Gandhara Art & Architecture Photos I
A small collection of photos that depict some of the beautiful works of Indo-Greek art and architecture produced in Buddhist Gandhara in the early centuries of the Common Era. The photos include sculptures and stone reliefs from Gandhara, on display in various museums in Pakistan and around the world, as well as monastery sites and stupas in Taxila, Swat Valley, and other places in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. Much of the Buddhist heritage of Gandhara was destroyed circa the 6th century CE by the Hephthalites or White Huns from Central Asia. Today, what is left is under serious threat from vandals, archaeological smugglers and militants.
Stone sculpture of a Gandharan Bodhisattva, 2nd – 3rd century CE, San Diego Museum of Art. In Mahayana Buddhism, a Bodhisattva is one who has committed himself to the path of enlightenment and spreading the teachings of the Buddha.
Dharmarajika Stupa, Taxila. This site, comprising of a stupa (venerated tomb) and monastic compound, is thought to have been established by the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE, around body relics of the Buddha.
“Miracle of Saraswati”, Lahore Museum. This intricate stone relief dates to the 2nd century CE and depicts the only miracle Lord Buddha is said to have performed in his lifetime. In the town of Sarasvati, located in present-day Uttar Pradesh, India, the Buddha confounded his critics by making them witness a miraculous, million-fold self-manifestation. seated on a thousand-petalled lotus, as fire and water emanated from his body.
Detail of “Miracle of Saraswati”, 2nd century CE, Lahore Museum.
Central courtyard of Jaulian monastery, Taxila, dating from the 5th century CE. The rectangular courtyard is surrounded by monks’ cells, typically 27 in number.
A monk’s cell at Jaulian monastery, Taxila, dating to the 5th century CE. The niches were used to keep personal articles and oil lamps.
Hariti, the Gandharan Goddess of Fertility and Childbirth, recovered in Sikri, dating to the 2nd century CE, Lahore Museum. Hariti was originally an Iranic-Zoroastrian ogress who used to devour children, but after the arrival of Buddhism in Gandhara, she was transformed (“converted”) to a Buddhist figure of protection and parenting.
A relief depicting the birth of the Buddha, Peshawar Museum.
Nimogram Stupa, Swat. This Buddhist Gandhara site dates from the Kushan period (1st – 3rd century CE) and is unique in that it consists of three main stupas, one for each of the three principles of Buddhism: the Buddha as teacher, Dharma (the Buddhist doctrine), and Sangha (the Buddhist order). Surrounding the main stupas are 54 votive stupas, and nearby is an unexcavated monastery site.
Gandhara Buddha in the Vajra Mudra (Gesture of Knowledge), 2nd century CE, Tokyo National Museum.
Ruins of a 5th century CE Buddhist monastery at Jaulian, Taxila. The walls were very solid, which suggests that there was not just a second storey, but a third one as well.
A votive stupa at Jaulian Monastery, Taxila, with beautiful stucco decorations that indicate Greek influence. In Buddhism, votive stupas are constructed to commemorate visits or to gain spiritual benefits, usually at the site of prominent stupas.
Sculpture of a Greek Atlas or Atlant, Lahore Museum. In classical European architecture, an Atlant is a support sculpted in the form of a man, which may take the place of a column, a pier or a pilaster. Atlantes were common features of Gandharan art and architecture.
Detail of a votive stupa at Jaulian monastery, Taxila. It depicts the Buddha in the Vajra Mudra (Gesture of Knowledge), with Atlantes below.
Bhamala Stupa, Taxila. This secluded Buddhist site, dating to the 4th century CE, has a distinctive archaeological feature: its main stupa is built upon a cruciform base as opposed to the circular stupas found in other Gandhara sites.
Walls of Bhamala monastery in Taxila. Like so many other ancient Gandhara sites, Bhamala was destroyed in the early 6th century by the Central Asian White Huns.
Aristocratic Gandhara women, 2nd century CE, Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The Hellenistic influence is clearly visible in this sculpture.
Lion sculpture at Butkara Stupa, Swat. Butkara is among the earliest Gandhara stupas (3rd century BCE), believed to have been erected on the orders of Mauryan Emperor Ashoka and containing genuine relics of the Buddha.
A relief depicting devotion to the Buddha, found at the 2nd century CE Butkara Stupa in Swat, Museum of Oriental Art, Turin.
Buddha Head, Taxila Museum.
Gandharan Athena, Greek goddess of wisdom, 2nd century CE, Lahore Museum.
Great Buddha of Jahanabad, Swat. The Jahanabad Buddha, etched high on a huge rock face in the 6th – 7th century CE, is one of the largest such carvings in South Asia. It was attacked and defaced in the fall of 2007 by the Pakistani Taliban.
Takht-i-Bahi, Mardan. Takht-i-Bahi is a Buddhist monastic complex dating to the 1st century BCE. Owing to its location on the crest of a high hill, it escaped successive invasions and is still exceptionally well preserved.
Standing Buddhas, Lahore Museum.
Remains of a large Buddha figure at Mohra Moradu, Taxila. Mohra Moradu is a Buddhist complex consisting of a stupa (venerated tomb) and monastery, dating to the 2nd century CE.
A votive stupa at Mohra Moradu monastic complex, Taxila, dating to the 2nd century CE. This stupa, dedicated to a venerated teacher or monk, is made of a soft local limestone called “kañjur”. The umbrellas were once painted; traces of yellow, crimson and blue are still visible. The lower tier consists of elephants alternating with atlantes, and the two upper tiers consist of the Buddhas and pilasters.
A Maitreya Bodhisattva, recovered at the Mohra Moradu monastic complex,Taxila Museum. A Maitreya Bodhisattva is considered the successor of the Buddha.
“Prince Siddhartha Leaves the Palace”, 2nd – 3rd century CE, San Diego Museum of Art.
Amluk-Dara Stupa, 3rd – 7th century CE, Swat.
Relief depicting a scene from the Jatakas, a collection of early Buddhist stories about the previous lives of the Buddha, Lahore Museum.
“Fasting Siddhartha”, recovered from Sikri, dating to the 1st – 3rd century CE, Lahore Museum. This remarkable image of Siddhartha Gautama (the future Buddha) is from the ascetic period of his life, which lasted six years. Eventually, Siddhartha realized that the path of fanatical asceticism was as unproductive as his previous life of incessant luxury. He then embraced the Middle Way, between extreme luxury and extreme austerity. In this sculpture, the realism in the treatment of the Buddha’s emaciated body was characteristic of Gandharan interests, but not commonly employed in the rest of the Indian subcontinent.