Peshawar has largest number of Buddha stories

Pakistan Daily, June 16, 2008

Peshawar, Pakistan -- There are 74 Buddha stories carved in on stone that are on display in the Peshawar Museum describing all the episodes of His life from the time of his birth to death and such a large number of stories does not exist in any museum of Pakistan, the former director of the Peshawar Museum and retired chairman of the Archaeology and Fine Arts Department of the Peshawar University Professor Fidaullah Sehrai said.

US Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W Peterson, who visited the museum along with her husband the other day, also verified the statement.

NWFP Minister for Culture Syed Aaqil Shah, NWFP Director Archaeology and Museums Malik Saleh Muhammad Khan Yusufzai, Vice-Chancellor of Hazara University Professor Dr Ihsan Ali Khan and Professor Fidaullah Sehrai received the US envoy and her spouse.

Saleh Muhammad briefed the American ambassador about the history of the museum and Gandhara region while Professor Sehrai explained the art of Gandhara when they visited the galleries.

Professor Sehrai said the life stories of the Buddha were written in Gandhara and in their light the sculptors carved them in stones in this region. He said Emperor Kanishka, who ruled the vast Kushan Empire from his capital Peshawar in 78 AD, was the patron of the Buddhist art. He said that Buddhism took a new form in Gandhara in the time of Emperor Kanishka that is known as Mahayana Buddhism. Majority of the Buddhists in the world belong to this sect, he said.

Professor Sehrai said that the art historians call Gandhara art as the Graeco Buddhist and Romano Buddhist art but its theme is Buddhism and Bodhisattvas like Amitabb. He gave reasons for the development of the art, prosperity in Gandhara due to trade and commerce with Central Asia and the West on the Silk Route. The prosperity declined when the Silk Route was closed and thus Gandhara art came to an end slowly after some centuries.

Professor Sehrai explained the sculptures in three important galleries of the museum in detail. They are known as the Buddha story, Bodhisattva and Buddha galleries. The US ambassador, her husband and companions highly admired the rich collection of Gandhara art in the Peshawar Museum.