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The Architecture of Punjab


Harappan civilization

The oldest examples of architecture sculpture, and painting in the Punjab belong to the Harappan civilization. The Vedic age, which followed the Harappan age, has not left any artistic relics. The Vedic Aryans lived in villages. They used perishable materials such as wood and bamboo. Some scholars believe that the plan of an Aryan village was based on that of a fortified military camp. its layout was rectangular. Its sides oriented to four quarters and it was interacted by two roads or streets, which terminated in four gateways. But no actual remains of a Vedic village have survived.

The literature refers to great cities of the age of the Buddha. These cities were well planned, built of bricks and timer. They had beautiful buildings, royal palaces, broad streets and high gateways. A wall surrounded the entire city. But no example of such and ancient city has survived to this day. The reason is that most of the buildings of wood have perished. In eastern India we have some monuments dating from the Pre-Mauryan times. These are at Rajagriha and at Lauriya Nandangarh in Bihar. No buildings of Pre-Mauryan epoch exist in the Punjab.


The earliest historical example of art and architecture in the Punjab are those of the Maurya period. The city of Takshashila was the capital of the Uttarapatha province of the Maurya Empire. It was famous city has been excavated in modern times. The ruins of Takshashila consist of three city-cited: Bihar mound, Sirkap, and Dirsukh. These represent three successive phases in the history of the city. At Bihar mouns we have evidence of settlement from sixth to the second century BC Sirkap site represents the second city of Takshashila. Bactrian Greeks built it in the second century A.D. unlike Bihar mound and Sirkap, the site of Sirsukh has not been excavated.

Jewellery from Sirkap,Taxila
The city of Sirkap was buitlt on the Greek chessboard pattern, with streets cutting one another at rights angles and regularly aligned blocks of buildings. Besides bricks, coursed rubble-stone was used in building houses. The city had a rempart. But the Parthian and Shaka rules built a defence wall of stone 3, 1/2 miles long.

The city had several Buddhist shrines and stupas. there was an upsidal temple also. More important religious establishments lay outside the boundaries of the three city-sites.

Jewellery from Sirkap,Taxila
The most ancient and the most important sacred building is the Dharmarajika-stupa. Emperor Ashoka originally built it. A stupa is a Buddhist shrine. It is covered from all sided and its shape is semi-circular like a cup turned upside down. Inside a stupta are preserved sacred relics either of a Buddha or Buddhist saints. The Buddhists adore the stupa. Emperor Ashoka had the title Dharmaraha or the 'Righterous King'. The Dharmarajika stupa built by him was elaborated and renovated by later kings. It is built on a high platform of stone. It is circular in plan and hemispherical in elevation. From its central hub radiate sixteen thick walls. On the southern portion of Sirkap are a stupa and a monastery of vihara. A vihara is also a sacred Buddhist building. It contains roomed for monks as well as prayer hall and a shrine-room.

Towards the northern gate of Sirkap lie the ruins of a temple at Jandial. It was a Zoroastrian temple. It resembles a Greek temple. It has two pillars at the entrance and two pillars at the front porch, which leads to the sanctuary. Amount the finds at Takshashila are coins of kings of different dynasties, seals, jewelry, sculptures and peltry pieces.

City-sites and Stupas:

Another important city-cite in the Punjab is Charsdda on the Swat river in Peshawar district. It is the site of Pushkalavati, the capital of Gandhara. Excavations brought to light the existence of Buddha stupas and viharas and other buildings. Traces of stupa architecture have been found at several other places in the Punjab and the northwest. Thus the stupas at Manikyala in Rawalpindi district at Takht-i-Bahai, Sahri-Bahlol and Jamalgarhi near Hoti Mardan, and at Shahji-Ki-Dheri near Peshawar may be mentioned.

Kanishka built the great stupa at Shahji-Ki-Dheri. It is cruciform on plan. Inside it was found a casket containing sacred relics of Buddha. This stupa built by Kanishka was seen by Husan Tsang in the 7th century and by Alberuni in 11th century AD. The stupa at Takht-i-Bahai is famous for its great statue of standing Buddha. The ruins of monasteries were also identified at these places as well as at Sahri-Bahlol. A chatya of Buddhist shrine was also fount at Sahri-Bahlol. Numerous Buddhist monasteries and stupas were built also in Sind and Baluchistan; A stupa built of Bricks existed at Mirpurkhas. It had three vaulted cells, which contained images of the Buddha. This stupa was ruined during the Arab invasions in 712AD. The stupa may have been built during the early Kushana times. The remains of a stupa also exist at a place called Tor-Dherai in Loralai district of Baluchistaqn. The site of Branmanbad in Sindh had at first Buddhist monasteries and stupas. Later on in the Gupta period, Brahmanical temples were built at this site.

Recently Sanghol in Ludhiana District has been excavated. It represents the site of a Buddhist establishment. The very name may be connected with sangha or the Buddhist community. Remains of a Dharma-chakra-stupa have come to light at Sanghol.