Fasting Buddha

Published Jun 27, 2014 01:03am

TRULY is it said, reality is stranger than fiction — especially here in Pakistan. Since 1894, when it was donated upon being discovered, the Gandhara-era statue of the ‘Fasting Buddha’ has been considered the jewel of the Lahore Museum. Images of it adorn postcards and newsreels, and proud citizens make it a point to take visitors to see it as an indication that whatever else the country may be, a cultural wasteland it is not. This statue, priceless in terms of historical significance, has for a long time had a crack on the left arm. Investigations by this paper, upon receiving a tip-off, have confirmed an unbelievable story: back in April, 2012, the crack widened while being cleaned and the statue was given over to the museum laboratory’s tender ministrations. But, instead of the scientific, delicate and professional handling that an artefact of this stature demanded, an attempt was made to fix it by applying the common adhesive epoxy, which remains shiningly evident on the statue’s surface and has caused irreparable harm. The trail of destruction isn’t hard to trace, given the standards at the moment: the current lab technician worked earlier as a gallery attendant and driver, while the lab conservationist used to be a peon.

What can be made of this but the utter disregard Pakistanis tend to show towards history and culture? This is hardly the only example of this mindset. It turns out that 2012 was an inauspicious year for Gandhara-era artefacts. That summer, the police intercepted a large consignment of such relics that had apparently been about to be smuggled out of the country. But during the recovery process, the police ended up damaging many of them, unprepared perhaps for their weight and certainly unmindful of their value. In the case of the Lahore Museum, the qualified chemist employed at the lab was retired in 2009. No replacement has been found. This is unsurprising, given the importance attached to archaeology and history in the country.

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2014


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Comments (10) (Closed)


salman cheema
Jun 27, 2014 01:50am

Buddha only mistake is he was not a Muslim. In Pakistan we only care for Islamic history. Really sad where we are heading to.

Fazal Karim
Jun 27, 2014 03:42am

This will repeatedly happen so long illiterate and semi literate people reach our assemblies. In Pakistan only food courts culture thrive.

BRR
Jun 27, 2014 04:53am

How many more statues and artefacts have these "experts" restored, err destroyed? Such glorious descendents from the great Gandhara history and traditions, such wonderful followers of great traditions.

zafarov
Jun 27, 2014 10:28am

Our history begins with the arrival of Mohammed Bin Qasim. We live in denial of our glorious heritage of one of very oldest civilisations ever. These statues and artefacts are an abomination to us. It is only the fear of international reaction, that we put up the pretence of preserving them. As far as we are concerned they deserve the same fate as Buddhas of Bamiyan.

jen
Jun 27, 2014 11:41am

Anything before the birth of Islam is considered as pure Ignorance by people of the 'religion of peace(!!)'. Considereing this mindset, atleast these two souls tried to fix the statue with whatever knowledge they are equipped with. Hats off to them.

tnemeganam
Jun 27, 2014 01:01pm

Who says we care for Muslim sites? Please visit Shalimar garden in Lahore, and other Mughal sites in Punjab, and KP. Things are pathetic.

Avtar
Jun 27, 2014 06:49pm

May be Pakistan can 'learn' from Egypt where tons of Pharonic era objects and mummies are preserved. The key word is 'learn' which the Pakistanis are unable to do so. Japanese, Chinese and other countries would have gladly assisted. In Afghanistan and Pakistan and some other countries the culture of ignoring anything pre-Islamic has no value and if there is value, it is sold off. Most of Egypt's foreign tourists come to see Pyramids, Temples of Luxor, Konark and so on. The economy of Agra rests on seeing Mughal Forts and cities such as Fatehpur Sikri (Fundamentalists consider Akbar to be a non-Muslim).

My thanks to Dawn for pointing this neglect and hopefully someone in the department of Archaeology reads this.

Mohammad Kumbo
Jun 27, 2014 07:30pm

Since it's an abomination to keep these Non-Islamic artifacts in the land of pure, why not just sell it to the highest bidder and improve our foreign exchange.

shoaib
Jun 28, 2014 01:37am

i think there is a major reason of mindset. Not only non Islamic relics but also Muslim historical sites are facing a constant pressure of ignorance by archaeology department. we can not blame Islam or Muslims as some one has also pointed about the great care and preservation of pyramids of Pharoah by a Muslim country.In Pakistan uneducated leadership is the main cause for these loopholes and yes there is fault but do not try to humiliate your country for every reason. a few people are responsible for these.

shoaib
Jun 28, 2014 01:37am

i think there is a major reason of mindset. Not only non Islamic relics but also Muslim historical sites are facing a constant pressure of ignorance by archaeology department. we can not blame Islam or Muslims as some one has also pointed about the great care and preservation of pyramids of Pharoah by a Muslim country.In Pakistan uneducated leadership is the main cause for these loopholes and yes there is fault but do not try to humiliate your country for every reason. a few people are responsible for these.