EVENTS

TREASURE AND TRAGEDY FROM OXUS TO INDUS:
GANDHARA, BACTRIA AND BAMIYAN

SYMPOSIUM
27th & 28th January 2016
Kavita Singh, Curator, Professor School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU, Delhi
India International Centre, 40 Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi

27 Jan Opening: 9:45 am to 10:30 am
Renu Judge, Founder's address, Founder Trustee, The Aesthetics Project
Video

Kavita Singh, Introduction to Treasure and Tragedy from the Oxus to the Indus: Owning and Disowning Art.
Curator, Professor School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU, Delhi
Video

Session I 10:30 am to 1:15 pm
Kavita Singh, chair

Juhyung Rhi, ​ Yavanas, Gandharis and Buddhas:
The Birth of Buddhist Art in Gandhara

Professor of Buddhist Art History, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea
Video

Kurt Behrendt, The Gandharan Buddhist Site of TakhtiBahi
Associate Curator, Department of Asian Art, Metropolitan Museum
Video

Session II 2:15 pm to 6:15 pm
William Dalrymple, chair

Jason Neelis, Buddhist Stories in Stone and Birch-bark Scrolls: Transmission and transculturation of Gandharan narratives in ancient visual and literary media
Associate Professor, Department of Religion and Culture, Wilfrid Laurier University, Ontario, Canada
Video

Vazira Zamindar, Gandhara in the Age of Nations Associate Professor, Department of History, Brown University
Video

Naman P Ahuja, Exploring Iconographic Syncreticism at Gandhara Professor, School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU, Delhi
Video

28 Jan 9:45 am to 10:30 am
Renu Judge, Founder's address, Founder Trustee, The Aesthetics Project
Kavita Singh, Synopsis of day one
Curator, Professor School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU, Delhi

Session III 10:30 am to 1:15 pm
Naman P Ahuja, chair

Sanjyot Mehendale, The Begram Ivories: Object, Subject, Context Lecturer, Department of Near Eastern Studies and Buddhist Studies, University of California, Berkeley
Video

William Dalrymple, The Place of Shining Light: The Long History of Bamiyan
Author & Historian
Video

Session IV 2:15 pm to 5:45 pm
Shobita Punja, chair
Art Historian & Independent Scholar, Delhi

Reza Hosseini, Destruction of Bamiyan Buddhas: Iconoclasm and Hazara (Azra) Research Scholar, Leiden University
Video

Brent Huffman, Introduction to and screening of Film "Saving Mes Anyak" Assistant Professor of journalism, Northwestern University, Medill
Video

Valediction
5.30 pm t0 5.45 pm

Gandhara, Bactria, Bamiyan:
Treasure and Tragedy, from the Oxus to the Indus

Gandhara, Bactria, Bamiyan: the names bring to mind rich arts, born of complex cultural interactions in the past. But they also evoke difficult histories and challenges to the preservation of heritage in the present. In this symposium eminent scholars, curators and activists from India and abroad will shed light on the remarkable art and cosmopolitan culture of Gandhara and Bactria in ancient times. They will speak of recent and unfolding threats to monuments and artifacts in the current day, as well as heroic efforts to protect and preserve a legacy in the face of implacable opposition.

From ancient times, the valleys that stretched between the Indus (which now flows mostly through Pakistan) and the Oxus (the Amu Darya in today’s Uzbekistan) lay on the route between China and the Mediterranean. Gandhara and Bactria was the cross roads of the world where east met west and north met south. Travelers, traders and conquerors from China, Persia, Greece, India, Central Asia, Egypt, Arabia and the Levant converged here, in conflict and collaboration, to create layer upon layer of history.

If archaeological sites in this region yield Indian ivories, Chinese silks, Roman glass and Grecian gold, these material remains only reflect the cosmopolitan population that inhabited these valleys.  Once the cradle of Zoroastrianism,    the area later was to be known for its ‘Greco-Buddhist’ culture that fused elements of Buddhism with Hellenism and the later Greek culture that followed in the wake of Alexander the Great. Gandhara’s cosmopolitanism brought deities and legends from the four corners of the world together. The Buddha was often shown protected by Hercules, and the goddess Hariti was modeled upon Tychy, in iconographies deliberately devised to unite the diverse people of the region through a shared and syncretic culture. Buddhist monasteries and Greek-style amphitheatres were the twin centers of their cities.

It is sadly ironic that this place of cultural confluences has become the site of culture wars. If some sites and objects such as the Bamiyan Buddhas or the collections of the Kabul Museum perished  through deliberate acts of destruction, much else has been lost as the collateral damage of unending disturbance in the region, or may yet be lost in reckless ‘development’. Despite the terrible tragedies, however, this is also an area of hope – of artifacts saved, looting reversed and damage repaired often through acts of rare bravery and dedication at the local and the international level.

Speakers at the symposium will focus on the ancient religious and cultural landscape, the iconographic innovations, and the major sites and elaborate narrative sculptures; the luxury objects purchased and traded; and of the consequences of the war on culture and attempts to repair what had been destroyed.

Although Gandhara and Bactria today lie outside India’s borders in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, the region lies at the heart of periods central to Indian history, for it was the birthplace of the Mauryan dynasty and the capital of the Kushanas. Colonial interest in ‘Greco-Buddhist’ art prompted the founding of the Archaeological Survey of India and several museums in India have rich collections of art from the region. Yet these have fallen into oblivion: if some groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan have recently disavowed Gandharan and Bactrian art for being non-Islamic, in India these were rejected decades before by nationalist ideologues, for being the product of ‘Western influence’ and therefore extraneous to Indian tradition. Intolerance can take many forms, and this art seems to have suffered all of them in recent times. An intensely cosmopolitan expression that once fused elements taken from everywhere, Gandharan and Bactrian art, it seems, has now become the art of nowhere.  It is hoped that this symposium will encourage us to look at the again, and with new eyes.

Good Earth National Museum Sothebys