Balkh

Balkh

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Balkh was an ancient city and centre of Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster and was formerly among the world's largest religions. It was probably founded some time before the 6th century BCE in Greater Iran.In Zoroastrianism, the Creator Ahura Mazda is all good, and no evil...

 in what is now northern Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

. Today it is a small town in the province of Balkh
Balkh Province
Balkh is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan. It is in the north of the country and its name derives from the ancient city of Balkh, near the modern town...

, about 20 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital, Mazar-e Sharif
Mazar-e Sharif
Mazār-i-Sharīf or Mazār-e Sharīf is the fourth largest city of Afghanistan, with a population of about 375,000 as of 2006. It is the capital of Balkh province and is linked by roads to Kunduz in the east, Kabul in the south-east, Herat to the west and Uzbekistan to the north...

, and some 74 km (46 mi) south of the Amu Darya
Amu Darya
The Amu Darya , also called Oxus and Amu River, is a major river in Central Asia. It is formed by the junction of the Vakhsh and Panj rivers...

. It was one of the major cities of Khorasan
Greater Khorasan
Greater Khorasan or Ancient Khorasan is a historical region of Greater Iran mentioned in sources from Sassanid and Islamic eras which "frequently" had a denotation wider than current three provinces of Khorasan in Iran...

. Marco Polo
Marco Polo
Marco Polo was a Venetian merchant traveler from the Venetian Republic whose travels are recorded in Il Milione, a book which did much to introduce Europeans to Central Asia and China. He learned about trading whilst his father and uncle, Niccolò and Maffeo, travelled through Asia and apparently...

 described Balkh as a "noble and great city".

The ancient city of Balkh was under the Greeks renamed Bactra, giving its name to Bactria
Bactria
Bactria and also appears in the Zend Avesta as Bukhdi. It is the ancient name of a historical region located between south of the Amu Darya and west of the Indus River...

. It was mostly known as the centre and capital of Bactria
Bactria
Bactria and also appears in the Zend Avesta as Bukhdi. It is the ancient name of a historical region located between south of the Amu Darya and west of the Indus River...

 or Takharistan. Balkh is now for the most part a mass of ruins, situated some 12 km from the right bank of the seasonally flowing Balkh River
Balkh River
The Balkh River or Balkhab is a river in Balkh Province, Afghanistan.The river rises in the Band-e Amir lakes in the Hindu Kush. In its upper reaches the river is known as the Band-e Amir River . The river flows west, then north, and terminates in irrigation canals in the area of the cities of...

, at an elevation of about 365 m (1,200 ft).

History


Balkh is one of the oldest cities in the world and is considered to be the first city to which the Indo-Iranian
Indo-Iranians
Indo-Iranian peoples are a linguistic group consisting of the Indo-Aryan, Iranian, Dardic and Nuristani peoples; that is, speakers of Indo-Iranian languages, a major branch of the Indo-European language family....

 tribes moved from the North of Amu Darya
Amu Darya
The Amu Darya , also called Oxus and Amu River, is a major river in Central Asia. It is formed by the junction of the Vakhsh and Panj rivers...

, approximately between 2000 - 1500 BC. The Arabs called it Umm Al-Belaad
Umm Al-Belaad
Umm Al-Belaad is the Arabic name given by the native population of Afghanistan's Balkh province to the city of Balkh . Umm Al-Belaad means Mother of All Cities. In Vedic literature, it is known as Bhakri, and it became Bactra as the area was Hellenized after the conquests of Alexander the Great...

or Mother of Cities due to its antiquity. The city was traditionally a center of Zoroastianism. The name Zariaspa, which is either an alternate name for Balkh or a term for part of the city, may derive from the important Zoroastrian fire temple Azar-i-Asp. Balkh was regarded as the first place where Zoroaster
Zoroaster
Zoroaster , also known as Zarathustra , was a prophet and the founder of Zoroastrianism who was either born in North Western or Eastern Iran. He is credited with the authorship of the Yasna Haptanghaiti as well as the Gathas, hymns which are at the liturgical core of Zoroastrianism...

 first preached his religion, as well as the place where he died.


Since the Indo-Iranians built their first kingdom in Balkh (Bactria, Daxia, Bukhdi) some scholars believe that it was from this area that different waves of Indo-Iranians spread to Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 and Seistan, where they became today's Persians
Persian people
The Persian people are part of the Iranian peoples who speak the modern Persian language and closely akin Iranian dialects and languages. The origin of the ethnic Iranian/Persian peoples are traced to the Ancient Iranian peoples, who were part of the ancient Indo-Iranians and themselves part of...

, Pashtuns, and Baluch
Baloch people
The Baloch or Baluch are an ethnic group that belong to the larger Iranian peoples. Baluch people mainly inhabit the Balochistan region and Sistan and Baluchestan Province in the southeast corner of the Iranian plateau in Western Asia....

. The ones that stayed in Bactria became modern Tajiks, who are located in modern Balkh and surrounding areas. The period between 26th-20th century BC was the most important period in the history of Balkh; it's in this relatively short period that a kingdom was established, then the population started to disperse and the kingdom started to shrink in importance until the Median and Persian empires in 700 BC, around 1000 years later. The changing climate has led to desertification
Desertification
Desertification is the degradation of land in drylands. Caused by a variety of factors, such as climate change and human activities, desertification is one of the most significant global environmental problems.-Definitions:...

 since antiquity, when the region was very fertile. The city's long history and former importance are recognized by the native population, who speak of it as the Mother of Cities and the place of Zoroaster's death. Its foundation is mythically ascribed to Keyumars, the first king of the world in Persian legend
Iranian folklore
Iranian folklore, including jokes, legends, games, folklore heroes and beliefs is sophisticated and complex.-Heroes:*Samak-E 'Ayyar*Pourya-ye Vali*Hasan Kachal "Hasan the Bald"*Khaleh Soskeh "Auntie cockroach"...

 ; and it is at least certain that, at a very early date, it was the rival of Ecbatana
Ecbatana
Ecbatana is supposed to be the capital of Astyages , which was taken by the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great in the sixth year of Nabonidus...

, Nineveh
Nineveh
Nineveh was an ancient Assyrian city on the eastern bank of the Tigris River, and capital of the Neo Assyrian Empire. Its ruins are across the river from the modern-day major city of Mosul, in the Ninawa Governorate of Iraq....

 and Babylon
Babylon
Babylon was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers south of Baghdad...

. There is a long-standing tradition that an ancient shrine of Anahita
Anahita
Anahita is the Old Persian form of the name of an Iranian goddess and appears in complete and earlier form as ' ; the Avestan language name of an Indo-Iranian cosmological figure venerated as the divinity of 'the Waters' and hence associated with fertility, healing and wisdom...

 was to be found here, a temple so rich it invited plunder.

For a long time the city and country was the central seat of the Zoroastrian religion, the founder of which, Zoroaster, died within the walls, according to the Persian poet Firdowsi. Armenian sources state that the Parthian Arsac established his capital here. Some scholars believe that a number of mythological rulers of ancient Iran e.g. some kings of Kavi Dynasty
Kavi
Kavi may refer to:*Kavi is a Sanskrit term for thinker, intelligent man, man of understanding, leader; a wise man, sage, seer, prophet; a singer, bard, poet, and is applied to:...

 (or Kayanian in Persian
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

) were historically local rulers of an area centered around Balkh.

Buddhism


In literature, Balkh has been described as Balhika, Valhika or Bahlika. Balkh town became popular to other Buddhist countries because of two great Buddhist monks of Afghanistan-Tapassu and Bhallika. There are two stupas over their relics. As per a popular legend, Buddhism was introduced in Balkh by Bhallika, disciple of Buddha and the city derives its name from him. He was a merchant of the region and had come to Bodhgaya. First Vihara at Balkh was built for Bhallika when he returned home after becoming a Buddhist monk. Xuanzang
Xuanzang
Xuanzang was a famous Chinese Buddhist monk, scholar, traveler, and translator who described the interaction between China and India in the early Tang period...

 visited Balkh in 630 when it was a flourishing centre of Hinayana Buddhism. People called the city ‘Little Rajagriha’ since it housed many sacred relics.

According to Memoirs of Xuanzang, there were about a hundred Buddhist convents in the city or its vicinity at the time of his visit there in the 7th century. There were 30,000 monks and a large number of stupas and other religious monuments. The most remarkable stupa was the Navbahara (Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

, Now Vihara: New Monastery), which possessed a very grand statue of Buddha
Gautama Buddha
Siddhārtha Gautama was a spiritual teacher from the Indian subcontinent, on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. In most Buddhist traditions, he is regarded as the Supreme Buddha Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit: सिद्धार्थ गौतम; Pali: Siddhattha Gotama) was a spiritual teacher from the Indian...

. . Shortly before the Arabic conquest
Islamic conquest of Afghanistan
The Islamic conquest of Afghanistan began in the middle of the 7th century after the Islamic conquest of Persia was completed, when Arab Muslims defeated the Sassanid Empire at the battles of Walaja, al-Qādisiyyah and Nahavand. The Muslim Arabs then began to move towards the lands east of Persia...

, the monastery became a Zoroastrian fire-temple
Fire temple
A fire temple in Zoroastrianism is the place of worship for Zoroastrians. Zoroastrians revere fire in any form. In the Zoroastrian religion, fire , together with clean water , are agents of ritual purity...

. A curious notice of this building is found in the writings of Arabian geographer Ibn Hawqal
Ibn Hawqal
Muḥammad Abū’l-Qāsim Ibn Ḥawqal was a 10th century Muslim writer, geographer, and chronicler. His famous work, written in 977, is called Ṣūrat al-’Arḍ ....

, an Arabian traveler of the 10th century, who describes Balkh as built of clay, with ramparts and six gates, and extending half a parasang
Parasang
The parasang is a historical Iranian unit of itinerant distance comparable to the European league.In antiquity, the term was used throughout much of the Middle East, and the Old Iranian language from which it derives can no longer be determined...

. He also mentions a castle and a mosque.

Arab Invasion


At the time of the Islamic conquest of Persia in the 7th century, however, Balkh had provided an outpost of resistance and a safe haven for the Persian emperor Yedzgird who fled there from the armies of Umar. Later, in the 9th century, during the reign of Ya'qub bin Laith as-Saffar
Ya'qub bin Laith as-Saffar
Ya'qub bin Laith as-Saffar or Ya'qub-i Laith Saffari was the founder of the Saffarid dynasty in Sistan, with its capital at Zaranj . He ruled territories that are now in Iran and Afghanistan, as well as portions of West Pakistan...

, Islam became firmly rooted in the local population.

Arabs occupied Persia in 642 (during the Caliphate of Uthman, 644-656 AD). Attracted by grandeur and wealth of Balkh, they attacked it in 645 AD. It was only in 653 when Arab commander, al-Ahnaf raided the town again and compelled it to pay tribute. The Arab hold over the town, however, remained tenuous. The area was brought under Arabs' control only after it was reconquered by Muawiya in 663 AD. Prof. Upasak describes the effect of this conquest in these words: "The Arabs plundered the town and killed the people indiscriminately. It is said that they raided the famous Buddhist shrine of Nava-Vihara
Nava Vihara
Navbahar was a Buddhist stupa or monastery near the ancient city of Balkh in northern Afghanistan. The temple may have been an old Zoroastrian fire-temple, or it may have been converted to a Zoroastrian temple .-Rise to prominence:Navbahar, the main monastery at Balkh became the center of higher...

, which the Arab historians call 'Nava Bahara' and describe it as one of the magnificent places which, comprised a range of 360 cells around the high stupas'. They plundered the gems and jewels that were studded on many images and stupas and took away the wealth accumulated in the Vihara but probably did no considerable harm to other monastic buildings or to the monks residing there".

The Arab authors have left interesting accounts of the destruction of Nava-Bahara The Arab attacks had little effect on the normal ecclesiastical life in the monasteries or Balkh Buddhist population outside. Buddhism continued to flourish with their monasteries as the centres of Buddhist learning and training. Scholars, monks and pilgrims from China, India and Korea continued to visit this place.

Several revolts were made against the Arab rule in Balkh.

The Arabs' control over Balkh could not last long as it soon came under the rule of a local prince, called Nazak (or Nizak) Tarkhan. He threw out Arabs from his territories in 670 or 671. He was a zealous Buddhist. He is said to have not only reprimanded the Chief-Priest (Barmak) of Nava-Vihara but beheaded him for embracing Islam. As per another account, when Balkh was conquered by the Arabs, the head priest of the Nava-Vihara had gone to the capital and became a Muslim. This displeased the people of the Balkh. He was deposed and his son was placed in his position.

Nazak Tarkhan is also said to have murdered not only the Chief Priest but also his sons. Only a young son was saved. He was taken by his mother to Kashmir where he was given training in medicine, autonomy and other sciences. Later they returned to Balkh. Prof. Maqbool Ahmed observes," One is tempted to think that the family originated from Kashmir, for in time of distress, they took refuge in the Valley. Whatever it be, their Kashmiri origin is undoubted and this also explains the deep interest of the Barmaks, in later years, in Kashmir, for we know they were responsible for inviting several scholars and physicians from Kashmir to the Court of Abbasids." Prof. Maqbool also refers to the descriptions of Kashmir contained in the report prepared by the envoy of Yahya bin Barmak. He surmises that the envoy could have possibly visited Kashmir during the reign of Samgramapida II (797-801). Reference has been made to sages and arts.

The Arabs could bring Balkh under their control in 715 AD only, in spite of strong resistance offered by the Balkh people. Qutayba bin Muslim al-Bahili, an Arab General was Governor of Khurasan and the east from 705-715. He established a firm Arab hold in lands beyond the Oxus. He fought and killed Tarkhan Nizak in Tokharistan (Bactria) in 715. In the wake of Arab conquest the resident monks of the Vihara were either killed or forced to abandon their faith. The Viharas were razed to the ground. Priceless treasures in the form of manuscripts in the libraries of monasteries were consigned to ashes. Presently, only the ancient wall of the town, which once encircled it, stands partially. Nava-Vihara stands in ruins, near Takhta-i-Rustam.

Muhammad al-Idrisi
Muhammad al-Idrisi
Abu Abd Allah Muhammad al-Idrisi al-Qurtubi al-Hasani al-Sabti or simply Al Idrisi was a Moroccan Muslim geographer, cartographer, Egyptologist and traveller who lived in Sicily, at the court of King Roger II. Muhammed al-Idrisi was born in Ceuta then belonging to the Almoravid Empire and died in...

, in the 12th century, speaks of its possessing a variety of educational establishments, and carrying on an active trade. There were several important commercial routes from the city, stretching as far east as India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

.

In 1220 Genghis Khan
Genghis Khan
Genghis Khan , born Temujin and occasionally known by his temple name Taizu , was the founder and Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous empire in history after his death....

 sacked Balkh, butchered its inhabitants and levelled all the buildings capable of defense — treatment to which it was again subjected in the 14th century by Timur
Timur
Timur , historically known as Tamerlane in English , was a 14th-century conqueror of West, South and Central Asia, and the founder of the Timurid dynasty in Central Asia, and great-great-grandfather of Babur, the founder of the Mughal Dynasty, which survived as the Mughal Empire in India until...

. Notwithstanding this, however, Marco Polo
Marco Polo
Marco Polo was a Venetian merchant traveler from the Venetian Republic whose travels are recorded in Il Milione, a book which did much to introduce Europeans to Central Asia and China. He learned about trading whilst his father and uncle, Niccolò and Maffeo, travelled through Asia and apparently...

 could still describe it as "a noble city and a great seat of learning."

In the 16th century the Uzbeks
Uzbeks
The Uzbeks are a Turkic ethnic group in Central Asia. They comprise the majority population of Uzbekistan, and large populations can also be found in Afghanistan, Tajikstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Pakistan, Mongolia and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China...

 entered Balkh. The Moghul Shah Jahan
Shah Jahan
Shah Jahan Shah Jahan (also spelled Shah Jehan, Shahjehan, , Persian: شاه جهان) (January 5, 1592 – January 22, 1666) Shah Jahan (also spelled Shah Jehan, Shahjehan, , Persian: شاه جهان) (January 5, 1592 – January 22, 1666) (Full title: His Imperial Majesty Al-Sultan al-'Azam wal Khaqan...

 fruitlessly fought them there for several years in the 1640s. Balkh was the government seat of Aurangzeb
Aurangzeb
Abul Muzaffar Muhy-ud-Din Muhammad Aurangzeb Alamgir , more commonly known as Aurangzeb or by his chosen imperial title Alamgir , was the sixth Mughal Emperor of India, whose reign lasted from 1658 until his death in 1707.Badshah Aurangzeb, having ruled most of the Indian subcontinent for nearly...

 in his youth. In 1736 it was conquered by Nadir Shah. Under the Durani monarchy it fell into the hands of the Afghans; it was conquered by Shah
Shah
Shāh is the title of the ruler of certain Southwest Asian and Central Asian countries, especially Persia , and derives from the Persian word shah, meaning "king".-History:...

 Murad of Kunduz
Kunduz
Kunduz also known as Kundûz, Qonduz, Qondûz, Konduz, Kondûz, Kondoz, or Qhunduz is a city in northern Afghanistan, the capital of Kunduz Province. It is linked by highways with Mazari Sharif to the west, Kabul to the south and Tajikistan's border to the north...

 in 1820, and for some time was subject to the Emirate of Bukhara
Emirate of Bukhara
The Emirate of Bukhara was a Central Asian state that existed from 1785 to 1920. It occupied the land between the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers, known formerly as Transoxiana. Its core territory was the land along the lower Zarafshan River, and its urban centres were the ancient cities of...

. In 1850, Dost Mohammad Khan
Dost Mohammad Khan
Dost Mohammad Khan was the Emir of Afghanistan between 1826 and 1863. He first ruled from 1826 to 1839 and then from 1843 to 1863. He was the 11th son of Sardar Pāyendah Khan who was killed by Zaman Shah Durrani in 1799...

, the Emir of Afghanistan, captured Balkh, and from that time it remained under Afghan rule. In 1866, Balkh lost its administrative status to the neighboring city of Mazar-e Sharif
Mazar-e Sharif
Mazār-i-Sharīf or Mazār-e Sharīf is the fourth largest city of Afghanistan, with a population of about 375,000 as of 2006. It is the capital of Balkh province and is linked by roads to Kunduz in the east, Kabul in the south-east, Herat to the west and Uzbekistan to the north...

.

Balkh in 1911


Because of a malaria
Malaria
Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals caused by eukaryotic protists of the genus Plasmodium. The disease results from the multiplication of Plasmodium parasites within red blood cells, causing symptoms that typically include fever and headache, in severe cases...

 outbreak during flood season at Balkh, the regional capital was shifted in the 1870s to Mazar-e Sharif
Mazar-e Sharif
Mazār-i-Sharīf or Mazār-e Sharīf is the fourth largest city of Afghanistan, with a population of about 375,000 as of 2006. It is the capital of Balkh province and is linked by roads to Kunduz in the east, Kabul in the south-east, Herat to the west and Uzbekistan to the north...

.

In 1911 Balkh comprised a settlement of about 500 houses of Afghan settlers, a colony of Jews and a small bazaar
Bazaar
A bazaar , Cypriot Greek: pantopoula) is a permanent merchandising area, marketplace, or street of shops where goods and services are exchanged or sold. The term is sometimes also used to refer to the "network of merchants, bankers and craftsmen" who work that area...

 set in the midst of a waste of ruins and acres of debris. Entering by the west (Akcha) gate, one passed under three arches, in which the compilers recognized the remnants of the former Friday Mosque (Jama Masjid). The outer walls, mostly in utter disrepair, were estimated about 6½-7 miles (10.5 to 11.3 km) in perimeter. In the south-east, they were set high on a mound or rampart, which indicated a Mongol origin to the compilers.

The fort and citadel to the north-east were built well above the town on a barren mound and are walled and moated. There was, however, little left of them but the remains of a few pillars. The Green Mosque Masjid Sabz, named for its green-tiled dome (see photograph top right corner) and said to be the tomb of the khwaja Abu-Nasr Parsa, had nothing but the arched entrance remaining of the former madrasa.

The town was garrisoned by a few thousand irregulars (kasidars), the regular troops of Afghan Turkestan
Afghan Turkestan
Afghan Turkestan is a region in northern Afghanistan, on the border with the former Soviet republics of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. It was the name of a former province in this area until its division by Abdur Rahman, and was centred on Mazari Sharif and included territory in the...

 being cantoned at Takhtapul, near Mazari Sharif. The gardens to the north-east contained a caravanserai
Caravanserai
A caravanserai, or khan, also known as caravansary, caravansera, or caravansara in English was a roadside inn where travelers could rest and recover from the day's journey...

 that formed one side of a courtyard, which was shaded by a group of chenar trees Platanus orientalis
Platanus
Platanus is a small genus of trees native to the Northern Hemisphere. They are the sole living members of the family Platanaceae....

.

Balkh today


A project of modernization was undertaken in 1934, in which eight streets were laid out, housing and bazaars built. Modern Balkh is a center of the cotton industry, of the skins known commonly the West as "Persian lamb" (Karakul
Karakul
See also: Karakul Karakul or Qaraqul is a breed of domestic sheep which originated in Central Asia...

), and for agricultural produce like almonds and melons.

Ancient ruins of Balkh



No professional archaeologist had ever been able to work at Balkh until 2003 when excavations started to identify early strata down to the period of the Achaemenids and the Greeks
Greeks
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

. Remains of Hellenistic capitals were found, identified as remnants of the Seleucid and Greco-Bactrian city of Bactra.

The earlier Buddhist constructions have proved more durable than the Islamic period buildings. The Top-Rustam is 50 yd (46 m) in diameter at the base and 30 yd (27 m) at the top, circular and about 50 ft (15 m) high. Four circular vaults are sunk in the interior and four passages have been pierced below from the outside, which probably lead to them. The base of the building is constructed of sun-dried bricks about 2 ft (600 mm) square and 4 or 5 in (100 to 130 mm) thick. The Takht-e Rustam is wedge-shaped in plan with uneven sides. It is apparently built of pisé mud (i.e. mud mixed with straw and puddled). It is possible that in these ruins we may recognize the Nava Vihara
Nava Vihara
Navbahar was a Buddhist stupa or monastery near the ancient city of Balkh in northern Afghanistan. The temple may have been an old Zoroastrian fire-temple, or it may have been converted to a Zoroastrian temple .-Rise to prominence:Navbahar, the main monastery at Balkh became the center of higher...

described by the Chinese traveller Xuanzang
Xuanzang
Xuanzang was a famous Chinese Buddhist monk, scholar, traveler, and translator who described the interaction between China and India in the early Tang period...

. There are the remains of many other topes (or stupa
Stupa
A stupa is a mound-like structure containing Buddhist relics, typically the remains of Buddha, used by Buddhists as a place of worship....

s) in the neighborhood.

The mounds of ruins on the road to Mazar-e Sharif probably represent the site of a city yet older than those on which stands the modern Balkh.

Others


Numerous places of interest are to be seen today aside from the ancient ruins and fortifications:
  • The madrasa of Sayed Subhan Quli Khan.
  • Bala-Hesar, the shrine and mosque of Khwaja Nasr Parsa.
  • The tomb of the poetess Rabia Balkhi.
  • The Nine Domes Mosque
    Haji Piyada
    Haji Piyada Mosque or Noh Gonbad Mosque , a Samanid-style building in Balkh province of northern Afghanistan. Built in the ninth century, it is thought to be the earliest Islamic building in the country....

     (Masjid-e Noh Gonbad). This exquisitely ornamented mosque, also referred to as Haji Piyada, is the earliest Islamic monument yet identified in Afghanistan.
  • Tepe Rustam and Takht-e Rustam

Cultural role


Balkh had a major role in the development of the Persian language
Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

 and literature
Persian literature
Persian literature spans two-and-a-half millennia, though much of the pre-Islamic material has been lost. Its sources have been within historical Persia including present-day Iran as well as regions of Central Asia where the Persian language has historically been the national language...

. The early works of Persian literature were written by poets and writers who were originally from Balkh.

Many famous Persian poets came from Balkh, e.g.:
  • Mawlānā Rūmī
    Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi
    Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Balkhī , also known as Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī and popularly known as Mevlānā in Turkey and Mawlānā in Iran and Afghanistan but known to the English-speaking world simply as Rumi was a 13th-century Persian Muslim poet, jurist, theologian, and Sufi mystic...

    , who was born and educated in Balkh, in the 13th century
  • Amir Khusraw Dehlavi
    Amir Khusro
    Ab'ul Hasan Yamīn ud-Dīn Khusrow , better known as Amīr Khusrow Dehlawī , was an Indian musician, scholar and poet. He was an iconic figure in the cultural history of the Indian subcontinent...

    , his father, Amir Saifuddin, was from Balkh
  • Manuchihri Damghani, according to Dawlat Shah Samarkandi he was born in Balkh
  • Nasir Khusraw
    Nasir Khusraw
    Abu Mo’in Hamid ad-Din Nasir ibn Khusraw al-Qubadiani or Nāsir Khusraw Qubādiyānī [also spelled as Nasir Khusrow and Naser Khosrow] Abu Mo’in Hamid ad-Din Nasir ibn Khusraw al-Qubadiani or Nāsir Khusraw Qubādiyānī [also spelled as Nasir Khusrow and Naser Khosrow] Abu Mo’in Hamid ad-Din Nasir ibn...

    , a poet and scholar
  • Rashidudin Watwat, a poet
  • Sanih Balkhi, a poet

  • Shaheed Balkhi, Abul Muwayed Balkhi, Abu Shukur Balkhi, Ma'roofi Balkhi, the early poets from the 9th and 10th centuries
  • Rabi'a Balkhi, the first poetess in the history of Persian poetry, lived in the 10th century
  • Daqiqi Balkhi
    Abu Mansur Daqiqi
    Abu Mansur Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Daqiqi Balkhi , sometimes referred to as Daqiqi , was an early Persian poet from Tus in Iran or in Balkh, located in modern-day Afghanistan....

    , 10th century
  • Avicenna
    Avicenna
    Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sīnā , commonly known as Ibn Sīnā or by his Latinized name Avicenna, was a Persian polymath, who wrote almost 450 treatises on a wide range of subjects, of which around 240 have survived...

     or Ibn Sina, the famous philosopher and scientist of the 10th century whose father was a native of Balkh
  • Unsuri Balkhi
    Unsuri
    Abul Qasim Hasan Unsuri Balkhi was a 10-11th century Persian poet.He is said to have been born in Balkh, today located in Afghanistan, and he eventually became a poet of the royal court, and was given the title Malik-us Shu'ara .His Divan is said to have contained 30,000 distichs, of which only...

    , a 10th/11th century poet
  • Anvari
    Anvari
    Anvari , full name Awhad ad-Din 'Ali ibn Mohammad Khavarani or Awhad ad-Din 'Ali ibn Mahmud was one of the greatest Persian poets....

    , 12th century, lived and died in Balkh

Etymology


The name of province or country appear in Old Persian inscriptions (B.h.i 16; Dar Pers e.16; Nr. a.23) as Bāxtri, i.e. Bakhtri. It is written in the Avesta Bāxδi. From this latter came the intermediate form Bāxli, Sanskrit Bahlīka, Balhika ‘Bactrian,’, Armenian Bahl, and by transposition, the modern Persian Balx, i.e. Balkh"

See also

  • The Bahlikas
    The Bahlikas
    The Bahlikas were the inhabitants of Balikha, mentioned in Atharvaveda, Mahabharata, Ramayana, Puranas, Vartikka of Katyayana, Brhatsamhita, Amarkosha etc. and in the ancient Inscriptions...

  • Balhae
    Balhae
    Balhae was a Manchurian kingdom established after the fall of Goguryeo. After Goguryeo's capital and southern territories fell to Unified Silla, Dae Jo-yeong, a Mohe general, whose father was Dae Jung-sang, established Jin , later called Balhae.Balhae occupied southern parts of Manchuria and...

  • The Barmakids
    Barmakids
    The Barmakids were a noble Persian family from Balkh that came to great political power under the Abbasid caliphs. Khalid, the son of Barmak became the Prime Minister or Wazir of Al Saffah, the first Caliph of the Abbasid dynasty. His son Yahya aided Harun Al-Rashid in capturing the throne and...

    , who were from that city.
  • History of Arabs in Afghanistan
    History of Arabs in Afghanistan
    The history of Arabs in Afghanistan spans over one millennium, from the 7th century Islamic conquest when Arab ghazis arrived with their Islamic mission until recently when others from the Arab world arrived to defend fellow Muslims from the Soviet followed by their liberation by NATO forces...

  • Mount Imeon
    Mount Imeon
    Mount Imeon is an ancient name for the Central Asian complex of mountain ranges comprising the present Hindu Kush, Pamir and Tian Shan, extending from the Zagros Mountains in the southwest to the Altay Mountains in the northeast, and linked to the Kunlun, Karakoram and Himalayas to the southeast...

  • Vishtaspa
    Vishtaspa
    Vishtaspa is the Avestan-language name of a figure of Zoroastrian scripture and tradition, portrayed as an early follower of Zoroaster, and his patron, and instrumental in the diffusion of the prophet's message...

  • Roxana
    Roxana
    Roxana sometimes Roxane, was a Bactrian noble and a wife of Alexander the Great. She was born earlier than the year 343 BC, though the precise date remains uncertain....

  • Silk Road transmission of Buddhism
    Silk Road transmission of Buddhism
    The Silk Road transmission of Buddhism to China is most commonly thought to have started in the late 2nd or the 1st century CE.The first documented translation efforts by Buddhist monks in China were in the 2nd century CE, possibly as a consequence of the expansion of the Kushan Empire into the...


External links