Post-Gandharan Swat. Late Buddhist rock sculptures and Turki Sahis' religious centres

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Author: Anna Filigenzi
Date: June 30, 2011
From: Journal of Asian Civilizations(Vol. 34, Issue 1)
Publisher: Knowledge Bylanes
Document Type: Report
Length: 1,872 words
Lexile Measure: 1380L

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Byline: Anna Filigenzi

For the last two decades the Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan of IsIAO has being working on systematic surveys of some peculiar artefacts of post-Gandharan Swat, with a special focus on the rock sculpture. This is a relatively large-scale artistic production which flourished in Swat (and, to a lesser extent, in adjoining areas) during the 7th-8th century CE and whose subjects are almost exclusively Buddhist with only a few exceptions, as in the case of the two reliefs discussed here, representing Surya paired with GaneSa. The reading of this iconographic subject, which had been already proposed some years ago on the basis of scanty elements, has been very recently confirmed by new discoveries. Although borrowing their formal language from the current local traditions, these reliefs clearly belong to a different cultural horizon. The interpretation proposed in this paper suggests their intimate connection with the presence in the region of the Turki Sahis and their royal ideology.

Late Buddhism in Swat: the rock sculptures

The field research

The first information regarding stelae and rock sculptures with a Buddhist subject came first with A.E. Caddy s fieldworks in Malakand Agency (1896), followed by the reconnaissance carried out by A. Stein in Buner in 1898 (Stein 1899)1. Actually in his report Stein describesthe sculptures as having a ,,purely Hindu character (Stein 1899: 14). Nevertheless, the Buddhist nature of these monuments was recognized by Stein himself after the inspection he carried out in the Swat Valley in 1926 (Stein 1930). This survey, whose importance could hardly be overestimated, marked the starting point for all the subsequent archaeological and historical research conducted in the region. . Additional evidence was provided by E. Barger and Ph. Wright, who carried out a survey in 1938 (Barger and Wright 1941), but a specific interest in these monuments and, consequently, the embryonic stage of a research project can only be traced back to the survey carried out by G. Tucci in 1956 (Tucci 1958).

Between the late 1950s and early 1960s, more data on these monuments were made available by MAI archaeologists, in particular with regard to the Saidu Valley (e.g. Taddei 1962). A first systematic reconnaissance was performed in 1964-65 in the Jambil Valley by E. Cimmino and P. Guj, during the work that led to the compiling of the archaeological map of the Jambil Valley (Faccenna 1980-1981: pls. 1, 2; Faccenna, C. et al. 1993: pl. XXIX). A further important contribution to the study of the Buddhist rock sculptures came, in the late 1960s, from the publication of the results of the research carried out by A. H. Dani in the neighbouring district of Dir and Malakand Agency (Dani 1968-1969). Research continued throughout the 1980s, and was expressed in the form of reports or specific finds both in Swat and in the...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A291181900