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HOME : Asian Art : Gandharan Artefacts : Gandharan Schist Relief
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Gandharan Schist Relief - SF.200
Origin: Central Asia
Circa: 100 AD to 400 AD
Dimensions: 15.75" (40.0cm) high x 14.75" (37.5cm) wide
Collection: Asian
Style: Gandhara
Medium: Schist

Additional Information: Hong-Kong

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This is a Buddhist narrative schist relief from Gandhara region. This relief depicts the first day of the Buddha’s Sravasti Miracle, when he created a bounteous tree by planting his tooth-pick in the ground, causing a great tree to spring up, fragrant and fully laden with flowers and ripe fruit. The Buddha, with a halo on his back, stands beside the miracle tree which has the symbol of a dharma wheel, manifesting to the fact that the Buddha performed this miracle for teaching the audience about the principle of karma, that every deed of a person is a seed that bears dharmic fruit in the future. This is an extremely rare relief which completely shows one narrative scene.

Situated on the border between what is now Pakistan and Afghanistan, the kingdom of Gandhara contained several notable cities that flourished between the 6th century B.C. and the 11th century A.D. It saw enormous changes with the ebb and flow of contemporary superpowers. It also became a center of learning (notably with the invention of the Kharosti alphabet) and of religious pilgrimage, as this is where the holy scriptures of Buddha were kept. Prior to this in the 6th century B.C. Gandhara was absorbed into the Achaemenid (Persian) Empire. The collapse of this dynasty led to a series of power struggles that ended with the crushing of native armies by Alexander the Great in 327 B.C. This was followed by the attack by Demetrius of Bactria, and while the area was Graeco- Bactrian for some time, it eventually gained independence under King Menander in the mid 2nd century B.C. The final effects of Greek colonialism were eroded by about 50 B.C. under a fierce campaign headed by the Parthians. While catastrophic to social order at the time, the cultural diversity of the region was greatly enhanced by the appearance of the Greeks, especially in terms of artistic production. Even after the Greeks had gone, their legacy endured in the aesthetics that makes Gandhara art unique. The golden period of Gandharan art dates to c. 100-200 A.D. with the arrival of the Kushans, a Central Asian group under whose governorship the arts and sciences flourished as never before. The mixture of different cultures produced a completely unique set of architectural and artistic traditions. Their greatest monarch, Kanishka, encouraged the arts, and under his reign totally new conventions were to develop including the earliest depictions of the Buddha in human form. The cultural syncretism between eastern themes and western styles has become known as Greco- Buddhism, and is one of the most remarkable – and successful – examples of cultural fusion in history. Everything from architecture to sculpture, coinage and even jewelry developed in new and extraordinary ways. Myths and figures from Greek mythology – such as Atlas, or Dionysus – are also found in some friezes and paintings. The Buddhas resemble Greek kings in ersatz togas, sitting in houses influenced by the Corinthian model, while Bodhisattvas and other religious figures are often depicted with startling realism as bare-chested Indian princes. Gandhara was an ancient state, a mahajanapada, in the Peshawar basin in the northwest portion of the ancient Indian subcontinent, present-day Afghanistan and Pakistan. The center of the region was at the confluence of the Kabul and Swat rivers, bounded by the Sulaiman Mountains on the west and the Indus River on the east. The Safed Koh mountains separated it from the Kohat region to the south. This being the core area of Gandhara, the cultural influence of "Greater Gandhara" extended across the Indus river to the Taxila region and westwards into the Kabul and Bamiyan valleys in Afghanistan, and northwards up to the Karakoram range.[1][2][3] Gandhara was one of sixteen mahajanapadas (large conglomerations of urban and rural areas) of ancient India mentioned in Buddhist sources such as Anguttara Nikaya.[4][5] During the Achaemenid period and Hellenistic period, its capital city was Pushkalavati (Greek: ?e??e?a?t??), modern Charsadda.[note 1] Later the capital city was moved to Peshawar[note 2] by the Kushan emperor Kanishka the Great in about AD 127. Gandhara existed since the time of the Rigveda (c. 1500–1200 BC),[6][7] as well as the Zoroastrian Avesta, which mentions it as Vaek?r?ta, the sixth most beautiful place on earth, created by Ahura Mazda. Gandhara was conquered by the Achaemenid Empire in the 6th century BC. Conquered by Alexander the Great in 327 BC, it subsequently became part of the Maurya Empire and then the Indo-Greek Kingdom. The region was a major center for Greco-Buddhism under the Indo-Greeks and Gandharan Buddhism under later dynasties. It was also a central location for the spread of Buddhism to Central Asia and East Asia.[8] It was also a center of Bactrian Zoroastrianism and Hinduism.[9] Famed for its local tradition of Gandhara (Greco-Buddhist) Art, Gandhara attained its height from the 1st century to the 5th century under the Kushan Empire. Gandhara "flourished at the crossroads of Asia," connecting trade routes and absorbing cultural influences from diverse civilizations; Buddhism thrived until 8th or 9th centuries, when Islam first began to gain sway in the region.[10] Pockets of Buddhism persisted in Pakistan's Swat valley until the 11th century.[11] The Persian term Shahi is used by historian Al- Biruni[12] to refer to the ruling dynasty[13] that took over from the Kabul Shahi[14] and ruled the region during the period prior to Muslim conquests of the 10th and 11th centuries. After it was conquered by Mahmud of Ghazni in 1001 AD, the name Gandhara disappeared. During the Muslim period, the area was administered from Lahore or from Kabul. During Mughal times, it was an independent district which included the Kabul province. - (SF.200)


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