Did you know?: Pakistan and the Silk Roads – The Taxila Connection

View of the Taxila heritage site in Punjab, Pakistan © Homo Cosmico / Shutterstock.com

We invite you to join us each week for Did you know? articles which adhere to preselected themes. Knowledge and appreciation of these subjects helps to preserve, diffuse, and promote elements of our common heritage of the Silk Roads.

The East and West have always been at the crossroads of diverse populations. One of the main crossroads in these East-West exchanges is the region now known as Pakistan.

Both the Gandhara region and Indian sub-continent were able to forge links with the West during the era of Darius I, king of the Persian Achaemenid Empire from 522-486 BC. This was due to the fact that an interconnected network of commercial, trading relationships had not previously been established amongst various regions.

Over time, the efficiency and frequency of these interactions increased. This was a direct reflection of significant historical events, such as expeditions towards the East, led by Alexander of Macedonia.

Caravans crossed the Gandhara valleys, transporting goods from distant lands. In this way, the people of Gandhara were introduced to the arts and culture of different regions. Taxila was at the centre of these roads. Acting as a gateway towards India, all land routes emanating from the West and the North ultimately had to cross this city.

Due to the constant discord between the Seleucid, Parthian and Roman realms on the West, and the Bactrian territory on the East, the stability of the primary Silk Route was endangered. As a result, Taxila’s geographical positioning allowed for it to become an essential point in East-West trade. During times of peace, intercultural activities increased. This is clearly visible in Roman culture, elements of which are noticeably present in the Gandhara region. Moreover, the Taxila route played an essential role throughout the Pakistani region, where cultural activity flourished, most notably with the emergence of Gandhara art.

Merchandise, as well as ideas, savoir-faire, and techniques, travelled along these roads. An example is the use of stone instead of wood for architecture or sculptures. This could be considered a visible translation of the non-verbal communicative exchanges between different populations. Moreover, political and social interactions increased due to commercial trading along these roads. Consequently, intercultural interactions gradually transformed. The West continued to acquire a greater number of goods from the East, whereas the Indian subcontinent was able to reconceptualise and transform elements of Western culture.

Due to its efficiency, contact established by this route with Mediterranean countries never diminished. Instead, cultural interactions between different populations increased. Hence, the enduring legacy of Hellenistic art and culture in this region is the result of numerous events.  Despite external influences, historical accuracy about this era is consistent and unwavering. This allows for the information to be readily accessible, promoted, and appreciated by future generations celebrating our common cultural heritage of the Silk Roads.


See also:

The Anatolian Silk Roads

The Silk Routes of the Mongols

The Southern Silk Roads

The Great Silk Roads

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