2018 Gandhara Connections lecture by Naman Ahuja now online
The 2018 CARC Gandhara Connections lecture by Prof Naman P. Ahuja is now online via our Gandhara Connections webcast page.
Delivered on Friday 2nd November 2018, 'A Mother to the Children of the World: The British Museum's Statue of Hariti' explores the complex iconography and Graeco-Roman affinities of a famous Buddhist statue.
In an age of diasporas, we often think about how a single image can be made to communicate to diverse people. What can the art of Gandhara tell us? In an extraordinary visual effort to bring together diverse religious communities, the Buddhist goddess, Hariti, in Gandhara began to be shown with children that came from Egypt, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Greece and mainland India. Looked at from the perspective of these diverse children, she might not actually have been the Buddhist Hariti to them all. While the Greeks could think of her as Demeter, the Egyptians probably regarded her as Isis, and the Hindus as a matrika. Similarly, an image for the Bodhisattva Vajrapani was created in such a way that he could be read either as the Zoroastrian Behram, or the Roman Hercules. Indra, doubled up as Zeus; Shiva as Oesho and Dionysus.
This lecture provides a close reading of some of these extraordinary iconographic developments in Gandhara to show what kind of images emerged in that multicultural society. Gandhara is usually thought of as a mishmash of artistic styles, however by carefully peeling away the many sources for creating these images, it will be seen that they can be polyvalent, as well as, as shall see in this talk, they seek also to accommodate difference. Can the art historical record be found to supplement what we have learnt of the anxieties around the gradual assimilation of foreigners in Ancient India?
Globalisation brings a fear of homogenising different cultural identities, and yet, what it has enabled, oftentimes, is a cosmopolitanism that allows for different local practices to coexist even as some differences collapse. Similar ideas can be seen in the past as well.