Ruins of Dharmarajika is one of the most preserved site of Gandhara Civilisation. — Photo courtesy PM Taskforce on Gandhara Tourism
Ruins of Dharmarajika is one of the most preserved site of Gandhara Civilisation. — Photo courtesy PM Taskforce on Gandhara Tourism

ISLAMABAD: The international Gandhara symposium scheduled to be held in the federal capital on July 11 aims to promote a ‘soft image’ of Pakistan and it will be attended by monks from several Buddhist-majority countries.

The symposium titled “Cultural Diplomacy: Reviving Gandhara Civilisation & Buddhist Heritage in Pakistan” will be addressed by scholars and Buddhist leaders from Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Nepal, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and China.

This is the first international event to be held in the country in which religious leaders from several Buddhist countries would participate.

Pakistan has a rich connection with Buddhism – the signs of ancient Gandhara civilisation include Takshasila (Taxila), Purushapura (Peshawar), and Pushkalavati (Charsadda).

Minister says event to ‘remove misconceptions’ between Buddhist countries, Pakistan

Archaeological remains of its glorious aesthetic culture have been discovered and continue to be discovered in several places, including Gilgit-Baltistan. During the reign of Ashoka the Great, a route between Gilgit and Kashmir was opened and Buddhism reached China and Tibet through Gilgit.

Talking to the media ahead of the symposium scheduled for next week, Dr Ramesh Vankwani, minister for state and chairman of PM’s task force on Gandhara tourism, said that the working paper for the symposium has been prepared after consultations with the historians and experts.

According to the working paper, ‘Gandhara’ means ‘land of fragrance’ and it was one of the most significant centres of the Buddhist civilisation. The working paper highlighted that various archaeological sites, ancient Buddhist monasteries, and Gandhara artefacts held historical, cultural and religious significance for Buddhists across the world.

Dr Vankwani said the upcoming conference aimed to explore “pathways to peace” and to present Pakistan’s rich history to the world.

“It will also portray the soft image of Pakistan and help promote religious tourism as well as create an enabling environment in this regard,” he said.

The state minister added that it was expected that the symposium would preserve the rich historical and cultural heritage of the Gandhara civilisation in Pakistan.

“The symposium will be helpful in eradicating misconceptions between the Buddhist-majority countries and the Muslim-majority Pakistan,” he highlighted.

He added that the positive results will be witnessed after Buddhist religious leaders from various countries will come to Pakistan and witness the hospitality and the well-preserved ancient sites here.

The visiting delegates will take tours of ancient sites and will also perform religious rituals there as per their traditions.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2023

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