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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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 > - Gandhara > ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan > ◇ Museum of Pakistan
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(Drone Footage) Sirkap City Ruins, Taxila

This is the aerial view of the Taxila City Ruins Sirkap.
You can see the whole Ruins by aerial photography, where the city plan and roads are organized in a grid plan.

For more information about Sirkap Ruins, see here

 

 

Video & text : Mariko SAWADA

(Video is from a trip in Feb 2020)

Location : Sirkap, Taxila, Punjab

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

 

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Takht-i-Bahi, Ghandara’s Buddhist Monastery

The ruins of Gandhara include city ruins like Taxila’s Sirkap and Buddhist temples secluded deep in the mountains. Takht-i-Bahi is a typical example of Buddhist temples built during this time. Takht-i-Bahi is 80 km (50 miles) northwest of Peshawar and 15 km (9 miles) from the town of Mardan and has been a well-preserved archaeological site since long ago.
In the 1 – 7th Centuries AD, Gandhara art had reached its peak in the Kushan Dynasty with the flourishing Buddhist temples. The (winter) capital of this era was Purushapura, which today, is known as Peshawar.

 

The Takht-i-Bahi Buddhist site was built on a mountain, rising 150m (492 feet) above the plains. Walking up the well-maintained stairs, you will arrive at the archeological site and at the entrance of the dedication tower area.

This photo of the wall of the ruins was taken just at the entrance. The upper section is an unrestored wall from the Gandhara era, but the white line shows the lower part, which is engraved with “A.S.I 1946” by archeological teams. “A.S.I.” stands for the “Archaeological Survey of India,” which worked to excavate and restore the site back during the British Indian Empire in 1946, before India and Pakistan separated.

 

The ruins of Takht-i-Bahi still retain the structure of the typical Gandhara Buddhist Temple, which includes the Main Stupa Court, the votive Stupa court, the monastery, meditation room and other structures.
Touring this site on foot, we came to this Stupa court, as the first thing we saw. There are 35 consecrated stupas lined up in a row between the South Tower and the North Monastery. Now, only the base of the structure is left. The base is decorated with Greek styled columns.

 

The votive Stupa Court
Of the 35 holy stupas, 2 are round base and the rest are rectangular in shape.

 

This is the monastery. There were 15 small cells surrounding the courtyard, each cell having a wall with a lamp on it, and some having a second floor. There is also what looked to be the remnants of a kitchen on the edge of the courtyard.

 

This is the Main Stupa. As you go up the stairs, you will see a square, then there is a 6.2m (20.3 foot) platform for the Main Stupa. There are shrines lined up on all three sides of this stupa, and stucco statues were placed in the wall of shrines.

 

This is a shrine near the stairs to the Main Stupa. The three sides are walled off and back in those days it was probably covered with stucco statues.

 

A basement area that is most likely a meditation room. The small room is pitch-black, but it connects to the bright courtyard.

This is the base of the stupa court where the caretaker lives. You can see the stucco of an Acanthus leaf sticking out from the top of the column. There is even still some color left.

 

If you climb up the mountain a little more, it leads to the observatory overlooking the ruins of Takht-i-Bahi and the town below. There are still many other buildings visible from here, so it is impressive to think what a huge Buddhist temple Takht-i-Bahi used to be.

 

Photo & text: Mariko SAWADA

(Photos are from a trip in Oct 2019, Feb 2020)

Location : Takht-i-Bhai, Mardan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

Category : - Gandhara > - Takht-i-Bahi > ◆Khyber Pakhtunkhwa > ◇ Heritage of Pakistan
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Taxila – Mohra Moradu

This is Mohra Muradu, one of Taxila’s historic Buddhist ruins. It’s actually a mysterious sounding name, but the ruins of Gandhara’s monastery and stupa is simply taken from the nearby village, Mohra Muradu.
This picture shows the main stupa square platform, which is 4.75m (15.6 ft) tall.

 

Mohra Muradu has two stupas. There is a main stupa and a smaller stupa to the south of it, and there are stucco statues (decorative stucco) of Buddha and elephants which remain preserved on the walls.

 

The monastery has 27 cells on all four sides of a square courtyard, and some of them have stairs, so you can see some had additional levels. The central part of the garden is empty, possibly used for ceremonial baths.

 

This is a preserved Stucco Buddha statue (decoratively lacquered) in the monastery. The coloring remains despite the many years that have passed.

 

The highlight and masterpiece of Mohra Muradu is this 4m (13 ft) tall monumental votive stupa. Found in a small cell of the monastery, it is a hemispherical bowl on a circular platform, with a flat box-shaped fixture on it (probably a place to store a sarira, a container holding the Buddha’s remains). And on top, is a decorative 7-layered umbrella-shaped structure.
When you have so many layers, it doesn’t even really look like an umbrella, but it was a must-have item during the Buddha’s day. When a king or nobleman was outside, servants held an umbrella over by his head. It became a symbol of respect as well for Buddha, and the believers donated umbrella covers stacked to the top.

 

This is the 5 layer circular platform of the votive stupa. Each panel on the sides is separated by Corinthian columns (influenced by the Greeks) and decorated with carved reliefs of Buddha.
Also supporting at the base, is the elephant and the Greek god Atlas, who was said to “carry the sky at the west end of the world.”

 

Photo & text : Mariko SAWADA

(Photos are from a trip in 2005)

Location : Mohra Moradu, Taxila, Punjab

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

About 30km northwest of Islamabad, the Taxila ruins are located at the eastern edge of an area that once flourished in Ghandara art (Buddhist visual art). Taxila is a group of archeological sites, stupas, monasteries etc. but among them, Sirkap city archeological site is an important area which is a must-visit for all tourists.

 

In the 2nd century BC, the city was built by Bactrian Greeks (Indo-Greek) who flourished in northern Afghanistan. The ruins of the town are located off of the main street and they spread out in a grid pattern, the foundations of the shops, Buddhist temples and Buddhist pagodas endure.

 

Ghandara stood in a cultural intersection where it received the cultural influence of India from the east and the cultural inspirations from Greece and Persia (Iran) from the west. The iconic buildings that symbolize that remains in Sirkap.

This is the “Double-Headed Eagle Stupa” that remains in Sirkap. There are three panels separated by Corinthian wall columns with shoots of Acanthus decorations on the wall of either side of the stairs in front of the square platform.

 

The beautifully preserved panels just to the right of the stairs.

In the panel on the very left, the Greek temple style building with the triangular gables.
Decorating the central panel is a double-headed eagle-like bird perched on top of an arched building shaped like the entrance to the Indian Chaitya Temple. The double-headed eagle is a design often found in Western Asia such as in Hittite and Babylonia.
On the rightmost panel is an Indian Torana (like the Indian Sanchi stupas) with a bird-like figure on top of it.

The Taxila Double-Headed Eagle Stupa is a structure that captures your imagination, blending the architectural artistry of India, Greece and Western Asia.

 

An aerial view of Sirkap, taken by drone, shows a large circular building foundation on the left side of the main street. It is said that it is the remains of a Chaitya temple because it has the same structure of the sacred temples.

It had been quite a long time since I was last able to visit Sirkap, but this time, I could see many students from Pakistan and families coming out for a picnic. Most of the Ghandara ruins are located on mountain tops, but this one is a flat, easy to access spot where people can enjoy the family time.

 

Photo & Text : Mariko SAWADA

Visit : Feb 2020, Sirkap, taxila, Punjab

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