The Lahore Museum has the world`s finest collection of Ghandhara Buddhist Sculptures. What is the sculpture all about? The Bodhisattva was of the view that a liberated soul, whatever the condition attained, is subject to rebirth and hence each successive renunciation is accompanied by qualities specific to that condition. But the ultimate attainment, he believed, is only found in the abandonment of all material things. It was in this state of mind that we must study this great masterpiece. Today the nearest to that state is the way our Sufis see the world. Today, even our Sufis are under attacks.
To seek a world beyond this, the Bodhisattva as Buddha is called settled in a forest near the village of Urtivela on the bank of the River Nairanjana. The conquest of birth and death was his objective. Six years of fasting saw his body reduced to skin and bone. He survived on a single sesame seed or a grain of rice a day, so it is believed. One day as he walked in deep thought, he was overcome by severe pain, and fainted. The `gods` then spoke: ?Alas! Prince Siddhartha is surely dead?. His mother, the Queen Mahamaya, was informed, and she began to weep. Then spoke her son to her: ?Fear not for Love of thy Son. Thou shalt pick the fruits of the labour. Not in vain doth a Buddha renounce the world.
?Therefore, be not sorrowful, for soon will thou behold the wisdom of a Buddha. That was the true way that I found beneath the Banyan – Jumbo ? tree, and it cannot be attained by one who has lost his strength. And so again the great being resolved to beg, his foods in towns and villages, so that his health and strength might be restored?. His attainment of `light` and `life` was, so it is believed, achieved in his 30th year of the life.
The anatomical details of this masterpiece may not be absolutely true to life, yet the serenity of the face, the natural drop of the drapery on the shrinking body, and magnificent recreation of yogic mood, the growth of the beard and body hair, all are superbly realistic. The statue is dated as being in the second century A.D., and was excavated by the British Army Excavation Mission of 1894 in Sikri, near Jamal Garhi, District Mardan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The stone is a very fine-grained homogeneous bluish schist stone. The size of the statue is 84 cms by 53 cms. The Peshawar Museum has the majority of the finds, with this masterpiece coming to the Lahore Museum in 1894. The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England, also has a few excellent pieces.
A lot of myths exist about this statue being stolen. The truth is that when it was discovered, its left arm was cracked. This crack has given rise to a lot of speculation, especially about it being mishandled by the museum staff. A photograph of the statue when it was discovered by the British Army team in 1894 shows the cracked arm. Many think it is not the original. This is utter hogwash.
However, when Gen. Musharraf was the President, the White House wanted the statue. One version, probably near the truth, is that a replicate was sought. Rumour has it that the original was promised for a handsome one billion dollars. However, fear of a backlash ended this alleged offer. My research says this was never the case. However, a stunning replica from special polymers was made by the famous Pakistani sculptor Salahuddin, but then the Musharraf era, thankfully, ended and the replica was never sent.
Few museums in the world are as well endowed as is the Lahore Museum. It remains starved for cash to carry out elementary conservation and maintenance work. The military eras saw silly bureaucrats posted there who did more damage than good. There is a need for school children to come to see one of the world`s finest art pieces. This is the true Pakistan amazing and unparalleled in creative juices. We have the best, of this have doubt. All we now need is to educate our children to enjoy the best the world has to offer, no matter where it is