Pakistan Gandhara Empire

Pakistan History Part I

5000 years of high cultures

Pakistanis are proud of the thousands of years old civilizations that arose on their soil. In the 3rd millennium before the Christian era, the Indus Valley culture, also known as the Harappa culture, flourished on the middle Indus, i.e. within the boundaries of today’s Pakistan. Their civilizing achievements, which included metropolitan centers, are in no way inferior to the simultaneous civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia. The 5000 year old water and sewer system of Mohenjo Daro, the largest city of this culture, surpasses that of some modern Pakistani cities, and the huge granary of the same old Harappa is evidence of exemplary economic planning. Harappa is well documented and there are many pictures of the excavation site; on aThe map shows the location of this great testimony to the Indus culture.

The Gandhara Empire

According to businesscarriers, in ancient Gandhara, which was settled in what is now northern Pakistan and parts of Afghanistan, another high culture emerged in the middle of the 1st millennium BC. In Taxila, near Islamabad, the oldest and then only university in the world was founded, which also deserves this name in the modern sense. It was already organized in faculties that roughly correspond to the classic model of our university. In this center of learning for the humanities, a grammar for written Sanskrit was also developed. Art and architecture flourished, but medicine, law and economics also experienced an upswing. A famous military academy trained the army officers and strategists. There is a tradition of a scholarly dispute about which Alexander the Great summoned the professors of Taxila during his procession through Gandhara (327 BC).

Buddha was first depicted in Gandhara in a Roman-Hellenistic-Indian style that testifies to the fruitful cultural relations between South Asia and Europe in the first centuries AD. Gandhara statues are among the outstanding artistic creations of that time. In the museums of Lahore, Peshawar and Mingora in Swat there are numerous testimonies of this great art. Take a look at an impressive example of a Gandhara Buddha from the 1st – 2nd centuries AD.

Pakistan Gandhara Empire

The Mughal dynasty

The splendid Mughal dynasty was based on the ruler Babur, who came from Samarkand and came to the country with his followers in 1542. In the course of the following years he ruled almost the entire subcontinent, from Afghanistan to Bengal, and created an advanced Islamic culture. Delhi was the new center of cultural life for the Muslims, from there they covered the country with their architectural monuments. Lahore became the capital of the Mughal empire alongside Delhi under Emperor Akbar the Great(1526-1707). The window on the adjacent picture can be seen in a Mughal palace in Lahore. Click on the picture to see it enlarged. In the great Badshahi Mosque, the Lahore Fort, the Perl Mosque (Moti Masjid) and the Shalimar Gardens – to name just a few – Persian, Central Asian and Indian elements have combined. The faces of many cities in today’s Pakistan were shaped during the Mughal period.

The colonial era and the birth of Pakistan

The British came to India as seemingly harmless traders at the beginning of the 17th century. The East India Company, originally founded as a trading company, slowly expanded its sphere of trade and power through intrigue, bribery and violence. In the 18th century the systematic conquest of the subcontinent began and the term of the British Raj (Raj means law) spread. Persian, the language of the Mughals, was supplanted and replaced by English. the new language served as a medium for higher education. Criticism and mistrust spread when the danger of alienation and marginalization of local cultures was recognized.

The British did everything in their power to put their stamp on South Asia, but in doing so were drawn into the great South Asian cultural tradition. The “Mughal Gothic” colonial buildings are evidence of this. One of the most magnificent examples of the British-Indian “Mughal Gothic” is the Islamia College in Peshawar, which adorns the 100 rupee note.

The Indian independence movement gained political importance in 1885 with the founding of the Indian National Congress Party, which was Hindu-dominated but also represented by Muslim politicians. In 1906, the Muslim League (ML) was founded as a counterpart to the Hindu-dominated Congress Party, which was supposed to represent the interests of Muslims independently. The Muslim population of India felt threatened from two sides: on the one hand by the hegemony of the British and on the other hand by the self-assertion of the Hindus, who made up the far larger part of the population. The various Muslim groups did not agree among themselves as to whether adaptation or adherence to their own tradition would make more sense for their own continued existence. In 1930, the idea of an independent Muslim state was first expressed by the poet, philosopher and ML politician Muhammad Iqbal. After the interests of these two parties collided more and more, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, then leader of the ML and later founding father of Pakistan, was able to mobilize political support among the influential Muslim citizens for his vision of an independent state for Indian Muslims. In 1940 at the party congress of the Muslim League in Lahore, this idea found its way into the “Lahore Resolution” in the form of the “two-nation theory” (today this is often referred to as the “Pakistan Resolution” in Pakistan).



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