known to Alexander and the Greeks as Peukelaotis.[30] Thus according to Hindu legend, the sons of Bharata received kingdoms that flourished on either side of the Indus river, which were conquered by their father.[5]

See also


  1. ^ Sagar, Krishna Chandra (1992). Foreign Influence on Ancient India. Northern Book Centre. ISBN 9788172110284.
  2. ^ Petrie, Cameron, 2013. "Charsadda", in D.K. Chakrabarti and M. Lal (eds.), History of Ancient India III: The Texts, Political History and Administration til c. 200 BC, Vivekananda International Foundation, Aryan Books International, Delhi, p. 515: "The recent absolute dating of early deposits [of 'Soapy red'/red burnished ware] at the Bala Hisar (GrA-8358: 1420-1160 BC; Peshawar-Bradford Period II-Coningham and Batt 2007: 93-98; also Young 2003: 39) has, however, provided clear confirmation of previous suppositions that this ware and the corresponding early levels at the Bala Hisar date from around 1400 BC onwards into the early 1st millennium BC, c. 800 BC."
  3. ^ Coningham, R.A.E. and C. Batt, 2007. "Dating the Sequence", in R.A.E. Coningham and I. Ali (eds.), Charsadda: The British-Pakistani Excavations at the Bala Hisar, Society for South Asian Studies Monograph No. 5, BAR International Series 1709, Archaeopress, Oxford, pp. 93-98
  4. ^ a b c Dani, Ahmad Hasan (1963). Peshawar University Archaeological Guide Series 1: Pushkalavati. Peshawar: University of Peshawar. Retrieved 31 March 2023.
  5. ^ a b c Shastri, Hari Prasad, (1952). "Uttara-kanda, Chapter 101: The slaying of the Gandharvas and the conquest of their Country", in: The Ramayana of Valmiki: "Bharata, the son of Kaikeyi entered those two opulent and magnificent cities, and there, Bharata established Taksha in Takshashila and Pushkala in Pushkalavata, in the country of the Gandharvas, in the ravishing region of Gandhara. Overflowing with treasure and precious gems, adorned with groves, they seemed to vie with each other in magnificence."
  6. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica: Gandhara Archived 29 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Investigating ancient Pushkalavati Pushkalavati Archaeological Research Project
  8. ^ Ali et al. 1998: 6–14; Young 2003: 37–40; Coningham 2004: 9.
  9. ^ Petrie, Cameron, 2013. "Charsadda", in D.K. Chakrabarti and M. Lal (eds.), History of Ancient India III: The Texts, Political History and Administration til c. 200 BC, Vivekananda International Foundation, Aryan Books International, Delhi, p. 515.
  10. ^ Petrie, Cameron, 2013. "Charsadda", in D.K. Chakrabarti and M. Lal (eds.), History of Ancient India III: The Texts, Political History and Administration til c. 200 BC, Vivekananda International Foundation, Aryan Books International, Delhi, p. 516: "Vogelsang [...] has argued that there was a period of what he refers to as 'Indic' influence in Ch. I Layers 38-33, which is marked by the appearance of upright-sided open bowls in grey ware [...] These vessels are akin to various forms seen in the Ganges Valley, particularly Painted Grey Ware bowls [...] Vogelsang (1988: 112) proposed that the 'Indic' influence at the Bala Hisar took place in the second quarter of the 1st millennium BC (750-500 BC) [...]"
  11. ^ Petrie, Cameron A., (2013). "South Asia", in: The Oxford Handbook of Cities in World History, Oxford University Press, p. 99: "[T]he regions at the western-most edge of South Asia were incorporated into the Achaemenid empire (c. 520 BCE) [...] The limited excavations have revealed no evidence for the establishment of Persian administrative buildings or palaces in cities like Charsadda [...] but there appears to be some evidence of the emulation of Achaemenid drinking vessels, which may indicate that local elites adopted some symbols of authority and certain culinary practices."
  12. ^ Petrie, Cameron, 2013. "Charsadda", in D.K. Chakrabarti and M. Lal (eds.), History of Ancient India III: The Texts, Political History and Administration til c. 200 BC, Vivekananda International Foundation, Aryan Books International, Delhi, p. 517: "There are no radiocarbon dates from sites in South Asia that can be used to clarify the chronology, but a date during the mid-late Achaemenid period, i.e. c. 400-325 BC, would match other elements of the Bala Hisar sequence that have been confirmed by absolute dates."
  13. ^ "From Bazaria Alexander marched against Peukelaotis, seated not far from the Indus, which being surrendered to him, he placed a garrison in it, and “proceeded,” according to Arrian, “to take many other small towns situated on that river"" in Archaeological Survey of India. Government central Press. 1871. p. 102.
  14. ^ Beal, Samuel, (ed. & trans.), (1884). Si-yu-ki: Buddhist Records of the Wester World, Volume 1, Author: Huen Tsang, p. 112: "Outside the eastern gate of the town of Po-lu-sha is a sangharama with about fifty priests, who all study the Great Vehicle. Here is a stupa built by Asoka-raja [...] To the north-east of Po-lu-sha city about 20 li or so we come to Mount Dantaloka. Above a ridge of that mountain is a stupa built by Asoka-raja."
  15. ^ Dani, Ahmad Hasan, (1963). Pushkalavati: The Lotus City, Archaeological Guide Series No. 1, Peshawar University, Peshawar, p. 5: "Then going north-eastwards through the market town on the road that leads to Tangi, the visitor turns on to a kacha road towards the village of Rajar, recrosses the river Jinde and finally comes to the low mound of Shaikhan Dheri [...]"
  16. ^ Khan, M. Nasim, 2005. "Terracotta Seal-Impressions from Bala Hisar, Charsadda", in Ancient Pakistan, Vol XVI, p. 13: "Bålå Hisår and Shaikhan Dheri. The former site (or Charsadda-I, Wheeler 1962:13), locally known as Hisår Dheri, lies on the south-western while the latter on the opposite bank of the Sambor River."
  17. ^ Litvinsky, B.A., 1999. "Cities and Urban Life in the Kushan Kingdom", in (eds.) Janos Harmatta, B.N. Puri, and G.F. Etemadi, History of Civilizations of Central Asia Vol. II. The development of sedentary and nomadic civilizations: 700 B.C. to A.D. 250, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, p. 292.
  18. ^ "British Library Collection of Gandharan Scrolls". Archived from the original on 26 May 2020. Retrieved 24 August 2019.
  19. ^ Baums, Stefan, (2019). "A survey of place names in Gandhari inscriptions and a new oil lamp from Malakand", in (eds.) Wannaporn Rienjang and Peter Stewart, The Geography of Gandharan Art: Proceedings of the Second International Workshop of the Gandhara Connections Project, University of Oxford, 22nd - 23rd March 2018, Archaeopress, Archaeopress, Oxford, p. 169: "Avadānas in the British Library collection of Gāndhārī manuscripts also mention a number of cities by name. Some of these occur in stories set in India proper [...] but we have also (in addition to Taxila, discussed above) mentions of Pokhaladi (Sanskrit Puṣkalāvatī) in CKM 2 and 14."
  20. ^ "British Library Collection, Manuscript CKM 2". Pokhala[di] pushi ? + (Verso 20).
  21. ^ "British Library Collection, Manuscript CKM 14". ...Pokhaladige...Pokhaladago... (Verso 78-79).
  22. ^ Beal, Samuel, (ed. & trans.), 1884. Si-yu-ki: Buddhist Records of the Western World, Volume 1, Author: Hiuen Tsang, London, p. 109: "To the north-east of the sangharama of Kanishka-raja about 50 li, we cross a great river and arrive at the town of Pushkalavati (Po-shi-kie-lo-fa-ti). It is about 14 or 15 li in circuit; the population is large; the inner gates are connected by a hollow (tunnel ?)."
  23. ^ Dani, Ahmad Hasan, 1963. "Pushkalavati: The Lotus City", Archaeological Guide Series No. 1, Peshawar University, Peshawar, p. 1: "Pushkalavati is a name long forgotten in history, the last reference being recorded in the account of the Chinese pilgrim, Hiuen Tsang, in 7th century A.D."
  24. ^ "غونډۍ in English - Pashto-English Dictionary | Glosbe". glosbe.com.
  25. ^ Cunnigham, Alexander, (1871). The Ancient Geography of India, p. 60: "[W]hich is situated on a dheri, or 'mound of ruins,' the remains of some early town."
  26. ^ a b "CNG: Printed Auction Triton XV. ATTICA, Athens. Circa 500/490-485/0 BC. AR Tetradrachm (21mm, 16.75 g, 11h)". www.cngcoins.com. Archived from the original on 25 December 2019. Retrieved 29 July 2018.
  27. ^ "CNG: Printed Auction Triton XV. INDIA, Pre-Mauryan (Gandhara). Period of Achaemenid Rule. Circa 5th century BC. Cast AR Cake Ingot". www.cngcoins.com.
  28. ^ "Catalog of Gāndhārī Texts". gandhari.org. Retrieved 19 March 2021.
  29. ^ Castro, Andrea (Angelo Andrea) A. A. Di (January 2017). Crowns, Horns and Goddesses Appropriation of Symbols in Gandhāra and Beyond. p. 39.
  30. ^ a b Dutt, Romesh C., (1899). "Ramayana-Conclusion", in: The Ramayana and Mahabharata.
  31. ^ Gandhara and Its Art Tradition, Ajit Ghose, Mahua Publishing Company, 1978, p. 14

External links

  • Investigating ancient Pushkalavati Pushkalavati Archaeological Research Project
  • Map of Gandhara archaeological sites, from the Huntington Collection, Ohio State University (large file)
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