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‘Fasting Buddha’ at Lahore Museum — File photo
‘Fasting Buddha’ at Lahore Museum — File photo

LAHORE: The jewel of Lahore Museum — ‘The Fasting Buddha’ sculpture — carries a fresh scar, the legacy of an amateur attempt at ‘repairing’ one of its arms after an accident during cleaning.

The Buddha had two fingers on its right hand missing and a crack on its left arm since long. The crack was opened up a couple of years back while the staff was cleaning it, Dawn was tipped off by an art lover and conservationist on Wednesday.

Later investigations confirmed the ‘accident’ and the subsequent careless repairing by the people at the museum lab, their restoration effort failing to go beyond application of common adhesive that left damaged more than it restored. The incident happened at the Gandhara Gallery on April 4, 2012, say the museum sources.

They say the statue was “repaired” by museum’s lab staff like an ordinary object instead of being treated by scientific methods of conservation. 

Gandhara Gallery chief Muhammad Mujeeb told Dawn on Wednesday the conservation laboratory staff had filled the crack with simple epoxy.  

When this reporter had a close look at the Fasting Buddha on Wednesday the shiny epoxy applied to repair the arm was clearly visible.

“I had nothing to do with it. The job was carried out by lab staff,” Mujeeb says.

The current Lahore Museum director Sumera Samad, who took over in November 2012, denies any knowledge of the incident.  “Nobody has touched that art piece (during my term),” she says.

A museum expert, who wishes to remain anonymous, is appalled at the damage done to the precious art piece. “It should have been treated scientifically. Proper chemicals should have been applied to restore it through a qualified conservationist,” the expert says.

Though the museum has a conservation lab, it does not have any qualified chemist. The lab is being run by the staff with little knowledge of conservation involved.

The lab is headed by a research officer with a Masters in archaeology — which fall short of qualifying him as a chemical conservationist. The current lab technician was previously working as a gallery attendant and as the driver of a then-director of the museum. A former peon now acts as the lab conservationist.

The museum had a qualified chemist, Waseem Ahmed until 2009. He retired from regular service in 2007 but was then rehired  His term came to an end when Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif sent home all government employees who were on extension.

Hafiz Abdul Azeem, another conservationist who joined the museum in 2009 left the job three months ago, going off to Sweden for his Phd.

Fasting Buddha was excavated at Sikri by Colonel H.A. Dean. It was donated to the museum in 1894. It dates back to Gandhara period.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2014

Comments (29) Closed

A C RAO Jun 26, 2014 06:50am

' Fasting Buddha ' is the most famous exquisite, priceless Gandhara statue , Lahore Museum is lucky to have it , it is no ordinary statue so ordinary people should not handle this precious extraordinary object , unfortunate , the museum authorities did not take care of future they must prove they deserve to keep it.

GK Jun 26, 2014 06:56am

Oh yaar, koi cheez to salamat rahe is mulk mein.... :-(

Ahmed Jun 26, 2014 08:26am

Forget fasting buddha...what about people fasting due to poverty...we need to fix poverty first...

Lakshmidhar Malaviya Jun 26, 2014 08:29am

Has Lahore fallen to the same band of Taliban, who blew up Bamiyan Buddha! Why not donate it now to the British / Boston Museum!

ananya Jun 26, 2014 08:30am

@Ahmed People in your country look much better fed and better clothed than they do in India. at least by the look of it they seem better off.

BRR Jun 26, 2014 09:27am

No surprise here.

Valiya Jun 26, 2014 11:46am

@ananya From aided money ananya.

Raza Ali Khan Jun 26, 2014 12:36pm

Please give it to a western museum while it is still in one piece.

Mohd Islam kc Jun 26, 2014 02:24pm

@Ahmed I agree. On one side we have people starving and unable to take care of themselves and on the other side we are worried about such things.

alladitta Jun 26, 2014 03:35pm

@Raza Ali Khan it is not in one piece any longer. :((.

Balu Jun 26, 2014 03:37pm

All Museum should have a world-class conservationist on their rolls to prevent such mishandling.

dv1936 Jun 26, 2014 03:55pm

@Balu Pakistan has world class terrorists for everything.

RAKESH RAZDAN Jun 26, 2014 04:21pm

Having been to Lahore Museum, I was awe struck when I saw Fasting Buddha statue for the first time. It is indeed a masterpiece and my personal belief is that it does not belong to only Pakistan but to whole humanity. Whole of world must own it and ensure that this one of the best of human creations is well preserved for future generations.

ilyas Jun 26, 2014 05:01pm

Ooh Not again.....Incompetent staff everywhere in Pakistan and most of workers got jobs without any knowledge of what they work for more over there is No staff trainings, meetings, consultation culture is developed yet.

syed akif Jun 26, 2014 06:09pm

As Allama Iqbal wrote, "agar kho gaya ik nasheman tu kya gham; muqamat-e-aah-o-fughan aur bhi hain" (If one nest (home) been lost, what's the [cause of] grief? Other occasions for sighing and lamenting will abound"; is it not apparent that the whole country is being run on the same lines as the Lahore Museum. We hardly have any trained conservationist for the national polity. Every administrator is doing a shoddy job and filling in the cracks with unsuitable chemicals.

Shah Jun 26, 2014 06:20pm

@Valiya India gets more aid then Pakistan. Check your facts!

Shah Jun 26, 2014 06:23pm

@Mohd Islam kc You are in a minority. The wast majority of Pakistan would like to keep this history preserved for future generations. Fasting Buddha is THE symbol of Gandhara Civilization.

Shah Jun 26, 2014 06:33pm


Shahryar Shirazi Jun 26, 2014 06:57pm

@Lakshmidhar Malaviya - This is a case of negligence and has nothing to do with the barbaric act of Taliban against the Bamiyan sculptures. On a side note, there are thousands of ancient sculptures across the globe. There is science behind maintaining these pieces of art and Lahore museum should leverage it ...

Suresh K. Jun 26, 2014 07:18pm

@Mohd Islam kc Pakistan can raise money to feed the starving by looking after such priceless artefacts and statues by making use of these objects to promote tourism and museum visits by people from all over the world, especially the Buddhists and Hindus. Foreign exchange thus earned will help alleviate some problems that you cited.

Andy Jun 26, 2014 08:24pm

@Ahmed I completely understand your frustration but what about people watching movies when many suffer - people watch movies for relaxation and that should not stop

Zarid Jun 26, 2014 08:27pm

Best course of action is to auction it to some international museum who'll protect it with utmost care....use that money to feed the people.

Sunil Jun 26, 2014 08:28pm

Fasting Buddha is an antique, a priceless needs to be preserved.

Safdar Jun 26, 2014 08:39pm

Sign of a deteriorating nation...

Zahid Anwar Jun 26, 2014 10:03pm

@Lakshmidhar Malaviya Yes, and get some money too!

Khalid Toronto Jun 27, 2014 01:36am

Guys, let's not make it an India / Pakistan issue.

Statues are cultural artifacts. What we really need to preserve are his teachings. Budha was all about peace.

Kunal Jun 27, 2014 04:07am

@Khalid Toronto It cultural heritage..And had it been a Islamic artifact you would have preserved it well.

Munz Jun 27, 2014 04:15am

Hahahaha Another blunder!!! Although I am surprised this hasn't already become a part of Zardari or some other corrupt politician's private stash...

Please donate it to a place which will take better care of an artifact like this...

Salman Rahim Jun 28, 2014 09:54am

What a bleeding shame! The Fasting Buddha is to Ghandarian sculpture as the Mona Lisa is to painting, unique and irreplaceable. The ignorant staff cannot be blamed. The curator should be fired.