Museum exhibit highlights Pakistan’s Buddhist roots

(CNN) — A statue resembling the goddess Athena and jewelry bearing images from Greco-Roman mythology may not be objects you’d expect to see in a museum exhibit of Buddhist art from Pakistan.


Their presence among carvings of Buddha and Indian deities is meant to serve as a reminder of Pakistan’s oft-forgotten multicultural roots, which form the basis of a new exhibit, “The Buddhist Heritage of Pakistan: Art of Gandhara.”

The show, which runs until October 30 at New York’s Asia Society, is the first to bring works of Gandharan art to the United States since 1960. The pieces, on loan from museums in Karachi and Lahore, highlight Pakistan’s history as a crossroads of cultural influences, despite present-day associations of the country as an incubator of religious extremism, museum director Melissa Chiu said.

“When we think of Pakistan, Americans might associate it with the place where Osama bin Laden was captured, with terrorism and natural disasters,” she said. “But actually, it has a much longer history that dates back to an ancient culture that gives us a sense of a pluralistic tradition that was all about tolerance.”

At its height, Gandhara encompassed present-day Peshawar in northwest Pakistan and parts of eastern Afghanistan, the Hindu Kush, and northwest India, making it a major center of trade, commerce and the development of arts and education. Pakistan may be 95% Muslim today, but Buddhism flourished in Gandhara between the 2nd century B.C. and 10th century A.D., giving rise to a distinct style of Buddhist visual art.

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Image is of Taxila , Dharmarajika Stupa, courtesy of.

Categories: Buddhism, Pakistan

2 replies

  1. Through a dialogue with a hindu friend of mine recently, this question arose:

    A concept of ten avtars exists amongst hindus, whereby the 7th avtar is classified as Ram (a.s), the 8th as Krishna (a.s), the 9th as Buddha (a.s) and the 10th, who is yet to come according to Hindus, as the Kalki avtar.

    Question: If Hindus recognise Buddha (a.s) as an avtar, why do Buddhism and Hinduism seem to be separate religions?

    Secondly, Buddha (a.s) seems to have predicted the advent of Metteya Buddha (as we read from Hadhrat Massih Mawood (a.s)’s book ‘Jesus in India), which we in Islam-Ahmadiyyat, believe to be Jesus (a.s). This seems to imply that Jesus (a.s) seems to be a link between Buddhists (and hence Hindus) and Israelites. Am I right in this conclusion?

    Jazakumullah for any further help around this subject.

  2. Salam Afzal, nice question indeed.

    I will only say “Allahu a’alamu”. I will like to present certain facts however. Prophets of India came for resurrection of tauheed amongst Indians. Remember “hindu” is not their religion, as it signifies someones geographical identity. “Vedanti” (believer in 4 vedas) is the correct word to signify their religion. Hazrat Budha(a.s.) came for resurrection of vedantists and to remove orthodoxy by establishing reasoning and common sense, establish tauheed, These two faith are different in the way they present vedanti to follow Aryan faith. “Maitreya” means kind one. Rasul Allah(s.a.s.) has been sent as kindness for all of mankind. Jesus(a.s.) is certainly no the one here.

    Where as Israelite prophets came solely for Hebrew Israelites. 15: 22 to 15: 28 Matthew(Holy Bible). So Jesus(a.s.) according Holy Bible is not sent to resurrect or give guidance to any non Jew.

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