Gandhara civilization is one of the most popular Buddhist civilizations which expanded and spread its culture in different regions, quite drastically.
In 326 B.C., the land of Pakistan attracted Alexander the great from Macedonia, who brought Greek culture to this part of the world. In this era, Buddhism was adopted as the state religion which flourished and prevailed here for over 1000 years. During this time, Taxila, Swat and Charsaddah became three important centres for trade, culture, art and craft and learning. From these centres, a unique art of sculpture originated which is known as Gandhara Art all over the world.
Gandhara region comprises of Peshawar, Swat, Mardan, Malakand and Bajaur Agencies in the north of Pakistan and Jalalabad in Afghanistan. In this region, Gandhara civilization emerged and became the cradle of Buddhism. From here, Buddhism spread towards east as far as Japan and Korea. The Gandhara civilization was discovered in 20th century, its intriguing records are found in the archaeological sites spread over Taxila, Swat and other part of Khyber Pakhtunwa.
During the 1st century BCE, the evidences of human inhabitants of Gandhara were discovered near Mardan; including stone tools and burnt bones of the people who lived there. Gandharan artistic tradition includes painting, sculpture, coins, pottery and other elements of artistic tradition. It took flight during Kushan Era and Kanishka Era during the 1st Century CE when Buddha was defied and the entire Gandharan culture was defined.
Gandhara is famous for its distinctive Gandharan style of Buddhist art, which is a great mixture of Syrian, Persian, Greek, Indian, artistic influences. The material used for the art was either Kanjur; a fossilized rock which can be easily molded into shapes, used for a base for various decorative elements in Gandharan art, for example pilasters, Buddha figures, Brackets and other elements. After cutting the basic shape out of stone, it is plastered with lime plaster to give it a finished look. Precious gems like Gold leaf are also applied to selective items of great performance and the quality of artwork varies depending on its use.
Although, the marks and ruins of Gandhara civilization can be found throughout in Northern Pakistan, its heritage has been saved in its true form the most in Taxila, Peshawar and Swat Valley, The Civilization of Gandhara is primarily a symbol of human development in the area of human knowledge, art, history and religion for future generations.
Today, the sculptures of Gandhara art possess a prominent place in the museums of France, England, Germany, USA, Korea, Japan, China, India Afghanistan and Pakistan with many private collections as well. Nevertheless, “Fasting Buddha” the one and only zenith of this Gandhara Art is being displayed in Lahore Museum.