Shahbazgarhi Rock Edicts

Photo by Roman Bruehwiler.

Shahbazgarhi Rock Edicts is part of the Tentative list of Pakistan in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.

The Shahbazgarhi Rock Edicts are ancient rock inscriptions in Kharosthi script that are cut into the surface of two large boulders in the village of Shahbazgarhi in the Peshawar valley. The rock edicts date back to the 3rd century BCE and are attributed to the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka. Together with other surviving rock edicts from the same period, they represent the earliest evidence of writing in South Asia.

Map of Shahbazgarhi Rock Edicts

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The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.

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UK - 02-Feb-14 -

Shahbazgarhi Rock Edicts (T) by Solivagant

We visited the Shahbazgarhi Rock Edicts just outside the city of Mardan near Peshawar, during our attempt to pick up most of Pakistans’s T List sites. The immediate impression given by the couple of inscribed rocks (photo1) near a small village, under rather utilitarian “sheds” and without entry fee (and with no other visitors until a horde of village kids arrived to look at us “strange creatures”!) is of a rather low key site with little chance of demonstrating OUV. However, on further investigation and understanding, there is far more to the site than meets the eye and there is also a multi-national dimension to be covered. It really is amazing to think that these carvings (photo 2) have survived on this rock for around 2250 years and that the instructions they convey still have significantly validity.

I can do no better than to quote verbatim from the T List description. The “rock edicts are cut into the surface of two large boulders on the side of a small rocky outcrop in the Vale of Peshawar. They record fourteen edicts of the Mauryan emperor, Asoka (r. c. 272-235 BC) and represent the earliest irrefutable evidence of writing in South Asia. Dating to middle of the third century BC, they are written from right to left in the Kharosthi script”

More background copied from Wiki “These inscriptions are dispersed throughout the areas of modern-day Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan and represent the first tangible evidence of Buddhism. The edicts describe in detail Ashoka’s view about dhamma, an earnest attempt to solve some of problems that a complex society faced

This Wiki link provides more information, together with a map showing where the Rock Cut Edicts are located across the Indian subcontinent -

You will see “insignificant” Shahbazgarhi shown on it! Note also that there are “Major Rock Edicts”, “Minor Rock Edicts” and “Pillar Edicts” (some of these such as Sanchi are of course associated with existing WHS) – Shahbazgarhi is an example of the former with a set of 14 Edicts.

Note also that Pakistan possess another example of the “Major Rock Edicts” at Mansehra which is around 160kms by road from Shahbazgarhi near Abbottabad towards Gilgit and is also (separately) on Pakistan’s T List. We did not visit it but, presumably, Pakistan would submit a serial nomination if it were ever to pursue the matter. However there would seem to be a good argument for a trans-national nomination given that a significant aspect of the Edicts’ historic importance relates not just to what they say, when and by whom but also to the area across which they say it. One could however foresee tremendous difficulties in Pakistan and India working together.

The edicts set out a series of instructions for “righteous behaviour” based on Buddhist precepts and are thought genuinely to be Ashoka’s own words. Vegetarianism figures highly but there are also a range of other instructions rather along the lines of The 10 Commandments – but a lot less succinctly!! If you want to read them they are translated here

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Full Name
Shahbazgarhi Rock Edicts
Archaeological site - South (East) Asian Structure - Civic and Public Works
2004 Added to Tentative List

Unesco Website: Shahbazgarhi Rock Edicts

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Shahbazgarhi Rock Edicts (T)
WHS 1997-2024