Friday, July 26, 2013

Buddhist Gandhara (Ancient Northwest India)

Dhr. Seven, Ashley Wells, Amber Larson, Wisdom Quarterly; Heilbrunn,
The Buddha was first depicted in the Gandhara style (freebody.zhang/flickr)
PHOTOS: Metropolitan Museum of Art Gandharan slideshow
How old is "India" (Great Bharat)? It has its roots in the fantastical Indus Valley Civilization
Synthesis of foreign styles with Indian forms is typical of the multi-ethnic character of Gandharan taste.

Gandhāra Buddhist Texts (
Gandhara is the ancient name of a region in India [which in 1948 became Pakistan] bounded on the west by the Hindu Kush mountain range [part of Himalayan range] and to the north by the foothills of the Himalayas. 
In 330 B.C., Alexander the Great [whom Dr. Pal reexamines along with Ashoka the Great and Diodotus I] conquered this region and, together with the Indo-Greek kings that succeeded him, introduced classical traditions that became an important part of Gandhara's artistic taste over the next seven centuries.
This contact resulted in the establishment of overland trade routes through the Parthian empire and Indo-Greek cities like Ai-Khanoum in northern Afghanistan. Starting about 50 B.C., this trade dramatically increased with the introduction of ocean routes employing monsoon winds to cross the Arabian Sea.
The Buddha, Indo-Greecian, Central Asian "Gandhara" style (

These sea routes supplied an expanding overland trade network that passed through Gandhara and continued on to Central Asia and China. Gandharan control of the high mountain passes vital to this international commerce made the region wealthy; the resulting cosmopolitan elites became some of the most powerful Buddhist patrons in all of South Asia.
Ancient India (Bharat) extended far to the west. Buddhism and cultural interactions existed all over modern Afghanistan, Iran (Persia), ancient Greece (Bactria, etc.), and up Central Asia through the 'stans into Russia and Europe's Kalmykia (
Second- to the first-century B.C. luxury goods found in ancient fortified cities constitute some of the earliest remains from Gandhara attesting to contact with the Mediterranean world. Typical of this production is a stone dish (1987.142.307), which likely had a domestic religious function.

Proto "India": Indus Valley Civilization
Carved into the face is a representation of Daphne turning to look back at the approaching figure of Apollo, a composition that reveals the artist's familiarity with Hellenistic motifs and narrative structure, and perhaps even the story itself. Related in format is a silver roundel depicting the goddess Hariti (1981.460.2), a protector of children, only in this instance the linear treatment of drapery is stylistically akin to imagery of the Parthian empire. 
As is typical of many Gandharan compositions, Hariti wears jewelry and sits on a throne that has clear South Asian origins; this synthesis of foreign styles with Indian forms is typical of the multi-ethnic character of Gandharan taste. More

Related: Timelines (7), Primary Thematic Essays (6), Other Thematic Essays (18), Maps (8), Index Terms (33)

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