23 August 2008

Letter 3.11

(The ruins of ancient Taxila in Pakistan planted in Bob's mind -- and my own -- the seed of Worthy Bones' Mesopotamian Buddhist kingdom of King Agba that was sacked by the White Hun-like Anu, the evacuees of which established their faith on the island of Samadhi in the mouth of the Red Sea where the novel unfolds – Hūm)

Taxila, '66

Taxila was a commercial center of antiquity dating as far back as 5th century B.C., which was finally sacked and ruined by the White Huns in 5th century A.D. There are several interesting sites to the ruins, including remains of Buddhist temples and monasteries. The architecture has a Greco-Indian style to it: robust, yet austere. One site south of the Suhap mound was called the Stupa of Kural. High on a hill it was built by King Asoka of India for his son, Kural. Kural's stepmother had forged a royal dispatch ordering that his eyes be put out. Though the ministers didn't want to carry out the order Kural, stationed in Taxila as his father's viceroy, insisted it be complied with. After being blinded he begged his way back home to India where his father recognized him, had the queen killed, and a Buddhist saint restored Kural's eyesight. Near here I found an old small tea cup, perhaps 4000 years old. North of the Sirkys city-site I also found a Buddha head showing heavy Greek influence, which was of importance here around 2nd century B.C., though Buddhism itself didn't become important here till about 200 years later. It's probably one of the earliest heads, because Scythian and Parthian influences soon dominated -- but I've seen similar heads in the museum so I think my hunch is right. Anyway, these ruins are something -- not that they themselves are so extraordinary -- more like they remind me of something extraordinary...

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