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A view of the event held at the Peshawar Museum on Tuesday. — Dawn
A view of the event held at the Peshawar Museum on Tuesday. — Dawn

PESHAWAR: Swiss Ambassador Thomas Kolly expressed pride in holding exhibition of a statue of Buddha from Peshawar Museum in Zurich, saying it was the second-most successful exhibition in the history of Rietberg Museum as many people from other European countries visited it when the statue was on display.

“We really feel very proud of having the statue of Buddha in Switzerland,” he said at a function held in connection with “celebrating successful exhibition of the Colossal Buddha of Peshawar Museum in Switzerland” here at Peshawar Museum.

The Swiss ambassador came to say thanks to the provincial government for lending the statue for exhibition in Switzerland.

Minister says govt wants to promote religious tourism

The civil society of Peshawar gathered to celebrate the success of the exhibition.

A huge stone Buddha about 2,000 years old was returned safely to Peshawar Museum after being part of the exhibition called “Next Stop Nirvana” at Rietberg Museum in Zurich, Switzerland.

The size and the history of the colossal Buddha make it not only unique but according to head of Peshawar Museum Mohammad Asif Raza, it can rightly be claimed that it is probably the biggest statue in the world made of stone and present in such good condition, dating back to Ist-2nd Century AD.

It measures 8 feet and 4 inches (with pedestal almost 9 feet), carved in stone. It is a towering statue at Peshawar Museum and this was one reason that it caught the eye of the curator of Rietberg Museum, Dr Johannes Beltz, and others Swiss officials visiting the museum in 2018.

Under a memorandum of understanding between the governments of Pakistan and Switzerland, the statue was taken for three and half months to Rietberg Museum for exhibition. It was returned last month.

“I am sure it opened a lot of eyes in Switzerland that are many much interested to see more. The level of knowledge about this region is not very high in Switzerland about diversity and richness of its history. This statue in Switzerland was really a contribution to raise the level of knowledge about Pakistan and its rich history,” said Ambassador Thomas Kolly.

For the first time, Peshawar Museum took the initiative of showing the world its rich collection of rare artifacts when back in 2017 some 40 artifacts were loaned for exhibition to South Korea.

Lending the huge Buddha to Switzerland for the exhibition was second such initiative and according to the officials of both the museums some 35,000 people visited the Buddha during the exhibition lasting from December12, 2018 to March 31, 2019.

The Buddha statue was excavated by a British archaeological team in 1909 in Sahra-i-Bahlol near Tahkt Bhai in Mardan. It was moved for the first time in hundred years, only after insurance of some 20 million dollars to be exhibited in Switzerland.

Asif Raza, who was part of the delegation that attended the exhibition, said that in so many decades the Buddha didn’t received as many visitors.

He hoped that such exhibitions would revive religious tourism in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Shuakt Yousafzai, the provincial information minister, said on the occasion that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government wanted to promote religious tourism.

He said that such exhibitions helped to show the world the historic and archaeological richness and beauty of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Published in Dawn, May 15th, 2019