Growing Buddhist Tourism | Thai Chief Monk Visits Buddhist Heritage Sites

PESHAWAR: A nine-member delegation from Thailand on Wednesday visited archaeological sites in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Peshawar Museum and evinced keen interest in the findings and discoveries of Buddhism and Buddhist heritage.

The delegation, comprising chief monk and monks, officials of Archaeology and Museums visited Takht Bhai Ruins and Peshawar Museum and performed worship. They also received briefing on Peshawar Museum, Buddhism heritage sites in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Archaeology and Museums Director Dr Abdul Samad briefed the monks on the archaeological sites in Peshawar, Takht Bhai ruins, Buddhism, gallery of Buddhist statues, antiques and artifacts in the museum.

He said that there were over 6,000 archaeological and heritage sites in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where research was being carried out to revive these sites properly.

“The followers of Buddhism would find a treasure trove of Buddhist statues and heritage after thorough research and revival of these sites,” the official told the delegation.

He said that Unesco had declared the Takht Bhai ruins a world heritage site in year 1980, where thousands of ruins of Buddhism existed.

Dr. Samad said the government had taken a number of steps for attracting foreign tourists, scholars and researchers to the province.

The official said that a comprehensive policy had been evolved for preserving and protecting the archaeological sites and places in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He informed that initiatives were being taken to carryout excavation on archaeological sites through modern techniques and methods.

He also mentioned about the latest discoveries and the rich Gandhara heritage in various parts of the province.

The official said that the government was giving top priority to repair, renovation and preservation of archaeological heritage, and historical buildings in the province. He informed that a plan has been chalked out to protect and preserve all ancient places and buildings in a proper manner.

About the Peshawar Museum, he said that the historic Peshawar Museum wasbuilt in 1907. The Peshawar Museum is famous for its collection of Buddhist artwork dating from the ancient Gandhara Empire.

The Peshawar Museum was founded as “Victoria Hall,” in memory of Queen Victoria. The two-storey building was built in a syncretic architectural style consisting of British, Hindu, Buddhist and Mughal Islamic styles.

Initially, Dr. Samad said, the museum had only one exhibition hall, but two more were added in 1969–70. In 2004–05, the museum was further expanded with the construction of a new block with two galleries, two halls for the museum’s collection in storage, offices for the provincial directorate of archaeology, a conservation laboratory and a cafeteria. The historic exhibition hall was also renovated at that time.

The current collection has almost 14,000 items based on Gandhara, Greco-Buddhist, Kushan, Parthian, and Indo-Scythian life. The museum showcases art, sculptures, coins, manuscripts, statues, ancient books, early versions of the Quran, weapons, dresses, jewelry, Kalash effigies, inscriptions, paintings of the Mughal and later periods, household materials and pottery as well as local and Persian handicrafts.

He said the Peshawar Museum has one of the largest and most extensive collections of Gandhara art of the Buddhist period and is considered to be one of the biggest collections of Buddhist objects in the world. It also contains the largest collection on Gautama Buddha. Buddhist stone sculptures, terracotta figurines, and other Buddhist objects.

The display of Gandhara art in the main hall includes Buddha’s life stories, miracles, worship of symbols, relic caskets, and individual standing Buddha sculptures. The ethnological objects of that period are also exhibited in the museum.

He told the visitors that it has 8,625 coins, of which 4,510 are pre-Islamic. The main interest of the museum’s numismatic collection is that the coins were recovered from archaeological sites, including: Shah-Ji-Ki-Dheri, Sari Bahlol, Takht-i-Bhai and Jamal Garhi.

He added that the collections of Bactrian Greek, Indo-Greek, Indo-Scythian, Indo-Parthian and Kushan coins have been published.

This gallery exhibits wooden facades of mosques, ancient Arabic and Persian inscriptions, fine Multani tiles and ceramics, and the dresses and weapons of Syed Ahmad Shaheed Barelvi and numerous ancient leaders. Some of the best works are the Mughal Islamic metal artifacts in bronze and silver, the calligraphic specimens and scrolls that date as far back as 1224.

This gallery, the official said, was mainly consisted of items displaying the culture and life of the major tribes of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and the Kalasha Desh located in the far north of the province, where a small tribe of animists called the Kalash live.

He said the museum exhibited cultural items of the Kalash Valley. Exhibits also include swords, daggers, spears, long bows, recurve bows, arrows, shields, muzzle-loading guns, revolvers, pistols and gunpowder boxes.

The members of delegation said that Peshawar was a historic and safe city. They said the people of Peshawar and elsewhere in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were hospitable and friendly.



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