The Khyber Pass 2019

One of the places where it is very difficult to get an entry permit is the Khyber Pass. It is right on the border with Afghanistan, located in the former tribal area on the road leading to Torkham. In 2018, it was transferred to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, but it is still one of the more difficult places to visit.

The historic Khyber Pass has been an important trade route connecting the eastern and western cultures. The Sulaiman mountains on the border are where Alexander the Great’s army, and the Chinese Buddhist Scholar, Xuanzang (In Japanese known as Genjō) crossed here. During the Mughal Dynasty, it was developed as the Grand Trunk Road running from India to Kabul in Afghanistan. It also became a significant battlefield from the First British War to the independence of Pakistan in modern times. After Pakistan’s independence it became a tribal area.

For travelers, it is an exciting part of history and romance as a pass that connects the “Central Asian world” and the “Indian world”.

 

The first monument from Peshawar to Khyber Pass is this Khyber Gate ‘Bab-e- Khyber’. Peshawar was already quite a busy town, but the tram in the middle of the main road made the road even narrower and the traffic was horrible.

 

The giant Shagai Fort was built by the British Army in 1920 and is now used by the Pakistani Army.

 

Students who we passed along the road. These students commuting to school was really refreshing in the old tribal area.

 

This was the narrowest place of the Khyber Pass road, mountains on both sides, and for that it became a strategically important position. It a fierce battlefield during many wars. This is the Ali Masjid Mosque and on the hill is the Pakistani military fortress Ali Masjid Fort.

 

One of the most shocking things we learned was that the fortress was built beside buddhist stupa of Kushan Empire, which amazingly dates back to the 2nd and 5th centuries.
This is Sphola Stupa sits on a three-story platform. It housed some Gandhara sculptures, Buddha statues that were excavated in the early 20th century.

 

The other shocking thing is the miserable state of this “Khyber Railway” track. It is such a pity because I expected that the “Khyber Railway” steam locomotive would be revived to invigorate the domestic tourism.

The railroad was originally opened in 1926, while under British rule for the purpose of transporting military supplies. The trip from Peshawar to Landi Kotal, which is 34 kilometers long and rises in elevation by 600 meters, crosses 34 tunnels and 92 iron bridges, and the steam locomotive trip here was one of the highlights of tourism.

 

It is said that the military from various times and various countries that passed through this area have carved their coat of arms on the rock surface as a memorial.

 

Then we passed through the Landi Kotal market. This was once a famous place for the smuggling trade.

 

This is the Michni Checkpost where “The Guardians of Khyber Pass” overlook the Pakistani border with Afghanistan. The observatory serves as a lookout post over at Afghanistan.

 

A view of Afghanistan from the Michni Checkpost. In the valley, there are immigration and customs offices of both countries, and passing through here, will take you to Torkham.

Click here for more information on Khyber Pass (It was written based on photos from around 2008. Please compare it with the old photo and see how it has changed.)

 

Photo & text : Mariko SAWADA
※These photos were taken in October 2019 during the visit.

Category : - Peshawar / Khyber Pass > ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
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Bazaar of Landi Kotal

Landi Kotal is a small town, found on the way from Peshawar to the Afghanistan border town of Torkham.  Located in the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), it was once known as the “Smuggling Market,” known for trading goods like appliances and car parts into smuggled items like weapons and narcotics. When I first visited around 1992, I was surprised to see chocolate-shaped narcotics lined up in stores.
Now the status of the “Smuggling Bazaar” has disappeared and it is a normal market for rural Pashtun tribes.

 

The shop owners call out ‘Hello! Hello!’ to try to earn some business.

 

When a foreigner pass them by, everyone pays attention! It really reminded me of old Pakistan.

 

The Pashtun officer who accompanies us, took us to a local butcher shop and request some popular Landi Kotal Domba Sheep. These unique sheep have a big butt which is a delicacy for the locals.

 

We purchased a cut of meat and it was grilled over charcoal.

 

This is a typical Domba sheep lunch. We ate it along with a the local green tea called Kahwa Tea!
By the day, I did not see any women, the whole day.

 

Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA

Visit : Oct 2019, Landi Kotal, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

Category : - Peshawar / Khyber Pass > ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
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The Fusion of Eastern and Western Civilizations in Gandhara (Peshawar Museum Exhibitions)

Gandhara’s art is strongly influenced by many civilizations and art influences such as Greece, West Asia, Persia (Iran), India, and more. The first Greek civilization in the 4th century BC, was brought to the Gandhara region with Alexander the Great in the Great Expedition to the East. This is when the fusion of the Greek and Orient civilizations, was born and is now called the Hellenistic civilization.

Gandhara art reached its peak in a later period, in the 1st to 5th century AD with the Kushan dynasty. Buddhism, which was born in India, so alongside the Buddhist statues met with the Western gods and elements of both were incorporated into Gandhara Buddhist art.

This sculpture is of the Greek god Atlas, that appeared in Gandhara.

 

Atlas, the mythological Greek god that supports the sky at the western end of the world. In Gandhara, Atlas sits at the pedestal of the Buddha’s stupa and supports it. The Greek god that supports the Buddhist’s worldview…what a wonderful thought!

 

This is the Centaur, a half-horse monster that appears in Greek mythology.

The upper part of the body is human, the lower part of the body is a horse’s forelegs, and the rear part is a swirl-shaped tail fin like that of Trītōn (the son of Poseidon, the god of half-man and half-fish)

Centaur and Trītōn motifs often appear in right-angled triangular panels that are thought to have decorated the corners of buildings.

 

This is Vajrapāṇi (one of the Bodhisatvas in Mahayana Buddhism), who holds in his hand the Vajra (a weapon that symbolizes both the property of a diamond and a thunderbolt).

Its origin is Hercules, a hero of Greek mythology. Hercules, who assisted Kings with his awesome power, is depicted in the Gandhara as a guardian deity who is always beside the Buddha.

Hercules of Gandhara carries with him a Vajra, but the Hercules of Greece often has a club in his hands.

 

This piece shows a festoon pattern. A young man holding a wavy festoon (garland of flowers), which originated in Greece and Rome, and was very popular in Gandhara.
The cupid seems to carry the raised part of the festoon, and the lower part is decorated with grapes and a ribbon.

 

This is Hārītī and Pāñcika. Hārītī is both a goddess and a demon in the Buddhist tradition.

Hārītī was at first a cannibal demon that kidnapped and ate children. After the Buddha taught her a lesson about how parents suffer from the loss of their children, she became a “protector of children” and started to love both her own children and all others. In addition, since Hārītī had about 500 or 1,000 of her own kids, she is also a “guardian of safe childbirth.” She adorns pomegranate flowers on her hair, which is also a symbol of “fertility.”

This Hārītī looks like a Greek goddess, because it is based on the goddess of fate, Tȳchē in Greece.

 

The style of pillars that appear in Gandhara is generally the Greek Corinthian style decorated with acanthus leaves. However, the one pictured is another style that you might see in Gandhara.

At the top of the column, two humped cows are placed back to back, with (what is thought to be) a lion’s head in the middle of the design. This is the principle style of the capital (topmost part of the column) of ancient Persia (Iran) and can be seen in the ruins of Persepolis.

 

And this animal is a lion. Maybe you might think that a lion is an African animal, but at that time, there were “Asian lions” in Pakistan.

The relief of “the Lion Hunt” drawn on the ruins of Mesopotamia and the lion drawn on the ruins of Persepolis in Iran are famous, but this example is a lion in Gandhara art.

Although the wild Asian lions are now extinct in Iraq, Iran and Pakistan, they still live in the forests of Sasan Gir National Park, in Gujarat, India. There are about 500 of them!

 

Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA
(The photos are from a trip in Oct 2019 – Feb 2020)
Location: Peshawar Museum, Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Category : - Peshawar / Khyber Pass > - Gandhara > ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan > ◇ Museum of Pakistan
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Peshawar Museum

The Peshawar Museum has the best collection of Gandhara historical artifacts. Most of the exhibits are about Gandhara art and there are so many Buddhist biographical panels and decorations, there isn’t enough time to look through them all.

Like all other museums, this museum dates back to the days of the British Indian Empire and was built back in 1907 with the “Victoria Hall” to commemorate Queen Victoria.

 

This is the main hall of the Peshawar Museum. The Gandhara arts are exhibited in the gallery from the hall to the left of the entrance.

This exhibit featured unearthed sculptures from archaeological sites centered around Swat, like items found on the walls of the monasteries and from the base of stupas.

They express the stories of the Buddha (also called Jataka tales) and various scenes from the Buddha’s life. There are many exhibits and even if it is in the same scene, they have many different styles, so take the time to explore the museum, at your own pace.

 

This is “The Birth” panel. Maya (the Buddha’s mother) is in the center, with her right hand extended up and grabbing the tree, the prince is protruding from her upper body on the right side. The God Indra receives him and behind him is the Brahman God blessing him.

The panel of “The Life of the Buddha” is drawn with various motifs from “birth” to “nirvana.”

 

Among the Jataka tales, Gandhara had a very popular story with the Dīpankara Buddha (Buddha of the past).

“One day, when the godly young man, Sumedha (also known as Megha, is actually Shakyamuni in a previous life) heard that the Buddha was coming to town, he was eager to offer flowers to the Buddha, but when he tried to buy flowers, the King had already bought all of them, so he couldn’t purchase any. He met a girl passing by carrying water and flowers, and he convinced her to sell her 5 lotus flowers. When the Buddha appeared, Sumedha threw the flowers just like everyone else, but his 5 flowers did not fall to the ground, but instead floated in the air and decorated the Buddha’s head as a halo (numbus). Seeing some mud on the ground in front of the Buddha, Sumedha then prostrated his body and threw out his long hair to cover it, so that the feet of the Buddha would not get dirty in the mud. The Buddha then blessed Sumedha saying ‘You will be enlightened in the future and become a Buddha.’

In the panel on the photo, there is the young man, Sumedha, who throws his hair, left of center of the panel.

 

One of the most important exhibits of this museum is “The Fasting Buddha” statue. Compared to the one in Lahore’s museum, there are many missing parts, but the blood vessels and supporting bones are very realistic.

 

A statue of Siddhartha meditating under the tree (his first meditation).

While the prince watched a field under a tree, there were insects which emerged from the soil after it was dug up with a hoe; when a small bird eats the bug; then a large eagle in turn eats the bird. It was an event that made him feel the transience of life and later led to his enlightenment.

The pedestal is engraved with the signs of the first spring cultivation. It is a little difficult to see in the photo, but on the right side of the pedestal there are two cows plowing the field.

 

And another famous object in the Peshawar Museum, this is the casket for King Kanishka from Shah-ji-ki Dheri excavations.

The winter city of Gandhara during the Kushan period was Purushapura, now part of Peshawar. The only archaeological site found here is Shah-ji-ki Dheri, known as the Kanishka stupa. The casket was found from this site, and it was written in the Kharosthi script that it was “…this perfume box is the meritorious gift of Maharaja Kanishka in the city of Kanishkapura.” It was a discovery that proved that the legendary stupa actually existed.

So, is this the real thing? Based on the photos from the internet, it’s probably a replica.

 

The Peshawar Museum has two floors. The 2nd story is an exhibition of the various ethnic groups of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In particular I found the Kalash wooden statues “Gandao” (made to commemorate the memory of dead men, their contributions, and achievements) is a precious collection because well preserved ones can no longer be found in the Kalash Valley.

 

Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA
(Photos are from a trip in Oct2019 – Feb 2020)
Location: Peshawar Museum, Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa

Category : - Peshawar / Khyber Pass > - Gandhara > ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan > ◇ Museum of Pakistan
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