Pakistan to co-opt Lanka in developing its Gandharan and Buddhist Studies Center
Posted on October 16th, 2018

Courtesy NewsIn.Asia

Colombo, October 17 ( The government of Pakistan has sought Sri Lanka’s cooperation in developing its Gandharan and Buddhist Studies Center located in Taxila (the ancient Taksasila) near Islamabad.

The proposal was mooted at a meeting between the Pakistani High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, Dr.Shahid Ahmad Hashmat, and the Sri Lankan Minister for Foreign Affairs,Tilak Marapana, here on October 9.

Pakistan to co-opt Lanka in developing its Gandharan and Buddhist Studies Center

For the last decade of so, Islamic Pakistan has been trying to impress upon Sri Lanka its eagerness to own, preserve, discover and propagate its Buddhist past pertaining to the 2 nd.Century BC Gandhara era.

Pakistan has been keen on using its Buddhist past to build bridges with Sri Lanka, where Buddhists are in an overwhelming majority.

In 2006, the Pakistan High Commission launched Sri Lankan Professor J.B. Dissanayake’s Sinhala translation of Pakistani academic Ahmed Hassan Dani’s 1992 work,  Gandhara Art in Pakistan.

Map showing the Gandhara region

The following year, the High Commission had M.S. Hussain translate into Sinhala, Ihsan H. Nadiem’s Buddhist Gandhara—History, Art and Architecture.

In 2010, at the request of the then Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, Pakistani President Asif Zardari sent the Buddhist relics of Gandhara for exhibition in Sri Lanka.

In June 2011, to mark the 2600th anniversary of the Buddha’s enlightenment, the government of Pakistan handed over two Buddhist relics from museums in Pakistan to officials from Sri Lanka.

On its part, the Sri Lankan government organized a month-long exhibition of these relics before presenting them to the monks of Bodhigyana Kapuwa temple in Kaduwela near Colombo.

In January 2016, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited the holiest Buddhist shrine in Sri Lanka, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic at Kandy.

In May of the same year, by invitation of the Pakistani government, a 43-member delegation of Sri Lankan ministers, monks, scholars, and journalists visited Pakistan to attend the first-ever Pakistani Vesak Festival at Taxila.

Recently, the Pakistan High Commission revamped its website which besides being comprehensive in its coverage, also stressed Pakistan’s links with Buddhism and Sikhism.

The idea behind all this has been to show that despite its problems with Islamic fundamentalism, Pakistan has plenty of tolerant and open-minded people, a fact which is often overlooked by the international media.

Gandharan art

Buddhist Studies

The Center for Gandharan and Buddhist Studies was established in Taxila in 2017 in view of the considerable archeological work that had already been done in the Gandhara region in North Western Pakistan.

But much more needed to be done to get a clearer picture of the role the region in the spread of Hinduism and Buddhism.  The Buddha is said to have visited Gandhara during his wanderings as a teacher. Buddhism is said to survived in the Swat valley till about the 8 th.or the 9 th. Centuries until the advent of Islam.

Kautilya, who authored the Arthashastra, a treatise on politics and economics of the Mauryan era, is believed to have taught at the Buddhist University of Taksasila (Taxila) in the Gandhara region.  

For many centuries, this area had been a meeting place of  cultures and religions, including Hindu, Buddhist and Greco-Indian. But the full extent of the region’s role in the development of these cultures and religions is yet to be fully discovered.

The Gandharan region is full of artifacts of immense value. Many of them are easily available, with even farmers stumbling upon them in their fields.

With easy availability, the region has become a happy hunting ground for artifact hunters and smugglers. Valuable artifacts can be bought for Pakistani Rs. 20,000 and sold abroad for Pakistani Rs. 8 million, according to one estimate.

It is estimated that at least 20,000 ancient Gandharan artifacts have so far been smuggled abroad.

Pakistani High Commissioner, Dr.Shahid Ahmad Hashmat with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Tilak Marapona

To prevent further looting, the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province has set up eleven museums.

The Center for Gandharan and Buddhist Studies is part of Pakistan’s national effort to preserve and protect its heritage, even if it is not Islamic.

The Center is pushing for grants to do research on the history of  Gandhara. The idea is to revive the spirit of the ancient University of Taxila.

And to facilitate research on Buddhist remains and understand their significance, Pali and Sanskrit will be taught. It is here that the Center would need Sri Lanka’s help as Sri Lanka has Buddhist research institutions and Pali is taught in the universities.

The Gandharan Buddhist Center’s excavations at Badalkot in Taxila had led to the discovery of a monastery. In Barikot in Swat, a large Greco-Indian city was discovered with pottery and coins from Greece and the Mediterranean dating  back to the 2 nd.Century BC.

One Response to “Pakistan to co-opt Lanka in developing its Gandharan and Buddhist Studies Center”

  1. Ancient Sinhalaya Says:

    Iran, afganisthan, pakesthan, maldives, bangladesh, malaysia and indonesia all used to be Buddhist countries
    before fastest breeding religion mussies arrived in those countries. Within a few hundred years the mussies
    outnumbered the native Buddhists and made them all mussie countries. Today most of them are hell holes
    bursting at the seams with vast populations. You don’t have to be Einstein to say too many people cause too
    many problems since people will have to fight for resources and these leading to conflicts. Imagine new arrivals going to need food, homes, jobs, hospitals, schools, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. Today this is evident
    in a lot of mussie countries like syria, iraq, libya, yemen, sudan, afganisthan, pakesthan, etc. etc. Once the
    trouble starts, these mussies obviously run to infidels’ countries for refuge. Syria trouble no musseis tried to settle down in libya etc. etc. Can you believe their hypocrisy?

    In the year 0000 or year 600 people believed in anything. People used to worship mountains, trees etc. etc. in the
    olden days. Today religions have to pass the science test to be accepted as true religions. Charles Darwin showed
    the world how all the creatures came to being and his Theory of Evolution is accepted to be true by all honest
    people in the world. Simply nothing is god’s work. From all the religions, Buddhism is the only one pas the
    ‘science test’. Today all the scientists accept that and if pakesthan planning to restore these ancient building, it
    will be a very very commendable act.

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