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Tokharistan and Gandhara under Western Türk rule (650 - 750)


Part One
History of the regions

(J. Harmatta)

Part Two
Languages, literature, coinage, architecture and art

(B. A. Litvinsky)

Cities, architecture and art

The capital of the state of Kapisa-Gandhara (possibly, its winter capital) was Udabhandapura, now the settlement of Hund, situated on the right bank of the Kabul river. Most of the city was surrounded by a defensive rampart. Later, in the Islamic period, it formed a square and its total length measured 1.3 km. Each side had a central gate fortified with bastions. Traces of older fortifications have been discovered and there is also a well-preserved section of the old wall some 20 m long. Around the fortified portion, the remains of buildings have been found, indicating the great extent of the town.41

Although Balkh remained the capital of Tokharistan, there were many other large towns that acted as provincial centres. One of them, the Vakhsh valley centre now known as Kafyr-kala, has already been described (see Chapter 6). In this period, the city was characterized by a radical restructuring of the palace and residential quarters.

Individual structures, including palaces (Kafyr-kala), castles (Balalyk-tepe, Zang-tepe, etc.), houses (Kala-i Kafirnigan) and, of course, Buddhist buildings, have been studied in considerable detail. Here we shall concentrate in Ajina-tepe (Fig, 2). This fully excavated Buddhist monastery consists of o halves that made up a single complex of religious and residential buildings, each half occupying an area of 50 x 100 m. The south-eastern half, which formed the monastery proper, consists of a quadrangle of buidings around a square courtyard. In the centre of each side is an aiwan (hall) and behind it a cella. The cella on the south-eastern side contained sculptures, including a 4-m-high statue of the Buddha, placed on figured pedestals. The other cellas were large halls, which served both as assembly rooms for the sangha (monastic community) and as refectories. The aiwans were linked by winding, vaulted corridors from which passages led off into tiny cells. Some or all of the complex was two-storied.

The second part could be called the temple. Its overall layout was identical, but there were no cells for the monks. In the central shrine there was a vast quantity of Buddhist sculptures on pedestals, or on the floor between. In each wall of the long, winding corridors there were three or four deep-set niches (Fig. 3), in which large statues of the Buddha sat in varied posed. At the end of the final corridor was a gigantic pedestal taking up almost an entire section, on which was a 12-m-high statue of a recumbent Buddha in Nirvana (Fig. 4). The vaulted ceilings of the corridors, and their walls, were covered in paintings and there were also paintings in the shrines (Fig. 5).

The entire centre of the courtyard was occupied by the main stupa, which was star-shaped in plan and and accessed by four staircases, one in the centre of each side. In the corners of the yard were miniature stupas of the same type, some ornamented with reliefs depicting small human figures (Figs. 6-10).42 Buddhist temples have also been found in Kala-i Kafirnigan (where some excellent paintings and sculptures have been preserved) and in the palace complex at Kafyr-kala. Overall, there are grounds for speaking of a Tokharistan school of art, related to, but not identical with, the art of central Afghanistan.43

Bamiyan has already been described in Chapter 6. Here we shall say a few words about the Fundukistan complex, which has been ascribed to the seventh century.44 The part that has been excavated includes a shrine and, linked to it by a vaulted passageway, another area consisting of several monastic cells, an assembly hall and other communal rooms. The shrine is in the form. of a square hall with three deep vaulted niches along each side: it appears that there were originally just two on the entrance side. Between the niches are pilasters with Corinthian-style capitals. In the centre of the shrine there was a slender stupa with an arcade on each side of its pedestal. The building material consisted of large-sized blocks of pakhsa. Clay statues stood in the niches, whose surface was lined with murals. The art of Fundukistan is characterized by vivid colours, bold foreshortening and elegance: although it betrays a powerful Indian influence, there is also a certain similarity with the art of Ajina-tepe and Kala-i Kafirnigan (Figs. 11 and 12).

Buildings of the late period at Tepe Sardar, near Ghazni, are of similar date. In this large Buddhist monastery complex, the main stupa is surrounded by many miniature stupas and shrines, ornamented with clay bas-reliefs. There were several colossal statues of the Buddha, including one seated and one of the Buddha in Nirvana. In one shrine, which is in the Hindu style, a clay sculpture of Mahishasuramardini (a form of the Hindu goddess Durga) was found. Thus a Hindu element was inserted within the Buddhist context. It is thought that this shrine is linked with the upper classes of society.45 The remains of a Hindu shrine have also been found in Chigha Saray (or Chaghan Sarai) in the Kunar valley, dating from the eighth or ninth century.46

Hindu art is also represented by finds of marble sculpture such as a Shiva and Parvati (Umamaheshvara) from Tepe Skandar 30: 'It is carved from one block of white marble and represents the four-armed, three-eyed Shiva seated on Nandi, flanked by his consort Parvati and Skanda standing at the left side of his mother.’47 The group stands on a pedestal with two steps. On the upper step there is a three-line inscription in a transitional. script between Brahmi and Sarada. It cites Shiva as Maheshvara.48 Another fine example of Hindu art is a marble statue of Surya from Khair Khanah:

The piece can be divided into upper, middle and lower parts. In the centre of the upper part is Surya, flanked by Danda and Pingala. In the middle part is the driver Aruna holding the reins of two horses whose backs are shown as they veer upwards to the right and left. The lower part is the pedestal.49

A whole series of other marble Hindu sculptures dating from this period has been discovered.50 Taken together, they indicate a powerful Indian influence and the spread of non-Buddhist Indian religions.51



41. Another identification is possible: see Caroe, 1962, pp. 97–8.
42. Litvinsky and Zeimal, 1971.
43. Litvinsky, 1981.
44. Carl and Hackin, 1959
45. Taddei, 1972; 1973; 1974.
46. Van Lohuizen, 1959.
47. Kuwayama, 1976.
48. bid., pp. 381–3.
49. Hackin and Carl, 1936; Kuwayama, 1976, pp. 375–6.
50. For the latest analytical review, see Kuwayama, 1976, pp. 375–407.
51. The Archaeology of Afghanistan, 1978, pp. 291–2.

Maryam Zebardast

Library:

Maryam Zebardast

Author:

B.A. Litvinsky











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