Friday, June 27, 2014

The First Images of the Buddha (photos)

Dhr. Seven, Amber Larson (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly; Editorial (, 6-27-14); Wiki
The first anthropomorphic representations of the Buddha were Gandhara art (Boonlieng)
Priceless Buddhist treasures were intercepted while being smuggled out of Pakistan, part of Pashtun Afghanistan, in the region of ancient Gandhara, India (BigStory.AP org)
[Breaking the] Fasting Buddha
Kashmir on the Pakistan side (Vivek Aryan)
(Dawn) Truly is it said, reality is stranger than fiction -- especially here in Pakistan. Since 1894, when it was donated upon being discovered, the Gandhara-era statue of the "Fasting Buddha" has been considered the jewel of the Lahore Museum.

Museum Maitreya Buddha
Images of it adorn postcards and newsreels, and proud [Muslim] citizens make it a point to take visitors to see it as an indication that whatever else the country may be, a cultural wasteland it is not.

This statue, priceless in terms of historical significance, has for a long time had a crack on the left arm. Investigations by this paper [], upon receiving a tip-off, have confirmed an unbelievable story:

Back in April, 2012, the crack widened while being cleaned and the statue was given over to the museum laboratory’s tender ministrations. But instead of the scientific, delicate, and professional handling that an artifact of this stature demands, an attempt was made to fix it by applying the common adhesive epoxy, which remains [shockingly] evident on the statue’s surface and has caused irreparable harm.

Where in the world is Pakistan? It only came into existence in 1947 after the colonial British Partition of India. Along with Afghanistan, it was formerly Gandhara, India. Then the U.S. started meddling; now we bomb it secretly.
One of the priceless Afghan treasures of Mes Aynak
The trail of destruction isn’t hard to trace, given the standards at the moment: The current lab technician worked earlier as a driver and gallery attendant, while the lab "conservationist" used to be a peon.
What can be made of this but the utter disregard Pakistanis tend to show towards history and culture? This is hardly the only example of this mindset. It turns out that 2012 was an inauspicious year for Gandhara-era [Buddhist] artifacts. That summer, the police intercepted a large consignment of such relics that had apparently been about to be smuggled out of the country [see photo of looted Buddhist art above].

Gandhara is full of earliest Buddhist treasures
But during the recovery process, the police ended up damaging many of them, unprepared perhaps for their weight and certainly unmindful of their value. In the case of the Lahore Museum, the qualified chemist employed at the lab was retired in 2009. No replacement has been found. This is unsurprising, given the importance attached to archaeology and history in the country.

Afghan Buddhist monastery statue 700 AD (Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara)
First Buddhas, Gandhara
(Wiki) Greco-Buddhist art is the artistic manifestation of Greco-Buddhism, a cultural syncretism between the Classical Greek culture and Buddhism, which developed over a period of close to 1000 years in Central Asia, between the conquests of Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC, and the destructive Islamic conquests of the 7th century AD. Greco-Buddhist art is characterized by the strong idealistic realism and sensuous description of Hellenistic art and the FIRST representations of the Buddha in human form...

Future Buddha Maitreya, Gandhara-style, Greco-Indian Buddhist fusion art of Afghanistan, Pakistan, ancient India, San Francisco Asian Art Museum (Boonlieng/

Ancient Greece (in India and Persia)
Kushan Maitreya, Greco-India
Bactria was under direct Greek control for more than two centuries from the conquests of Alexander the Great in 332 BC to the end of the Greco-Bactrian kingdom around 125 BC. The art of Bactria was almost perfectly Hellenistic as shown by the archaeological remains of Greco-Bactrian cities such as Alexandria on the Oxus (Ai-Khanoum), or the numismatic art of the Greco-Bactrian kings, often considered as the best of the Hellenistic world, and including the largest silver and gold coins ever minted by the Greeks.
When Buddhism expanded in Central Asia from the 1st century AD, Bactria saw the results of the Greco-Buddhist syncretism arrive on its territory from India, and a new blend of sculptural representation remained until the Islamic invasions.
The most striking of these realizations are the Buddhas of Bamiyan. They tend to vary between the 5th and the 9th century AD. Their style is strongly inspired by Hellenistic culture. More

Western China
"Heroic gesture of the Bodhisattva," the Buddha-to-be, 6th-7th century terracotta, Tumshuq (Xinjiang) where the Chinese empire extended from the Far East into Central Asia, the Land of Buddhism and the Buddha (wiki).
[WISDOM QUARTERLY EDITORIAL: Buddhism made it to ancient "Greece," the Hellenistic world as a vast empire encroaching into India and Persia, before it ever arrived in China. It co-originated in Afghanistan (the Buddha's likely birthplace according to Dr. Ranajit Pal) and "India" (the Kingdom of Magadha to be specific as there was no unified India at that time), where the Buddha had traveled to establish the Teaching and the first monastic Community, which was soon augmented by many Shakyan princes and princesses, relatives of the Buddha from the area of Gandhara, Afghanistan, Indo-Pakistan, Taxila (Takkashila), Indo-Iran, and lands (the modern "stans") likely under the influence of the capital of Kapilavastu, the Buddha's hometown, the kingdom he would have inherited somewhere between modern Bamiyan and Kabul, once a fabulously rich and cosmopolitan crossroads on the Silk Route.]
  • BUST: The original representation of the Buddha in gray schist, currently dated to 2nd-3rd century CE showing Hellenistic influences characteristic of the Gandhara art of Afghanistan and Northwest Pakistan (British Museum/
Maitreya in USA (Boonlieng)
The art of the Tarim Basin, also called Serindian art, is the art that developed from the 2nd through the 11th century AD in Serindia or Xinjiang, the extreme western region of China that forms part of Central Asia. It derives from the art of the Gandhara and clearly combines Indian traditions with Greek and Roman influences.
Buddhist missionaries travelling on the Silk Road introduced this art, along with Buddhism itself, into Serindia, where it mixed with Chinese and Persian influences.

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