Academic journal article Journal of Asian Civilizations

An Analytical Study of the Balo-Kale Gumbat Vihara Kandak Valley (Swat): Its Nomenclature and Style of Architecture

Academic journal article Journal of Asian Civilizations

An Analytical Study of the Balo-Kale Gumbat Vihara Kandak Valley (Swat): Its Nomenclature and Style of Architecture

Article excerpt


An attempt has been made in the present work to re-consider the terminology "vihara " in the light of the recently discovered inscription unearthed at a Buddhist shrine, mentioning the term vihara. Furthermore this paper also highlights the origin and stylistic development of vihara in the light of different evidences, which can be observed in the sculptural art and as well as, in the structural form still existing in the Buddhist monuments of the subcontinent. Besides, in the present study an attempt has been made to analyse the various architectural components of Balo-Kale Gumbat vihara in order to reach the roots of its genesis. Similarly in the light of previous researches, as well as, on the basis of comparative analysis, an attempt shall be made to formulate a time frame for the Balo-Kale Gumbat vihara. The conclusions were drawn and recommendations were provided for future reference.


The idea of "vihara", as a worshipping place started during the life time of Buddha and was constructed at the different Buddhist localities in India. In this regard, the vihara erected at Jeta vana garden was of paramount importance in Buddhism. Later on, the Buddhist donors erected thousands of vihara in the Indian sub-continent for the propagation of Buddhism. During the life time of Buddha two types of Buddhist establishments were constructed such as, a. vihara and b. Sangharama. The former were erected for meditation purposes; however, later on venerated issues were also kept inside the vihara for the sake of worship; on other hand, the latter were built for living purpose of the monks. The concept of stüpa as a worshipping entity was adopted by the followers after the demise of Buddha. Thus, it appears that later on, stüpa became the third important component of the Buddhist establishments alongside the vihära and Sa nghäräma. These were not only practiced in the Indian territories, but were also adopted very successfully by the patrons of the Gandhära Valley.

No doubt, the idea of vihära cult has been derived from Indian traditions; however, this style reached to perfection in the Gandhära Valley; whereas, the relic shrine of Balo-Kale Gumbat in the Swat Valley seems to be a landmark in the vihära of the Indian subcontinent. Thus, with the passage of time here in the Gandhära Valley, vihäras were constructed alongside the stüpa in order to accomplish the worshipping activities.

In the present work focus shall be made to highlight the importance of vihära, which is indeed an ignored aspect of the Buddhist architecture of Gandhära. Though several attempts have been made regarding the significance of the sculptural art of Gandhära, yet little importance is given to the vihära architecture in particular. Therefore, the present researchers have selected this issue in order to solve the prevailing matter of contention, which is concerning to the etymology of the term "vihära" and its initiation as a meditating unit. Thus, focus shall also be made to find the roots of its genesis. Besides, an attempt shall also be made, to study the variation in the stylistic approach being adopted in the different regions of Gandhära and especially in the Swat Valley.


It is significant to pinpoint, that Grunwedel analyses different terminologies, used for the relic shrines. He suggested that these were generally constructed to accommodate the venerated issues. Therefore, such type of buildings are also called as, the "Buddhist temples". Similarly, these are also known as "caitya" or "chaity g/ha", which means a stüpa inside a cell or a chamber, is also called as, "caitya hall". However, in the textual sources the connotation of the above mentioned terms are alluding the different names of "vihära" however, these are denoting the same meaning (Grunwedel 1901: 20).

In this context, some of the scholars have incorrectly defined the etymology of the term "vihära" such as, Alice Getty, Rowland, Harle, Knappart, Dani and Behrendt. …

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