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Indus Priest King
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Takht-i-Bahi (تختِ باہی‬‎) was a Buddhist monastery founded in the 1st century CE, during the Indo Parthian Kingdom, and was in use until the 7th century. Today it is located some 15 kilometers from Mardan, and is considered among the most imposing relics of Buddhism in all of Gandhara. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Directorate of Archaeology & Museums has accelerated conservation and excavation work on the 2000 year old ancient Buddhist monastery. The complex is regarded by archaeologists as being particularly representative of the architecture of Buddhist monastic centers from its era.

Takht-i-Bahi was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980. The site is divided into two zones.

Zone A is said to be the 2000-year old Buddhist monastery, while Zone B is said to be their residential area. The research officer added that the coins discovered from the area dated back to the first century CE.

The word Takht-i-Bahi may have different explanations. Locals believe that site got its name from two wells on the hill or the springs nearby. In Persian language, Takht (تختِ ) means "top" or "throne" while Bahi (باہی‬‎) means "spring" or "water".

There are four main areas of the complex:
- The Stupa Court, a cluster of stupas located in a central courtyard.

- The monastic chambers, consisting of individual cells arranged around a courtyard, assembly halls, and a dining area.

- A temple complex, consisting of stupas and similar to the Stupa Court, but of later construction.

- The Tantric monastic complex, which consists of small, dark cells with low openings, which may have been used for certain forms of Tantric meditation.

Additional structures on the site may have served as residences or meeting halls, or for secular purposes. All of the buildings on the site are constructed from local stone, and are mortared with lime and mud.

Archaeologists have divided the history of the complex into four periods:

The monastic complex was likely founded in the early 1st century CE. It is proven by an inscriptions found bearing the name of Gondophares (20-46 CE). After Gondophares, the place fell under control of Kujula Kadphises, the first Kushan king. This first era continued until the 2nd century CE, and is associated with another Kushan king Kanishka, as well as early Parthian and later Kushan kings. The second construction period, which included the creation of the Stupa Court and assembly hall, took place during the 3rd and 4th centuries CE. A third construction period, associated with the later Kushan dynasty and the Kidara Kushana rulers, occurred during the 4th and 5th centuries. The final construction period, which saw the creation of the so-called Tantric complex, took place in the 6th and 7th centuries CE, and was overseen by invading Hun rulers.

Despite numerous invasions into the area, Takht-i-Bahi's hilltop location seems to have protected it from destruction, unlike many comparable early Buddhist monastic complexes. The complex was occupied continuously until Late Antiquity (7th century CE), when charitable funding for the site ended. The first modern historical reference to these ruins was made in 1836 upon its discovery.


Sacred area and monastery at Takht-i-Bahi, showing phase II and III construction (Kurt Behrendt, modified from Hargreaves 1914: pl. XVII).
 
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