OCR Aspects of the Architecture of the Buddhist Sacred Areas in Swat

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Transcript of OCR Aspects of the Architecture of the Buddhist Sacred Areas in Swat


IsIAOVol. 56 - Nos. 1-3 (September 2006)

Aspects of the Architecture of the Buddhist Sacred Areas in Swat

Introduction North of the Kabul river, a tributary of the Indus, between the 3rd century B.C. and the 4th-6th century A.D., the ancient civilization of Gandhara achieved the union between Western and Indian culture within the framework of Buddhism, which reached its peak in this area. As a result of this union the figurative arts and the architecture of the area were substantially transformed; and therefore it was precisely here - together with the Mathura region further South - that for the first time human features were attributed to Buddha, previously rendered aniconically.

* The work in the area of Barikot, as well as in the Najigram, Karakar, and Kandak valleys, which forms the basis of this article, is part of ongoing research on ancient Buddhist architecture in its relations with the West within the framework of an interdisciplinary scientific collaboration agreement between the IsIAO (headed by Prof. Pierfrancesco Callieri, director of the Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan, hereafter IAM) and the Department of History of Architecture, Restoration and Conservation of Architectural Heritage of 'La Sapienza' University of Rome (headed by Prof. Piero Spagnesi, who holds the chair of History of Ancient and Mediaeval Architecture at the same university) on the history, conservation and restoration of religious, civil and military architecture of the NW Frontier. A number of aspects treated in this article have already been addressed by Spagnesi, forthcoming b. The numbers in brackets in the text and the figure captions refer to the Site List of the Archaeological Map of Swat Valley Project, in progress (hereafter AMSV): see Olivieri & Vidale, this issue. The identification of the sacred areas of Kandarai 1 (Site 303) and Tokardara 2 (Site 301), described herein, is the result of surveys carried out together with L.M. Olivieri and L. Colliva, with the invaluable help of our head worker and restorer Akthar Manir and Shafiq Ahmad and Ali Khan of the IAM during two field campaigns carried out by the author in 2004 (April 25-May 10) and 2005 (July 27-August 15). I wish to thank Arch. Silvia D'Acchille for the drawing and 3D model in Figs. 2-3. For the letters in Figs. 9 and 10, see Barger & Wright 1941: pl. XI.3 and Berendt 2004: fig. 110. The basic images in Figs. 9, 13, 17 and 23 are the property of the Department of History of Architecture, Restoration and Conservation of Architectural Heritage of 'La Sapienza' University of Rome were taken from digital data recorded on 4 June 2004 by the Quickbird satellite and are covered by Copyright O 2005 of DigitalGlobe, Inc. (Longmont C O USA 80501-6700) [DigitalGlobe and the DigitalGlobe logos are registered copyrights (TM)DigitalGlobe, Inc. The right to use and/or disseminate these data and/or any product in any way deriving therefrom is reserved. Any unauthorized use and/or dissemination is prohibited].

Also here some consistency was given not only to his sculptural depictions but above all the buildings for his worship. This led to greater borrowing from more Western cultures of reference to reality, a certain sense of solidity and concreteness, the ways of organizing forms and spaces, the capacity to use large sizes and certain specific decorative systems, attributing to the whole other meanings and transforming it in original ways (I). In the valley of the Swat river (N.W.F,P., Pakistan), a tributary of the Kabul river West of the Upper Indus, the followers of Buddhism and - later - of his Tantric reform with its strong magic overtones, found ideal conditions for their settlements also because of the relative distance of the zone from the stronger lines of communication with the Iranian highlands, Central Asia and China. The importance of Swat had however already emerged under the reign of the Buddhist emperor ASoka Maurya in 3rd century B.C. (272-237 c.) and had continued throughout the Kushana reign and later until the time following the destruction of Taxila by the White Huns slightly after the middle of the 5th century A.D. It is a known fact - although the chronological details are still being debated - that the valley with the river and the related smaller valleys were crossed by Chinese pilgrims from the 4th to the 8th century A.D., along their religious itinerary towards India; in the 13th century A.D. they were reached by Tibetan pilgrims when the Buddhism itself had almost disappeared and the most important shrines were in ruins as they were still being sanctified in the 8th A.D. by the birth of Padmasambhava, who was virtually a second Buddha (Tucci 1963a, repr. 1978: 17-23). Over this long period of time, in parallel with what was taking place on the Peshawar plain, in Gandhara itself, here - at the foot of the Hindukush - various ideas were being tried out, to give shape to functional artifacts having artistic worship related forms that were normally better known than the architecture, in particular painting and sculpture. In all this the individual constructions were linked together by hierarchies deriving from constructive sequences and various symbols, and by the reflection in these of the transformations undergone by the Buddhism of the time. From all this there derived different ways of laying out the sacred areas to which these constructions belonged v i s - h i s towns and villages, their relative proximity to the large roads running through the valley bottoms and the various mountain passes, the variety of forms of the related monasteries, the fact that the organization of the surrounding territory actually hinged mainly on them (see Schopen 2006). As far as we know, the Buddhist settlements were numerous mainly in the lower Swat area, where the geomorphological characteristics offered a wide range of choice for building various different types of sacred settlements and the variety of possible links with the dwellings. In this area, lying roughly between the Shamelai spur to the North (Stein

( I ) For effective syntheses of the state of studies on the art of Gandhara, as well as Bussagli 1984, see, for example, Taddei 1994 and Fussmann 1995, both accompanied by extensive bibliographies.

Fig. 1 - The lower Swit and the adjacent valleys from Bir-kot-ghwandaito Mingora. Black squares and circles respectively indicate the inhabited area and the ancient sacred settlements mentioned in the text. 1: Butkara I; 2: Saidu Sharif I; 3: Panr I; 4: Jurjurai; 5 : Loebanr; 6: Barikot (Bir-kot-ghwandai), Settlement (Site 0 0 1 ~ )6a: ; Barikot (Bir-kot-ghwandai),top-hill (Site 002b); 7: Tokar-dara 1 (Site 201); 7a: Tokar-dara 1, isolated houses; 8: Tokar-dara 2 (Site 301); 9: Abbasaheb-china 1 (Site 208); 9a: Abbasaheb-china 2 (Site 302); 10: Kanderai 1 (Site 303); 10a: Kanderai 1, isolated houses; 11: Arnlukdara (Site 314); 12: Gumbat (Site 139); 13: Nawagai (Site 385); 14: Gumbatuna; 15: Nimogram; 16: Kanjar-kote 1 (Site 116); 17: Abwa 1 (Site 104b); 18: Arabkhan-china; 19: Shna-sha; 20: Top-dara; 21: Udegram, 'Bazar'; 21a: Udegram, 'Castle'; 21b: Udegram Mosque area; 22: Najigram (Site 203); 23: Shinghardar. (Drawing by Silvia D'Acchille).

1929: 75) and Barikot to the South, the river bed widened, almost suddenly, as it still does today, slackening the original torrential flow rate and allowing villages and roads to be built on flat land and fields to spread over the valley and up to the required height (Figs. 1-3). First studied by the A. Foucher in the early 20th century, by A. Stein in 1926-30 and above all by G. Tucci and his team from the mid 20th century on, the valley - as is known - it was the object of thorough excavation and reconnaissance campaigns carried out in particular by the competent Pakistani

Fig. 2 - The area of Barikot and adjacent valleys, seen from NNE. 3-D model of the land. 6: Barikot (Bir-kot-ghwandai), settlement (Site 0 0 1 ~ ) ; 6a: Barikot (Bir-kot-ghwandai), top-hill (Site 002b); 7: Tokar-dara 1 (Site 201); 7a: Tokar-dara 1, isolated houses; 8: Tokar-dara 2 (Site 301); 9: Abbasahebchina 1 (Site 209); 9a: Abbasaheb-china 2 (Site 302); 10: Kanderai 1 (Site 303); 10a: Kanderai 1, isolated houses; 11: Amluk-dara (Site 314); 12: Gurnbat (Site 139); 13: Nawagai (Site 385); 14: Gumbatuna; 16: Kanjar-kote 1 (Site 116); 17: Abwa 1 (Site 104b); 22: Najigram (Site 203); 23: Shinghardar. (Data image processed by Silvia D'Acchille).

Fig. 3 - The area of Barikot and adjacent valleys, seen from SSW. 3-D model of the land. For the caption, see Fig. 2. (Data image processed by Silvia D'Acchille).

authorities and by the Italian Archaeological Mission (2). Their combined efforts over the past fifty years have led to the discovery of large and significant monuments and have laid solid foundations for future research. Unlike Greek and Roman architecture, the state of studies on Buddhist architecture in Gandhara still does not authorize any comprehensive consideration being made in the historical-architectural field: many known sites are 'still to be excavated; some, hitherto unknown, have just been discovered; very few have been published. It is thus still impossible to address the large complexes within a clear chronological framework and to examine the characteristics and the relative weight of their various transformations over time. Nevertheless, it has been ascertained that at least the relative sacred areas display definite common features: pattern types of spaces, volumes and figurative characters which can be related back to various relatively well documented cases ?). At the outset of studies on the art of Gandhara, the architectural fieldwork was limited by Foucher himself to three fundamental building types: the stipa, the vihara and the samgharama, which are respectively a funerary monument, a chapel a