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The Resounding Echoes of Gandhara Civilization in Pakistan

In the heart of Taxila, a city steeped in history and spirituality, stands a sanctuary bearing witness to the profound legacy of the Gandhara Civilization. The Gandhara Civilization, its origins tracing back to ancient times, emerges as an extraordinary amalgamation of Greek, Syrian, Persian, and Indian art. This rich fusion is imbued with profound reverence for Buddhism and Indo-Greek traditions. Here in Taxila, every stone whispers a tale of devotion and cultural amalgamation, attracting countless visitors seeking inspiration and spiritual solace through prayer and reflection.

A Glimpse into Buddhism and Gandhara Art

Arshad Mehmood, the museum’s attendant, passionately recounts the tales that the treasures within its halls tell. He connects visitors to the ancient past, offering an immersive journey into the bygone eras. “Buddhism originated in Taxila in the 6th century BC. Ashoka, who was previously a Hindu, converted to Buddhism here. Buddha was born in Nepal around 563 BC and passed away around 483 BC. His teachings found followers in Taxila as well. The mix of Indo-Greek art you observed was created after Buddha’s death by Indonesian and Greek artists,” Arshad Mehmood said.

Treasures of the Taxila Museum

Within the sacred walls of the Taxila Museum, we traverse through time, witnessing the mesmerizing beauty of Gandharan art. Like a celestial dance of creativity, the Gandharan stone sculptures grace us with their divine elegance, effortlessly blending the artistic essence of East and West. The museum’s gallery of coins and pottery, once vessels of exchange and utilitarian artistry, now serve as portals into the grand tapestry of commerce and cultural interactions that once interwove the crossroads of Taxila.

Arshad provided further insights into the museum’s gallery and its significance, saying ,”The Gandhara civilization dates back to ancient times. The art you have seen here represents the Gandhara region’s culture and religion. The center gallery showcases stone sculptures and art related to Gandhara. Another material you noticed is stucco. Notably, one of the famous artifacts in our museum is the Buddha’s tooth relic. This relic was discovered in the Dharmarajika Stupa, which was built by Ashoka. According to Buddhist beliefs, this is a significant religious site. Buddhists often come here to pray, and they find great inspiration and happiness in doing so.”

Sirkup, Julian, and Sirsukh’s Ancient Ruins

Venturing beyond, we are captivated by the echoes of history resonating from the lands of Sirkup, Julian, and Sirsukh. In Sirkup, the ancient stupas and monasteries stand as celestial witnesses to the spiritual fervor and intellectual pursuits that infused life into Gandhara. Julian emerges from the sands of time, revealing its once vibrant urban existence. Its ruins, like whispers of the past, hint at the harmonious coexistence of diverse cultures that nurtured Gandhara’s artistic splendor. Our journey leads us to Sirsukh, where the remains of an illustrious Buddhist monastery transport us to an era of profound reverence and devotion. The intricately carved architecture embraces us, and we feel the heartbeat of an ancient civilization that celebrated knowledge and spiritual wisdom. Despite the rich heritage of Pakistan, its essence remains largely unknown to the world.

Preserving Pakistan’s Heritage: Insights from Professor Ruth Young

Expressing her concerns and potential solutions, Professor Ruth Young, a renowned archaeologist said, “To me, it’s a great crime; it’s a great tragedy that the heritage and history of Pakistan, uniquely Pakistani, are not better known. But let’s consider possible solutions, and I think an area in tourism and heritage that’s been lightly touched on today is that of community engagement. It’s also really important to engage with the local communities because they belong to the place of the heritage site. They are the people who will protect it or not protect it in times of need, and I think it’s very important to take communities with you on any journey around heritage and particularly around tourism because all of the communities will be visited by tourists. Now, they will have tourists come, and they will have tourists stay, hopefully in local hotels, using local restaurants, and I think that is a big part of developing tourism and the knowledge of Gandhara.

“Now, we all know about Gandhara and Buddhist sites and the Sikh pilgrimages. There are Hindu sights, Christian sights. There are so many fantastic sights that can appeal to so many different parts of the world, different ethnicities, different religions, and I think it is about telling these stories, getting them out there in effective ways. You need to find out where Pakistan is being listened to and promote there.”

A Personal Connection for Buddhists Worldwide

Dr. Young, the acting director of Buddhist University Cambodia, who came to Pakistan to visit these ancient sites, explains that Gandhara is not just a historical tale read from scriptures; it’s an intrinsic part of their identity, where the past and present seamlessly merge. Despite the geographical distance, the names “Gandhara” and “Taxila” resonate deeply within their hearts, evoking a sense of longing to explore this sacred land.

“We have heard about Taxila, read about Taxila, and know all about this great history of Gandhara. It’s like a sense of reconnection with the faith I am talking about – the Buddhist practitioners that are varied throughout the scriptures, and the names just popped up: Gandhara civilization, Taxila. Once I arrived here, I feel something very personally meaningful.” Monk Dr. Young revealed.

Attendees from all over the world find themselves immersed in a vibrant tapestry of Pakistan’s cultural splendor. Exquisite photographs from the Pakistan cultural festival grace the screens, showcasing a myriad of delights that resonate deeply with the audience. From the bountiful array of fruits and vegetables to the captivating tunes of music, every aspect attests to the beauty and diversity of Pakistan’s cultural heritage.

Xo/Jo Shan from Malaysia, takes a moment to share his awe and appreciation for the enchanting allure of Pakistan

“I am pleased to inform you that the Fo Guang Shan Education Centre in Malaysia has formed a partnership with the Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad. Additionally, we invited an expert scholar from Pakistan to Malaysia to promote the Gandhara civilizations and the important culture in our scholar conference. In the next photo, you can see that we invited the scholar to Malaysia to our university to exchange experiences. I also hope that we can work together with the Pakistan Tourism Board, the Minister of Education, and the National Heritage and Culture Division to promote various cultural arts lectures, carving and painting workshops, and art exhibitions worldwide. We hope to get the attention and support of the world when we bring people here,” Malaysian Monk Xo/Jo Shan said.

An Eternal Symbol of Cultural Unity and Peace

This heartfelt call for collaboration and cultural exchange resonates with the essence of Gandhara civilization, instilling unwavering pride in the hearts of Pakistanis. From the sacred stupas of Taxila to the intricate stone sculptures, Gandhara reminds us of the beautiful interplay between diverse cultures, fostering unity and peace among humanity. As the allure of this ancient civilization continues to captivate our hearts, let us celebrate and preserve its timeless legacy, embracing the harmony it brings to our shared heritage.

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