PESHAWAR: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Gandhara artefacts will be displayed for the first time in South Korea not only to attract religious tourists but give a unique experience to the South Koreans at home since the Buddhist country has strong centuries-old religious ties with the province.

Terrorism may have deterred tourists to come to the scenic and archaeologically rich Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the past decade or so but despite it some two years ago South Korean monks visited the province and the places holy to them. They had worshipped at their holy places and expressed the hope that other Koreans had the chance to have the spiritual experience too. Monks from Sri lanka had also visited the holy Buddhist sites and worshipped here, said an official here.

“This exhibition will not only display the archaeological objects but also boost and promote religious tourism for which the province has great potential,” said director Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Archaeology and Museums Dr Abdul Samad who would be going to Korea to be part of the inauguration of the first-ever exhibition of its kind in Seoul, South Korea, starting on June 29.

Exhibition of 40 objects to continue in Seoul for three months

About 40 objects from the rich and rare collection of Gandhara civilisation from Peshawar Museum would be displayed in Seoul for three months. South Koreans have great reverence for the collection from this region as it is to them like Mecca is to Muslim since Buddhism spread to South Korea by monks who hailed from the region what is today called Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“This is a holy place for Koreans. Buddhism reached Korea from this part of the world through a monk named Maralanda in 4th century AD,” said Dr Samad.

Dr Samad said that the objects would be on display for three months so that the people there could have enough time to satisfy their religious sentiments as well as be made aware of why they need to come to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which was rich in holy places, monasteries and artefacts.

He said an agreement of holdings terms and conditions regarding this exhibition was signed by the federal government and South Korea. The federal government issued a licence and NOC after signing the agreement.

Inter-Art, which is an international company having experience of holding such exhibitions in Korea, is helping with the exhibition. Such an exhibition was earlier held in Japan but it was being organised for the first time in South Korea .

The official said that Gandhara artefacts to be displayed in South Korea were insured .

“About 106 million dollars is the insurance value of these objects determined by the international insurance agency,” said the official.

The exhibition which will be inaugurated in a few days will be attended by around 45 ambassadors in South Korea. The official feels it is a suitable occasion to display the cultural and historical richness of not only the province but also the country itself.

Published in Dawn, June 26th, 2017