Ancient Kabul: Tapeh Khazana E-mail
By Nabi Kohzad

Kabul is an ancient and historic city. Its many relics and monuments range from different times and periods in history. For example, during the era of Buddhism in Khorasan there where thousands of small and large astopas (temples) in different parts of the country. A large number of these religious shrines had a great influence on the style of architecture, literature and culture of the people in the region. The word astopa in Hindi is toup and in Sanskrit it is pronounced aastopa. In Khorasan, the word has developed into the form of toop. In the greater 50 km radius of Kabul, this word is heard in many places including Toop Dara which is located close to the city of Charkar. This site was perhaps one of the most prominent, largest, and beautiful astopa that existed in ancient Khorasan.

An example of historical architecture influenced by the Buddhist style in eastern Kabul is a site that was excavated in 1933 and which dates back to the 2nd century AD -- the Kashani Empire at the height of power; this empire reigned over modern day Afghanistan, Central Asia, Eastern Iran, Pakistan, and northern India. Studies of the ancient remains at this site proved the existence of many Buddhist temples such as Shaakh-e Baranti and Minaar-e Chakri.

Two other historic and forgotten sites are Tapa Khazana and Takht-e Shah. Tapa Khazana is located at the foot of the Shair Darwaza mountain, near the Hazara-ha-e Chandawal neighborhood and to the East of Ebin Sina Hospital. Tapa Khazana is famous from the many tales and folklore told by people throughout the history of Khorasan. It is believed that there exists a treasure in the hill and a snake guards it from any intruders. In 1933, the site attracted archaeologists for the first time. After studying the area, it was concluded that the site was not a natural hill but a man made one and perhaps one of the most prominent man made hill in the region. Shortly thereafter, an excavation was conducted. It was determined that Tapa Khazana was in fact a Buddhist astopa, constructed in the mid 3rd century AD. After the decline of the Buddhist faith in the region, it was converted to a fire temple by the Zoroastrians.

The majority of the artifacts from this astopa consisted of small, clay heads skillfully crafted. Late in 1933, the heart of Tapa Khazana was opened. This time, more finely crafted, priceless statues were unearthed. It was obvious why the hill was named "Tapa Khazana" -- Treasure Hill.

Another historic site, Takht-e Shah, consists of a huge rock that was located at the foot of the Shair Darwaza mountain in the vicinity of Tapa Khazana and Ebin Sina Hospital. About thirty five to forty years ago, an earthquake moved the rock onto the old road behind Ebin Sina Hospital, covering most of the road towards the Artan bridge. Unfortunately, there was no means to remove the rock from the road. Mostly likely, the rock still rests there. Inscribed on the rock is the name of Zahirdin Babar.

In 910 (Lunar, Islamic), Zahirdin Babar conquered Kabul. He went to the hills of the Bala Hisar citadel and examined the surrounding horizon of the valley and city. He observed the farm lands, vineyards, green plains and high mountain ranges and internally recited the poet Mehamai's famous sonnets about the river, plains and city of Kabul, rendering them dear to him.

Babar, who had not seen happiness in his homeland, had gained luck in Kabul: he had become a father. In Kabul, he also bestowed upon himself the title of Shah. Babar's daughter, Golbadan, had said that Babar's true love was Kabul. He kept Kabul to himself and allowed none of his children or relatives to keep it.

In his last years, in the city of Agra, as Shah of his empire, one of his last wishes was to be put to rest in Kabul. Upon his death, his body was temporarily buried in the Noor Afshan garden in Agra, but six months later, was taken to Kabul and finally placed to rest in the famous garden named after him, Bagh-e Babar Shah.

Babar Shah had an excessive interest in constructing buildings and this ardent desire can be seen in his descendants that ruled the Mughal Empire in the sub-continent for the hundreds of years that followed. In Afghanistan and the surrounding area, mostly the region named "Joi-e Shahi" between the provinces of Kabul, Laghman and Jalalabad, Babar constructed numerous lush gardens, elegant villas, and resourceful caravansaries. One particular site was the Takht-e Shah.

In 914 (Lunar, Islamic), Babar ordered the construction of small gardens below the ruins of Tapa Khazana and near the Ebin Sina Hospital. He ordered the garden to be constructed on a stone platform with a pool to be built in the center. Babar then ordered that the following be inscribed in Dari: "THE THRONE OF THE PROTECTOR OF THE WORLD: ZAHIRDIN MOHAMMED BABAR." Thus it was named Takht-e Shah, "The Throne of the King."

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This article was originally published in Persian on the monthly newspaper, Caravan : November, 1997. Permission for translation was granted by Caravan Publications.
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