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Bddhist Culture & Gandhara Art
- Visit Lahore’s Badshahi Mosque/Fort and witness the grandeur of the Moghul Empire.
- Taxila and the monastic relics of the ancient Buddhist Gandhara Kingdom.

Historic Faces & Mystic Places
(Buddhist Culture & Gandhara Art) 15-18 Days
Mode of Travel: Fly/Jeep/Trek-Hotel/Motel
This tour highlights the best of northern Pakistan's architectural and cultural diversity - ranging from the ancient Afghan ambience of Peshawar to the deep forested valleys of the Swat district in the Himalayas to the historical intrigues of the great Moghul capital, Lahore.

Peshawar, an ancient frontier city bordering Afghanistan, boasts the most lively bazaar in the entire Indian sub-continent, a place where you can literally find most everything. A visit to the nearby Khyber Pass, with impressive views of the Hindu-Kush and Afghanistan landscape, will be a feature stop on this tour.

The foothills of the Himalayan range are located in the scenic Swat Valley where the Indus Valley civilization, the Gandhara Kingdom, once flourished as early as the 6th century BC. The region later won renown as the cradle of the Buddhist religion and various monuments, museums and art-pieces reflect this history.

Lahore, the "cultural and Moghul Capital", features numerous monuments from the Moghul era including a superb principal mosque which is the largest of the period.

Concept Paper on Buddhist Pilgrimages / Tours in Pakistan

Mountain Travels Pakistan [MTP] is a reliable name in the arena of adventure, culture, and religious tourism in Pakistan. Over the years, it has the distinction of hosting a large number of religious, cultural, and adventure tour groups from all over the world. It has particularly expertise in facilitating religious and cultural tour groups across Pakistan. Having experiential specialization in presenting Ghandhara civilization and its Buddhist imprints, MTP is regularly leading tour groups from Canada, North America, and Europe from Pakistan to Central Asian States. Playing the role of host and tour-operator, MTP is an Asian partner of ElderTreks Canada for its half a dozen annual tour groups over and above the age of 50 years.

Briefly discussing the pre-history, about three-and-a-half millenniums ago Indo-Aryans carried the seeds of the Hindu faith in the Subcontinent [India-Pakistan]. They were followed by the devotees of peace and meditation – the Buddhists, who imprinted themselves on the great Gandharan civilization of northern Pakistan, leaving a legacy of priceless art treasures including the sculpture of the Fasting Buddha – one of the world’s great artworks now in Lahore Museum.

Potential Buddhist Sites in Pakistan

Swat was once the cradle of Buddhism of all its schools – Little Vehicle, Great Vehicle, and the Esoteric sects where once 1400 monasteries flourished. Situated in the North-West-Frontier province, Swat is known as the holy land of Buddhist teachings and as a place of Buddhist pilgrimage. More than 400 Buddhist sites are available in Swat valley. It is believed that the valley housed 1400 imposing and beautiful Stupas and Monasteries with 600 gold images of the Buddhist pantheon for worship and education. One of the significant modern excavations is Butkhara-I comprising of the original relics of the Buddha. It is believed that the Buddha himself came to Swat during his last reincarnation as the Guatama Buddha.

For over 1000 years, Taxila had been a centre of learning Gandhara art of sculpture, architecture, education and Buddhism. There are around 50 archaeological sites in and around Taxila including Dhamarajika Stupa and Monastery (300 BC – 200 AD), Bhir Mound (100 – 200 BC), Sirkap (200 BC – 600 AD), Jandial Temple (c. 250 BC) and Jaulian Monastery (200 – 600 AD). Most of the archaeological sites of Taxila (600 BC – 500 AD) are located around Taxila Museum. Now the modern town of Taxila is located 35 km from Islamabad.

Mankiala Stupa
This Stupa was built in the reign of Kanishka (128-151 AD), which lies about 32 km south-east of Rawalpindi in Mankiala village. It is believed that Buddha had sacrificed parts of his body here to feed seven hungry tiger cubs.

Lying only 3 km from Saidu Shariff, Mingora has yielded magnificent pieces of Buddhist sculpture and the ruins of great stupas. Other exhilarating spots worth visiting are Marghzar, the white marble palace of the former ruler of Swat, Madyan, Bahrain, Miandam and Kalam.

Giri Fort
At the foot of Margallah, the glen of Giri is located 8 km north-east of Taxila. There are remains of two monasteries and stupas. The remains of Giri Fort are perched on the hill top. The Giri Fort was built in 5th century by the Buddhist monks.

Northern Areas [Gilgit-Baltistan]
Also known as the 8th wonder of the world, the 804 km long Karakoram Highway (KKH) is famous for its historical status as old “Silk Route” along the Indus River all the way up to the famous Khunjerab Pass at 16,100 feet above the sea level into the Chinese province of Xinjxiang. The KKH bears ancient Buddhist inscriptions carved into the rocks along the Silk Route.

The Northern Areas of Pakistan richer in rock carvings of pre-historic, Buddhist and post-Buddhist periods is famous for rock-art sites. There is no written record of the early history of Northern Areas, but there exist archaeological remains that offer guidance to history of the region. A.H. Francke in his History of Western Tibet (1907) calls people of the area `people of rock-art`. Over the centuries various structures have been designed and developed to respect the nature in order to creating harmony between the built structures and landscapes. Traces of the cultural impact of Tibetan Buddhism and art from the 8th to 12th century are found throughout the region attaching thereto a number of values making them tangible and intangible cultural assets.

→ Kargah Buddha
Kargah Buddha exists on a cliff face at Kargah, about eight kilometers west to Gilgit. Thought to date to the eighth century, this large image of a standing Buddha is very famous in Gilgit. Several metres upstream of the Buddha are the remains of a monastery and several stupas, whose excavation reveled a number of Sanskrit Buddhist texts.

→ Manthal, Skardu
One of the sacred and fascinating pieces of rock-arts i.e. Buddha Rock exists at Manthal village, south of Skardu town on the right bank of Hargissa stream falling into Sadpara sub-valley. `Manthal` the name of the village where the archaeological site is laid seems to have been ascribed from `Mandala` - the assembly of Buddhas. The inhabitants of Tibet and Baltistan (also called Little Tibet) had professed Buddhism in 400 A.D. (7th century), which is otherwise proved by the presence of the sculptures of Buddha in the capital town of Baltistan i.e. Skardu. Before Buddhism, Bonism as a religion had been practiced in Baltistan and Ladakh. The Buddha Rock is one of traces and evidences of practicing Buddhism by the ancient Balti masses before embracing Islam in the 14th century. The famous Buddha Rock is believed to have been sculptured in the eighth century A.D. Nevertheless, Mr. Richard A. Engelhardt - UNESCO Regional Adviser for Culture in Asia and the Pacific - viewed that these inscriptions seems to have been engraved way back in around the second or third century, because this carving depicts the earliest doctrine of the Buddhism.

Gurkha soldiers believed to have destroyed the Buddhist scriptures from the Sadpara Dam site sometime before 1913. The historic Buddha Rock contains many images and ancient Tibetan (Balti) inscriptions as evident from the site. At the eastern side of the Rock, there exists a platform for offering religious prayers and the rear side was being used for providing medical facilities by the Lamas/ Amchees (physicians) etc. Some evidences and traces are still existent. There exists a niche at the top of the Rock which seems to have been functioning to support the central beam. Now the beam and columns do not exist. However, part of the platform and niche are still existent.

MTP feels enormous satisfaction in offering religious tours all over Pakistan that is precipitated by our strong believe in religious harmony, unity, and integration. Having specialized in religious tours, MTP has all background information and facilities on religious tourist resorts.

We offer very competitive charges to organize these pilgrimages that can be negotiated as per wishes of the would-be clients. The attached itinerary further elaborates on the possible tour details that can as well be customized according to the aspiration and convenience of the clients/pilgrims.

We always welcome our prospective clients to send us inquiries so as to become basis for further discussions and significantly to develop relationships.

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