I looked up at the white marble plate engraved the name “PESHAWAR MUSEUM” which is attached above the entrance. This building was built since 1905 to collect historical pieces of a man who has been known as a powerful influencer of thought more than 2,500 years.
I would like to call this man.
The Man of Gandhara
Peshawar Museum is known as one of the most important museum. Not just only in Pakistan but this place is also the world recognition that collect the completest collections of Gandhara ‘s Buddhist arts in the world, especially, the engraved stone tablets telling the Buddha’s biography from the Birth to the Nirvana.
In those the ancient time, Gandhara region covered some area of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It was one of the Silk Road pathways that connected the eastern and western world together with trades, wars, and religions. The Gandhara civilization was influenced by the Greek, Roman, Persian and Indian.
When Buddhism arrived this region, this cultural mixture was the inspiration for Gandhara’s artists to create the Buddha icon statues as a human form for the first time in the world history. Before then, the Buddha icons were only made in symbolic representations such as the lotus representing the Birth, the horse and Buddha’s footprint representing the Renunciation, the throne and Bodhi tree representing enlightenment, the crouching deer before Dharmachakra representing the sermon, and the stupa representing the Nirvana.
The first creation of Buddha statue in a human form influenced by Greek gods has been a meaningful heritage that the Gandhara civilization gave to the Buddhism.
I walked into the first hall of Peshawar Museum and saw stone statues lined along the hall. Buddha and Bodhisattava statues with the same height as human reminded me of the Greek-Roman angels. In fact, they are the Man of Gandhara or the first figure of the Buddha.
The next display exhibits the engraved stone tablets that considered as the very first tablet collection telling the story of Buddha’s life from the Birth to the Nirvana and also the cremation. We can see the variety of faces, bodies, and characters that differed in each state of life; strength, rapture, torment, and the highest point of human being, the enlightenment.
After spending several hours in the museum admiring the life of the Man of Gandhara, I leave with joy. Today Peshawar is the capital city of Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa province between Afghanistan and Pakistan but in the ancient time it was the capital city of Gandhara ruled by Kushana dynasty between the first to the fifth century.
Peshawar means “the City of Men”.
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