Peshawar Museum displays largest collection on Buddha’s life

The Daily Times, Sept 15, 2008

PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- The almost century-old Peshawar Museum is unique for displaying the most important and world’s largest collection of architectural pieces.

The unique stone sculptures carved in Gandhara Art not only speak of the artists’ competence, but also tell a complete life story of Buddha from birth to death and his miracles.

In the main hall of the museum, the antiques and sculptures put on display represent the stories on the life of Buddha from his birth to death – all the episodes.

The Buddha’s life story in stones is beautifully carved with all details from the Queen Maya’s dream, interpretation of the dream, birth of Siddhartta (historic Buddha), bath scene, seven steps, going to school, writing lessons, wrestling matches, palace life, marriage scene, renunciation, great departure, ascetic life, fasting, first meditation, demons attacks, attaining enlightenment, first sermon, death scene, cremation of Buddha, distribution of relics and construction of stupas on the relics.

The collection includes different types of architectural pieces, relics caskets, stupa models of schist and bronze, stucco sculptures, terracotta figurines, toiletry objects along with life size Buddha statues.

“The life stories of Buddha, depicted in Gandharan Art, are an authentic document of the Mahyana text composed during the time of Kanishka (1st Century AD),” said Prof Fidaullah Sehrai, renowned archaeologist and former director NWFP Department of Archaeology and Museums,

Prof Sehrai said the cosmopolitan art of Gandhara, with influences from Indian Greek, Roman and Persian artists, appeared in this region in 1st century BC for propagation of Buddhism through stone carved as well as images in stucco, terracotta and bronze.

These images were placed in chapels of monasteries and in stupas across Gandhara region by Buddhist followers for worship.

“The current Buddhist religion in Korea and Japan is a wonderful example of extension of Gandharan Buddhism,” Sehrai said. “The sculptures were fixed to the bases, drums and stairs of the stupas, around which the worshippers gather and worships.”

Prof Sehrai said in the old Buddhist art the Buddha was not represented in human form but shown by symbols.

The four important events of Buddha’s are his birth at Lumbini Garden, his enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, his first sermon in the Deer Park and his death at Kusinara. All these events are symbolised by a lotus, a tree, a wheel or a deer and a stupa, respectively.

But in Gandhara Art, Prof Sehrai continued, the Buddha was represented in human form in these and other events in shape of sculptures.

The main focus of the art was Buddha’s life stories and individual images, his previous birth stories (Jatakas) and future Buddhas.

The devoted local artists, stimulated by the personality of Buddha, took advantage of contacts, motifs and technology from Greeks, Romans and Persians, which gave Buddha an eternal life.

The art, mainly a product of the land of Gandhara under the Kushan rulers, is more dynamic than the contemporary Mathura Art of India.

“Peshawar Museum has the largest collection of Gandhara art in the whole world, consisting of 4247 (936 on display and 3311 in stores) antiques of Buddhist stone sculptures and panels, architectural elements, stucco sculptures, terracotta figurines, relic casket and toiletry objects,” said Saleh Muhammad, NWFP Archaeology and Museums director.

The major poses of Buddha in Peshawar Museum were Dhayana Mudra or Medtation Pose, Abhaya Mudra or Reassurance Pose, Dharma Chakra Mudr or Turning of the Wheel of Law Pose and Bhumispersa Mudra or Earth Touching Pose, Saleh said.

The main Gandharan collection of Peshawar Museum came from excavations of the Archaeological Survey of India, Frontier Circle from 1902 to 1941 and donations from public and purchases, he informed.

These sculptures mainly recovered from the sites of Shari Bahlol (1906-26) in Mardan district, Shah Ji-ki-Dheri (1908-10) in Peshawar district and Palatu Dheri (1902-03), Mamane Dheri, Akhun Dheri, Ibrahimzai, Utmanzai, Hamid Garhi Turangzai, Bala Hisar and Sheikan Dheri in Charsadda district.

Saleh Muhammad said the true story of Buddha’s life was not known and what we had displayed was a canonised version of his life.

“It is the miraculous story that is narrated in stone. This story was developed in greatest detail in Gandhara Art while in other schools of art only a few events are told,” he added.

The Gandharan Art pieces in the museum can be dated back to 2nd century AD to the 5th century AD, except a few Hindu sculptures, which can be dated from the 9th century AD to the 11th century AD.

The story begins from his birth and continues through his human career until his death and even later when his relics and reliquaries became objects of worship.

Total collection of antique is reckoned at 14,156 items in five main sections; Gandharan Coins, Islamic, Ethnological and Iranian and due to unique and most extensive Gandharan collection, Peshawar Museum is famous worldwide.

Saleh Muhammad said earlier large number of foreigners, especially from Japan and Korea, visited Peshawar Museum to see Buddha’s unique sculptures. But now the number of visitors had reduced due to law and order situation.

He suggested for proper projection of Peshawar Museum at international level, in special reference to Buddha’s sculptures, with renewed spirit for attracting tourists and followers of Buddhism.

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: