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Block 1

Virtual Sirkap

The visitor passes through the Northern Gateway and into the city of Sirkap itself, and at this point it is important to note the difference between our model and Marshall’s city plan. The structures of Block 1 described above have been removed, and in there place is a make-shift stables. Thus, the first structures encountered are part of Block A, not part of Block 1. The decision to remove the structures in Block 1 from our model comes from reading Marshall’s details of the structural remains carefully. [2]


As is true for all excavations, any site map must be analyzed alongside the detailed commentary of the excavator. Site maps tend to hide more than they reveal, as Rodney Stark's insights into the nature of classical ruins holds equally true for early Indian ruins, he writes

[w]hen we examine the magnificent ruins of classical cities we have a tendency to see them as extraordinarily durable and permanent—after all, they were built of stone and have endured for centuries. But this is an illusion. We are usually looking at simply the last ruins of a city that was turned to ruin repeatedly.

(Rodney Stark, "Antioch as the Social Situation of Matthew's Gospel," in Social History of the Matthean Community: Cross-Disciplinary Approaches to an Open Question, ed. David L. Balch [Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1991], pp. 189-210.)

For Sirkap, Marshall's primary site map reveals some of the last structures from a time when the city was moving to Sirsukh with the coming of the Kushanas in the late first century of the Common Era. This is very fortunate for those interested in the centuries on either side of the Common Era because there is a fairly intact city that was not completely put to ruin and rebuilt by new inhabitants. Rather, the city was almost completely abandoned by the end of the first century of the Common Era, and only a few structures from earlier strata were modified in the second century CE.

However, when the city of Sirkap is placed in its larger context, that is, when the map of the whole complex of Taxila is analyzed, Stark's warnings must be heeded. In Marshall's general site plan, which included the three cities—Bhir Mound, Sirkap, and Sirsukh—and the extra-urban monasteries and temples, there is no chronological distinction between the structures. In other words, all the structures appear to be contemporaneous. However, as Kurt Behrendt has detailed, before circa 78 CE very few of these structures would have been extant (Behrendt, The Buddhist Architecture of Gandhara, pp. 41-50, 61-76, and fig. 6). The city at Bhir Mound was basically abandoned and would have had few inhabitants, and the walled city of Sirkap was the main urban center. Within easy walking distance of the city were the Dharmarajika stupa, the Jandial B stupaand monastery complex, the Jandial C temple, and the Mohra Maliarañ complex. The latter three structures are all on the north side of the city within a half kilometer of the main northern gate; the Dharmarajika stupa is a kilometer and a half from the eastern gate. Thus, out of the myriad of ancient monuments found outside the walled city of Sirkap in the general area of Taxila—close to fifty structures of various sizes—only four date to this period and the rest date to after the end of the first century CE (Some of the more famous monuments that do not fit into this period include Kalawan, Akhauri A, B and C, Khader Mohra D1 and D2, Kunala, Jauliañ, Mohra Moradu, Pippala, and Bhamala, just to name a few. In the area of greater Gandhara, the only major Buddhist monument that would be attributable to this period is Butkara I).

As noted above, Marshall describes these buildings as poorly constructed, haphazardly built, irregular, and most likely the residences of the cities poorest inhabitants. We asked the question, what are they doing right outside the entrance to the elite section of the city of Sirkap? We chose to exclude them by reasoning that they belonged to a later period, that is the middle of the second century CE, a period when the city was beginning to be abandoned for the Kushana city of Sirsukh and poorly built structures right in front of a major gateway would not be a problem.

One consequence of removing these structures is that the oft-mentioned “off-center” gateway takes on even more significance. The fact that the Northern Gateway does not open out directly onto Main Street has been explained in two ways. Marshall argues that the orientation of the gateway is for (1) Defense: “[This position] would check any sudden rush of assailants and prevent them [from] sweeping through the gateway and up the Main Street,” and (2) Sanitation: “during the rainy season the flood-water pouring down the Main Street would expend its force to some extent against the city wall, or rather against the very solidly built guardhouses on its inner side.” [3]


Marshall, Taxila, p. 115 And Dilip K. Charkrabarti agrees with Marshall, and repeats that this "off-center" gate was for both sanitation, so dirty water would not flow directly out the front gate making for an unpleasant welcome during the rainy season, and defensive purposes, the off-center entrance would add extra protection to Main Street, in The Archaeology of Ancient Indian Cities (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1995), p. 179.

However, with these poorly built structures of Block 1, there may be a third reason for the “off-center” orientation of the gateway—not a practical reason, but an ideological one: the entry to the city would lead the visitor directly to the Block A stupa complex. There is a direct line from the entrance to the city (square 2-68’) to some rubble (square 15-68’) that indicates some kind of walkway leading to the entrance of the stupa court from Second Street (square 15-65’). Thus, the visitor would be naturally led to the Block A stupa court, and thus this stupa court takes on new importance.

This is not to discount either Marshall or Chakrabarti's arguments; structures can have multiple purposes, and it is quite possible that the "odd" orientation of both the northern gate and the Block A stupa court served to facilitate waste management, to bolster a defensive posture, and afforded an initial contact point for visitors to the city. With this spatial readjustment in mind, the function of the Block A stupa court will take on new significance [link to stupa Court A section]. Eventually we may decide to include the structures in Block 1 and move the “stables” to outside the city walls, or at least to a different area. But this will be a decision for a future iteration of the model.

The models for the stables come from the images found on stone and stucco reliefs from the greater Gandhara region. Four key sources of these images are:
(1) Marshall, John Hubert. Taxila: An Illustrated Account of Archaeological Excavations Carried Out at Taxila under the Orders of the Government of India between the Years 1913 and 1934. Varanasi: Bhartiya Publishing House, 1951. Volume III: Plates.
(2) Ingholt, Harald. Gandharan Art in Pakistan. New York: Pantheon Books, 1957.
(3) Kurita, Isao. Gandharan Art: The Buddha's Life Story and The World of the Buddha. 2 vols. Revised and Enlarged. Tokyo: Nigensha Publishing, 2003.

Here are a few of the images from these sources next to each other for comparison:

Heavy Wagon, Covered

Faccenna pl. 205, fig. 12.3.1 Kurita I: fig. 184

Virtual Sirkap

Farm Cart, Open

Faccenna, pl. 205, fig. 12.3.3 Kurita II: fig. 667

Virtual Sirkap

Water Troughs

Faccenna, pl. 188, fig. Kurita I, fig. 46

Virtual Sirkap

Horses: To get movement for a horse in very complex. So, we used a premade horse. However, we adjusted the size of the horse to match the reliefs from Gandhara.

Faccenna, pl. 203, fig.

Virtual Sirkap