The ancient civilization of Gandhara thrived in the region encompassing modern northeastern Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan. Situated at a confluence of trading paths along the Silk Route, the area was flooded in diverse cultural influences ranging from Greece to China. Gandhara flourished under the Kushan Dynasty and their great king, Kanishka, who is traditionally given credit for spreading the philosophies of Buddhism throughout central Asia and into China. This period is viewed as the most important era in the history of Buddhism. After the conquests of Alexander the Great, the creation of Greco-Bactrian kingdoms, and the general Hellenization of the subcontinent, Western aesthetics became prominent. Greek influence began permeating into Gandhara. Soon sculptors based the images of the Buddha on Greco-Roman models, depicting Him as a stocky and youthful Apollo, complete with stretched earlobes and loose monastic robes similar to a Roman toga. The extraordinary artistic creations of Gandhara reveal link between the different worlds of the East and West.
In the Buddhist religion, Bodhisattvas are souls who have attained enlightenment and no longer need to reincarnate, but forsake nirvana and choose to come back in order to alleviate the suffering of others. This stunning Gandharan sculpture of a Bodhisattva, created by the first culture to represent the Buddha in his human form, reveals that these spiritual beings were celebrated even then, as Buddhism began to spread from India eastwards. This Bodhisattva is depicted wearing elaborated modeled robes with carefully carved folds. He sports and elegant coiffure and is adorned in fine jewelry as was appropriate for a worldly incarnation of the Buddha. Originally, this sculpture probably stood in a niche on the exterior of a stupa or shine where it would have guided the masses on the path towards enlightenment.