Buddhism, one of the greatest Oriental religions, was founded by Siddharta Gautama, the ‘Buddha’ or the Enlightened One, who achieved enlightenment after years of seclusion and meditation. Buddhism seeks the Middle Way……avoiding extremes of mortification and indulgence. For Buddha, suffering was caused by desire and the abandonment of desire could be achieved by following the noble ‘Eight Fold Path’ of right views, intentions, speech, conduct, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentrations. Rebirth would eventually end if these were followed and ‘Nirvana’ – the state of bliss – attained.
It was especially during the region of Ashoka that Buddhism spread. Later important Ghandara kings also became Buddhists and patronized the religion. In fact Ghandara created the first Buddha image of the world. it is in the city of Lahore that the local Museum exhibits the unique fasting Buddha, which is a magnificent 4th century Ghandara work of art. Gandhara, which is now the homeland of the Pathans, lies in the extreme north-west of the sub-continent. This is the Peshawar Valley, where Buddhism flourished for 900 years, with people coming from far-off places on pilgrimages and to look for Buddhist scriptures. Buddhist art and architecture flourished here. The Charsadda area is dotted with stupas and monasteries.
Surrounding Takhti-i-Bai are hundreds of acres of graves. It is also the site of the most impressive monastery in Pakistan. East of Mardan is Shahbaz Garhi where Ashoka’s inscriptions are found on two rocks on a hill, stating his policy and instructions to his subjects. Enroute to Swat one catches glimpses of ancient monasteries and ruins. Between Swat and Rawalpindi, lies Taxila, the renowned centre of Ghandara art, architecture, education and religion, recalling the days of Buddhist glory. The dozens of monasteries spread all over and the serene atmosphere reminds one of yellow-robed monks, while nearby lies the biggest stupa in Pakistan, the Dharmarjika, originally built by Ashoka. So much history in one area makes this the second most important holy land for Buddhists.
Day 01: Arrival Lahore, meet and assist on arrival. Transfer to Hotel.
Day 02: Passing by the legendary Kim’s Gun (Toup Bhangian) reach Badshahi (Royal) Mosque on the north west corner of the walled city. The Badshahi Mosque built during the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb in the early 1670’s, one of the largest mosques in the world. Its red sandstone and white marble present a delightful harmonious contrast. Just outside the Mosque, see the Mausoleum of the philosopher poet of Pakistan Dr. Muhammad Iqbal and the Bara Dari (the marble pavilion) built by the Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjeet Singh. Opposite the Badshahi Mosque is the historic Lahore Fort with its massive walls, several towering gates, marble pavilions and its hall of mirrors, dating to the time of Moghul Emperor Akbar. In the time of the great Moghuls, the city was surrounded by a 9 metre high brick wall and had a rampart running around it with a moat connected with the river Ravi which served as a protection for the city. There were thirteen massive gates, some of which are still in original from and shape. The narrow lanes, the hanging balconies, the tiny shops, the aroma of spices, and the fragrance of flower garlands lingers on in the city, retaining the medieval char. Within the walled city, the Wazir Khan Mosque in the walled city. The colourful fresco and mosaic in the interior and the exterior of the Mosque is a superb example of Moghul period craftsmanship. later Visit Lahore Museum which has a rich and varied collection of objects from the Indus civilization, the Ghandara, Hindu, and the Muslim period. . Evening departure for Peshawar. Meet and assist on arrival. Transfer to Hotel. Evening at leisure.
Day 03: Visit Peshawar museum, where under one roof you can see art treasures of thousands of years of Buddhist glory. Later excursion to Charsadda (28 Km), the ancient capital of Kingdom of Gandhara, once known as “Push-kalavati,” the Lotus City. There are three sites of ancient cities, Bala Hisar, Shai Khan Dheri and Prang to be visited. Later, visit Takht-i-Bai, the most impressive and complete Buddhist monastery in Pakistan. It is surrounded by ruins of private houses, monk cells, a court of stupas and a high walled open assembly court. The panoramic view from the hill top at Takhti-i-Bai is fantastic, Return via Shahbaz Garhi to see Ashoka’s inscription. Overnight Peshawar.
Day 04: depart for Saidu Sharif, the capital of Swat. First stop at Chakdara to visit the Museum which contains, 1st to 7th century Buddhist sculptures. Later, see 3rd century stupa at Shingerdar. Transfer to hotel in Saidu Sharif. Overnight.
Day 05: Sight seeing of Swat valley with a visit to the Museum which has a large collection of Gandharan sculptures collected from Buddhist sites in Swat. Close by is Butkara, the site of the most important Buddhist Shrine in the valley. Later visit the 1st century Buddhist Monastery at Panr. Evening at leisure. Overnight at Saidu Sharif.
Day 06: morning at leisure. Midday departure by air for Rawalpindi. Meet and assist on arrival. Transfer to Hotel. Evening at leisure.
Day 07: Driving through Islamabad reach Taxila which is one of the most important archaeological treasures of the Subcontinent. The fertile valley contains the remains of great cities like Bhir mound and Sirkap which were centres of Gandhara civilization. Visit Museum to see the unique collection of Gandhara Art. Also visit Bactrain, Greek city of Sirkap, Buddhist monastery of Jaulian and Dharmarajika. Rest of the day at leisure. Overnight in Rawalpindi.
Day 08: Departure for onward destinations.