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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Lahore Museum

Dating back since 1865, the Lahore Museum has a very long history. Opened in its current position in 1894, it is arguably the best museum in Pakistan, with its architecture and exhibition methods.

Built during the British Indian Empire, this is an “Indo-Saracenic architecture” building with elements of the Victorian’s Gothic Revival architecture and mixed with the traditional Indian architecture, was created by Lahore architect Sir Ganga Ram.

When you hear the term “Indo-Saracenic architecture” it might bring to mind the famous Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Station (formerly Victoria Station) in Mumbai, India, but you can also see similar buildings in old towns across Pakistan.

In 1875-1893, during the period of the British Indian Empire, the father of the writer Rudyard Kipling, most famous for his “The Jungle Book”, served as the director of the Lahore Museum. Later Lahore was featured in Kipling’s work, “Kim” which describes life during that time.

 

This is the entrance to the Lahore Museum. It starts with an exhibition of wooden carved doors from the Swart Valley.
This museum has galleries for each significant period of history of Pakistan, and features a wide variety of exhibits such as the Indus Valley Civilization (which may have ended now), Gandhara art, Mughal dynasty, the British Indian Empire era and more.

 

This museum is home to a world-renowned treasure of Pakistan: “The Fasting Buddha.” It is a work from the 2nd to 3rd centuries, excavated from the ruins of a monastery in Sikri (Khaībar Pakhtūnkhwā).

“Siddhartha traveled around the country after he left home, seeking the way, by the end he had spent six years of ascetic fasting in the forest. He lost weight, but he couldn’t get enlightened through this practice. ”

From the depressed eyes to an emaciated body where the blood vessels and supporting bones are visible. The statue expresses the divine spiritual power that has gone through rigorous training, this image is said to be the essence of Gandhara art.

“The Fasting Buddha” is also exhibited at the Peshawar Museum in addition to being shown at the Lahore Museum.

 

A stone stupa excavated from the same site at the Sikri ruins is on display near the Fasting Buddha statue.

 

This is a statue of Hārītī (Hariti), protector of childeren. This was also excavated from Sikri.

Hārītī was known as a cannibal demon that kidnaps children. After learning from the Buddha, the feeling of loss by the parents who suffered from the death of their children, she became a “guardian deity of children” as she began to love both her own children and others. In addition, Hārītī was said to have about 500 or 1,000 children, so she is also called the “guardian of safe delivery.” She has pomegranate flowers adorning her hair, which is also a symbol of “fertility.”

Doesn’t this Hārītī have the look of a Greek goddess, like the goddess of fate, Tȳchē? It is a work that expresses the fusion of Eastern and Western civilization and art in Gandhara, where Greek gods appeared in Buddhist art.

 

And this is part of the Indian Gallery.

When you visit on a tour, you will spend almost all the time at the Gandhara Gallery (mainly with “The Fasting Buddha” statue when it’s a busy period), and you won’t have much time to see the other galleries, but this museum has many attractions such as miniature art from the Mughal Empire.

 

Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA
(Photos are from a trip in Oct 2019 – Feb 2020)
Location: Lahore Museum, Lahore, Punjab

Category : - Monument / Heritage of Punjab > - Gandhara > ◆ Punjab > - Lahore > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan > ◇ Museum of Pakistan
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Taxila Museum

The Taxila Museum is where the artifacts from the archeological sites around the area are displayed. It is a very old museum built in 1928 when Pakistan was under the British Indian Empire.

 

In the hall, you will find displayed the Gandhara Buddha stucco (carried from the ruins), the pedestal of the Stupa, and the Buddhist legend engraved on the schist that once decorated the base of Stupa.

 

This is a replica of the votive Stupa at Mohra Moradu. It is a small stupa with seven-layered umbrella cover, and the real artifact is left in the monastery of the ruins.

 

This stupa is very similar to the one found at the top of Sanchi Stupa in India. There is a flat square and topped with “umbrellas.” Surrounding it is the “summit railing” in which the wooden fence has been replaced with stone.

 

As part of the stupa display, you can see these decorative stones.

 

This is the base of the votive Stupa. You can see the Buddha statue, with Greek columns between each panel, as well as the Atlas God supporting the base of the pedestal.

 

There are many exhibits that symbolize the fusion of Eastern and Western cultures. This piece shows a festoon pattern. This displays 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 looks like a foreign person standing beside the Buddha statue. A stunning stucco statue that was decorating the Jaulian ruins and according to the description, it is “probably the consecrator and his wife.” It is thought that they are of the Saka race due to the shape of the hat.

 

And then this exotic figure, the Greek goddess of love, appearing in Gandhara, is Aphrodite.

 

Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA

(Photos are from a trip in Feb 2020)

Location : Taxila Museum, Taxila, Punjab

 

Category : - Monument / Heritage of Punjab > - Taxila > - Gandhara > ◆ Punjab > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan > ◇ Museum of Pakistan
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Priest King of Mohenjodaro (National Museum of Pakistan, Karachi)

The great excavation of the Mohenjodaro mainly took place between 1922 – 1931. Many of Pakistan’s national treasures that were excavated before Pakistan’s independence in 1947, are stored in museums in Britain and India, but there are some valuable pieces still located in Pakistan.

One of the masterpieces that is housed at the National Museum of Pakistan is the “Priest King” of Mohenjodaro.

Mohenjodaro is the largest city of central Pakistan’s Indus Valley Civilization, which flourished between 2500 BC to 1800 BC. This Indus Valley Civilization was the oldest found in South Asia that eventually developed into the northwestern Indian subcontinent around the Indus River Basin. Archeologists from around the world are slowly revealing the significance of the life of the Indus Valley, but many mysteries remain unrevealed.

Despite the three other languages of ancient civilizations (Egyptian hieroglyphs, Mesopotamian and Chinese texts) already having been deciphered, the characters of the Indus language have not been deciphered yet. It shrouds the origins of their religion and history in mystery, but perhaps the biggest riddle is what caused their decline.

This statue of the Priest, housed in the National Museum of Pakistan in Karachi, is said to be a key in revealing the past relationship of the Indus Valley Civilization’s connection with Mesopotamia, based on the shape of the statue.

“Priest King” – Mohenjodaro :   Made from white soapstone, the modest size measures 17.5 cm high and 11 cm wide. During the excavation in 1927, it was unearthed from what was probably a noble’s house, a large building from the DK area.

 

The statue is adorned with a headband with a three-leaf pattern and was given the auspicious name of “Priest King.”

In fact, it is unclear if that is on display at Karachi’s National Museum is real or a replica. According to one theory, the real one is stored in a special vault for preservation, but when you ask the museum guard, they will tell you it is the original ‘real’ thing. So even this is wrapped in the mystery of the Indus Valley Civilization.

 

Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA
Visit: Feb 2020, Karachi, Sindh

※Photography inside the Museum is generally restricted. Large bags are also not allowed to be brought inside.

※This article was originally published as part of an article in “Salaam Pakistan” uploaded in September 2015.

 

Category : - Karachi > ◆ Sindh > ◇ Museum of Pakistan
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