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One Mother, Many Mother Tongues.

THE KUSHAN ART OF GANDHARA IS usually thought of as a mishmash of artistic styles: bearing connections with Indian spheres of influence in Mathura, Sanchi and Amaravati; Greek styles from the diasporic populations in Alexandria and Bactria; Iranian inheritances from the Achaemenids and the contemporary Parthians, Central Asians and Scythians; other cultures brought by western Chinese migrants like the Yuezhi; while the impress of the developments in the Mediterranean Roman Empire is always apparent. Is this just an ad-hoc mixing of traditions in a grand melting pot of cultures? By examining one sculpture carefully, I will argue that it is possible to isolate the different sources that were drawn on to create these images, and that this was done quite deliberately, for the audience to be able to read the diversity that made up their society.

Summarizing the conclusions of a previous study on a Kushan-period sculpture of Hariti here, (1) I shall focus instead on what the iconography tells us about a long history of migrations to the region and its multiculturalism, thus challenging the simplistic binary terms: Indo-Greek and Greco-Buddhist that are still commonly used to describe the material culture. This binary must be recognized as a mere convenience rather than a correct scholarly reflection given that "Indian" contains many diverse cultures; that "Buddhist" implies any number of different denominations and sub-sects; and that "Greek" at this time could have been used to describe someone Egyptian, Turkish, Syrian or Greek. The propensity to collapse all foreigners into a single bloc is not uncommon. Literary and inscriptional Indian sources, for example, called all Westerners "yavanas", or sometimes "mleccha" when referred to through caste identification, a term that was also used for barbarians, cultural "others" as well as adversaries.


A statue of Hariti from Yusufzai (2) at the British Museum (figure 1) shows her seated with a baby in her lap while seven others gambol around her feet. Not only is it possible to identify each of the children, what is even more remarkable is that they come from different religions and cultural zones.

Hariti, who was later imagined as a beneficent protector of children, appeared in myth as a powerful ogress who had the capacity to cause epidemics like smallpox. This required sacrifices at her shrine, which continued regardless of which saint or other cult grew in popularity. Thus worship at her shrine would not have declined even through the rise of the teachings of the Buddha, which were based on an empirical and rational experience of religion, quite antithetical to the power or fear that a deity like Hariti evoked. The compassion and grace embodied by the non-violent Buddha and his bodhisatvas were in stark contrast to the blood sacrifice accorded to Hariti. How then was this popular cult to be accommodated alongside mainstream Buddhism?

The myth of Hariti as it is preserved in Buddhist texts is instructive. The name Hariti, derives from the root "Har" (stealing/capturing) and literally means "she who steals". To show her the anguish that other mothers felt when she stole or captured their children, the Buddha once hid her youngest child under his begging bowl. This drove Hariti to desperation; repentant and transformed she vowed that she would, thenceforth, protect children rather than consume them. The Buddha reunited her with her youngest child and assured her that she would have a place in the monastery.

Hariti statues were placed at the entrance to monasteries, and a cult established around her. Devotees and monks gave her offerings as they entered a monastery, and texts begin to describe her as the provider of children; while her sister is said to help women in childbirth. Monasteries, which also performed a major role as medical centres and as spaces for healing, were particularly important for the care of pregnant women. Evidence for this is now emerging archaeologically as well as from readings of ancient texts. (3)

A sizeable number of statues of Hariti have been found in Gandhara (figure 2), mosdy datable to the 2nd century AD. Images from the same period are also known at other places like Mathura and in Guntur, Telangana (figures 3 and 4). (4) It has been suggested that Hariti's popularity grew at a time when there was a major global pandemic of smallpox, one that has been recorded as having decimated significant legions of the Roman army. (5)

Remarkably little is known by way of direct evidence about Hariti's iconography prior to her depiction at Buddhist sites, but there is a lot of circumstantial evidence to consider. The type is related to dozens of sculptures in India of matrikas (or mothers) who also sit on stools or chairs, often with a baby in their lap (figure 5). (6) Similar Hellenistic images of a nursing woman, often small portable terracottas, also exist (figure 6). Grander cult images of Isis Lactans, Demeter and Aphrodite that can be found all over the Mediterranean world at the same time, in the 2nd century, make it appropriate to consider how all these images create a universally common reception of the iconography of a Hariti such as this. We know that the iconography developed into the Madonna and child in European art. Were it not for the fact that this sculpture was probably located at the entrance to a Buddhist monastery, her Magna Mater form is elastic enough to appeal to various religions, and this is reflective of an age in which differences are being collapsed in this figure type.

An opposite, and remarkable tendency, of maintaining difference, is also visible in the British Museum's Hariti, however. A study of the eight children that surround her reveal the diverse traditions from which they come: from the Ptolemaic world of Egypt, Phoenician Lebanon or Cyprus, Zoroastrian Iran, Hellenistic Greece, Hindu India and of course from Buddhism itself (diagram with figure 7). Each child reveals a unique iconography.

The baby in her lap, reaching toward the necklace (or the breast) is her youngest, beloved Priyankara or Pingala, whom the Buddha had hidden under his bowl (figure 7a). Harpocrates, on her proper left, holds his finger to his lips, which is his distinctive iconographic feature (figure 7c). He has been given a distinctly Egyptian hairstyle (of shaved sides leaving a longer central strip of hair) not known in Indian art at this time. Harpocrates is the son of Isis and was not unknown to the people of Gandhara because Hellenistic statuettes of him have been found in excavations, the two most famous of which lie in the Kabul and Taxila museums (figure 10).

Karttikeya, who became known as the son of Shiva, also has his hair in his distinctive hairstyle of three ponytails (figure 7b). Usually associated with a cock and a peacock, he holds a bird here. Again, several images of Skanda-Karttikeya are known from Gandhara, and it seems likely that the cult was of no small importance in the region. (7) Images of Skanda were also made as small bronzes and in terracotta for people to worship privately, and like the small images of Harpocrates and the mother-goddesses they too would easily have travelled with people to Gandhara. (8)

Next are the pair of wrestling children under Harpocrates (figure 7c). This configuration of boys is commonly found in Gandharan narrative scenes where Siddhartha is shown as a young boy, receiving his education in writing, archery and wrestling. However, since none of the other children here perform this set of activities, and neither does any one of them have features that would allow him to be identified as Siddhartha, we might seek an identification elsewhere outside the direct apparatus of Buddhist imagery. Since there are two other specific child deities here, it is unlikely that this pair can be identified generically as "playing boys". The pairing of male children is a common artistic device to show the heavenly twins, who are widespread in iconographic conventions of the ancient world, and probably hark back to a much older history in the earliest layers of Indo-European mythology where they are associated with the Vedic Ashvins and Nasatya. The constellation called "Gemini" in Latin harks back to the older Greek "Dioscuri" and these gods of strength are usually shown either as a pair of wrestling twins, or often on horseback, carrying spears. Both the types are known in Gandhara and the Dioscuri have a long history in Bactria, where they are shown as attendants to the goddess in the temple at Delberjin (Delvarzin) Tepe. Apart from these conventions, various coins and stone reliefs can show the twins wrestling or as boxers; and, in fact, the Dioscuri were popularly worshipped as deities of strength, associated with warfare, horse-training, boxing, wrestling and, significantly, healing. (9) Of their many depictions, perhaps the most wonderful are the ones on bodybuilders' weights (figures 8 and 9).

Identifying the boy seated between Hariti's legs as the "Phoenician temple boy" (figure 11) is straightforward for those familiar with images of Isis and the iconography surrounding her shrines. Rather like the offerings for Hariti, the type has an older Phoenician history of child-sacrifices at tophets, harking back to the older cult that called upon the protective powers of Eshmun (the tutelary god of Sidon in Lebanon, and the god of healing). Representations of this figure grew popular in Greece and Egypt from the 4th century bc as votives offered by parents at the shrine of Isis, and when it became linked with Harpocrates the images became mimetic dedications of children in Greek sanctuaries. By the 2nd century BC, however, when the Greeks were moving eastward, they were just common dedications by parents for the well-being of their children, mainly of boys. (10) These temple boys are represented in different ways, at times standing, but the best-known are as small boys seated on the earth, one bent leg put horizontally on the ground, the other leg bent and vertical. While approaching the shrine of Isis, they would have been placed on an altar table axially in front of the shrine as offerings.

Turning to the two children clad in tunics by the bm Hariti's right foot (figure 7b), we can surmise that they too are a pair, given their distinct off-shoulder long tunics and similarity in hairstyles. However neither the costume nor the bowl and cup they hold can be specifically associated with any known images. It can be surmised that since there is imagery around the Hariti figure of each of the major religious/ethnic communities (Greek, Egyptian, Indian and Phoenician) who were trading or located in Gandhara, the singular absence of Zoroastrian/Persian figures around her would be noticeable. Several inscriptions of the Kushans in Afghanistan and the Gandharan heartland, both on coins and on stone, mention the names of ancient Zoroastrian deities. There is little doubt that Zoroastrianism was one of the major religions recognized by the Kushan state. However, associating any iconography definitively with pre-Sasanian or even pre-Parthian Zoroastrianism without an inscription to substantiate it is difficult. One may speculate, nevertheless, that these figures may be representations of the Avestan Ameretat and Haurvatat (now mostly known through their Middle-Persian linguistic form as Amurdad and HordAD), who are connected with the sustaining plants/food and the fertilizing waters/drink and comprise two of the six principal Amesha Spentas that are, respectively, symbolic of immortality and wholeness. They appear in stories of the birth of Zarathustra and are known to strengthen sacrificial offerings and are associated with divine food, making them quite appropriate for a monastic establishment for healing. The Avestan Ameretat and Haurvatat are female, and for the most part, continue to be thought of as female, except when, in Middle-Persian, they lose their grammatical gender and are regarded as male. (11)

The myths surrounding the children reveal that they are sometimes born of contested parentage--metaphorically rather like the nature of Gandharan society itself. Of the twin Dioscuri, the mortal Castor is the son of the Spartan king Tyndareus, and Pollux is the immortal son of the Greek god Zeus. The scattered bits of the slain Osiris were gathered by Isis so she could draw his seed to form into Harpocrates/Horus. Skanda-Karttikeya was born of Shiva's seed but was carried in many wombs and claimed variously by many mothers: Shiva's wife Parvati, the wives of the rishis or saints who tried in vain to carry the foetus, and by the Pleiades (the six stars known as the Krittikas) amongst others. The Phoenician temple boy is a representative or substitute for the real child offered to the mother goddess akin to the boy in Hariti's lap, Priyankara, the Beloved One, who was first sacrificed and then protected or restored. And if the second set of twins are the girls Ameretat and Haurvatat, they too would symbolize a dialectic of the world of mortals and the world of Ahura Mazda by embodying the energies that transform the spiritual to material. If these children all embody many different dualities, the mother they surround performs an opposite function of being a singular universalizing "one size fits all".

Moving beyond Dual Identities

In an age of diasporas, we often think about how a single image can be made to communicate to diverse people. One of the dangers of multiculturalism and globalization is homogenization--the fear that cultural particularity will be lost. But in this sculpture, although the various ideas of the mother goddess are homogenized, the figures of the children maintain distinction. Both tendencies are exhibited simultaneously. With the presence of Egyptian, Hindu, Buddhist, Phoenician, Zoroastrian and Greek figures, the dualism captured in phrases like Greco-Buddhist by iconographers like Albert Grunwedel and Alfred Foucher, or the reference to Gandharan art as Indo-Greek, is thus inadequate. Just as the children of this Hariti are themselves symbolic of the collisions of diverse and dynamic elements, so too is the cultural fabric that produced this Hariti.

Rather than dismiss the products of the marginalized at the extremities of an empire as those who use some postcolonial creole to communicate, these varied iconographies bespeak a society that aims to maintain cultural distinctiveness and the identities of its varied audiences without hybridizing it all in a transcultural world. The sculpture draws on varied legacies underlining how active and important the so-called Roman provinces were as cultural agents. Art historians of Greco-Roman art have for long been mired in the dilemma of giving both centre and periphery their due. "Provinces" did not just communicate with Rome, nor should their art history be limited to the nature of their relationship with Rome. One needs to move beyond the limiting dualities of Roman vs Provincial in scholarship on Roman art: for we can also view them from the vantage point of Gandhara which was neither Roman, nor directly invested in Rome as a centre; even as it elected iconographies for the contributory influences which were Hellenistic, Roman, Provincial Roman (Egyptian, Phoenician), Indian and Persian.

Is this sculpture exceptional? When does the trend of mixing iconographies start and what does it reveal? Who were the diverse people we normally call "Indo-Greeks"? By looking at the kind of architecture and art they made, it is possible now to establish that they were not one uniform group even if they subscribed to some idea of an export Greek culture. Nor were their arts, and in turn their iconographic or cultic affiliations, static. They came from Alexandria, Lebanon, Persia and the Mediterranean. The early city of Ai Khanum, in the Thakar province of Afghanistan, has all the trappings of a Hellenic city--old-fashioned mosaics, an amphitheatre, gymnasium, Greek columns etc. Rich enough to get builders and craftsmen from abroad, and also to import a sculpted monolithic sundial from Alexandria (figure d). Such large-scale imports were rare; mostly, these were communities who brought portable objects of value, and what objects of value they collected or had made once they were settled in Gandhara were preserved carefully.

Little wonder, then, that excavations at Bagram ("Begram")--one of the most important excavation sites and now carpet-bombed--revealed a deposit of objects of extraordinary sophistication and value that had been hoarded by the elite there for 200 or 300 years, and were secreted away in antiquity itself (figures E, F, I-M). They include for instance the emblema depicting Eros in a battle with Psyche (figure F), except that this artist has decided to develop the metaphor of psyche being something that flits like a butterfly into a visual that we don't have any record of in Greek excavations themselves. These images are not imitations of Greek art, but rather an interpretation of the iconography. At Bagram too were found a porphyry vase and bowl (figure M). (Porphyry, a highly valued stone prized by Roman emperors for their portraits, was one of the many imports from Egypt.) There were also statuettes of Serapis (figure E) and Harpocrates and glasses with painted scenes of Isis, the lighthouse of Alexandria, the harvesting of dates, and other Egyptian scenes (figure K). These objects would have been personal possessions, and carried with people along with their myths, identities and their iconographies; rather like the extraordinary recent discoveries of Hellenistic silverware--the subject of a book which is reviewed later in this magazine.

Unlike Hellenistic influence which was visible in public statuary or urban planning in the region 300 years earlier at a site like Ai Khanum (at other sites, the influence was distinctly Indian or Achaemenid), by the 2nd century AD archaeological findings with purely Hellenistic-and Ptolemaic-style iconographies tend to be of small, precious 2nd-ist-century BC objects that must have been collected or inherited. In public statuary by the 2nd century AD, however, we see a different trend, with images usually being made deliberately polyvalent.

Numismatic evidence also allows us to make a similar deduction. The deities most frequently represented in early coins at Ai Khanum are Zeus, Poseidon, Apollo, Herakles, the Dioscuri, Artemis and Athena (the last portrayed mosdy in her typically Macedonian form as Athena Alkidemos), as well as Nike and Tyche, personifications of victory and good fortune. In this period examples of cross-influences with local divinities were rare. These Greek-style coins continued in circulation till the coming of the Kushans (or the Yuezhi, as they are known in Chinese sources) in the mid-1st century BC, when the Greek settlers migrated southward into Taxila and Punjab. In the period of Kushan overlordship, we find an extraordinary effort at assimilation and adaptation, and by the 1st century AD many Hindu, Buddhist and Zoroastrian gods were imaged for the first time and coins are critical evidence of this. Despite many coins having inscriptions, identifying each of them has posed a serious challenge in the history of iconography and in the field of the history of religion (12) because the deity of one religion was being pegged on to the images of another.

In sculpture too it is difficult to know whose myth is being told in a narrative depiction unless the archaeological context of the shrine from which it comes is known. A good example of this was the Herakles at Tepe Shotor near Jalalabad, eastern Afghanistan, a sculpture now believed to be bombed (figure h). Amongst several grottoes that were a part of a monastic settlement at Tepe Shotor, there was one image of a Buddha flanked by two deities, the one on the left being this Herkales in a typically classical guise, complete with a lion skin on his left shoulder. Instead of a club, however, he carries a vajra--the thunderbolt that flashes through ignorance and illuminates knowledge--making Herakles here serve the role of the Bodhisatva Vajrapani. These adaptations of Heraldes were quite common as the image spread from Greece and became popular all over West Asia, Iran and Egypt and found expression also in India. (13)

As with Kushan coins, that speak simultaneously to diverse cultures and roots, these images make us question: Whose religion are we examining? It makes us ask who is responsible for their creation, of course, but equally, who is responsible for their safekeeping and who has a claim on their repatriation. From our current context, we may ask--Whose art is this? Is this the art of Afghanistan only? Is this Buddhist heritage? Is this Greco-Roman heritage? And in a situation where we are confronted with a matter of repatriation, whom does it go back to?

Plural Histories: At Whose Terms?

It is indeed ironic that the Peshawar valley and Afghanistan which are today under siege sending refugees all over the world were once lands that received immigrants from all over the world. How are we to read the Buddhist rubric in which their identities were preserved in ancient Gandhara: as one of absorption, or one in which that accommodation is happening in select places and only in a subordinated role? In other words, were the anxieties of immigration and globalization in antiquity any different? Curatorially, art historians bring up Gandhara as a way to congratulate multiculturalism in antiquity, but we need to examine this with circumspection. The hybrid iconographies and art styles as embodied by the Herakles at Tepe Shotor have enthralled scholars for nearly two centuries now, and one wonders, therefore, if that should still evoke the same attention? Unlike the Heraldes sculpture, the Hariti communicates not by conflating or making syncretic the iconographic conventions of different peoples, but rather by maintaining and bringing together a mosaic of distinct identities to perform their role as Hariti's children. What does this say about the nature of the audience--the people, the kind of transculturalism or multiculturalism in Gandhara at the peak of the Roman/Satvahana/Kushan empires? One is not gainsaying the virtues and effort implicit in the creation of such imagery, but one needs to also consider and ask: Is this happening at the terms dictated by some dominant group? Or is this assimilation peaceful?

In the previous sections we looked at how the art that was seen as being derivative of Greek influence at Gandhara was, in fact, plural, and holding on to conservative and traditional ideas of Hellenism in a Roman age. Can that atavism be explained through our current understanding of the culture of diasporic communities? We begin to see a shift in the balance of power in the middle of the 2nd century BC as Greece fell captive to Rome. Was there no choice then but for them to assimilate into Indian culture because there was no Greek homeland left to return to?

As Greece was colonized by Rome and Latinized, Greek diasporas migrated to Asian enclaves. Cleopatra was being strategically courted by Rome's insatiable ambitions, even as she offered Greeks an important neutral space for domicile akin to contemporaneous Parthians of Persia who declared themselves to be "Phil-Hellenic", or "friends of the Greeks". The North West Frontier of South Asia thus also attracted migrations of a whole variety of Indo-Greeks. The scholarly insights we use to understand the cultural impact of colonialism today have been used to study the impact of the Roman Empire too. Grand empires (and colonization) led to displacements and exchanges of an order that our readings on postcolonialism now permit us to understand better. (14)

A study of the references to yavanas, foreigners from the West, in several Indian texts, even though they are not all from Gandhara, and inscriptions, reveal the changing attitude towards them. In a 4th-century (if not earlier) text like the Jain Prakrit Angavijja, yavanas are clubbed along with Dravidas and Mundas as mlecchas, those of mixed caste. Perhaps even earlier, by the time of the Mahabharata, an indigenous origin for them had been created as having descended from Yayati on the one hand and on the other from the holy cow of Vashishta. In the dharmashastras there is a definite increase in the number of mixed castes who could not be left out of consideration of the Indian social fabric. So if the number of mixed castes was 11 in the Gautama Dharmashastra, it became 14 in the Baudhayana Dharmashastra and by the time of the Manusmriti, approximately in the 5th to 6th centuries AD, the number had risen to 61. In the Gautama Dharmashastra a story recounts that Indra, the king of the gods, admits yavanas into the Indian castes provided they follow the rules of dharma, and the dharma is that which is Brahmanically stipulated. (15) Such permissions must, of course, respond to the anxieties about the terms of assimilation and will require a combing through ancient literature to read.

Inscriptions too make repeated references to yavanas. In an earlier age, the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, it is well known, emplaced inscriptions from Kandahar to Karnataka to exhort people to coexist peacefully, suggesting a fear of conflict on the basis of religious and cultural identities. By the 2nd century AD, however, there are extensive inscriptions that reference yavanas as wealthy traders, prominent donors, instrumental in keeping the rest of the members of that society prosperous and employed. Their economic status probably ensured that they were not left out of social reckoning. In a society with an increase in the profiling of yavana castes, one wonders therefore if our Hariti at the entrance to a monastery in Peshawar is making a deliberate reference to the permission for different yavana communities to be included as worshippers?

If we view the context not through ancient texts and inscriptions, but from the diverse perspectives of the worshippers, or of the children on the statue itself, this "Buddhist Hariti" was calling on an ideal established by Demeter for the Greeks, Isis for the Egyptians and Phoenicians. Hindus may have seen her as harking to a Parvati or a matrika perhaps, and, correctly speaking, it wouldn't be out of place for the Zoroastrian Amurdad and Hordad to be associated with a divine feminine like Spendarmad/Spenta Armaiti perhaps. One cannot but marvel at this deliberated effort at showing a unity in the diversity of populations that lived in Gandhara. Globalization brings a fear of homogenizing different cultural identities, and yet, what it has enabled, oftentimes, is a cosmopolitanism that allows for different local practices to coexist even as some differences collapse.

Varied communities came in waves and the quick arrival and departure of Alexander should not be privileged as being the decisive moment in history-writing or prevent us from appreciating the diverse nature of the communities in Gandhara in the so-called Indo-Greek and Kushan periods. It is hard to decipher precisely what is being communicated by images in Gandhara because of the disparate influences of diverse communities' traditions on the material culture of the region. Many cultures in the world were undergoing transformations at this point--imaging their deities for the first time and, like all initial attempts, not everything lasted. Consequently we have images that cannot always be related to subsequent tradition. Their culture and cities transformed, and yet these migrants held on to their most precious objects (inheritances) with tenacity and care--and often these portable objects played a decisive role in influencing the ideas they communicated or expressed in the major public arts.

How the language of the conqueror itself becomes the one through which regional, local identities begin to be articulated is something we understand much better through postcolonial studies, allowing us to read how provinces articulated their agency. This was also the first time that many older ideas of divinity with lineages in Zoroastrian and Vedic cultures were being given an iconography, just as this was the time when many other older Indian deities find visual articulation for the first time in Gandhara, not excluding yakshas and nagas (who are subordinated in their greater glorification of the Buddha). Elsewhere, faraway lands where the Romans had reached were also experiencing similar shifts--the Celts, for instance, were expressing their older deities for the first time. Thus it was that Rosmerta the goddess of Germania, Gaul and Britain was paired with Mercury at this time. (16) India was not alone in these transformations. In fact, this was an age of many lasts and firsts. This was probably the last time that we find reference to Greek, Ptolemaic, Zoroastrian and Phoenician deities in ancient India. Was this their final visual articulation before their complete assimilation into Indian cultures? The sculpture I have focused on is a rare example of how differences are maintained, if only to serve us today as evidence of histories lost. This icon reveals the depth of interactions between the various communities of Gandhara and the deliberate investment of thought in creating such an image.


(1) Naman Ahuja, "The British Museum Hariti: Toward Understanding Transculturalism at Gandhara", in Beyond Boundaries: Connecting Visual Cultures in the Provinces of Ancient Rome, edited by Sue Alcock, James Frakes and Mariana Egri, Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2016, pp. 247-63.

(2) Yusufzai territory was north of Peshawar, where there was also a site by that name.

(3) Naman P. Ahuja, "A Buddhist Interpretation of Small Finds in the Early Historic Period", Journal of Inner Asian Art and Archaeology, London: Brepols, forthcoming; and Gethin Rees and Fumitaka Yoneda, "Celibate Monks and Foetus-stealing Gods: Buddhism and Pregnancy at the Jetavana Monastery, Shravasti, India", World Archaeology, 45(2), 2013, pp. 252-71.

(4) For an impressive Hariti from Mathura, see Naman Ahuja, Rupa Pratirupa: The Body in Indian Art, New Delhi: National Museum of India, 2014, p. 77. And for one from Telangana (Guntur region), see Naman Ahuja, The Body in Indian Art and Thought, Brussels: Ludion, 2013, p. 128, fig. 145.

(5) A.D.H. Bivar, "Hariti and the Chronology of the Kusanas", Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 33(1), 1970, pp. 10-21.

(6) N.P. Joshi, Matrkas: Mothers in Kusana Art, New Delhi: Kanak Publishers, 1986 and summarized in "Matrka Figures in Kusana Sculptures at Mathura", in Investigating Indian Art: Proceedings of a Symposium on the Development of Early Buddhist and Hindu Iconography, held at the Museum of Indian Art Berlin in May 1986, edited by M. Yaldiz and W. Lobo, Berlin: Museum fur Indische Kunst, 1987.

(7) Richard D. Mann, The Rise of Mahasena: The Transformation of Skanda-Karttikeya in North India from the Kusana to Gupta Empires, Leiden: Brill, 2011; R. Mann, "Parthian and Hellenistic Influences on the Development of Skanda's Cult in North India: Evidence from Kusana-Era Art and Coins", Bulletin of the Asia Institute, 15, 2001, pp. 111-28; D.M. Srinivasan, "Skanda/ Karttikeya in the Early Art of the Northwest", Silk Road Art and Archaeology, 1997-98, pp. 233-68.

(8) An example of such a small bronze Skanda that was brought to Gandhara, and citations to studies on the popularity of the deity at this time can be found in Naman P. Ahuja, Art and Archaeology of Ancient India: Earliest Times to the Sixth Century, Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2018, p. 148, cat. 57.

(9) Ciro Lo Muzio, "The Dioscuri at Dilberjin (Northern Afghanistan): Reviewing Their Chronology and Significance", Studia Iranica, 28,1999, pp. 41-71.

(10) Hundreds of sculptures of these little boys are preserved in museum collections. The Cesnola Collection in the Met has a large number, and many others are to be found at the British Museum, and of course all over in Greece, Egypt, Cyprus and Lebanon. See R.A. Stucky, Die Skulpturen aus dem Eschmun-Heiligtum hei Sidon, Basel: Vereinigung der Freunde Antike Kunst, Beiheft 17,1993, pp. 56-59.

(11) Incidentally, the masculine gender for Ahura Mazda too seems to have grown in acceptance over time, moving away from the genderless principle it started with. On the difficulties of determining early Zoroastrian imagery, and its location in the Indie sphere of influence, see F. Grenet, "Iranian Gods in Hindu Garb: The Zoroastrian Pantheon of the Bactrians and Sogdians, Second-Eighth Centuries", Bulletin of the Asia Institute n.s., 20, 2006, pp. 87-99.

(12) See Joe Cribb, "Rediscovering the Kushans", in From Persia to Punjab, edited by Elizabeth Errington and Elizabeth and Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis, Mumbai: CSMVS, 2014, pp. 179-210 (originally published as From Persepolis to the Punjab: Exploring Ancient Afghanistan and Pakistan, London: British Museum Press, 2007).

(13) John Boardman, The Diffusion of Classical Art in Antiquity, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994, pp. 79,130.

(14) That the Roman Empire was the model that was used to forge and run the British Empire is well known since J. Bryce, The Ancient Roman Empire and the British Empire in India, London, New York etc.: H. Milford and Oxford University Press, 1914; and E. Baring, Earl of Cromer, Ancient and Modern Imperialism, London: John Murray, 1910. Among more recent studies, Roman Presences: Receptions of Rome in European Culture, 1789-1945, edited by C. Edwards, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999, presents a variety of overviews that examine how it shaped knowledge, self-perception and governance. In this volume, Javed Majeed's "Comparativism and References to Rome in British Imperial Attitudes to India", pp. 88-109, examines the training and models for the Indian Civil Service. Richard Hingley, Roman Officers and English Gentlemen: The Imperial Origins of Roman Archaeology, London and New York: Routledge, 2000, discusses how these models fed back to selectively perpetuating Roman scholarship. To understand how, in turn, these have impacted the study of provinces under imperialism, from the perspective of Greece when it was colonized by Rome, see Susan E. Alcock: Grecia Capta: The Landscapes of Roman Greece, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

(15) Aloka Parasher (Sen), Mlecchas in Early India, Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1991; Himanshu Prabha Ray, "The Yavana Presence in Ancient India", revised and republished in Athens, Aden, Arikamedu, edited by M.F. Boussac and J.F. Salles, New Delhi: Manohar Publishers, 1995, pp. 75-95 (first published in the Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, xxxi, 1988, pp. 311-25); Upinder Singh, Political Violence in Ancient India, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2017, pp. 363-64.

(16) Thinking about this sculpture in connection with what was happening in Europe at the same time, on the other extremity of the Greco-Roman world, also makes for a useful comparison. The imaging of the Gallo/Celtic Epona and Rosmerta, for instance, have been shown to be a similar case: Jane Webster, "Necessary Comparisons: A Post-Colonial Approach to Religious Syncretism in the Roman Provinces", World Archaeology, 28,1997, pp. 324-38. Further, Jane Webster, "Creolizing the Roman Provinces", American Journal of Archaeology, 105(2), 2001, pp. 209-25.

Caption: 1 Hariti, from Yusufzai, 2nd-3rd century AD. Grey schist; 77(h) x 42(w) cm. [C]THE TRUSTEES OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM. OA 1886.6-II.I.

Caption: 2 Hariti, from Skarah Dheri, 2nd century ad. Grey schist; 132(h) x 54(w) cm. COURTESY GOVERNMENT MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY, CHANDIGARH. NO. 1625. PHOTOGRAPH: NAMAN P. AHUJA.

Caption: 3 Hariti, from Mathura, 2nd century AD. Red mottled sandstone; 84(h) x 63(w) x 15(d) cm. COURTESY MATHURA MUSEUM. PHOTOGRAPH: NAMAN P. AHUJA.

Caption: 4 Hariti, from Takkellapadu, Telangana, 4th century AD. Limestone; 28.5(h) x n(w) x 11(d) cm. FROM THE GUNTUR SITE MUSEUM. ACC. NO. 97-63, BMG 391. COURTESY NAMAN P. AHUJA.

Caption: 5 Matrika (mother goddess) with a baby in her lap, seated on stool carved with yakshas, from Bengal, c. 1st century BC-1st century AD. Double-moulded terracotta. Private collection. PHOTOGRAPH: NAMAN P. AHUJA.

Caption: 6 Old nurse seated with a baby in her lap, probably from Tanagra, Greece, 330300 BC. Terracotta; 10(h) x7(w)x 7(d) cm. [C] THE TRUSTEES OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM. REG. 1874.11-10.18.

Caption: 7a-c Details from the British Museum Hariti: (a) Priyankara or Pingala, (b) Karttikeya, (c) Harpocrates with his Egyptian-style mohawk. PHOTOGRAPHS: NAMAN P. AHUJA.

Caption: These bodybuilders' weights from Gandhara remain some of the most impressive objects that use heroic myths for a secular object. One depicts the exploits of the youthful Krishna recounted in the Harivamsha Purana where he dispenses with the monstrous horse Keshin by punching him through the gullet. Another weight shows Herakles performing the first of his 12 labours: slaying the monstrous Nemean Lion. The reverse of each weight shows a pair of wrestling twins (perhaps the Dioscuri), and they each have handles carved into the sides. Stories of such extreme physical strength would have been appropriate for athletes' weights.

Caption: 8a and b Wrestler's weight with Krishna and Keshin on the obverse and the Dioscuri on the reverse, c. 1st century AD. Schist; 20.5(h) x 50.5(w) cm. FROM RENE RUSSEK, BUDDHA ZWISCHEN OST UND WEST SKULPTURE AUS GANDHARA/PAKISTAN, ZURICH: MUSEUM RIETBERG, 1987, PP. 82-83.

Caption: 9a and b Wrestler's weight with Herakles and the Nemean Lion on the obverse and the Dioscuri on the reverse, Pakistan, c. 1st century AD. Schist; 26(h) x 34.g(w) cm. [C] METROPOLITAN MUSEUM, NEW YORK. ACC. NO. 1994.112.

Caption: 10 Harpocrates in long robe, from Sirkap, Taxila, 1st century ad. Bronze; height: 12.5 cm. FORMERLY IN THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF PAKISTAN, KARACHI. NOW POSSIBLY IN THE TAXILA MUSEUM. COURTESY NAMAN P. AHUJA.

Caption: 11 Phoenician temple boy, excavated from the Sanctuary of Apollo at Cyprus, c. 300 BC. Probably limestone. [C]THE TRUSTEES OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM. 1917,0701.125.

Caption: The Kushan period in Gandhara saw the flourishing of Buddhism. The images here and in the following pages show the changing nature of representations of the Buddha and bodhisatvas under the new rulers and patrons.

Caption: N The Bimaran Reliquary, found at Bimaran, Stupa 2, late 1st to 2nd century AD. Gold and garnets; height: 6.5 cm, diameter: 6.6 cm. [C]THE TRUSTEES OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM. 1900,0209.1. PHOTOGRAPHS: WANNAPORN KAY RIENJANG.

The Bimaran casket is important because it preserves one of the oldest known images of the Buddha. It was found inside a stone reliquary that was inscribed as containing relics of the Buddha donated by Shivarakshita. Found along with it were small gold ornaments, pearls, and beads of amethyst, coral, agate and crystal. Current research on the four coins found with it now associate them with Mujatria, a satrap ruling in Jalalabad in the 1st to 2nd century AD, and not with the king Azes as was previously thought.

The figures on the outer surface of the casket are divided into two main groups of three, each group having a central Buddha flanked on either side by worshippers. The view on top shows the Buddha flanked by Brahma and Indra. The view at the bottom shows one of the two figures that divide the groups. This is possibly Maitreya or a bodhisatva. There is also a detail that shows the base of the casket with a lotus design.

Caption: O Maitreya, Sikri, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, 2nd century AD. Grey schist; 158(h) x 46.5(w) cm. [C] CHANDIGARH MUSEUM. ACC. NO. 2353. PHOTOGRAPHS: NAMAN P. AHUJA.

Of all bodhisatvas in Gandhara, an exceptionally large number depict Maitreya. The concept of a bodhisatva, one who holds a truth of Buddhaness within or the potential to be a Buddha, grew in importance within Mahayana Buddhism. Maitreya with his distinctive bow-shaped hairstyle and often carrying a kamandalu (water pot) is perceived as a Buddha who will manifest in the future, promoting the idea that there will always be hope of a saviour. As these figures are often attired as princes and given individualized features, art historians have wondered whether the royals of Gandhara had themselves portrayed allegorically as bodhisatvas.

Caption: P Fasting Siddhartha, Sikri, c. 3rd century AD. Grey schist; 84(h) x 53-3 (w) x 25.4(d) cm. [C] LAHORE MUSEUM. PHOTOGRAPHS: NAMAN P. AHUJA.

Detailed new photography reveals some of the most astonishing aspects of this well-known masterpiece from Gandhara. The style of sculpture is what can be called "hyper-real": seemingly naturalistic, but in fact, painstakingly exaggerated naturalism, making it something that is quite unreal or idealized. On his path to nirvana, Siddhartha tried many types of asceticism, including fasting, before he arrived at the middle way, a path without extremes. The dramatic iconography of this scene at Gandhara influenced the creation of similar images in China and Korea, although it did not find much favour in subsequent periods in South Asia itself.

Caption: Q Vision of Buddha Paradise, Muhammad Nari, 4th century AD. Light grey schist; 119(h) x 97(w) x 28(d) cm. [C] LAHORE MUSEUM. INV. NO. G-155.

This carving depicts an incident in which the Buddha challenged the heretics by multiplying himself at Shravasti. The art historian Alfred Foucher called it The Great Miracle. Alternative interpretations can be found in Mahayana Buddhism which claims that anyone can attain Buddhahood and, further, that several Buddhas can simultaneously emerge in different Buddha-kshetras. Buddhas like Amitabha and Akshobhya emerged in texts as the most prominent, each occupying a Buddha-kshetra. Yet without clear markers it isn't possible to ascertain whose Buddha-kshetra this is. The depiction of "pure lands" and Amitabha's Sukhavati, which grew to prominence in China, harks back to 3rd-century Mahayana texts in Gandhara. A complex stele such as this could lend itself to evolving interpretations and changing contexts over time.

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Title Annotation:Kushan art of Gandhara
Author:Ahuja, Naman P.
Publication:Marg, A Magazine of the Arts
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jun 1, 2019
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