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HOME : Asian Art : Art of Afghanistan : Figure of a worshipping figure in relief
Figure of a worshipping figure in relief - PH.0135
Origin: Afghanistan
Circa: 300 AD to 400 AD
Dimensions: 12" (30.5cm) high x 4.5" (11.4cm) wide
Collection: Asian Art
Style: Gandharan
Medium: Schist

Location: Great Britain
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Gandhara was an ancient kingdom which encompassed the Peshawar valley in the northwestern region of today-Pakistan and the Jalalabad district of modern-day eastern Afghanistan. During the Achaemenid and the Hellenistic period, its capital was the city of Charsadda, 30 km away from modern-day Peshawar, though in about 127 AD the capital city was moved to Peshawar by orders of the Kushan emperor Kanishka the Great. One proposed origin of the name Gandhara derives from the Sanskrit word gandha, which translates as "perfume" and could be referring to the spices and aromatic herbs which the inhabitants of the area traded and with which they anointed themselves, though a number of contemporary authors have connected Gandhara to the modern name of Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest city. By about 380 BC the Persian hold on the Gandhara region had much weakened, with the inevitable result of a number of small kingdoms to spring up in the area. In the winter of 327 BC, Alexander the Great, after having already conquered the Persian Empire, invited all the chieftains in the remaining five Achaemenid satraps to submit to his authority. Ambhi, then ruler of Taxila in the former Hindush satrapy complied, but the remaining tribes and clans in the former satraps of Gandhara, Arachosia, Sattagydia and Gedrosia rejected Alexander's offer. Within a relatively short period of time Alexander and his army annihilated every resistance and decimated the population of all the local tribes who had initiated a fierce resistance against him. After conquering Gandhara and solidifying his supply line back to Bactria, Alexander combined his forces with the King Ambhi of Taxila and crossed the River Indus in July 326 BC to begin the Archosia (Punjab) campaign. Alexander founded several new settlements in Gandhara, Punjab and Sindh and nominated officers as Satraps of the new provinces. After the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC, Gandhara was acquired from the Greeks by Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Maurya Empire in ancient India. Ashoka, grandson of Chandragupta, became one of the greatest Indian rulers, embraced Buddhism and promoted this religion throughout his Empire. The decline of the Maurya Empire left the area open to Greco-Bactrian invasions though around 140 BC the Central Asians Kushans overran Bactria and ended the Greek rule in the area. By 90 BC the Parthians had taken control of what is now Eastern Iran and proceeded putting an end to the last remnants of Greek rule in today’s Afghanistan, with eventually an Indo-Parthian dynasty succeeding in taking control of Gandhara. The Kushan period is considered the Golden Period of Gandhara. Peshawar Valley and Taxila are littered with ruins of stupas and monasteries of this period. Gandharan art flourished and produced some of the best pieces of Indian sculpture A very specific style of mostly Buddhist visual art slowly became evident and developed in the area, making excellent use of its Greek origins between the 1st century BC and the 7th century AD. During the reign of the Indian emperor Ashoka (3rd century BC), the region became the scene of intensive Buddhist missionary activity. And in the 1st century BC, rulers of the Kushan empire, which included Gandhara, maintained a series of contacts with Rome. In its interpretation of Buddhist legends, the Gandhara art school adopted many of its techniques from Classical Roman art, at the same time incorporating a number of decorative motifs, which include vine scrolls, cherubs bearing garlands, tritons, and centaurs, though the basic iconography, however, remained Indian. Gandharan culptures were originally painted and gilded, with the materials used for them being green phyllite and gray-blue mica schist stone, which are both endemic to the area and are in general used to the earlier phase of Gandharan art, with stucco becoming increasingly in use and then prevalent after the 3rd century AD. - (PH.0135)


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