Saturday, March 22, 2008

Balkh, a once splendid city

"Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields,
See how these names are fêted by the waving grass
And by the streamers of white cloud
And whispers of wind in the listening sky.
The names of those who in their lives fought for life,
Who wore at their hearts the fire's centre.
Born of the sun, they travelled a short while toward the sun
And left the vivid air signed with their honour."
...........Stephen Spender

The town of Balkh, an ancient city of Afghanistan has a very glorious past. One of the oldest towns in the world, the city is also known as the birthplace of Prophet Zoroaster. The city later on gained wealth and fame as Bactra. Balkh is also known as the home of Rabia Balkhi, the first woman poet of Islamic period. Mauwlana Jalal-ud-din Balkhi (Rumi), the most distinguished Sufi poet of Afghanistan was also born in Balkh. City was also an important trade route in the ancient times. Location of Balkh is in northern Afghanistan , close to Mazar-i-Sharif.

The Green mosque, Masjid Sabz, in Balkh in northern Afghanistan

Arabs arrived in the city during 8th century and marked it as an important trade center. Alexander the Great founded a Greek colony here and later the city was known as Bactria. During the whole period of Alexander the Great, the region was acclaimed for its great wealth and glory. In the early centuries the city was also renowned for its Buddhist monasteries and stupas. Later it attained great importance as the center of Islam. During the rule of the amanid Dynasty about 40 Friday mosques stood within the city. Balkh's glorious history ceased in 1220 A.D. when Genghis Khan invaded the city and and left it with ruins.

In 1850, Balkh became part of the unified kingdom of Afghanistan. The new city is now agricultural and commercial center of the city. Most of the part of the city is now in ruins.


Woodpainter said...

What a wonderful piece on Balkh. Thank you for sharing.

One minor point. Bactria was the name of a country--a small empire. Bactra was the capital of Bactria.

Bob McKerrow said...

Thankyou so much woodpainter. I will correct it and deeply appreciate your eye for detail.

Warm regards