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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Seated Buddha from Gandhara

Seated Buddha, British Museum 1

Seated Buddha from Gandhara

“The Seated Buddha from Gandhara” is a statue of the Buddha discovered at the site of ancient Gandhara in modern-day Pakistan. Like other Gandharan or Greco-Buddhist art, the sculpture shows the influence of Ancient Greek sculptural art. Gandhara had been part of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom established by Alexander the Great. Gandhāra was an ancient Indic kingdom situated in the northwestern region of Pakistan, around Peshawar.

Statues of the Buddha were not made until after the 1st century CE. For the first four hundred years after his death, Buddha was represented by symbols alone, such as his footprint or an empty throne or Bodhi tree. The statue was made in the 2nd or 3rd century, and although Buddha lived in the 4th century before Christ, this is an early and rare example of Buddha in human form.

The statue was carved in excellent detail and is in the pose, which was to become one of the several standard ones and shows Buddha as a teacher sitting on a platform or throne. On the front of the throne, there are much smaller figures of a bodhisattva with a turban and halo. They are flanked by kneeling figures of a male and female representing donor portraits of a couple who paid for the statue.

The drapery folds are carved in well-rounded ridges and terraces that smooth out at the knees and shoulders. The neckline is in high relief with a plunging, and a semi-circular edge that is echoed as the robe overlaps the seat.

Gautama Buddha

Gautama Buddha (c. 563 – c. 483 BCE) was a monk, philosopher and religious leader on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. He is believed to have lived and taught mostly in the northeastern part of ancient India. Gautama taught a Middle Way between indulgence and asceticism.

Gautama is the primary figure in Buddhism. He is believed by Buddhists to be an enlightened teacher who attained full Buddhahood and shared his insights to help sentient beings end rebirth and suffering. Accounts of his life and teachings were summarized after his death and memorized by his followers. Various collections of teachings attributed to him were passed down by oral tradition and first committed to writing about 400 years later.

Gandhara

Gandhāra was an ancient state in the northwest portion of South Asia, present-day Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

Conquered by Alexander the Great in 327 BC, it subsequently became part of the Indo-Greek Kingdom. The region was a significant center for Greco-Buddhism under the Indo-Greeks and Gandharan Buddhism under later dynasties. Famed for its local tradition of Gandhara or Greco-Buddhist Art. Gandhara flourished from the 1st century to the 5th century, at the crossroads of Asia connecting trade routes and by absorbing cultural influences from diverse civilizations.

Buddhism thrived until the 8th or 9th centuries, after which Islam first began to gain influence in the region. After Muslim forces conquered it in 1001 AD, the name Gandhara disappeared, and the area was administered from Lahore or Kabul. During Mughal times, it was independent.

Seated Buddha from Gandhara

  • Title:                       Seated Buddha from Gandhara
  • Material:                Schist, a metamorphic rock
  • Size:                       H: 95 cm; W: 53 cm; D: 24 cm
  • Created:                 c. 2nd – 3rd Century AD
  • Discovered:            Jamal Garhi, Gandhara, Pakistan
  • Museum:               The British Museum

A Tour of Buddhist Art in Museums

A Tour of the British Museum

Ancient Egypt and Sudan Collection

Middle East Collection

Ancient Greece and Rome Collection

Britain, Europe, and Prehistory Collection

Asian Collection

Africa, Oceania and the Americas Collection

The Prints and Drawings Collection

Information on The British Museum

Reflections

  • Can you see the influence of Classical Greek sculpture in this statue?
  • Did the interaction of Greek and Buddhist culture that flourished in the area of Gandhara produce the first Buddha representations in human form?

~~~

“Peace comes from within.
Do not seek it without.”

– Buddha

~~~


Photo Credit: Photograph by Mike Peel (www.mikepeel.net). [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 

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