History of Gandhara Art
Gandhara was primarily located in the Peshawar Valley, the Potohar Plateau and on the Kabul River.
Gandhara’s new style of sculpture was a fusion of Greco-Roman and Indian style. The feature of the Gandhara School of Art was that (1) the subject was Indian and (2) the art was foreign. Gandhara sculptors painted Lord Buddha in the Greco-Roman style.
As an ancient Indian territory, Gandhara is now in northwestern Pakistan. Gandhara Art, one of Pakistan’s most valuable treasures, flourished in the present valley of Peshawar and adjoining mountainous areas of Swat, Buner, and Bajaur District for 500 years (first to fifth century AD). During the time of Ashoka, the Indian emperor around the 3rd century BC, it became a fascinating scene of Buddhist missionary activity. Gandhara Art, in its early stages, followed Kanishka, the great ruler of Kushan, during which time the Silk Road brought great prosperity to the entire region through Peshawar and the Indus Valley.
Gandhara, to a fair extent, consisted of the valleys of Peshawar, Swat, Dir, Buner and Bajaur Valley, all of which are in the northern limits of today’s modern-day nation.
Since the first century CE, Gandhara has become the center of a thriving school of sculpture and architecture. It has been very controversial at the beginning of the school, but it has both Indian and Hellenistic (or Roman) elements. They were formerly associated with the spread of Mahayana Buddhism, while later introducing extensive trade with the Mediterranean and development to Kushans. This first theory, born of Greek art in Bactria and northwestern India, seems to be inaccurate. However, as a whole, it can be made clear that it was the product of a mix of Indian, Buddhist and Greco-Roman sculptures.
Gandhara Art offers some of the earliest images of Buddha. Earlier in Bharhut and Sanchi, symbols of the Buddha’s presence were represented by patterns, such as the pipal tree, the wheel of life, the footprints, and an empty throne. The Gandhara style was deeply influenced by the Hellenistic art of the second century and was very influential in Central and East Asia itself. Ivory and imported glasses and millions of goods confirm the cosmic tastes and the widespread trade that characterizes the era. Stupas and monasteries were adorned with relief gates, often carved into the dark bush, depicting figures in classical poses as the Hellenistic drapery flowed.
The Gandhara school survived at least locally until the Muslim attacks in the seventh and eighth centuries. The architecture is mainly of stone, often decorated with sculptures in either the Assistant or the Stucco. The Monument takes the form of Buddhist stupas and monasteries. The Sculptures are almost Buddhist: many details and close resemblance to the contemporary art of the painting. The Schools of Gandhara and Mathra influenced each other, and the general trend was far from natural ideas and towards a more idealistic, abstract image. Gandhian craftsmen contributed to Buddhist art by setting the events of Buddhist life in their scenes.
Gandhara Festival 2021
ISLAMABAD: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government will hold a Gandhara festival in the first week of April to sensitize Buddhists about their ancient heritage spanning the province. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa emerges as one of the provinces that has organized comprehensive initiatives, seminars, conferences and monks’ visits to Southeast Asian states to promote religious tourism. The director of the Archaeological Museum and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Dr. Abdul Samad, said preparations for the Gandhara Festival cum conference are being finalized, which will help to explore the unpredictable potential of religious tourism in the province.
Samad said, “there were about 6,000 documented religious sites in the province and the provincial government is currently focusing on maintaining 20 places, which is of utmost importance”.
About 100 participants from several countries, such as China, South Korea, and Thailand, are expected to attend the festival. He also pointed out that 500 Pakistanis were likely to attend the festival.
In addition to organizing tours of international participants at 20 Buddhist venues in KP, Gandhara Art will also be exhibited to attract visitors to their heritage in the country.
He said the festival will help the province attract foreign and local investment in the tourism sector, adding that Buddhist countries play a key role in upgrading their holy sites spread throughout the province.
He said the government has already allocated one billion rupees in the current budget to upgrade and protect religious sites scattered throughout the province.
Last year, under a program initiated by the provincial government to arrange visits to foreign delegations belonging to Buddhism and Sikhism, several Buddhist delegations from different countries have visited their sacred sites in the province. A South Korean delegation also expressed keen interest in the establishment of Gandhara Research to promote religious tourism.