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Kingdom of Gandhara in Afghanistan
Kabul Shahi (Kabul-shahan) Buddhist Turk-Shahis - 565-876 AD

GandharaKingdom of Ghandara [Gandhara] was established in eastern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. It lasted until the 11th Century under the rulership of various Buddhist Kings. In Gandhara region at Swat and Kabul there are some monasteries in stone. They consist of one or more stupas, chapels for images, cells for the monks and assembly halls. Images of standing or seated Buddhas in stucco and grey schist found in Jaulian and Mora Moradu in Taxila region and Hadda near Jalalabad, have strong Hellenistic influence. They date from 2nd to 3rd century AD. Statues from Bhamala near Taxila are of unbaked clay. The walls of the monasteries were painted. Life-size images in clay of Buddha are found in Fudukistan. Two 6th century AD colossal rock-cut superb images of Buddha exist in the niches of the monastery at Bamiyan which were covered with stucco. These are excellent examples of Gandhara art.

The Bamiyan Valley, situated about 250 kilometers northwest of Kabul between the mountain passes of the Hindu Kush and Koh-i Baba linking Kabul with the Silk Road at Balkh, is one of the most important sites in all of Afghanistan. Between the 4th and the early 7th centuries AD, an unknown combination of engineers, artisans and Buddhist pilgrims built in this remote location the civilizational link between Afghanistan and India. Buddhism introduced to the region by Ashoka the Great (3rd century BC), embraced by the Indo-Greek kings (2nd century BC), tolerated by the Scythians and the Yuezhi tribes (2nd-1st century BC) and embraced by the Kushans (1st - 3rd century AD) attracted so many adherents that vast numbers of Buddhist monks chose to gather at pilgrimage centers, often near Silk Road trading posts, from the western border of India to the doorstep with China.

By the 3rd century, the city of Bamiyan had become the location of a great monastery, administrative center, Silk Road caravan stop and pilgrimage center, where thousands of Buddhist monks settled in richly decorated rock caves that honey-combed the great cliff on the north side of the Bamiyan Valley. Other nearby valleys at Kakrak (southeast of Bamiyan) and Foladi (to the southwest) also became successful monastic centers. Their remote location allowed Bamiyan, Kakrak and Foladi to prosper for long after the demise of the Kushans to co-exist alongside the Sassanian and survive for more than a centuryl after the arrival of Islam to Afghanistan during the 8th and 9th centuries.

The largest figures of their kind in the world 55 meters and 38 meters high the giant Buddhas were carved by hand from the sheer rock face on the north side of the valley between the 4th and 6th centuries (more precise dates remain a topic of lively debate among scholars). Though built at different times (smaller Buddha was carved first), both Buddhas were constructed in essentially the same manner. The high-relief sculptures were carved out of the relatively soft rock cliff-side.

In early times the Muslims said the two colossal statues were intended for Adam, Eve, and Seth. According to Persian authors, Bamiyan must have existed before the flood; but the followers of Buddha insist that it was built by Shem. Hence it is said to have been the residence of Abram, who, according to scripture, and the Hindoo sacred books, removed with his father to distant countries to the westward. The natives considered Bamiyan and its adjacent countries, as the residence of Adam, and Noah, and their immediate descendants. This tradition is of great antiquity, being supported by the sacred books of Hindoos and Persians. This city was destroyed by Jenghis Khan, in 1221, who butchered the inhabitants, sparing neither animals nor trees. He ordered it to be called the city of grief and sorrow.

It is said that Aurengzeb, passing that way in his expedition to Bahlac, in the year 1646, ordered a few shots to be fired as usual. One of them took effect, and almost broke the leg of the statue, which bled profusely. Some frightful dreams conspired with this prodigy, to make him desist from the sacrilegious attack, and the clotted blood, we are told, adheres to the wound to this day. This miracle is equally credited by Hindus and Mnssulmen; the former ascribing it to the interposition of the Supreme Being, and the latter imputing it to witchcraft.

On 01 March 2001, Afghanistan's puritanical Taliban Islamic militia began the destruction of statues across the country, including the almost world's tallest statue of Buddha in Bamiyan. Although the destruction of this invaluable evidence of human culture and civilization occurred across merely a few days. the damage done cannot be possibly compensated. and is practically irreversible. Though the figures are almost completely destroyed, their outlines and some features are still recognizable within the recesses. It is also still possible for visitors to explore the monks' caves and the passages which connect them. As part of the international effort to rebuild Afghanistan after the Taliban war, the Government of Japan and several other organizations, among them the Afghanistan Institute in Bubendorf, Switzerland, along with the ETH in Zurich, have committed themselves to creating computer models as a prelude to rebuilding the two Buddhas.

The coins of the princes commonly called the 'Hindu Kings of Kabul', [876 AD to 1013 AD] although long familiar to numismatists, and extremely common in Afghanistan, the Panjab, and throughout Northern India, present a puzzle, or rather a series of puzzles. Although the 'Hindu Shahiya' dynasty is described by Alberuni as having succeeded the old Turki (Kushan) dynasty of Kabul, this statement should not be interpreted as meaning that Kabul was the capital of the Shahiyas. As a matter of fact, their capital was Ohind (Und, Waihind, Udabhandapura) on the Indus above Attock (Atak), while Kabul during their time was in the hands of the Musulmans, having been captured by Yakub Lais in 257 A.H. (= Nov. 870-Nov. 871 AD).

The Katormans, or Kators, have hitherto been better known to modern than ancient history. It was the name of one of the tribes of Kafiristan, and that the ruler of Chitral to this day bears the title of Shah Kator, and I have heard the same designation given to the chief of Gilgit. The country of Kator is also spoken of by Sadik Isfahani, as being the country of the Siyahposhes, or black-vested, on the borders of Kabul. These Kators boast still of their Grecian lineage, and their claim to this honor is by no means, as many have supposed, of modern origin.

Al Biruni asserts the Turkish dynasty of Kabul to have lasted for sixty generations; but it is not to be supposed that the crown continued in the same family or tribe, but that they were members of the great Turkish stem of nations, which conveys no more definite notion than the Scythians of the ancients, or the Tartars of the moderns. There may have been Turks of other tribes who ruled in the kingdom, who, whether Sakas, Turushkas, Duraris, Yue-tchis, or Kators, would still be classed under the generic designation of Turks, as the last of the Turks appears to have reigned about AD 850.

Biladuri relates that under the Khilafat of Muawiya [the first Umayyad Caliph, r. 661-680], Abdu-r Rahman, son of Samrah, penetrated to the city of Kabul, and obtained possession of it after a months siege. He conquered also the circumjacent countries, especially Ar-Rukhaj (Arachosia). The king of Kabul made an appeal to the warriors of India, and the Musulmans were driven out of Kabul. He recovered all the other conquered countries, and advanced as far as Bust, but on the approach of another Musulman army, he submitted, and engaged to pay an annual tribute.

The Kabulis subsequently profited by the contests which distracted the Khilafat, and the tribute was withheld ; but in 64: A.H. = 683-4 AD Abdu-l aziz, the governor of Sistan, declared war against the king of Kabul, and in the combat which took place, that king was defeated and killed. The war continued under his successor, and he was compelled to submit to the payment of tribute, but whenever opportunity offered, renewed eflbrts were made by the Kabulis to recover their lost independence.

Among the earliest attempts against Kabul may be noticed that of Abdu-llah, governor of Sistan, in 78 A.H.:6978 AD, or according to some, in the following year. When he arrived at Nimroz, Hajjaj desired him not to linger in Sistan, but to march without delay towards Kabul to enforce the payment of the tribute from Ranbal, to which that chief had agreed; and ordered him peremptorily not to return until he had subjugated the whole province. Ranbal retiring before his assailant, detached troops to their rear and blocking up the defiles, entirely intercepted their retreat, and in this situation exposed to the danger of perishing by famine, Abdu-llah was compelled to purchase the liberation of himself and followers for a ransom of seven hundred thousand dirhams.

To wipe out the disgrace which the Muhammadan arms had sustained, Abdu-r Rahman bin Muhammad bin Ashas, was despatched to Kabul by the famous Hajjaj in 81 A.H.=700l A.D. ; or in the preceding year, according to some authors, he was sent at the head of forty thousand men into Sistan, and having there united to his own troops the troops of the province, marched without delay against the prince of Kabul. Abdu-r Rahman returned to Sistan laden with booty, but incurred the displeasure of Hajjaj by not remaining to secure his conquest. Exasperated by a threat of supersession, he determined to carry his arms against his master, and, in order to strengthen his power, concluded a treaty with the enemies of his faith, in which it was stipulated that if his expedition should be attended with success, Ranbal should be absolved from every species of tribute, provided the latter should agree to afford him an asylum in the event of failure. After many vicissitudes of fortune, Abdu-r Rahman was at last compelled to seek the protection of his ally, who, after treating him for some time with kindness and hospitality, was at last seduced by the promises or by the threats of Hajjaj to deliver up his guest. Abdu-r Rahman frustrated the vindictive designs of his enemy by throwing himself down from a precipice while he was on his way.

The interest which this contest excited throughout the Khilfat seems to have invested the Prince of Kabul with a fictitious celebrity, insomuch that he is the hero of many Arab stories of the holy wars on the frontiers of Hind. Nevertheless there is no certainty as to the proper mode of spelling the name. . The various readings of the European authors who have noticed him show how little the orthography is settled. Ockley calls him Zentil ; Weil, Zenbil; Reinaud, Ratbyl and Zenbyl. Wilson, Rateil, Ratpeil, Ratbal, Rantal, Zantilva.riations easily accounted for by the nature of the Persian letters. E. Thomas, Ratpil ; Price, Reteil, Ratteil, or Retpeil. Price observes that the name bespeaks him to be either a Tartar or Hindu, and that the real name might perhaps have been Vittel, still common among the Hindus. Wilson considers it as a genuine Indian appellation; Ratna-pala or Rutun-pal.

But it is not improbable that this assertion arises from the ignorance of the Muhammadans, and that they were ready to apply all the stories relating to the border chiefs of India to that one who had obtained the greatest notoriety with historians by his transactions with the generals of the Khilafat, just as the Hadtka Sandi speaks of Jaipal being the king of India in the time of Bahram, and Hzltifi speaks of Rzii Pithaura as the same even in the time of Timur. In 107 A.H.:-725-6 A.D., under the Khilafat of Hasham, part of the dominions of Kabul was taken, but the capture of the town itself is not noticed. The lieutenants of the Khalifs Al Mahdi and Ar Rashid took tribute from the Ranbal of Sijistan, proportioned to the strength or weakness of that prince, and named governors to the countries where Islam prevai1ed A.H. 158193=A.D. 775-809. When Al Mamun was made governor of Khurasan, he demanded double tribute. He took Kabul, and the king submitted, and professed Islam. An agent on the part of Mamun resided in that city, and a post was established which enabled Al Mamun to procure from it fresh myrobalans.

After this nothing is written of Kabul until the time of the Saifarides A.H. 256:A.D. 868-9. In the succeeding year Yakub Lais took Kabul, and made its prince a prisoner. The king of Ar Rukhaj was put to death, and its inhabitants forced to embrace Islam. Yakub returned to his capital loaded with booty, and carrying with him the heads of three kings; and many statues of Indian divinities, which were amongst the booty, were sent to Baghdad for presentation to the Khalif. This Muhammadan conquest appears to have been more durable than the preceding ones, for coins of Yakub were struck at Panjshir, to the north-east of Kabul, in the years 260 and 261 A.H. :A.D. 872-74.

The statement of Al Biruni, respecting the occupation of Kabul by the Turks, is in strict conformity with Biladuri and Tabari, and with the brief notices which the other early Arabic historians and geographers have given respecting that city. They couple it, however, with the curious announcement of an occupation divided between the dominant Turks and subject Hindus. The first in order is Masudi, who visited tbe valley of the Indus in 303 A.n.= 915 AD He says nothing of the political and religious revolution which we have been considering, by which Brahmans had been substituted for Buddhist Turks. On the contrary, he designates the prince who reigned at Kabul by the same title as he held when the Arabs penetrated for the first time into those regions.

Istahkri, who wrote within six years after Masudi travelled in India, says : Kabul has a castle celebrated for its strength, accessible oDly by one road. In it there are Musulmans, and it has a town, in which are infidels from Hind. Ibn Haukal began his travels in 331 A.H. = 942 A.D., and wrote an account of them thirty-five years later. He follows his predecessor implicitly in the main points, but respecting the occupants of the town, the Bodleian copy varies from the Lucknow one, which bears the name of Ashkdlu-l Bildd. In the former, Hindu infidels is converted into Infidels and Jews.

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Page last modified: 08-10-2012 19:52:59 ZULU