Seated Buddha from Gandhara

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Seated Buddha from Gandhara
Seated Buddha, British Museum 1.jpg
Seated Buddha from Gandhara on display in the British Museum
Materialschist (stone)
SizeHeight: 95 cm

Width: 53 cm

Depth: 24 cm
Period/culturec. 2nd - 3rd Century AD
PlaceJamal Garhi, Gandhara, Pakistan
(Present-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan)
Present locationRoom 22, British Museum, London

The Seated Buddha from Gandhara is an early surviving statue of the Buddha discovered at the site of Jamal Garhi in ancient Gandhara in modern-day Pakistan, that dates to the 2nd or 3rd century AD during the Kushan Empire. Statues of the "enlightened one" were not made until the 1st century CE. Before that, Buddha were generally represented by aniconic symbols.[1] Like other Gandharan, Greco-Buddhist art, and Kushan art, the statue shows influence from Ancient Greek art depicting Buddhist themes. The sculpture is now in room 22 of the British Museum, catalogued as 1895, 1026.1.[2]


The statue was carved in schist, allowing very fine detail. The pose illustrates Buddha's first sermon on "setting in motion the Wheel of Law" at the deer park at Sarnath[2] near Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. The statue was made in the 2nd or 3rd century and although Buddha lived in the 4th century before Christ this is still a quite early statue. Statues of the "enlightened one" were not made until the 1st century AD. For the first four hundred years after his death Buddha was represented by symbols alone such as his footprint.[1] This statue was used as the inspiration of a BBC Radio 4 programme in the series called A History of the World in 100 Objects in May 2010. The programme discussed the change that allowed Buddha to be represented by a statue instead of as previously by symbols alone.[3]

The figure of the Buddha is shown on a cushion on a throne or platform. On the front of the throne there are much smaller figures of a bodhisattva with a turban and halo, flanked by kneeling figures of a male and female probably representing donor portraits of a couple who paid for the statue.[4]

Similar statues[edit]

There is a similar statue carved from black schist at Yale University Art Gallery[5] Another comparable statue was sold by Christie's in September 2009 for $218,500. That statue dated from the same time and place and was 26 inches high.[6] These Buddhas are widely considered to be the rarest of all Buddhist sculptures and despite iconoclasm, they can be found in the museums of France, Germany, Japan, Korea, China, India, and Afghanistan as well as those still remaining in Pakistan.[7]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Seated Buddha, History of the World in 100 Objects, BBC, accessed July 2010
  2. ^ a b Seated Buddha from Gandhara Archived 20 October 2015 at the Wayback Machine, British Museum Highlights, accessed July 2010
  3. ^ Seated Buddha from Gandhara, BBC Radio 4, accessed July 2010
  4. ^ "Collection database, British Museum".
  5. ^ Seated Buddha,, accessed July 2010
  6. ^ A gray schist figure of a seated Buddha,, 2009, accessed July 2010
  7. ^ Gandhara Civilization,, accessed July 2010

Preceded by A History of the World in 100 Objects
Object 41
Succeeded by