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Gandhara | Land of Fragrance and Cultural Fusion

July 18, 2023

From the middle 1st millennium BCE until the early 1st century CE, a region and civilisation known as Gandhara flourished in what is now northern Pakistan and Afghanistan.

several dynasties that ruled over the same geographical area in the second millennium CE and shared a common cultural identity based on their widespread adoption of Buddhism and the Indo-Greek artistic tradition.


In its simplest form, the term Gandhara can be translated as “Land of Fragrance.” However, there are other possible interpretations of the name Gandhara. When examined closely, however, the area around the Peshawar valley that is commonly referred to as “the core of Gandhara” has no historically verified association or importance in terms of smell, whether it be from flowers, spices, cuisines, etc.

Geographical evidence suggests that the word Gand is related to other place names that involve water, such as Gand-ao and Gand-ab (pools of water) and Gand-Dheri (a mound formed by water). Tashkand (stone walled pool) and Yarkand are also linked names, suggesting that the area may have been known as “Land of the Lake(s),” a reference to the fertile region between the Indus and Kabul rivers, which was blessed with an abundance of water, particularly in the Peshawar area.


Ancient Gandhara was the name of the Mahajanapada that encompassed what is now northern Pakistan and a portion of eastern Afghanistan. Gandhara was centered in the Potohar plateau, the vale of Peshawar, and the Kabul River. Purushapura (present-day Peshawar), whose name means “City of Man,” was one of its major urban centers, along with Varmayana (present-day Bamyan) and Takshashila (present-day Taxila). Beginning in the early 1st millennium BC and continuing through the 11th century AD, the Gandharan Kingdom flourished. The Buddhist Kushan Kings, who ruled from the 1st through the 5th century, presided over its golden age. Historian Al-Biruni uses the Hindu name Shahi to refer to the Hindu dynasty that succeeded the Turki Shahi and dominated the region prior to the Muslim invasions of the 10th and 11th century. The region known as Gandhara ceased to exist after its conquest by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1021 C.E. During the era of Islam, either Lahore or Kabul served as the region’s capital. This region was a part of the province of Kabul under the Mughals. Since Vedic times, the Gandhri have made their home along the banks of the Kabul River (also known as the river Kubha or Kabol) all the way to where it meets the Indus. Gandhara later expanded to incorporate present-day northwest Punjab. Because of its strategic position on the northern trunk road (Uttarapatha), Gandhara became a hub for foreign trade. It played a crucial role in linking ancient Iran, India, and Central Asia with the rest of the world. Gandhara’s borders shifted at different times.

The region encompassing the Peshawar valley, Taxila, and on occasion the Swat valley was termed to as Gandhara. However, the Peshawar valley has long been Gandhara’s beating heart. Pushkalavati (now Charsadda), Taxila, Purushapura (now Peshawar), and, in the kingdom’s latter days, Udabhandapura (now Hund) on the Indus served as capitals.

The Puranas state that their names come from Bharata, a prince of Ayodhya, and his two sons, Taksha and Pushkara.

Located primarily to the west of the Indus River and limited on the north by the Hindukush Mountains, Ganhara was thought to be a triangular stretch of territory approximately 100 kilometers east to west and 70 kilometers north to south. 500 meters (1 li) is roughly 1640 ft.Located in what is now northern Pakistan, the Peshawar valley and the highlands of Swat, Dir, Buner, and Bajaur were all once considered to be part of the original Gandhara. However, the location of the grand Mankiyala Stupa on the outskirts of the capital city of Islamabad marked the limits of Greater Gandhara (or regions where the cultural and political hegemony of Gandhara held sway). Greater Gandhara encompassed the Kabul Valley in Afghanistan and the Potwar plateau in the province of Punjab in Pakistan.

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