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 > - Gandhara > ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan > ◇ Museum of Pakistan
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(Drone Footage) Dharmarajika Stupa, Taxila

This is drone footage of the Dharmarajika Stupa.
Built in the 3rd century BC, it is one of the two stupas created in the Gandhara region by Mauryan King Ashoka. From the sky, you can see the circular platform of the huge stupa and the shrine surrounding it.

For information of the ruins of Dharmarajika, see here

 

Video & text: Mariko SAWADA
(Video is from a trip in Feb 2020)

Location : Dharnarajika, Taxila, Punjab

Category : = Video Clip Punjab > ◆ Video Breathtaking Views of Pakistan > - Monument / Heritage of Punjab > - Taxila > - Gandhara > ◆ Punjab > ◇ Heritage 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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Dharmarajika – Taxila

In the 3rd Century BC, there were 2 stupas built by the Mauryan Empire King Ashoka in the Ghandara region. One is the stupa at Butkara ruins in Swat, and the other is the Dharmarajika stupa in Taxila.

Today, the oldest stupa which overall retains its original shape is the one in Sanchi, India, but there are similar huge stupas in the Ghandara region, built in the same circular form. However, unlike Sanchi’s stupas, they do not have column shields or trana. Instead there are shrines and smaller stupas around the main stupa.

 

The main stupa stands at height of 15m and a diameter of 30m.
Around 500 BC, the Buddha entered Nirvana (passed away) around Kushinagar. Seven days later, he was cremated and the relics (sarira) were placed in a relic urn in eight tombs at the bottom of the center of the tomb. This was the first stupa, and the sarira and its urn were worshipped.
In 3rd century BC, the Mauryan King Ashoka collected the relics (sarira) and distributed them to place in newly built stupas. The Dharmarajika stupa enshrines the relics.

 

The Main Stupa has a path of circumambulation (a path around the temple for walking prayer) and around it, there is a group of shrines and smaller stupas that were built in the 1st century BC to 4th century AD by the Kushan Empire in Ghandara.

On the walls of the square-shaped platform, you can see the Ghandara style architecture with panels and wall tiles separated by the Corinthian columns.

 

Decorations on the base of small stupas show elephants and figures supporting the platform. These are the figure of the Greek God Atlas.

 

Atlas is a Greek myth that supports the sky at the western end of the world. In Gandhara, it appears to support the pedestal of the Buddha and the platform of the stupa. The Greek gods seem to be supporting the Buddhist world view, the beautiful expression of the fusion of Eastern and Western cultures … it’s truly romantic.

 

There are remnants of stucco Buddha status inside the shrine, but unfortunately, they were destroyed. The Stucco statue is a clay statue made in Ghandara that was popular from the 3rd to 4th century AD.

For sightseeing in Taxila, the three main attractions are the Taxila museum, city ruins of Sirkap and the Jaulian monastery, but I hope you can take time to visit the Dharmarajika, too!

Text & Photo : Mariko SAWADA
Visit : Feb 2020, Dharmarajika, Taxila, Punjab

 

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