Gray Schist Stele of Bodhisattva Gandhara
GANDHARA, 2ND / 3RD CENTURY
Gray Schist Stele of Bodhisattva Gandhara, a nice figure of Bodhisattva, gray schist, high 29 cm.
P R O V E N A N C E :
Ex English Collection, London
formed between 1940s – 1972
Gandhāra is the ancient name for a culturally influential region in what is present-day north-west Pakistan and parts of north-east Afghanistan, with influence on the greater north-western region of the Indian subcontinent. The kingdom centered on the Peshawar Valley and Swat river valley, though the cultural influence of “Greater Gandhara” extended across the Indus river to the Taxila region in Potohar Plateau and westwards into the Kabul and Bamiyan valleys in Afghanistan, and northwards up to the Karakoram range.
Famed for its unique Gandharan style of art that is heavily influenced by classical Greek and Hellenistic styles, Gandhara attained its height from the 1st century to the 5th century CE under the Kushan Empire. Gandhara “flourished at the crossroads of Asia,” connecting trade routes and absorbing cultural influences from diverse civilizations; Buddhism thrived until the 8th or 9th centuries, when Islam first began to gain sway in the region. It was also a centre of Vedic and Later forms of Hinduism.
Gandhara’s existence is attested since the time of the Rigveda (c. 1500 – c. 1200 BCE), as well as the Zoroastrian Avesta, which mentions it as Vaēkərəta, the sixth most beautiful place on earth created by Ahura Mazda. Gandhara was conquered by the Persian Achaemenid Empire in the 6th century BCE, Alexander the Great in 327 BCE, and later became part of the Maurya Empire before being a centre of the Indo-Greek Kingdom. The region was a major centre for Greco-Buddhism under the Indo-Greeks and Gandharan Buddhism under later dynasties. Gandhara also a central location for the spread of Buddhism to Central Asia and East Asia.
The region steadily declined after violent invasion by Alchon Huns in 6th century, and the name Gandhara disappeared after Mahmud Ghaznavi’s conquest in 1001 AD.