Gandhara Buddha (tnm)

Standing Gandharan Buddha

Brief Identification Edit

This particular standing Buddha is one that is associated with the Gandharan appearance. It was discovered in Takht-i-Bahi, an archaeological site which is in modern day Pakistan [See Takht-i-Bahi]. Discovered around 300 CE, this standing Buddha now resides in the State Museum of Berlin

Gandhara was settled by Greeks due to the conquest of Alexander the Great in 327 BC. Although this subject matter is Buddhist, Alexander's reign gave this version a Roman look. The standing Gandharan Buddha has a European face and is clothed in Roman drapery [See Gandhara].

Technical Evaluation Edit

This standing Buddha associated with the Gandharan school of Buddhism is unlike any other Buddhist sculpture ever created. It was made by sculpting slate, schist, or stucco. The ancient sculpting tools used to create this Buddha gave it some unique details that set it apart from other versions of Buddha. The almond shaped eyes appear downward and are centered by an urna . This inscribed circle between his eyes represent his divine status and his ability to see beyond the mundane realm. Before completion, this sculpture would have been painted and gilded [See Buddhas and Bodhisattvas].

In Benjamin Rowland Jr.'s article from American Journal of Archaeology ,he believes this Buddha, with its Roman influences, shares a number of similarities with Christ. He claims this version wore a himation garb opposed to the traditional Indian one. This same cloak can be seen as an undergarment worn under a traditional Roman toga. He also exclaims that the Gandharan Buddha's right arm is extended almost as if it were in a sling. He compares this to many Christian portraits, most notably Julian the Apostate in the Louvre. These similarities make since for the Gandharan version of the Buddha because of Alexander the Great's conquest and influence of Roman culture among the Gandhara school of Buddhism [See Rowland 1945, 447].

The Gandharan Buddha also serves as the first anthropomorphic Buddha ever created. Though different than earlier forms, this version reached a high popularity among believers due to its Hellenistic Greek style. Another Greek element incorporated into the making of this Buddha was the attention to detail on the limbs [See Gandhara Art]. The hands and feet were cast in marble, which gave it a more realistic look and contributed to its popularity [See The art of Gandhara, and the sculptor].

Local Historical ContextEdit

For some time, Gandharan culture was the staple of Buddhist civilization. This era provided some of the earliest oil paintings ever found and, according to many, the most beautiful Buddha of all time. It was in between the 2nd and 3rd centuries that Buddhism was adopted as the state religion and flourished for over one thousand years [See Shakya 2010, 218].

This era was also one of the first times that the Buddha was depicted as a human being. Early interpretations depicted the Buddha symbolically through open space or by using various symbols. The significance of the Gandharan Buddha comes from the clashing of two very different cultures: Buddhism and Greek/Roman [See Krishan 1964, 104]. For example, this Buddha was sometimes depicted with tritons, a hint at Roman culture. On the other hand, it still kept some traditional Buddhist ideals such as the knotted bun at the top of the head [See Buddhas and Bodhisattvas].

The rise of Gandharan culture, thanks to Alexander the Great, also brought about the rise of new cities. Around 2nd century AD, the cities of Taxila,Swat, and Charsadda became important centers for religion, culture, trade, and learning. Hundreds of monasteries were built together with Greek and Kushan towns such as Sirkap and Sirsukh [See Dobbins 1997, 282].

World Historical ContextEdit

Interest in Gandharan Buddhism has spread around the world. In the western world, Gandharan interest was sparked by a man named Charles Masson in the nineteenth century. Masson controlled a section of the British military when they happened to have stumbled upon some Gandharan artifacts while abroad. "This material, which was stored in places such as the Indian Museum in Calcutta and the British Museum in London ,lost record of its precise provenance and was generically labeled as Gandharan, thus shifting the meaning of the word from a precise geographical designation to a broad cultural one" [See Brancaccio, 2006, 1]. This is significant due to how the world now views Gandharan Buddhism. It was first a term to describe the land the Buddhists occupied, while now a majority of the world associates Gandhara with creating their own Buddhist culture. 

According to Asia Society , this region was a crossroads where the early influences of the western classical world met with Indian imagery.

The legacy of Gandharan Buddhism can still be detected in Asia as well as all around the world. Today, original sculptures of the Gandharan Buddha can still be seen in museums located in England, France, Germany, USA, Japan, Korea, India, China, and Afghanistan. This also includes numerous original sites and monasteries in Pakistan where the Gandharan Buddhists would gather and sculpt these incredible works of art [See Gandharan Civilization].


Brancaccio, Pia. Gandharan Buddhism (2006): 1 Accessed May 29th, 2014.

Dobbins, Walton. "Gandhara Buddha Images with Inscribed Dates." East and West (1997): 282 Accessed May 30th, 2014.

Krishan, Y. "Was Gandhara Art a Product of Mahayana Buddhism?" The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britian and Ireland (1964): 104 Accessed May 29th, 2014.

Rowland, Benjamin. "Gandhara and Early Christian Art: Buddha Palliatus." American Journal of Archaeology (1945): 447 Accessed May 29th, 2014.

Shakya, Min Bahadur. Buddhist Art of Gandhara (2006): 218 Accessed May 29th, 2014.

Asia Society. "The Buddhist Heritage of Pakistan." Accessed May 29th, 2014

Asia Society. "Buddhas and Bodhisattvas." Accessed May 29th, 2014

Britannica Online. "Gandhara Art." Accessed May 30th, 2014.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Gandhara." Accessed May 29th, 2014.

World Heritage Site. "Takht-i-Bahi." Accessed June 4th, 2014.

Taleem News. "The art of Gandhara, and talks to sculptor." Accessed June 4th, 2014.

"Gandharan Civilization." Accessed June 4th, 2014.