Category Archives: Pakistan

Iconic Buddha in Swat valley restored after nine years when Taliban defaced it

Italian experts conducted the conservation and restoration process using 3-D technology.

Italian experts conducted the conservation and restoration process using 3-D technology.

The iconic seventh-century defaced Buddha at Jahan Abad, Swat, at last, got its face back after a nine-year-long wait following a scientific restoration process conducted by Italian archaeologists.

The 7th century Buddha seated in a meditative posture which is considered one of the largest rock sculptures in South Asia was attacked in September 2007 by the Taliban, who blew up half the statue’s face by drilling holes into the face and shoulders and inserting explosives.

The explosives in the face, when detonated, destroyed half its face, but the explosives in the statue’s shoulders failed to detonate.

The defacement of the Buddha sparked worldwide anger and concern among the Buddhist community, historians and archaeologists.

The Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan were able to restore the statue to its original form after six scientific missions.

“It was our professional and moral obligation toward the people and heritage of Swat and Pakistan which forced us to restore the Buddha. It took about five missions of about a month each from 2012-2016 in its complete conservation program,” said head of the Italian Archaeological Mission, Dr Luca Maria Olivieri, adding that international experts worked on the restoration process.

“Two restorers/trainers, two 3D scan experts/trainers, one chief restorer, five local restorers, 20 field workers, two carpenters, and three watch-keepers were involved in the restoration process, while the 3D equipment was provided all-inclusive by the University of Padua, Italy,” he said

“It was restored under the Archaeology Community Tourism (ACT) Field School project funded by Italian government, a joint project of the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Italian Archaeological Mission,” Olivieri added.

Fabio Colombo, a restorer and member of the Italian Archaeological Mission who has vast experience in the field of conservation and who worked on-site in Bamyan, Afghanistan, said that he enjoyed the work at Jahan Abad as it was a very important historical site where the locals also gave him love and respect. Continue reading

Jamal Garhi Buddhist complex, Mardan, Pakistan (2nd Century AD)


Archaeology dept to search for Buddhist relic near Islamabad

Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2016.

ISLAMABAD: Department of Archaeology and Museums (DOAM) is successfully continuing the survey work of archaeological sites at Zone-IV of federal capital to find potential sites for documentation, excavation and preservation.

DOAM Director Archaeology Abdul Azeem said the team of archaeologists has so far identified eight sites in Zone-IV of the capital and the survey continues in different areas.

These include historical monuments, worship places of Sikh community before partition, mosques of Mughal period, remains of Buddhist period and a memorial of British-Sikh War.

Azeem, who heads the project, said the first-ever archaeological survey in federal capital was initiated to find the potential sites for excavation, documentation and preservation, protecting the precious heritage.

The team which is conducting archaeological survey comprises archaeological experts, photographers, draftsmen and other necessary staff who are recording the details of the sites for documentation and finding potential sites for excavation.

He said Assistant Directors, Mehmood Shah and Asadullah were also part of the team which is conducting the survey. Students of Hazara University and Quaid-e-Azam University are also accompanying the team of experts during the survey work on sites.

About the cost of the project, Azeem said, PC-I of the project worth Rs400,000 was already submitted to the authorities concerned for approval.

However they have been given an amount of Rs150,000 by the National History and Literary Heritage Division to start the survey work.


Situationer: Pakistan and Lanka tread the path of Buddhist heritage


Pakistan and Sri Lanka have embarked on a new journey in bilateral relations by benefiting from a common Buddhist heritage.

Till the end of Lanka’s war with the Tamil Tiger rebels in mid-2009, the relationship was based on military support to the Lankan government. However, a gradual cultural orientation was in the offing in Pakistan’s diplomatic policy with Sri Lanka. In 2007, the book Buddhist Gandhara — History, Art and Architecture, written by a Pakistani musicologist and archaeologist, Mr Ihsan H Nadiem, was translated into Sinhala.

In 2009, the then Pakistan High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, Seema Baloch, revived Pakistan’s ancient links with the Buddhist world, with the intention of introducing the Lankan public to the archaeological, aesthetic and cultural diversity of its neighbouring state.

Muhammed Daud Ehtisham, the Press Attache in 2010 and the principal cultural aficionado in the Pakistan High Commission, led the shaping of the new stage of Pak-Lanka relations, expanding it with arts and culture-related initiatives.

He compiled a publication, Majestic Pakistan, this year and published it in three official languages in Sri Lanka: English, Sinhala and Tamil. He felt that these efforts would help in breaking stereotypes about Pakistan by offering glimpses of Pakistan’s landscape and culture with a separate section dedicated to Buddhist sites and their archaeological relevance.

Among the famous Buddhist sites mentioned in the publication are the Takht-i-Bahi, a monastic complex 80 kilometres from Peshawar. It was unearthed in the early 20th century and included in the Unesco World Heritage list. Mohra Muradu, a 3rd century monastery based in Taxila, is among other sites mentioned in the book. Continue reading

Conservation of historic Buddhist site delayed

Structures of Ban Faqiran atop Margalla Hills eroding away. PHOTO: FILE

Structures of Ban Faqiran atop Margalla Hills eroding away. PHOTO: FILE


By APP Published: September 26, 2016

ISLAMABAD: Conservation work at the Buddhist site `Ban Faqiran’ atop Margalla Hills in the federal capital has still not started owing to negligence of the concerned authorities.

According to an official source, excavation work on the site of 2,000 year-old `Ban Faqiran’ was completed in March and the Department of Archaeology and Museums (DOAM) was supposed to start conservation process. The source, added that various important archaeological sites in the capital including `Sarai Kharbuza’ and others are eroding away after being exposed to natural elements and damage by locals and lack of preservation efforts undertaken by the authorities.

The sites, after excavation, require conservation measures by experts from time to time and its preservation is supposed to continue on a regular basis in order to save the heritage site.

Excavation of the fourth heritage site of `Ban Faqiran’ in the capital was the first field activity undertaken by DOAM after the 18th amendment was passed. Antiquities excavated from the site were housed in a museum for further research, imparting education, promoting tourism and providing recreation to visitors.

The objective of this project, worth Rs2 million, was to reconstruct the ancient cultural profile, establish antiquities and explore, excavate and preserve potential archaeological sites in the federal capital, the source added.

Funds for excavation and preservation of this Buddhist site had been provided by the National Fund for Cultural Heritage (NFCH) in April 2015 and excavation work began in August 2015.

One large stupa-like square structure, measuring 10.26m a side, was excavated on top of the Margalla Hills. The structure was made out of lime and Kanjur stone, with semi-ashlar and masonry dating back from the second to the fourth century Common Era (CE). Furthermore, archaeologists recovered six coins and four iron arrowheads from the Buddhist site in what was at the time termed a major find.

A water tank and a mosque was also discovered at the site.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 26th, 2016.


Outgoing Pakistani diplomat helped promote Buddhist ties between Pakistan and Sri Lanka

New Indian Express

By P.K.Balachandran | Express News Service Published: 21st September 2016

COLOMBO: Pakistani diplomat Muhammad Daud Ehtisham ,who is leaving Sri Lanka after six years of dedicated service to the promotion of cultural ties between Pakistan and Sri Lanka, will stand out for assiduously promoting Buddhism as a bridge between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Until Ehtisham took over as Press Attache of the Pakistan High Commission six years ago, Pakistan’s relations with the island nation was primarily military in nature with Pakistan being one of the main suppliers of arms to the Sri Lankan military then fighting the Tamil Tiger terrorists.

At one stage, some efforts were made to add an economic dimension, trade and investment, to the ties. But cultural exchanges and promotion of common cultural interests were nowhere in the picture till after the end of Eelam War IV in 2009.

The restoration of peace helped the then High Commissioner, Seema Baloch, to re-discover and bring into the public domain, Pakistan’s ancient links with Buddhism, the religion of the majority in Sri Lanka. Baloch left the execution of the ambitious new project in the able hands of Daud Ehrisham, who while being Press Attache, also functioned as the principal cultural oficionado in the Pakistan High Commission.

His passion for culture and the arts stood him in good stead in projecting Pakistan as a culturally diverse and tolerant country in the face of portrayals to the contrary in the media.

An ardent collector of Buddhist art and artifacts, Ehtisham organized exhibitions and visits of scholars and monks to Buddhist sites in Taxila (ancient Gandhara) and helped bring the relics of the Buddha from Gandhara for a month long exposition in Sri Lanka which attracted more than nine million devotees. In 2011 he brought down Pakistan’s Director of Archeology Dr.Fazal Dad Kakar for a visit to Sri Lanka. Continue reading

KP lacks archaeological experts to preserve priceless heritage

Pakistan Observer
September 9, 2016016

Gilgit—‘Kargha Buddha’ as one of the most potential archaeological sites in Gilgit Baltistan to explore was at the risk of ruining due to neglect by the KP provincial authorities concerned.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province having rich historical and cultural background and ancient sites lack archaeological experts to preserve the priceless heritage for the tourists and education of the upcoming generations.

‘Kargha Buddha’ is a carved rock statue located near Kargha Nallah, a ravine and is 10 kilometres away from Gilgit Town. It is one of the most admired and short-outing places, surrounded by lush green picturesque views.

The site, after devolution under 18th amendment of the constitution, comes under the jurisdiction of the provincial authorities who have not started any excavation work on the site due to lack of expertise and focus, Deputy Director, Department of Archaeology and Museums (DOAM) Islamabad, Abdul Ghafoor said.
Talking to APP, he said the site, if excavated and preserved, can reveal many historical facts, antiquities and help to educate the future generations about the country’s heritage along with boosting the tourist activities in the region.

Muhammad Hassan who has served as Assistant Director, DOAM, Gilgit Baltistan during the years 2001-2006 said Kargha Buddha is a Buddha sculpture in Tibetan style of 4th or 5th Century AD. The length of the statue is 40 to 50 feet while its width is yet to be estimated.
He said the rock stupas usually sustain the climatic changes of intense nature however the sites where these rock statues exist are needed to be excavated for finding antiquities and then preserved.

Although no excavation took place ever in this archeological site so far however during this time period, the experts discovered remains including a rare manuscript representing the Buddhist civilization from the surroundings of the site.

Muhammad Hassan, who is now Curator at Harrapa Museum, Punjab, said that the historical facts revealed that the Buddhist caravans mostly religious ones used to stay at the monastery here while going from Silk Road, which also is considered to be part of the monuments, towards China for trade purposes since centuries. Continue reading

Heritage site: Exploring last vestiges of ancient Buddhist monastery

The ruins of the Buddhist monastery in Takht Bhai in Mardan. PHOTO: EXPRESS

The ruins of the Buddhist monastery in Takht Bhai in Mardan. PHOTO: EXPRESS


By Hidayat Khan
Published: August 26, 2016

PESHAWAR: The ruins of Takht Bhai, ‘spring upon a rocky ridge’, do not fail to fascinate anyone who visits. Apart from the rich culture and heritage that is preserved at the site, the threads of myths woven around the Buddhist monastery, offer multiple narratives and accounts of the history of the place.

Situated on the Mardan-Swat Road, around 13 kilometres north of Peshawar, the Takht Bhai ruins date back to the 2nd century BC. It was excavated in 1836 and was declared a world heritage site by Unesco in 1980.


Sifting through accounts

Every local narrates his or her version of the historical facts about Takht Bhai.

“The ruins had underground waterways which were constructed to provide water from springs to the people living on the hills,” a local told The Express Tribune.

“A king would sit on a massive throne in the middle of these ruins and bread and meals would be prepared for him at the base of the site,” another local said.

Encounters with more people only add to the rich tales the region has created about the site.

According to archaeologists, the ruins of Takht Bhai were first excavated in 1836. At least 270 sculptures—220 made of clay, stucco and terracotta—reflecting complex iconography have been discovered and displayed at Peshawar Museum. Archaeologists believe Takht Bhai was a major ancient Buddhist monastery complex. Continue reading

Buddhist-era lamps found near Indo-Pak border

Times of India

TNN | May 13, 2016, 04.27 AM IST

Amritsar: Earthen lamps dating back to Gautam Buddha’s era were found by a villager near the India-Pakistan border in Amritsar district. Balwinder Singh, a resident of Bahadurnagar village situated on the border, found three earthen lamps from a mound. The three earthen lamps have unique features, and stand apart from the present-day earthen lamps. These can be hanged with a thread or a wire, and can be used as lanterns. “A few days ago, I chanced upon finding these three unique earthen lamps from the mound,” Balwinder told ToI on Thursday.

Bahadurnagar is situated close to Kotli Vasawa Singh village, where lie the remains of Buddhist civilization buried under mounds. These buried unique articles of the past are being plundered by amateur and professional artefact collectors. “Finding such archaeological objects dating back to the Buddhist era is not uncommon in this area, which once had a thriving Buddhist civilisation,” said BS Goraya, a historian. He said it was strange that despite being in the knowledge of the Punjab Department of Cultural Affairs, Archaeology and Museums, and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), no one took the initiative to have a detailed survey of excavation of the mounds, to preserve the remaining cultural heritage and prevent it from being looted by a few private collectors.

Balwinder said the mound had several pieces of clay pottery embedded in it or just scattered on the ground. “During rains, many such utensils come out of the mounds, and most of them are broken, but it is strange to see how they are embedded in the soil for centuries,” he said, adding that he was lucky to have found the unique lamps.


Buddhist sacred bone relics from Pakistan to arrive in Sri Lanka on Vesak festival

The Nation
May 18, 2016, 5:25 pm

COLOMBO: In order to be part of the most important annual Vesak Buddhist Festival falling on 21st May, the government of Pakistan is providing the most sacred bone relics of Lord Buddha to Sri Lanka for exposition throughout Sri Lanka.

The exposition is being organized on the request of the Sri Lankan government under the bilateral cooperation agreement in the field of Culture.

The relics will be arriving in Sri Lanka for an extended period on the auspicious day of Vesak on 21st May 2016 and will be exhibited until Full Moon Poson Poya Day.

The Sri Lankan Minister for Sustainable Development and Wildlife Hon. Gamini Jayawickrama Perera, Secretary Ministry of Buddhasasana Mr. Wasantha Ekanayaka, Venerable Thiniyawala Palitha Thero, Chief Incumbent Nalandramaya, Nugegoda along with other high level officials left for Pakistan today to bring the sacred relics.

The sacred relics will be handed over by the Pakistani authorities to the Sri Lankan side in a special ceremony to be held at Taxilla on 19th of May 2016 Continue reading