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HOME : Asian Art : Asian Art/ Hk : Gandhara Schist stone relief of Buddha and disciples
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Gandhara Schist stone relief of Buddha and disciples - CB.3397
Origin: Afghanistanf
Circa: 200 BC to 500 AD

Collection: Buddhist
Style: Gandhara
Medium: Schist stone

Additional Information: K

Location: Great Britain
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Gandhara’s geographical position, situated between the Persian world to the west and the Indian to the east, ensured that it was open to a wide variety of artistic influences. Often described as a ‘cultural melting pot,’ its strategic importance left it vulnerable to attack. Briefly in the hands of Alexander the Great between 327 -326 B.C., Greek artistic conventions long played an important role in local production. However whilst Gandhara clearly came under the influence of an extraordinary wide range of outside influences, it was also an exporter of ideas. This is most apparent in relation to the spread of Buddhism from India into other parts of Asia. Gandharan monks and scribes were particularly active in areas of China. According to tradition Buddhism was first introduced into the Gandharan region under the patronage of Asoka, emperor of the Mauryan dynasty, in the third century B.C. The first significant physical remains to survive, including stupas and figurative sculpture, date from the first century B.C. Between c.100-400 A.D. sculptors working in schist, terracotta and stucco produced an astonishing number and variety of Buddhist images.

The Buddha is depicted sitting on a lotus pedestal with his legs crossed, and his hands are in dharmacakra mudra, the gesture of turning the wheel of dharma, which symbolises Buddhist teaching and preaching. Unlike the conventional soothing smile, the Buddha has a serious facial feature, since he is enunciating the adamant and solemn doctrines of Buddhism. Standing by his sides are two accomplished disciples, holding their hands together while listening to their master’s teachings in a pious and respectful manner. The halos and lotus pedestals of the three figures, which testify to the spiritual attainment of the Buddha and the two principal disciples, remain intact. Underneath the Buddha, two devotees bow before him beside the lotus pedestal. Likewise, a pair of guardian animals sit vigilantly under the accomplished disciples. This form of “1+2” mode of depicting a master flanked by two disciples is inherited all across Buddhist Asia and has been adopted as an artistic norm. Gandhara was an ancient state, a mahajanapada, in the Peshawar basin in the northwest portion of the ancient Indian subcontinent, present-day Afghanistan and Pakistan. The center of the region was at the confluence of the Kabul and Swat rivers, bounded by the Sulaiman Mountains on the west and the Indus River on the east. The Safed Koh mountains separated it from the Kohat region to the south. This being the core area of Gandhara, the cultural influence of "Greater Gandhara" extended across the Indus river to the Taxila region and westwards into the Kabul and Bamiyan valleys in Afghanistan, and northwards up to the Karakoram range.[1][2][3] Gandhara was one of sixteen mahajanapadas (large conglomerations of urban and rural areas) of ancient India mentioned in Buddhist sources such as Anguttara Nikaya.[4][5] During the Achaemenid period and Hellenistic period, its capital city was Pushkalavati (Greek: ?e??e?a?t??), modern Charsadda.[note 1] Later the capital city was moved to Peshawar[note 2] by the Kushan emperor Kanishka the Great in about AD 127. Gandhara existed since the time of the Rigveda (c. 1500–1200 BC),[6][7] as well as the Zoroastrian Avesta, which mentions it as Vaek?r?ta, the sixth most beautiful place on earth, created by Ahura Mazda. Gandhara was conquered by the Achaemenid Empire in the 6th century BC. Conquered by Alexander the Great in 327 BC, it subsequently became part of the Maurya Empire and then the Indo-Greek Kingdom. The region was a major center for Greco-Buddhism under the Indo-Greeks and Gandharan Buddhism under later dynasties. It was also a central location for the spread of Buddhism to Central Asia and East Asia.[8] It was also a center of Bactrian Zoroastrianism and Hinduism.[9] Famed for its local tradition of Gandhara (Greco-Buddhist) Art, Gandhara attained its height from the 1st century to the 5th century under the Kushan Empire. Gandhara "flourished at the crossroads of Asia," connecting trade routes and absorbing cultural influences from diverse civilizations; Buddhism thrived until 8th or 9th centuries, when Islam first began to gain sway in the region.[10] Pockets of Buddhism persisted in Pakistan's Swat valley until the 11th century.[11] The Persian term Shahi is used by historian Al- Biruni[12] to refer to the ruling dynasty[13] that took over from the Kabul Shahi[14] and ruled the region during the period prior to Muslim conquests of the 10th and 11th centuries. After it was conquered by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1001 AD, the name Gandhara disappeared. During the Muslim period, the area was administered from Lahore or from Kabul. During Mughal times, it was an independent district which included the Kabul province. - (CB.3397)


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