The Gandhara Gallery

Lahore Museum

The Lahore Museum's collection of Gandhara Art is amongst the world's most extensive

Gandhara Art
Gandhara, one of 42 provinces of the Persian Achaemenian Empire (6th – 4th Century BCE) comprised Peshawar Valley, Buner, Swat, Bajaur, western Punjab and eastern Afghanistan. Here the Mahayana Buddhist sculptures - better known as Gandhara art - developed during 1-5 Centuries CE. It is a mix of Hellenic and Indian influences, developed mainly during rule of the Kushans, with contributions from the Greeks, Scythians and Parthians. This art introduced Buddha's image and the iconography which was developed influenced Buddhist religious art across the world.

The Lahore Museum's Gandhara Gallery

The statue of Fasting Siddhartha ranks not only as one of the finest specimen of Gandhara Art but also as one of the rarest antiquities.

This image shows an exceptional degree of Gandhara devices employed in the sculpture.

This sculpture depicts in a very moving and immediately felt manner the heroism of Buddha in his struggle to attain the answer to human suffering.

Fasting Buddha, Schist Stone Sculpture, Dimensions: 21” (W), 33” (H), 10” (D).

Sikri (Gandhara Region), Khaibar Pakhtun Khuwa, Pakistan

Fasting Siddhartha

This stele is traditionally believed to depict the scene of the miracle of Sravasti.

However, another opinion holds that it depicts Sukhavati -the paradise of the Buddha Amitayus.

This densely carved slate (119 x 97 cm) has a large central Buddha sitting on a lotus in preaching gesture surrounded by seated and standing figures, 168 in number.

It is a rare example of the Gandhara School.

In the miracle of Sravasti, the Buddha was challenged by six teachers of Rajagriha to participate in a contest of miracles before the King Prasenajit.

The Buddha walked in air, flames leaping from his shoulders and water running from his feet. He then transformed himself into many images which floated in the air reaching up to heaven while he preached the Law.

Miracle of Sravasti, Carving in schist stone, Dimensions: 95cm (W), 97cm (H), 20cm (D).

Muhammad Nari, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan

This rectangular panel relief in schist stone depicts the famous Dipankara Jataka (lower register) and adoration of the Buddha in upper register.

Jatakas are stories from the previous lives of the Buddha born as Siddhartha. The Dipankara Jataka is one of the most popular Jatakas represented in Gandhara art.

In this jataka Siddhartha was born as Sumati. According to tradition, there came 24 Buddhas before the historical Buddha and the earliest was the Dipankara.

The story tells of a young Brahman named Sumati, who was master of the Vedas and was offered five gifts by king Vasava. One was a girl bedecked with ornaments, who he did not accept. The girl went to the city of Dipavati and dedicated herself to the service of God. She gave all her ornaments to a gardener, who promised to supply her daily with blue lotuses for worship.

Knowing that Dipankara Buddha was visiting the city of Dipavati, Sumati also reached there and searched everywhere for flowers for the worship of Dipankara. He could not find any as all had been collected by the king for worship.

Sad and disappointed, he continued to search and came upon the girl, he had once rejected. She had seven lotus flowers and he beseeched her to give some to him. The girl agreed on his promising that while offering the flowers, Sumati would wish to have her as her wife in every future birth.

Both proceeded to where Dipankara was, but due to the huge crowd around him, they could not get close enough.

Dipankara by his supernatural power caused rain and in the resulting confusion, Sumati and the girl got an opportunity to approach him and threw flowers at him, which did not fall to the ground, but remained suspended in the air.

The road was muddy because of the shower, and Sumati prostrated and spread his hair on the path of Dipankara to enable him to pass. Dipankara stepped on the hair and moved on, but predicted that in time Sumati would be born as Sakyamuni for the benefit of humanity.

As the prediction was uttered the people saw Sumati soar up to heaven.

The standing figure of Athena (Minverva), the Greek deity of civilization, is a rare example of a Gandharan sculpture carved in the round.

A helmet is worn by the figure, and the left hand is raised upwards. She wears the chiton, a typical Greek garment. The Hellenitic themes of this sculpture are evident.

Statue of Athena, Carving in Schist Stone, Dimensions: 36cm (W), 84cm (H), 13cm (D)

Gandhara Region. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan

The standing figure of goddess Hariti, bearing three children (two on shoulders and one in lap).

She is shown adorned with a crown-like beaded fillet, fore-head pendant, hanging ear rings and set of bangles.

According to tradition, Hariti had five hundred sons but she used to devour the children of Rajagriha. Seeing this, the Buddha hid the best loved of her sons under his alms bowl.

When she wandered everywhere in search, the Buddha said to her, "your heart is broken because of one lost son out of five hundred; how grieved must they be who by your deeds have lost all their offsprings?"

Listening to this, she repented and was converted

Statue of Hariti, Carving / sculpturing in schist stone, Dimensions: 78cm (H), 37cm (W), 20cm (D).

The collection of Stucco heads
The treasures that follow belong to a group of stucco sculptures from a Buddhist site at Rokhri in District Mianwali, where the artefacts discovered show influences of Gandhara art. This area area was traditionally not considered within the realm of Gandhara art region.The collection comprising heads of Buddha, Bodhisattva and people representing non-religious themes is very interesting and important for the study of Gandhara Art.

Head of a Noble Lady, Mould in Pilaster of Paris (Stucco), Dimensions: 14cm (W), 17cm (H), 15cm (D).

Rokhri District Mianwali, Pakistan

In this figure, the Ushnisha (protuberance at the top of the head representing spiritual power) is missing and Urna (in the centre of forehead representing the eye of spiritual wisdom) in marked with deep circular depression.

The site from where this head comes covers a period from the 1st Century CE to at-least 6th century CE.

Head of Buddha, Mould in Pilaster of Paris (Stucco), Dimensions: 27cm (W), 35cm (H), 27cm (D)

Rokhri District Mianwali, Pakistan

This head is one of a group in the Lahore Museum's collection from Akhnoor (Kashmir) belonging to the 7th-8th Century CE.

This young lady in terracotta has her eyes are open and face slightly tilted towards her left. She has an elaborate hair style showing loose curls on forehead and a bun on her left.

A cylindrical amulet with floral design is in the centre of the head and followed by smaller but unidentifiable animals.

Terracotta Head, Molding and baking in clay, Dimensions: 17cm (W), 14cm (H), 14cm (D).

Akhnoor, Kashmir

This sculpture, a seated figure of Buddha in Dhyanamudra, belongs to the famous site of Sikri.

It is in light grey schist stone, and measures 16.5" high and 9" wide.

The pedestal (9" x 2" x 3") depicts two kneeling figures - devotees worshiping the fire in an altar.

On the basis of fire altar, it may be deduced that this object may belong to the Sassanian Period (240-300 AD).

Seated Figure of the Buddha in Dhyanamudra, Schist Stone Sculpture, Dimensions: 9" (W), 2" (H), 3" (D).

Sikri (Gandhara Region), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan

Lahore Museum
Credits: Story

Curator:
Sumaira Samad, Lahore Museum

Curatorial assistance
Waqas Ahmad and Tariq Mehmood, Lahore Museum

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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