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Friday, July 17, 2009

Archaeological Heritage Of Pakistan Fasting Buddha (Gandhara Civilizations) (1999-5)

When the young prince Siddharatha, left his place in search of solution to seek enlightenment for human miseries, he straight went to a jungle and started physical austerities the age-old practice of getting spiritual enlightenment.

He fasted for several weeks, even months to banish all worldly thoughts and tame the body through pure spiritual activities.

Siddharatha thought that a liberal soul, as explained to him by a Brahman, is still a soul, and whatever the condition it attains, must be subject to rebirth and since each successive rebirth is held to be still accompanied by qualities. He maintained that the absolute attainment of our and was only to be found in abandonment of everything.

Seeking, therefore, something beyond, Siddharatha-actually a Bodhisattava, proceeded to Uruvilva near Bodhgaya and practiced for six years such severe austerities and intense mental concentration that his beautiful body withered away to skin and bones. He limited his daily diet to a single sesamun seed or a grain of rice, until one day he was overcome by a severe pain and fainted.

Some of the gods, taking him as dead, informed, queen Maya, the mother of Siddharatha, in Tusita Heaven. Immediately, she came down and seeing that Siddharatha was almost deed, she began to cry.

Then spoke the Siddharatha to his mother, ‘Fear not for love of thy son. I shall fulfill the prophecy of the Saint Asita and make plain the prediction of Dipankara. Though the earth should fall into hundreds of fragments but I, the only human being, should not die.

Therefore, be not sorrowful, for soon will thee behold the wisdom of a Buddha’. After overcoming his weakness, Bodhisattava perceived that self mortification was not the way to enlightenment.

Realising the fact he gave up fasting and accepted food from a maiden name Sujata. Then, after taking a bath in the stream of Naranjana, he again sat under a pipal tree at Bodhgaya to revive his meditation. Here he attained enlightenment at the age of thirty five and become known as the Buddha ‘The Enlightened one’.

This resolve was strikingly illustrated for the first time in Gandhara art and never so sublimely as in the masterpiece from Sikri, District Mardan, now in Lahore Museum.

This so-called statue of Fasting Siddharatha ranks not only as the finest specimen of Gandhara Art, but also as one of the rarest antiquities of the earliest world. Almost wholly undamaged and facing the viewer with a remorseless face it could not have failed to move the faithfuls, as it does fail to move us even today, with an awareness of the heroism which Buddhism saw in Buddsha striving for enlightenment.

In this sculpture the Bodhisattava sits in meditation, right hand over left, arms in the round, his upper garments slipped down to the elbows and spread in a broad semi-circle over the feet and crossed legs.

The head projects dramatically from the large plain halo, its shape and the luxuriant hair almost unaffected by the extreme emaciation of the features. The eyes are in sunken pits of deep shadow, the cheekbones project symmetrically, the nose in thin, the lips narrow and mouth small.

A short curling beard runs along the chin and jaw and even the thin curved, ears seem to convey the tension of the Bodhisattava withdrawn meditations. In low relief on the forehead, veins stand out as they do again in a regular and almost frightening tracery on the undercut arms, across the quaintly projecting shoulder blades and the ribcage.

Below the arch of the ribcage the abdomen is in drawn as if to leave no room for the wasted inner organs. Over the seat is spread the usual grass and on its face worshippers flank a fire-altar.

It is not known who carved this masterpiece of a sculpture and also as to how this image was housed in its shrine. Surviving smaller narrative panels with a central Fasting Bodhisattava can show a variety of flanking figures and if this image was not a wholly independent cult object, it may have been accompanied by odorants, as were Buddha in stucco groups at Taxila, or as in a narrative tableau, by appropriate participants at this stage in the Buddha legends.

Whatever may have been the case, this image show, to an exceptional degree for Gandhara devices more commonly employed in later sculpture the high relief, the under-cutting of the arms and the open spaces so produced under the armpits create a stark play of light and shade that could have enhanced the impact of one of the greatest achievements of any religious art.

Contributed by Lahore Museum, Lahore.

To focus the attention on Archaeological Heritage of Pakistan, Pakistan Post Office is issuing 2 commemorative postage stamps of denomination of Rs 7 each and one Souvenir Sheet of denomination of Rs 25 on July 21,1999.