The monks from Japan, China, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Korea?visited Taxila Peshawar & Takht bhai to take part in the `Sound and Light Show’ of the Gandhara Week that kicked off on Wednesday the 28th March 2007 by the ministry of tourism.
Taxila is one of the sacred places for Buddhists where Emperor Ashoka preached the Lord Buddha’s message of peace, love and brotherhood in the 1st century AD.
Holding lotus-shaped lanterns, the Monks and participants recited verses in chorus at the front of the stupa and made offerings of tea leaves and lotus flowers.
In Buddhism, lotus flower holds particular significance for its symbolic representation of different aspects of human life.
The plant growing in mud produces clean leaves on surface depicting purification and its beautiful flower suggests enlightenment.
While the lotus flower lantern symbolises the lighting before the Buddha and praising his benevolence with bright, clear and untrained heart and pledging to take the compassion on the road to one’s enlightenment.
The flowers signifies the practice of the generosity and represents moral ethics or discipline.
In the last leg of their rituals, the monks wearing yellow gowns walked around the stupa.
The ritual of going around the stupa for three times originated during the lifetime of the Lord Buddha when his disciples paid him a visit and first bowed in front of him and then went around him three times clockwise.
Meanwhile, during the religious ceremony, a dozen of girls wearing colourful dresses stood around the Dharmarajika stupa with lotus flowers in their hands.
Speaking on the occasion, Chief priest of Enmanji Temple, Japan, Ryoko Nishioka said this (Taxila) was the land where centuries ago monks from across the Gandhara came to seek knowledge of Buddhism and offered rituals for peace, harmony, love and brotherhood. Now once again the Buddhists from across the globe assemble here to pray for peace in the world.
He said by restoring the stupa and its cells for monks to provide proper boarding facilities, the Pakistani government could attract monks from across the globe.
The Dharmarajika stupa is the oldest Buddhist monument in Taxila valley.
Later, Federal Minister for Tourism Nilofar Bakhtiar along with more than 82 monks and at least 100 participants of the Gandhara Week celebrations and SAARC car rally attended joint prayers for peace.
MINISTER’S MESSAGE: Nilofar Bakhtiar said Pakistan was emerging as a major tourist destination because of the present government’s aggressive tourist policy under which around 70 events had been arranged this year.
Talking to newsmen at the `Sound and light show’ at the Dharmarajika stupa, she said the Destination Pakistan 2007 programme would help in the development of the tourism sector.
She said due to recent initiatives, the flow of tourists to Pakistan had been increased manifold.
“Our history is powerful and important and this is the first time in the country’s history that a government has initiated a marketing strategy in the tourism sector to promote it”, she said.
Rejecting the western media’s propaganda that foreign tourists are not safe in Pakistan, she said: “No foreign tourist has even been slightly injured in Pakistan’s history.”
The federal minister said marketing of cultural, religious and adventure sites was on the top of the agenda. It would not only promote the history of Pakistan but also attract tourists from all over the world, she added.
“Ranging from snow-covered mountains in the north to vast lush fields and forest resorts southwards, Pakistan is also a destination for religious tourism,” she said.
The Monks and participants of the Gandhara Week also Visited the Peshawar museum where a lecture on Art and religion of Gandhara Art was delivered by Prof: Fidaullah Sehrai ex director of Peshawar museum who now delivers lectures for tourists in Peshawar on regular basis.
The Buddhist art of Gandhara influenced not just the art of united India but that of the entire Buddhist world. So said Prof Fidaullah Sehrai
Members of the delegation included Buddhist monks, tour operators, journalists and travel writers from China, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Bhutan, Nepal, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Prof Sehrai, an expert on the Buddhist art and architecture of South Asia, said the first Buddha image of the world was created in Gandhara which was its greatest gift to the world of Buddhism.
He said Buddhism in Gandhara had taken various forms from time to time. It had started with Hinayanism, which was introduced by Ashok Maurya, and changed into Mahayanism in the time of the Kushan Emperor Kanishka who ruled in the first century AD. It was Mahayanism which had given impetus to the growth of Gandhara art. Later, Mahayanism changed into Vairayana and Tantrayan forms of Buddhism in Swat which reached Tibet and become Lamaism, he said.
He said the Gandhara art reached the climax due to the royal patronage of Emperor Kanishka and prosperity which Gandhara achieved from foreign trade and commerce on Silk roads which connected it with Central Asia, Western countries and South Asia. He said the subject matter of the Gandhara art was life stories of the Buddha, written in Peshawar and carved by sculptors in their light stones.
He said the reasons for the decline of the art were the lack of royal patronage after Kanishka’s death and the disconnection of Silk roads by the Sassanian rulers of Iran.
Following 2 tours can be taken to visit the important Buddhist sites in Pakistan
Archeological Tour: Indus civilization to Gandhara civilization a tour that will take you in depth of the archeology of Indus velly (7000BC to 8AD)
Buddhist History: Buddhism was propagated in Pakistan, Ashoka was born and ruled here Although Buddha never came to this region Buddhism developed here.
Gandhara Art Exhibition Objects from Karachi Museum