By Beenash Maqbool
ISLAMABAD, Mar 08 (APP):Pakistan is among the ancient regions of Asian continent which had 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.
The country is also one of the famous hubs of Buddhist heritage and artifacts in the world. Buddhist arts and crafts during the war against terrorism have faced tough time from anti-state elements 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 the country. 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.
Talking to APP, an official of DOAM (Department of archeology and Museum) Abdul Ghafoor said that the valleys of Taxila, Peshawar and Swat were the main centers of inspiration of Buddhist arts and crafts. He said that the Buddhist heritage in Taxila valley was expanded up to ten square km with dozens of Budhist Stupas, monastic complexes during 3rd century BC to 6th century AC.
The official said, “The site was fully adorned with the variety of Buddha and Bodhisattvas sculptures, relics caskets etc”. These sculptures are made of schist stone, stucco, terracotta, bronze, silver and gold, he added.
Abdul Ghafoor said that rare mural painting of Jinan Wahid dheri, the largest statute of dying Budda from Bhamala Stupa, red sand stone sculpture from Badal pir were rare collection on Buddhist world. He said that the Buddhist finds specially stucco sculptures were world’s famous collection recovered from Taxila by Sir John Marshall DG archaeological survey of India during his large scale excavations in 1903 to 1928. Sir John Marshall wrote detailed volume of books about Taxila and Gandhara, he added.
The artifacts discovered from Taxila were significant for their Hellenistic features. Scythian, Parthian, Kushan dominance was quite visible and distinguishable making them novel in the world. Sculpture of Fasting Siddhartha so called Buddha discovered from Sikri Mardan was one of the most recognized stone sculptures throughout the world.
Thakht-e-Bhai and Sari Balol in world heritage sites are another center of Buddhist collection in Peshawar valley during the last four years. Likewise, Bamala in Khyber Pakhtunnkhwa 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 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 and indigenous
Swat Valley has many Buddhist carvings and stupas, and Jehanabad contains a Seated Buddha statue. The Silk Route was one of the main life lines of Buddhist activities which disconnected after fifth century and caused disintegration of Buddhist center in the region when white Huns with the help of bramin cast devastated Buddhist centers and changed them in Gupta Art and Hindu Crafts.
The government is paying special attention to promotion of tourism and has taken a number of steps including easting visa restrictions for the tourists as well as foreign investors for boosting tourism in the country.