Afghanistan / Places We Go

Visiting Takht-i-Rustam

The extremely interesting Buddhist stupa at Samangan is known locally as Takht-i-Rustam (Rustam’s Throne). Rustam, the hero of Firdausi’s great epic the Shahnama (Book of Kings), written in Ghazni c. 1010 A.D., married the beauteous daughter of the King of Samangan, Tahmina. He celebrated the event, so says local legend, by drinking wine from the basin atop the stupa. Throughout Afghanistan many unnatural mounds of unusual shape are associated with the life of this popular hero and bear his name.

A Japanese archaeological mission under the direction of Professor Seiichi Mizuno, excavated here in 1959 and 1960. From them we learned that this complex was a thriving Buddhist community during the 4th and 5th centuries A.D.

The stupa cave crowns the hill in front of the monastery. Rockcut stupas such as this were popular in India, the home of Buddhism, as early as the 1st century B.C., but this one is absolutely unique in size and construction. The dome-shaped structure of highly polished limestone, 8 meters high and 28 meters across, is encircled by a two-meter wide passageway at its foot which was used by pilgrims for circumambulation.

The relic chamber in most conventional stupas was generally placed about three-quarters of the way up the stupa, and sealed. Since this stupa was carved from solid rock, the relic chamber was located in the square harmika on the summit. The harmika originally supported the staff of the chatri or umbrella with which all stupas were embellished.

The relic chamber…


An innovative drainage system carved into solid rock…

Takht-e Rostam

Bridge to the relic chamber…


A puppy belonging to one of the guards at the site. The guards live in the ruins…


The cave entrance to Cave 1 (on the west or left as you face the hill) consists of an anteroom and a large round room with two niches originally sheltering statues of the Buddha. The ceiling is most remarkable, being carved to resemble a lotus blossom in full bloom….


Cave 2 has two entrances leading into a long double corridor with a vaulted ceiling. Off the main rectangular chamber there are numerous individual cells used by Buddhist monks as retreats.

Fore tunnels…


Aft tunnels…


The modesty of this cave entrance sets one’s expectations for what is to come rather low. This makes the experience of actually entering the large chambers that much more remarkable…


Our escort in the main chamber…


Tina provides a little perspective on the size of the chamber… The burn marks on the ceilings are from a millennium of nomads building campfires inside the ruins while passing through.


Our driver next to a bath… Cave 4, a series of four small rooms, served as a bathhouse for the community


The stupa-monastery complex at Samangan was most probably destroyed by the Hepthalites c. 460 A.D.


3 thoughts on “Visiting Takht-i-Rustam

  1. Mr. Ames, I thoroughly appreciate the background on this site, as I find it (and plenty of others you visited) to be most interesting. Very well documented.

    I look forward to your posting of the highlights that include “Seed Tick Lane” and the like…

    Good work, Mr. Ames.


  2. Thank you, Sir, for your comments.

    Indeed, I look forward to posting the further chronicles of “Southern Exposure” and shall do so soon.

  3. salam ba hama afghan ha makhsosan ba mardom mihmandost wa shija arozo mandam ki hamisha khosh hal wa sarfiraz wa kamiyab bashid banda najibullah az welayat Samangan-e- Afghanistan hastam wa filan da Sweden zindagi miknam az tamashai in tasaver ziba wa qashand wa qian ba yad watan raftan hamisha khosh hal bashid …..

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