The Helmand Sistan Project
Key Sites

Khane Gauhar

Latitude: 31.42384519   Longitude: 64.38009767
Enlarged satellite view

Map Number: 10  Go to the MAP

Fragmentary remains of a Buddhist shrine overlook the Helmand Valley near the modern town of Darwishan. The shrine includes a mudbrick stupa 11 m in diameter and still standing over 2 m high, filled with sand and gravel, and surrounded by ambulatory walkways. At least six occupational caves were carved out of the cliff below. This is arguably the westernmost religious structure of the early expansion of Buddhism ever discovered. Almost no artifacts were found in or around the site, making dating it difficult, though evidence of Buddhist expansion in the nearby Kandahar area suggests it dates to the last couple of centuries BCE. Others posit a much later date, in the mid-late first millennium CE, corresponding to the numerous stupas built at that time in eastern Afghanistan and elsewhere. 

The mudbrick Buddhist stupa atop the hill, Khane Gauhar, may be the westernmost Buddhist structure from the early expansion of the religion and overlooks the confluence of the Helmand and Arghandab rivers.
A series of caves carved out of the cliff beneath the Khane Gauhar stupa were empty of human remains but were likely the dwellings of Buddhist monks who attended the shrine. The HSP team stand on the stupa atop the hill for scale.