Thursday, November 15, 2012

Kingdom of Gandhāra (1st-5th C. AD)


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Gandhāra (Sanskrit: गन्धार Gandhāra, Urdu: گندھارا Gandhāra, Pashto: ګندارا‎, Punjabi: گندھارا, Persian: ویهیند) is the name of an ancient kingdom (Mahajanapada), located in parts of modern-day northern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan.[Gandhara was located mainly in the Peshawar Valley, the Pothohar Plateau and the Kabul River Valley. Its main cities were Purushapura (modern Peshawar), literally meaning "city of men",and Takshashila (modern Taxila) .

Click on the map to enlarge.

the Indo-Iranians (Sanskrit Gandharva, Avesta Gandarewa)...It is speculated that another super human tribe called the Gandharvas were originally inhabitants of the Gandhara Kingdom

the development of "Ghandaran" Buddhist art, an amalgamation of Greek, Iranian and Indian influences.

Gandhāra is noted for the distinctive Gandhāra style of Buddhist art, which developed out of a merger of Greek, Syrian, Persian, and Indian artistic influence. This development began during the Parthian Period (50 BC – AD 75). Gandhāran style flourished and achieved its peak during the Kushan period, from the 1st to the 5th century. It declined and suffered destruction after invasion of the White Huns in the 5th century.

The Kingdom of Gandhara lasted from the early 1st millennium BC to the 11th century AD. It attained its height from the 1st century to the 5th century under the Buddhist Kushan Kings. The Hindu term Shahi is used by history writer Al-Biruni to refer to the ruling Hindu dynasty that took over from the Turki Shahi and ruled the region during the period prior to Muslim conquests of the 10th and 11th centuries.

The region shows an influx of southern Central Asian culture in the Bronze Age with the Gandhara grave culture, likely corresponding to immigration of Indo-Aryan speakers and the nucleus of Vedic civilization. This culture survived till 1000 BC....The Gandhāris, along with the Balhika (Bactrians), Mūjavants, Angas, and the Magadhas, are also mentioned in the Atharvaveda

Gandhāra is also thought to be the location of the mythical Lake Dhanakosha, the birthplace of Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. The bKa' brgyud (Kagyu) sect of Tibetan Buddhism identifies the lake with the Andan Dheri stupa, located near the tiny village of Uchh near Chakdara in the lower Swat Valley....(Pakistan / North-West Frontier / Bat Khela /archaeological site...Coordinates: 34°42'45"N 72°1'44"E...Nearby cities: Mingora City Swat)

The Gandharan city of Taxila was an important Buddhist[9] centre of learning from the 5th century BC to the 2nd century....Cyrus the Great (558–530 BC) built the first "universal" empire, stretching from Greece to the Indus River. Both Gandhara and Kamboja soon came under the rule of the Achaemenian Dynasty of Persia during the reign of Cyrus the Great or in the first year of Darius I. The Gandhara and Kamboja had constituted the seventh satrapies (upper Indus) of the Achaemenid Empire.

By about 380 BC Persian hold on the region weakened. Many small kingdoms sprang up in Gandhara. In 327 BC Alexander the Great conquered Gandhara and the Indian Satrapies of the Persian Empire. The expeditions of Alexander were recorded by his court historians and by Arrian (around AD 175) in his Anabasis Alexandri and other chroniclers many centuries after the event.

One of the main characteristics of Gandharan art is that we can see the first instance of the representation of the Buddha in human form, previously he was considered beyond the reach of artists. A main characteristic of Mahayana Buddhism is that it stresses the idea that the historical Buddha should be regarded as one of many Buddhas as opposed to the idea of an unattainable ideal. Also we begin to see the idea of the layman attaining Enlightenment emerging in Mahayana and this is reflected in the more frequent portrayal of laymen in religious Buddhist art.The oldest dated monument attesting Mahayana Buddhism was found in Gandhara dating back to the late 1st century AD and is in a distinct Indian/Iranian Shahnameh style. Also the famous image of the "Persian Boddhisattva", a Khotanese painted panel from 8th century AD, stylistically resembles a Bodhisattva while showing a very strong influence of the Persian art of the period, the face even closely resembles that of the Persian hero from the Shahnameh, Rostam.Iranian influence is also found in the figure of the Buddha Amitabha, the way he is so closely related to eternal light and endless life is very similar to the Iranian Time God, Zurvan. Scholars agree that this notion of Iranian influence is certainly possible especially during the formative phase of Central Asia when Iranian and Indian concepts came into close contact.

The Gandhāran Buddhist Texts are the oldest Buddhist manuscripts yet discovered, dating from about the 1st century CE.[1] They are written in Gāndhārī, and are possibly the oldest extant Indic texts altogether.

The Gandhāran Buddhist Texts (oldest Buddhist manuscripts yet discovered, from ca. 1 CE) are attributed to the Dharmaguptaka school. And some believe that the founder of that Buddhist school was...a Greek ....."Dhammarakkhita (Pali, "protected by the Dharma"), was one of the missionaries sent by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka to proselytize the Buddhist faith. He is described as being a Greek (Pali yona) in the Mahavamsa, and his activities are indicative of the strength of the Hellenistic Greek involvement during the formative centuries of Buddhism. ( ......"One of the major missionaries was Yonaka Dhammarakkhita. He was...a Greek monk, native of ‘Alasanda’ (Alexandria). He features in the Pali tradition as a master of psychic powers as well as an expert on Abhidhamma.

"One of the distinguishing features of the Gandharan school of art that emerged in north-west India is that it has been clearly influenced by the naturalism of the Classical Greek style. Thus, while these images still convey the inner peace that results from putting the Buddha's doctrine into practice, they also give us an impression of people who walked and talked, etc. and slept much as we do. I feel this is very important. These figures are inspiring because they do not only depict the goal, but also the sense that people like us can achieve it if we try" (The Dalai Lama, foreword to Echoes of Alexander the Great, 2000).

"The absence of the Buddha image in early Buddhist art has been as diversely interpreted. It is largely believed that the Buddha had himself prohibited his images.....Vinaya of the Sarvastivadins in his Studies in Buddhist Art of South Asia under "The Origin of the Buddha Image". The passage is an indirect injunction against his image making, but the words used in it comprise as much a sanction for it. In the passage, Anathapindika asks the Great Lord," World honored one, if images of yours are not allowed to be made, pray, may we not at least make images of Bodhisattvas in attendance upon you?" The Buddha gives his assent to it."


John Hopkins.....Northern New Mexico….November 2012


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