Pakistan is among the ancient regions of Asian continent that served as the nurturing cradle for Buddhism where the great Siddhartha Gautama——the Buddha laid the foundation of the religion that preached the path of spiritual awakening for insight to reveal the reality of nature. Pakistan is also one of the famous hubs of Buddhist heritage and artifacts in the world. Buddhist art and craft though during insurgency in Afghanistan and Pakistan faced destruction yet many of the key historical sites are intact.
Pakistan being an Islamic state has preserved cultural heritage and historical monuments of all other religions and faiths. The Buddha Stupas and mounds have rich heritage that makes it an important pilgrimage site for the followers of Buddhism around the world. There are numerous religious sites of Buddhist heritage and artifacts scattered across Pakistan. The restoration and conservation of heritage sites along with religious tolerance is key to rebuild the confidence of pilgrims and religious tourists especially minorities. However, the incumbent government is making all out efforts to preserve and maintain the religious places of minorities with interfaith harmony that would help to ensure fundamental rights of minorities in the country.
An official of DOAM (Department of archeology and Museum) told APP that Taxila valley, Peshawar valley, ancient Gandhara and Swat valley were the main centers of inspiration of Buddhist art and craft. Buddhist heritage in Taxila valley is expanded up to ten square kilometres. Dozens of Budhist Stupa, monastic complexes dating from 3 cent. BC to 6th cent. AC are fully adorned with a variety of Buddha and Bodhisattvas sculptures, relics caskets etc.
These sculptures are made of schist stone, stucco,terracotta, bronze, silver and gold. Rare mural paintings of Jinan Wahid dheri, the largest statue of dying Budda from Bhamala Stupa, red sandstone sculpture from Badal pir are rare collections in the Buddhist world.
Buddhist finds specially stucco sculptures are world famous collections recovered from Taxila by Sir John Marshall DG archaeological survey of India during his large scale excavations in 1903 to 1928. He wrote a detailed volume of books about Taxila and Gandhara. Artifacts discovered from Taxila are significant for their Hellenistic features. Scythian, Parthian, Kushan dominance is quite visible and distinguishable make them novel in the world. The Sculpture of Fasting Siddhartha called Buddha discovered from sikri Mardan is one of the most recognized stone sculptures throughout the world.
Thatkh e Bhai, sari balol world heritage sites are the Other center of Buddhist collection in Peshawar valley,during the last about four years, Bamala in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has emerged as a major Buddhist heritage site after the remains of a 1700 years old sleeping Buddha statue were discovered there. Swat valley is another major hub of Buddhist art that remained active till the tenth century. From here Buddhist art penetrated to China, Korea and Japan. Buddhist art of stone sculpting spread from Swat to the other parts of Buddhist centers in Pakistan. Features of Buddhist art in Swat are different, indigenous and Indian.—APP