The Buddhist monastery and associated stupas of the Jaulian archaeological complex shed light on the early evolution and spread of Buddhism along the Silk Road. The site was constructed between the 2nd and 4th centuries CE and is located in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Northern Pakistan, part of the ancient Kingdom of Gandhara. Jaulian is one of many Buddhist sites constructed throughout the region during the Kushan period which was marked by general prosperity, a cosmopolitan mix of cultures, and state support of architecture.
Jaulian forms part of the archaeological complex of Taxila, inscribed by UNESCO in 1980, and provides an excellent example of what a religious complex in the Gandhara region looked like during the Kushan period. The complex consists of the main stupa and twenty-seven subsidiary stupas located around the main stupa and in two adjacent courts. A stupa, or Buddhist shrine, is a mound-like religious structure which may contain relics of the Buddha or a Buddhist saint, commemorate a holy event, or denote a sacred location. An additional fifty-nine chapels are located around the courts and feature scenes from the Buddha’s life. To the east of the three stupa courts, the monastery contained individual monk quarters surrounding a large courtyard. Several structures related to monastic life, including an assembly hall, kitchen, store room and refectory, complete the complex.
As a pilgrimage site located along an important corridor of the Silk Road, Jaulian likely remained fairly busy throughout its history. Although the historical record is sparse, the demise of the complex has been linked to an invasion by the White Huns, a nomadic people from Central Asia in 530 CE. Today the Jaulian archaeological complex sheds light on the early evolution and spread of Buddhism and provides an excellent example of what a religious complex in the Gandhara region looked like during the Kushan period.