Jaulian Buddhist Stupa and Monastery

The stupa and monastery at Jaulian are the best-preserved buildings at Taxila and the only ones in Pakistan that give you some idea of what the original decoration round a stupa was like. A roof protects the plaster statues round the stupa and the site is guarded day and night.

You enter the complex at the northwest corner into the lower stupa court, which has alcoves or chapels round the sides that once contained statues of Bhudda. The south side of the court is wired off and roofed over to protect the bases of five votive stupas, which were built as offerings by pilgrims early in the fifth century AD. The remaining bottom levels of the five stupas are well preserved and covered in rows of plaster carvings but all the paint and gold has gone.

Buddha and Bodhisattva images sit in niches with attendants beside them. More amusing are the rows of elephants lions and naked Greek Atlantes figures imaginatively moulded into contorted positions as they strain to hold up the structure above them. There is a Kharoshthi inscription on the fifth stupa, giving the titles of the statues and the names of the donors.

The main stupa court is up five steps to the south and is also protected by a roof. The monastery¼s main stupa is surrounded by 21 votive stupas. The steps up the main stupa now lead out onto the flat roof, but originally they led up to the processional path round the dome.

The Healing Buddha, a stone Buddha with a hole in his navel, is set in the north wall of the main stupa to the left of the steps. The faithful would put their fingers in the hole and pray for a cure for their ailments. The Kharoshthi inscription below the statue records that the statue was a gift from Budhamitra (presumably a rich pilgrim "who delighted in the law").

There are two more Kharoshthi inscriptions on a votive stupa on the west side of the main stupa. giving the names of the donors. It is interesting that the Kharoshthi script was still in use in Taxila in the fifth century.

The votive stupa in the centre of the south side of the main stupa contained a relic chamber which is now in the museum. It is a tall, narrow, miniature stupa over one metre (three feet) high, made of hard lime plaster, it was painted a gaudy blue and red and crudely decorated with gamete, lapis, ruby, amethyst, crystal, carnelian and aquamarine. The relics were hidden inside a copper box.

Some colossal Buddhas sit in a row across the south face of the main stupa. Their bodies made in the fifth century, are rather coarse and cumbersome, but their heads are finely and sensitively modelled. The heads have been removed to the museum for safety.

The second-century Jaulian monastery is west of the main stupa. A group of five plaster sculptures at the entrance on the left, is protected behind wooden doors. These are copies, the originals are in the Taxila Museum. The group shows the meditating Buddha with a standing Buddha on either side and figures behind. The attendant figure on the left carries a fly whisk; on the right stands Vajrapani (the god of thunder), holding a thunderbolt.

The monastery court is surrounded by 28 monk cells. Originally there was a second floor with another 28 cells reached by the stone staircase in the cell in the northwestern corner. The balcony post holes and the charred wood found in the excavations indicate that a carved wooden balcony, supported on wooden pillars, ran all the way round the inside of the court to give access to the upper cells.

A low wooden door led into each cell. The doorways look much larger today than they actually were because the wooden door frame and lintel and the wall above the door, made of mud and small stones, have fallen down. High up in each cell is a small sloping window and a niche for the monk¼s lamp. In the fifth century all the walls were plastered and painted and statues of Buddha and scenes from his life decorated the courtyard.

The shallow water tank in the centre of the court collected the rainwater off the wooden roof. In the dry season water was carried up from wells at the bottom of the hill. The monks bathed in the enclosure in the corner of the tank.

The hall of assembly, kitchen, store room, refectory, stewards¼ room and latrine are all to the west of the monastery court. The monastery was burned by the White Huns in 455 AD and never rebuilt.


  • A Guide to Taxila ‚ Sir John H Marshall (1936) reprinted Karachi 1960 ‚ Sani Communications.