PESHAWAR, March 28: The Buddhist art of Gandhara influenced not just the art of united India but that of the entire Buddhist world. So said Prof Fidaullah Sehrai, former director of the Peshawar Museum and former chairman of Peshawar University’s archaeology department, on Wednesday.

He was delivering a lecture at the Peshawar Museum to a 54-member foreign delegation on the religion, art and architecture of the Gandhara period, said a press release. The delegation is in Pakistan to participate in the third Gandhara week which has been organised by the ministry of tourism.

Members of the delegation included Buddhist monks, tour operators, journalists and travel writers from China, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Bhutan, Nepal, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

Prof Sehrai, who is an expert on the Buddhist art and architecture of South Asia, said the first Buddha image of the world was created in Gandhara which was its greatest gift to the world of Buddhism.

He said Buddhism in Gandhara had taken various forms from time to time. It had started with Hinayanism, which was introduced by Ashok Maurya, and changed into Mahayanism in the time of the Kushan Emperor Kanishka who ruled in the first century AD.

It was Mahayanism which had given impetus to the growth of Gandhara art. Later, Mahayanism changed into Vairayana and Tantrayan forms of Buddhism in Swat which reached Tibet and become Lamaism, he said.

He said the Gandhara art reached the climax due to the royal patronage of Emperor Kanishka and prosperity which Gandhara achieved from foreign trade and commerce on Silk roads which connected it with Central Asia, Western countries and South Asia.

He said the subject matter of the Gandhara art was life stories of the Buddha, written in Peshawar and carved by sculptors in their light stones.

He said the reasons for the decline of the art were the lack of royal patronage after Kanishka’s death and the disconnection of Silk roads by the Sassanian rulers of Iran.—APP

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