Gandhara Sculpture at the Lahore Museum
This summer, I volunteered at the beautiful Lahore Museum to create a brochure for their Gandhara Buddhist Art collection. The Gandhara Gallery, one of the Museum’s most spectacular, draws thousands of local and foreign visitors every year, yet there was no visitor-friendly literature about it that could be used for educational purposes, or as an informative souvenir.
Click here to view the complete gallery of my Gandhara Sculpture photos on Flickr.
The brochure comprises of 5 double-sided pages, each page 10″ x 5″, with the renowned Fasting Siddhartha on the cover and Visitor Information at the back. I did the photography and text as well as brochure design. For the Lahoris, hopefully you’ll be able to get a nice, glossy hard copy of the brochure at the Museum soon!
8 thoughts on “Gandhara Sculpture at the Lahore Museum”
February 21, 2016 at 12:38 pm
thanks for the brochure. when I visited the museum two years ago I got a small brochure. it is not the same as this one. can I use your’s for research sake? thanks
October 16, 2013 at 5:44 pm
Haha, yes, maybe you are reading too much into it. I did not intend to make any such stark contrast, if anything I wanted to highlight the rich, multi-cultural and multi-religious heritage of Gandhara, and how all the different cultures contributed to the art. It just so happened that the Huns, who were a pretty jangli people, decided to adopt Shaivism – it could have been any other religion, it doesn’t matter, because they probably would have acted just as barbaric. Religion, or a difference of belief, just becomes an excuse for war and and violence. It is never the fault of “religion” itself.
Obviously it wasn’t possible to express all these nuances in a brochure :) If I had more space I would have liked to mention Mihirakula, for sure, and the Guptas. Maybe next time, when I make a brochure for the Lahore Museum’s Hindu & Jain Gallery!
October 16, 2013 at 6:02 pm
Yes, agree with everything you have said there :)
By the way, came across this recent dissertation on the Hephthalites, has lots of interesting stuff on their attitudes towards religions, and the interesting geo-political situation they found themselves in (Turkic rulers on one side, Sassanid Iran and Gupta India on the others). You might already have come across it, but just sharing anyways,
Thanks again ! Look forward to more work from you.
October 16, 2013 at 8:53 am
I had come to this post with the greatest of hopes and optimism. I am leaving very disappointed. Replace Hindu by Muslim in the Hephthalite section, and your brochure almost reads like an RSS pamphlet.
There is a lot of complex politics behind the destruction of any place of worship by kings, but you seem to be misinformed about Ghaznavi and Buddhist monasteries,
“When Mahmud of Ghazni conquered Afghanistan, Pakistan and part of west India during the twelfth century, many Buddhist monasteries and other artifacts were looted or destroyed, yet the Buddhas and there surroundings were largely spared.”
http://www.cemml.colostate.edu/cultural/09476/afgh02-09enl.html (Many other sources attest to this as well)
I would be interested in seeing the sources on which you have based this brochure.
October 16, 2013 at 2:13 pm
Thanks for going through the brochure, though I’m not sure I fully understand your criticism of it. I agree that the politics of religion and invasion is complicated, but since I was writing a brochure, not a thesis, I had to keep it simple yet accurate, and stick to the theme of the brochure, which was Buddhist Gandhara Art & Civilization.
But let me try to understand. Are you criticizing the historical fact that the White Huns or Hephthalites destroyed Gandharan monasteries and effectively put an end to Gandharan civilization? No matter which version of history you read, it is clear that Gandharan civilization started declining after the Hepthalite invasion:
“About the middle of the fifth century, Gandhara was conquered by groups of people often identified as the Huns or Hephthalites, thus bringing this major period of Buddhist patronage to a close.” Kurt Behrendt, Department of Asian Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/gand/hd_gand.htm)
“The travel records of many Chinese Buddhists pilgrims record that Gandhara was going through a transformation during these centuries. Buddhism was declining and Hinduism was rising. Fa-Xian travelled around 400, when Prakrit was the Language of the people and Buddhism was flourishing. 100 years later, when Song-Yun visited in 520, a different picture was described: the area had been destroyed by Huns and was ruled by Lae-Lih who did not practice laws of The Buddha. Xuan-Zang visited India around 644 and found Buddhism on the wane in Gandhara and Hinduism in the ascendant. Gandhara was ruled by a king from Kabul, who respected Buddha’s law, but Taxila was in ruins and Buddhist Monasteries were deserted. Instead, Hindu temples were numerous and Hinduism was popular.” Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia (http://www.chinabuddhismencyclopedia.com/en/index.php?title=Gandhara)
An Indian author, Kamlesh Kapur, describes the destruction wrought by the Huns in even stronger terms, page 354 of her book “History Of Ancient India (portraits of a nation)”. You can see a free preview of the page on Google Books.
As for the destruction caused by Mahmud of Ghazni, there is no denying that either. But Mahmud focused most of his energies on Hindu places of worship, Hinduism being the ruling religion of the time and the main “threat”. Buddhism in Gandhara was already waning, and not at all a threat, so Buddhist communities and places of worship were largely spared.
“Islam reached Gandhara in the 7th century. For the next few centuries Buddhists and Muslims lived together in mutual peace and respect. Buddhist communities and monasteries that came under Muslim rule were, with a few exceptions, left alone. But Gandhara was long past its prime, and conquest by Mahmud of Ghazna (ruled 998–1030) effectively put an end to it. Mahmud defeated the Hindu Gandharan King Jayapala, who committed suicide. Jayapala’s son Trilocanpala was assassinated by his own troops in 1012, an act that marked the official end of Gandhara. Mahmud left the Buddhist communities and monasteries under his rule alone, as had most Muslim rulers. Even so, after the 11th century Buddhism in the region gradually withered away. It is difficult to pin down exactly when the last Buddhist monasteries in Afghanistan and Pakistan were abandoned. However, for many centuries the Buddhist cultural heritage of Gandhara was preserved by the Muslim descendants of the Gandharans.” Barbara O’Brian (http://buddhism.about.com/od/buddhisthistory/a/gandhara_2.htm)
“In 999, the next Ghaznavid ruler, Mahmud of Ghazni (ruled 998 – 1030) overthrew the Samanids, with the help of Turkic slave soldiers in the Samanid service. The Ghaznavid Empire now included Bactria and southern Sogdia. Mahmud Ghazni also conquered most of Iran. He continued the Samanid policy of promoting Persian culture and tolerating non-Muslim religions. Al-Biruni, a Persian scholar and writer in service to the Ghaznavid court, reported that, at the turn of the millennium, the Buddhist monasteries in Bactria, including Nava Vihara, were still functioning.
Mahmud of Ghazni was intolerant, however, of Islamic sects other than the orthodox Sunni one that he supported. His attacks on Multan in northern Sindh in 1005 and again in 1010 were campaigns against the state-supported Ismaili sect of Shia Islam, which the Samanids had also favored. The Ismaili Fatimid Dynasty (910 – 1171), centered in Egypt from 969, was the principal rival of the Sunni Abbasids for supremacy of the Islamic world. Mahmud was also intent on finishing the overthrow of the Hindu Shahis that his father had begun. Thus, he attacked and drove out the Hindu Shahis from Gandhara, and then proceeded from Gandhara to take Multan.
Over the next years, Mahmud expanded his empire by conquering the regions eastward as far as Agra in northern India. His looting and destruction of wealthy Hindu temples and Buddhist monasteries on the way were part of his invasion tactic. As in most wars, the invading forces often cause as much destruction as possible in order to convince the local population to surrender, especially if they offer resistance. During his campaigns in the Indian subcontinent, Mahmud Ghazni left the Buddhist monasteries under his rule in Kabul and Bactria alone.” The Berzin Archives (http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/archives/study/history_buddhism/buddhism_central_asia/history_afghanistan_buddhism.html)
The point I wanted to make clear in the brochure (with limited space and words) was that Gandharan Civilization went into irreversible decline starting with the Huna invasion. That was the turning point, when the most physical damage occurred. I have worked in excavations in the ancient Gandharan capital of Taxila with world-renowned Pakistani Gandhara archaeologist Dr. Ashraf Khan, and this much is clear through archaeological evidence. It is also clear through the records left by Chinese pilgrims. The destruction caused by Mahmud to Buddhist communities in the Gandhara heartland (present-day Pakistan) was minimal – it was like re-opening a robbed grave. Hindu communities and Hindu places of worship in Gandhara, or Buddhist communities in other parts of the subcontinent, I cannot speak of, and would be the subject of another essay, or brochure.
I hope you understand my point so we don’t have to get into a typical, annoying India/Pakistan – Hindu/Muslim debate!
October 16, 2013 at 5:14 pm
Thanks Manal, I went over your excerpts carefully and read the relevant sections in Kapur’s book. I still fail to understand the sequence you have adopted in your brochure, Huns invade -> favour Hinduism -> destroy Buddhist monasteries. This gives the unmistakable impression that it was the adoption of Shaivism that made the Huns target Buddhists, whereas Kapur’s book attributes it solely to Mihirakula. It was the Hindu kings Yashodharman and Narsimhgupta who drove Mihirakula out of those areas.
My criticism would be that the text in the brochure does make a false Hindu-Muslim contrast. Or maybe I am reading too much into it.
Thank you for your detailed response, and all the links to the historical sources. As a South Asian history enthusiast myself, I really appreciate it.
October 12, 2013 at 9:09 am
Thank you for sharing this. I wish more and more people spend their time productively like you do. There is so much opportunity (I learnt this word at my first job many years ago – it’s more than just a euphemism for words like issue, problem, weakness etc) in so many places all around the world. The brochure is very inviting – I hope to visit the museum soon and get a copy for myself. Best wishes.
October 13, 2013 at 7:28 pm
Thank you Aftab for the appreciation! I’m excited about learning more about museums and historic conservation in Europe, so I can one day apply it in Pakistan :)