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Exploring The Buddhist Rain Retreat in Taxila: A Cultural Journey

September 7, 2023

Introduction to Buddhist Rain Retreat in Taxila

The Mah-janapadas1 were 16 kingdoms that made up Jambudvipa. A portion of the Paccantima-janapada was its northern area, known as Uttrapata. For a long time, Taxila served as Gandhara’s capital. Arts and sciences flourished here during the Pre-Buddha era, especially the Triple Vedas with its 18 subdivisions. Jambudvipa’s earliest university town, Taxila, was known for being the epicenter of learning for more than three thousand years. Ancient items have been discovered in Taxila, Rawalpindi, Punjab, 35 km west or northwest of Rawalpindi, Pakistan, particularly close to the Sarabkala train station.

A group of Thai monks visited Taxila in 2022 to participate in their Vassa, or three-month yearly monastic rain retreat. Attama (MV) was overjoyed to see Pakistan’s Department of Archaeology and Museums’ well-preserved Gandharan Buddhist World Heritage sites.

On July 14, 2022, at 16:30, high-ranking Pakistani officers gave a formal welcome to the Taxila Museum. The Rains Retreat’s goals were also made public. This was well-liked by Pakistanis and was live-broadcast on many social media sites.

Those who arrived to greet us were:

1) H.E. Mr. Asim Iftikhar Ahmad, Minister of Foreign Affairs Additional Secretary for the UN

2) The Thai ambassador to Pakistan, H.E. Chakkrid Krachaiwong.

3) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director General for East Asia Pacific is Mr. Aamer Ahmed Atozai.

4) Taxila Museum Director Muhammad Iqbal Khan Manj.

Taxila: The Ancient Epicenter of Learning

Attama (MV) expressed gratitude on behalf of the monks and Thai disciples present and shared with them the goals of my three-month rains retreat in Taxila: To research the Gandhara civilization’s ruins and relics at the Buddhist World Heritage sites. To release a book in Thai and English and distribute it in Thailand and internationally.

To finish this within the three months from July to October during the rainy season. 

The following is the text of my speech: “Blessing to H.E. Mr. Asim Iftikhar Ahmad…

I (MV) want to start by saying how happy I am to have returned to the Taxila Museum. I appreciate the friendly welcome you and everyone else gave me here at the museum.

My invitation from the Pakistani government to return has been made possible through diplomatic channels. Even though it’s formal, I’m merely here to see my close pals. 

The three-month visit will occur from July to October during the rainy season of 2022 and will be used to thoroughly investigate the remains found in Buddhist World Heritage sites in Pakistan. “Buddhist Heritage of Pakistan/Taxila” is a book that will be pretty helpful to me. The translation into Thai has already started, thanks to the monks with me.

His Excellency Mr. Asim Iftikar Ahmad, a former Pakistani ambassador to Thailand who is currently the Additional Secretary of the United Nations and the Spokesperson for the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad, made this request to Thammasat University several years ago.

Thai Monks’ Rain Retreat in Taxila

Once the Thai translation is complete, I will utilize it to conduct my study for a different book by looking into the Tipitaka and Mahayana, the canon of the Pali Canon of Buddhism. The Pakistani government, the Pakistani World Bank Campus, the relevant museums, and everyone participating in the research will receive the English version and updated images.

In addition to the book, my essays, which will frequently be shared on social media, will significantly enhance the visibility of Pakistan’s Buddhist World Heritage. The world society and the 32 countries’ Buddhists will be considerably more familiar with it. Exceptionally, Thai people who have read my column in Thailand’s widely read newspaper for more than 15 years will be very anxious to travel and see the gem for themselves.

Therefore, the three-month Rains Retreat in the Taxila Museum will be extremely helpful for our international academic collaboration. I will need your help in various ways to carry out this investigation thoroughly across all fronts. A joint working group will need to be formed to coordinate this further. The entire global community interested in these concerns will then be shown the wealth of the Buddhist World Heritage and other kindred religions. This comprises academic institutions offering archaeology courses focusing on the Gandhara era. 

Again, I am grateful for your compassion and interest, especially from the museum staff, with whom Attama (MV) looks forward to working as a member of my research team.

The Welcoming Ceremony

I appreciate you inviting me to check out this museum. For me, it has always had such high spiritual significance.

Blessings to you all.

H.E. On behalf of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Asim Iftikhar Ahmad, a former Pakistani ambassador to Thailand, delivered the following welcome remarks: This gives me great pleasure and honor, and I remember having the privilege of seeing Most Ven. Arayawangso was off at the airport in Bangkok when he first arrived in Thailand. 

Now that Most Venerable is here to start something that Pakistanis have been waiting for years to happen, the rains retreat, I’m glad to have the opportunity. Welcoming Most Venerable to Pakistan is a great joy and honor, not only on my behalf but also on that of the government and the entire population of Pakistan.

We know of your little encounter and visit with Pakistan earlier, and this is your home. We really and sincerely appreciate the respect and compassion you have shown for my nation and my people. Additionally, Most Venerable, you graciously brought hope for peace and harmony to Pakistan on your previous visit, a message you intend to spread even further.

We sincerely appreciate your thoughtful visit to Pakistan, and we hope that your interactions with us will continue in this manner. Speaking briefly about Pakistan and Thailand, last year marked the 70th anniversary of establishing diplomatic ties between our two nations. However, as we frequently emphasize, these ties are built on centuries-old links between our two peoples. And you could not be, you know, a more prominent expert – obviously in the history of Buddhism and Gandhara – as Most Venerable you are. 

These are linked; they are etched in memories in history and tied very closely to the rich Buddhist Heritage of Pakistan, exhibited not only in this museum but all over Pakistan, especially in the Gandhara region. Therefore, with your thoughtful engagement, we look forward to Most Venerable; you must know that you are already focusing on the political, military, security, and economic ties between our two nations.

And let me remind you that Queen Sirikit, King Bhumibol the Great, and King Rama IX visited Pakistan in 1962. Three times, King Rama X visited Pakistan. These flowers were a gift from Princess Sirindhorn to the museum. She has traveled to Pakistan and knows the connections between Thais and Pakistanis. With the help of Most Venerable, we would strengthen this even more. These connections between people show Pakistan’s role as the birthplace of civilization and the center of a vibrant Buddhist culture.

The kind of talks you give to your disciples and followers during this and your previous visits bind our two people together, and we are aware that these followers are spread throughout Thailand and the rest of the world, particularly in Southeast Asia and Asian. Millions of people follow you, and we hope that this message about Pakistan, this word about Taxila—which our Thai friends call Takkasila or Taksasila—will reach them. Many of them were previously unaware that this is in Pakistan. 

This is the knowledge and awareness we anticipate as a result of the Most Venerable’s visit to Pakistan, and I’m confident that this will significantly aid in advancing cordial relations. Between our two nations, as well as connections between our two nations’ populations. So, let me reiterate. We would be privileged to listen to you now, Most Venerable to Pakistan, in your home. I greatly appreciate it.


The subsequent invitation to other guests on the list for their welcome and thank-you speeches demonstrated the solid diplomatic ties between the two nations, particularly concerning the Thai Sangha group attending the rain retreat.

This was a perfect place to start to gain a solid grasp of the medieval rain retreat at the Buddhist World Heritage Site in Gandhara, Taxila, Punjab, Pakistan. The press conference was well-attended, and there was a lot of media curiosity.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1.What is the purpose of the Thai monks’ visit to Taxila for the rain retreat?

Ans. The Thai monks’ visit to Taxila for the rains retreat is to engage in a three-month monastic rain retreat and explore the historical and cultural heritage of the Gandhara civilization, particularly at the Buddhist World Heritage sites in Taxila. This visit aims to foster cultural exchange and deepen understanding between Thailand and Pakistan.

Q2. What are the goals of the rains retreat in Taxila?

Ans. The goals of the rains retreat in Taxila include:

  • Thoroughly researching the remains found at the Buddhist World Heritage sites in Pakistan, focusing on the Gandhara civilization.
  • Writing and publishing a book in Thai and English to share the findings with a broader audience.
  • Conducting academic studies related to the Tipitaka and Mahayana, contributing to the canon of Pali Canon Buddhism.
  • Enhancing the visibility of Pakistan’s Buddhist World Heritage through essays shared on social media.
  • Strengthening international academic collaboration and promoting awareness of the region’s cultural heritage.

Q3.Who welcomed the Thai monks to Taxila, and what were their roles?

Ans. The Thai monks visiting Taxila were welcomed by several high-ranking Pakistani officials, including:

  • H.E. Mr. Asim Iftikhar Ahmad, Minister of Foreign Affairs Additional Secretary for the UN.
  • H.E. Chakkrid Krachaiwong, the Thai ambassador to Pakistan.
  • Mr. Aamer Ahmed Atozai, Director General for East Asia Pacific at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • Muhammad Iqbal Khan Manj, Director of Taxila Museum.

Q4.How does Most Ven. Arayawangso’s expertise contributes to cultural ties between Pakistan and Thailand.

Ans.Most Ven. Arayawangso’s expertise in Buddhism and Gandhara history makes him a valuable bridge between Pakistan and Thailand. His deep knowledge and cultural insights foster mutual understanding and strengthen cultural, political, economic, and academic ties between the two nations.

Q5.What impact is expected from Most Ven. Arayawangso’s visit on awareness of Taxila’s heritage?

Ans.Most Ven. Arayawangso’s visit is expected to raise awareness of Taxila’s rich cultural heritage, especially its Buddhist World Heritage sites. His research, publications, and social media essays will help disseminate knowledge about these historical treasures in Pakistan and internationally.

Q6.How can media and awareness help promote cultural relations between the two nations?

Ans. Media and awareness are crucial in promoting cultural relations between Pakistan and Thailand. By sharing information about cultural exchange, historical discoveries, and the significance of sites like Taxila, media can generate interest and curiosity among the public, encouraging further exploration and collaboration between the two nations. Increased awareness can lead to strengthened cultural ties and mutual appreciation.

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