c. 1500 BC–535 AD
Gandhāra and other Mahajanapadas in the Post Vedic period.
Gandhāra and other Mahajanapadas in the Post Vedic period.
Approximate boundaries of the Gandhara Mahajanapada, in present-day northwest Pakistan and northeast Afghanistan.
Approximate boundaries of the Gandhara Mahajanapada, in present-day northwest Pakistan and northeast Afghanistan.
CapitalPuṣkalavati (modern Charsadda) and Taxila, and later Peshawar (Puruṣapura)
• c. 750 BCE
• c. 518 BCE
Historical eraAncient Era
• Established
c. 1500 BC
• Disestablished
535 AD
Succeeded by
Achaemenid Empire
Today part of Afghanistan

Gandhāra was an ancient Indo-Aryan kingdom situated along the Kabul and Swat rivers of Afghanistan and Pakistan.[1] It was one of sixteen Mahajanapada of ancient India.[2][3] During the Achaemenid period and Hellenistic period, its capital city was Charsadda,[note 1] but later the capital city was moved to Peshawar[note 2] by the Kushan emperor Kanishka the Great in about AD 127.

Gandhara existed since the time of the Rigveda (c. 1500–1200 BC),[4][5] as well as the Zoroastrian Avesta, which mentions it as Vaēkərəta, the sixth most beautiful place on earth, created by Ahura Mazda. Gandhara was conquered by the Achaemenid Empire in the 6th century BC. Conquered by Alexander the Great in 327 BC, it subsequently became part of the Maurya Empire and then the Indo-Greek Kingdom. The region was a major center for Greco-Buddhism under the Indo-Greeks and Gandharan Buddhism under later dynasties. It was also a central location for the spread of Buddhism to Central Asia and East Asia.[6] It was also a center of Bactrian Zoroastrianism and Hinduism.[7] Famed for its local tradition of Gandhara (Greco-Buddhist) Art, Gandhara attained its height from the 1st century to the 5th century under the Kushan Empire. Gandhara "flourished at the crossroads of Asia," connecting trade routes and absorbing cultural influences from diverse civilizations; Buddhism thrived until 8th or 9th centuries, when Islam first began to gain sway in the region.[8] Pockets of Buddhism persisted in Pakistan's Swat valley until the 11th century.[9]

The Persian term Shahi is used by historian Al-Biruni[10] to refer to the ruling dynasty[11] that took over from the Kabul Shahi[12] and ruled the region during the period prior to Muslim conquests of the 10th and 11th centuries. After it was conquered by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1001 AD, the name Gandhara disappeared. During the Muslim period, the area was administered from Lahore or from Kabul. During Mughal times, it was an independent district which included the Kabul province.


Cremation urn, Gandhara grave culture, Swat Valley, circa 1200 BCE.

Gandhara was known in Sanskrit as गन्धार gandhāra, in Avestan as Vaēkərəta, in Old Persian as Para-upari-sena, in Chinese as T: 犍陀羅/S: 犍陀罗, and in Greek as Παροπαμισάδαι Paropamisadae.

The Gandhari people are a tribe mentioned in the Rigveda, the Atharvaveda, and later Vedic texts.[13] They are recorded in the Avestan-language of Zoroastrianism under the name Vaēkərəta. The name Gāndhāra occurs later in the classical Sanskrit of the epics. One proposed origin of the name is from the Sanskrit word गन्ध gandha, meaning "perfume" and "referring to the spices and aromatic herbs which they [the inhabitants] traded and with which they anointed themselves.".[14][15]

A Persian form of the name, Gandara, appearing in the Behistun inscription of Emperor Darius I,[16] is also mentioned by Herodotus[17] in the context of the story of the Greek explorer Scylax of Caryanda, who sailed down the Indus River starting at the city of Caspatyrus in Gandara (Κασπάτυρος, πόλις Γανδαρική). Herodotus records that those Iranic tribes, which were adjacent to the city of Caspatyrus and the district of Pactyïce, had customs similar to the Bactrians, and are the most warlike amongst them. These are also the people who obtain gold from the ant-hills of the adjoining desert. On the identity of Caspatyrus, there have been two opinions, one equating it with Kabul, the other with the name of Kashmir (Kasyapa pur, condensed to Kaspapur as found in Hecataeus).[18]

Kandahar is sometimes etymologically associated with Gandhara. However, Kandahar was not part of the main territory of Gandhara.[19]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Gandhara
العربية: غاندارا
Bân-lâm-gú: Gandhara Kok
български: Гандхара
català: Gandhara
čeština: Gandhára
dansk: Gandhara
Deutsch: Gandhara
Ελληνικά: Γανδάρα
español: Gandhara
Esperanto: Gandaro
euskara: Gandhara
فارسی: گنداره
français: Gandhara
ગુજરાતી: ગાંધાર
한국어: 간다라
hrvatski: Gandara
Bahasa Indonesia: Gandhara
עברית: גנדהארה
ಕನ್ನಡ: ಗಾಂಧಾರ
ქართული: განდჰარა
lietuvių: Gandhara
magyar: Gandhára
മലയാളം: ഗാന്ധാരം
मराठी: गांधार
Nederlands: Gandhara
नेपाली: गान्धार
日本語: ガンダーラ
norsk: Gandhara
norsk nynorsk: Gandhara
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Gandhara
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਗੰਧਾਰ
پنجابی: گندھارہ
پښتو: گندهارا
polski: Gandhara
português: Gandara
русский: Гандхара
संस्कृतम्: गान्धरः (जनपदः)
Scots: Gandhara
සිංහල: ගාන්ධාර
slovenščina: Gandara
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Gandara
suomi: Gandhara
svenska: Gandhara
українська: Гандхара
اردو: گندھارا
Tiếng Việt: Càn-đà-la
文言: 健陀羅
中文: 健馱邏國