Statue of a king or Bodhisattva from the (?) Mian Khan, Peshawar District
Photographer: Serrot, M.
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph, taken by M Serrot in 1883, shwoing a statue of a king or Bodhisattva from the upper monastery at Nutta or Mian Khan in Peshawar district. This is one of a series of photographs taken by M. Serrot, and reproduced in photogravure as Plate 24 of 'Illustrations of Graeco-Buddhist sculptures from the Yusufzai District', in volume I of Henry Hardy Cole's 'Preservation of monuments in India' (c. 1885). Cole wrote, "This is the upper part of what must have been a large statue, and measures about 2 feet 9 inches in height. The mode of dressing the hair is very elaborate. A band of jewels is worn across the forehead; massive earrings drag down the lobe of the ear; a chain with dragon clasps is worn round the neck as well as a torque; a chain of stones, or beads, is worn over the right shoulder, and a string of amulets is worn across the body under the right arm, which has an armlet with a human head represented on it. Such rich ornaments show this to be a royal person, probably Prince Siddharta before his asceticism." Cole gives the location as Mian Khan, both in the above work and in his Memorandum on ancient monuments in Eusofzai, with a description of the explorations undertaken from the 4th February to the 16th April 1883, and suggestions for the disposal of the sculptures (Simla, 1883), p. 32. Another source, Bloch, gives the location as Nutta. The piece is now in the Indian Museum, Calcutta.
From the first and second centuries AD onwards, Peshawar district, in northern Pakistan, became famous for sculptures like that pictured here. Known as Gandhara, it was ruled by a dynasty of Chinese origin called the Kushans. They were Buddhists and under their influence, the religion, and the arts associated with it were allowed to flourish. The reign of the Kushan king Kanishka, is particularly well known for its artistic achievements and it was during his reign, from 78 AD, that we find the first examples of the Graeco-Roman influenced Gandharan style of sculpture. The classical influence on this sculpture can be clearly seen in the figures draped clothing, its curly hair and the naturalistic modelling of the body.