Iqbal Ahmad

Evidences of Grecio-Buddhist art in Kashmir

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Terracotta tile, 3rd century AD depicting on above portion man and woman sitting face to face in a balcony with lotus stuck, below stage hunted with arrow. Harwan Srinagar Kashmir

DURING the occupation of Greeks in North-Western regions of India and Kashmir, a famous school of Grecio-Buddhist art got patronized. This school was initially established by Bactrian-Greeks at Gandhara- modern day Khandhar in 1st century B.C- and was a mixture of Indian and Grecian arts which gave birth to indo- Grecian art which later came to be known as Grecian-Buddhist art.

Its center was at Gandhara. Kashmiri artists played a vital role in development of this art and during the occupation of Kashmir by Indo-Greeks, Kashmiri artists brought finer arts rom Gandhara and cultivated it in their own lands. Later on when Buddhist missioners of Kashmir went to Central Asian lands including Lahsa and China,they took this art to these lands as well. This art is also known by the name of Hellenistic art. PNK Bamzai writes that, “Long before the Greeks penetrated to this region, Gandhara had close political relations with the kingdom of Kashmir. Kalhana lays the first scenes of his immortal Rajataragini there. Subsequently, we find frequent reference to Gandhara and its Brahmans.”

It is recorded that Mihirakula the Epthalite Hun king of Kashmir settled thousands of Gandharan Brahmans in Kashmir. He also tells us that the young warriors of Gandhara were in great demand for the army of Kashmir. “The abundance in which the coins of Indo- Greek, Parthian and Saka kings of North- Western India were found till recently in Kashmir points to the existence of considerable commercial intercourse, if not actual political connection, between the valley and the principalities of Peshawer and Kabul in the last two centuries B.C. and the first century A.D. the earliest propagation of Buddhist regions in Kashmir and Gandhara is attributed to the same person—Majjhantika, the great missionary sent by Moggaliputta Tissa, the religious adverse of Ashoka” Bamzi writes.

The kingdom of Kashmir appears in ancient records as a part and parcel of Gandhara. In the list of sixteen Mahajanapadas, the Buddhist text mention Kashmira- Gandhara as one Janapada indicating thereby that the two countries formed one political unit in the pre- Ashokan period. During Ashokas reign, Kashmir and Gandhara came close together. Even after the break-up of his vast empire, the connections were maintained and alternately Gandhara becoming the vassal of Kashmir and the Punjab.

King Meghavahana of Kashmir was brought from Gandhara by the nobility of Kashmir to rule over the land after the retirement of Samdhimat- Aryaraja. That Kashmir and Gandhara continued to remain one political unit after Ashoka is evidenced by the Greek records in which Kaspapyros is described as a Gandharan city. In the Milindapanha which was composed about the beginning of the Christian era, the two countries are compounded as kashmira- Gandhara.

There can also be no doubt that Kalhanas reference to the expedition of kashmiri kings in to the North- West frontier of India are historical facts. We learn from Heun Tsiang that when he visited Taxila, he found the country to be a dependency of Kashmir.

The close connection of the various kashmiri kings with the Shahi rulers of the Kabul Valley whose capital was at udbhandapura (modern Und) is amply proved from a study of the Rajatarangini. Lalitaditya gave shelter to many young princes of the later Kushan rulers of the Kabul valley and appointed them to high posts under him. In the later history of Kashmir we learn that the Kashmiri kings entered in to matrimonial relations with the Shahi kings of Gandhara. Under Anantdeva (1028-63 A.D.) we find several coins of that house, designated as Sahiputras or Rajaputras, in positions of great honor and power at the Kashmir court. The last independent ruler of this line at Gandhara, Trilochanpala, was aided by the then king of Kashmir, Samgramaraja (1003- 28 A.D.) but received a crushing defeat at the hands of Mohmmad Gazni and spent the rest of his days as a refugee in Kashmir.

In the 14th century Sikandar conquered Gandhara and married the princess of Udbhandapura whose son- the celebrated Zain-ui –Abldin- was the Akbar of Kashmir. With such close political and cultural ties existing between the two kingdome of Kashmir and Gandhara, it is unimaginable that the Gandharan School of art could have developed independent of the skilled hands of the Kashmirian artists.

For thousands of years past, kashmirian artisans have been famous for the exquisite products of their artistic hands and even now there fame in this respect throughout Asia and Europe has not in any way diminished. If the Greek influences are unmistakably found in the ruins of old temples in Kashmir, the converse must also be true and the art of Gandhara must have been affected by the skill of the kashmiri sculptors and architect. We find that excepting the unavoidable difference in the material used for the various buildings of Kashmir and Gandhara, the two are practically identical.

The early Buddhist edifices of Kashmir have practically the same plan and probably had the same elevations at the contemporary Buddhist buildings of Gandhara. “We have seen”, says Dr. P.G.Bagchi, “that during the first period of Buddhist expansion outside India, it was the North- West, specially Gandhara and Kashmir which took the leading part. It is, therefore, quite natural that the missionaries of these two countries who went the Central Asia and China would carry with them the elements of the Indo- Greek art which was, in their own country, the only medium of the plastic expression of their pious aspirations.” Mahayana Buddhism was responsible for the development of the Grecio Buddhist art which found enthusiastic reception at the hand of the Chinese.



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