Gandhara, A Photo Essay
The kingdom of Gandhara was located in what is now the north of Pakistan, but then an inseparable part of India, for Pakistan was created in 1947 as a state specially for the Muslims of India (but, unlike another state whose nation, in contrast to the latter, has an upstanding historical claim to it, does have a right to exist in the eyes of all but a few). The most interesting and noteworthy history of Gandhara begins, in my opinion, in 180 BCE, when the Greek king Demetrius of Bactria conquered it. The Greco-Bactrian kingdom lasted only 40 years, until the Kushans stormed into Bactria, but the Greco-Bactrian rule was to have lasting effect: Gandhara became the center of Hellenism-influenced Buddhist culture for centuries, not finally dying out until the Muslim Ghaznavids left it to be forgotten in 1021.
It would not be truthful to say the conquests of either Demetrius or the Kushans were tranquil, unmarked by taking spoils and later tribute; but when the conquerors settled down they adopted the culture of the conquered people and infused it with their own. So it is we find statues of the Buddha in Gandhara as in all Buddhist lands, but the specialty of Gandhara is that those statues are in Greek style. This unique blend of East and West is the hallmark of Gandhara art, and spread to other regions of India as well.
The Kushan Empire was multicultural in the good sense of the word, that is, as multiculturalism should be: many ethnicities and religions living under common rule, abiding by common law. Greeks, Persians, Indians and Scythians made up the ethnic constituency of the Kushan Empire, and Greek religion, Zoroastrianism, Hinduism and Buddhism were the four religions living peacefully together in it.
Although the Kushan Empire had been riven internally, from the 3rd century CE onward, before being conquered by the Huns and later the Muslims, the internal strife was the result of power struggles, not ethnic or religious tension. That in itself says much about the success of the Kushan melting-pot: more than 350 years after the Greco-Bactrian conquest, the region of Gandhara was solid enough in cultural unity to be subjected to power struggles rather than ethnic or religious divisions.
Because the Huns had already ravaged Gandhara in 450 CE, the Muslim Ghaznavid invaders of the 11th century left it to neglect instead of giving it the treatment Muslims gave so many other teeming areas of India: plunder followed by destruction of the un-Islamic artifacts. Had the Muslims found Gandhara in its 2nd-century glory, we would see none of its Greco-Buddhist art today. Like the Taliban of Afghanistan, and like Egypt’s Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, Muslim invaders over the ages have destroyed the cultural artifacts of the conquered peoples as part of the “Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice” activities. (The Torah’s injuction against statues and engraved images, in case you bring it up, is, again, for Jews only—seeing a statue of a Hindu god in India, the only thing the Jew is instructed to do is not worship it or show any reverence toward it.)
Islamic animosity toward other cultures has been tempered only by situations where economic necessity proved to be too strong. For example, Islamic law stipulates that Hindus, like any non-Muslims who are not of the People of the Book (Jews and Christians), must be given the “choice” to convert or die; that the Hindus during the Mughal Empire were accorded the status of dhimmis instead, like the People of the Book, was because mass forced conversion to Islam would have brought the economy of the Mughal Empire to its knees. And Grand Mufti Gomaa’s decree against sculptures in Egypt is resisted by Egyptian Muslims themselves because they know full well Egypt’s economy is dependent on tourists coming to see those sculptures.
It is not, however, a given that economic necessity will keep the Muslims’ hand away from the non-Islamic cultural artifacts for ever. The Bamyan Buddha statues are a case in point: they were brought down as soon as there arose an Islamic government more pious than economically realistic. Destruction by Islamic fanatics, therefore, hangs on the artifacts in countries under Islamic rule like the Sword of Damocles. This is yet another demonstration of why appeasement of Muslims is a grave error. In recent news, the Thais have installed a government headed by a Muslim (military commander Lieutenant General Sonthi Boonyaratglin) in order to enter negotiations with the Muslims wreaking havoc on Thailand’s south; history shows that such steps lead only to more terrorism, being the leverage for more concessions, until, if the Thais do not do an about turn and show the Muslims terrorism doesn’t pay, the beautiful Buddhist temples of Thailand are reduced to smoking heaps, and the number of tourists to the country is cut down wholesale.
The Kushan Empire was a multicultural success because all its ethnicities and religions accepted a common system of law. Muslims, in contrast, subvert any multiculturalist state into a shariah-ruled state, first by living apart from the state’s laws, as communities which function as states within a state (French term: communautarisme), and then, through the demographic jihad, democratically replacing the law of the host state with theirs.
Even if you’re not a religious non-Muslim, you should wake up to the threat at least for the sake of the works of art you patronize, such as the sculptures of Michaelangelo and Bernini and the paintings of Rafael and Botticelli. They’re not guaranteed to be preserved under a shariah-ruled state.