Buddhism, Pax Kushana and Greco-Roman Motifs: Pattern and Purpose in Gandharan Iconography

By Aldrovandi, Cibele; Hirata, Elaine | Antiquity, June 2005 | Go to article overview

Buddhism, Pax Kushana and Greco-Roman Motifs: Pattern and Purpose in Gandharan Iconography


Aldrovandi, Cibele, Hirata, Elaine, Antiquity


Introduction

I see the shadows which show that the sun must have distorted local colour, I saw the lackeys announce the king, but I do not see the sun, I do not see the king.

--Paul Gauguin, 1900

The present Afghan and Pakistan landscape of Gandhara, largely devastated by recurrent wars, would hardly be seen by modern readers as a quiet, peaceful and prosperous region inhabited by pious Buddhist monks and laity. Nevertheless, as we go back two millennia in time, archaeological remains from the upper Indus valley, nowadays north Pakistan and from the eastern parts of Afghanistan, have shown it to be a crossroad of cultures. Over many centuries trade routes spread throughout the Gandharan valleys, and merchant caravans connected the Mediterranean lands with the farthest regions of East Asia and the Indian subcontinent (Allchin 1995). This created a highly populated and diverse milieu, a politically and economically significant locus prone to many external influences.

Although chronologies still remain under dispute, this strategically located region that had formerly been an Achaemenid satrapy was subjected to Mauryan rule during the fourth century BC, becoming the Indian north-west frontier. Then followed the Greco-Bactrian dynasties, which remained about one hundred years, and were defeated by the Sakas (Scythians) and the Parthians around the beginning of the first century BC. During the first century AD, the Kushans (Yueh-chi) from the Chinese north-west region arrived in Bactria and then in Gandhara, and there reigned for many centuries, controlling its economic network and political system. At the time Rome rivalled Parthian and later Sasanian empires for supremacy over trading routes, while maintaining diplomatic contacts with the Kushan and Han dynasties. Therefore, Gandharan Buddhist iconography emerged in very specific historical circumstances, conditioned by current social and political pressures (Tissot 1985; Zwalf 1996). The artistic repertoire of this ritual landscape should be capable of revealing a discourse which served the political as well as religious strategies of their patrons.

It has already been suggested that political conflict can be reduced by religion and ritual, which are observable in the archaeological record (Hodder 1979: 450-2). Religion may provide a neutral context for cross-cultural exchange, a mechanism for ensuring acceptance and reducing conflict between the individual and society (Rappaport 1971: 26). As later mentioned by Morris (1987: 42), 'changes in the form of material symbols by which social groups define themselves might be the results of pressures on the group, or the desire to emulate another group. As pressures within the group grow, an increase in the scale of consumption in terms of the given symbolic order is expected, as pressures from outside build up, material symbols may be changed to preserve boundaries, in what has been called by Hodder (1982: 191-4) a style war'.

During the Mauryan empire, and since the days of Ashokan rule, Gandhara has been connected with Buddhism. Contacts between Mauryas and Hellenistic monarchs on official levels might have been entrusted to Buddhist monks (Schopen 1988-9: 156-7; Karttunen 1997: 266). After the fall of this dynasty, the region was dominated by Bactrian-Greeks who opposed and defeated the Shunga rulers of Brahmanic origin. As noted by Tam (1951: 176), although there was not a state of war between Buddhists and Brahmanists, it is possible that a good level of tension arose from religious and political grounds. How was Buddhism able to prosper and disseminate its beliefs throughout Gandhara and other regions in the following centuries? When the outcaste Kushans--or mlecha as Brahmins would name all foreigners (Auboyer 1961: 50)--arrived in Gandhara, it seems possible that their relation might have been more easily settled with Buddhism, since it had no concern with caste system as Brahmanism. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Buddhism, Pax Kushana and Greco-Roman Motifs: Pattern and Purpose in Gandharan Iconography
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.