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Art of Indic Asia: Central Asia and Gandhara -Early Iconography, Art and Archaeology

Art of Indic Asia: Central Asia and Gandhara -Early Iconography, Art and Archaeology

-  Prof Naman P. Ahuja

This course focuses on the art history of Ancient Gandhara from the third century BC to the fifth century AD. Gandhara is geographically, culturally and historically complex to define. At various stages in history, Eastern portions of Iran, Central Asia (Afghanistan, Uzbekistan), the North Western Frontier Province, Swat, Kashmir and Punjab have formed a culturally cohesive units. The region’s material culture is unique: one the one hand it is archaeologically rich as it was home to of some of the earliest settled societies of Central and Southern Asia, at the same time it is also home to shifting nomadic societies, with equally rich shifting, performative, ritual, intangible traditions that material culture studies are hard pressed to excavate. The region has been examined by scholars for evidence for the migration of Sanskrit speaking communities which coexist with the presence of several ancient animistic, Shamanistic, Zoroastrian, Vedic, later Hindu and Buddhist cultures along with traditions of its contiguous regions in North India, West Asia and China. Perhaps its most well-known epoch was the period of Hellenistic cultural impact in the centuries following Alexander the Great’s conquest which was to have a decisive impact on the history of Central and Southern Asia.

This course thus affords students to study complex historical forces as they manifest themselves visually, particularly during the third century BC to fifth century AD. Locating these wider historical and historical questions is of course predicated on a detailed understanding of the region’s archaeology, the fraught nature of its chronology and familiarity, of course, with its numismatics so that we can, ultimately, be better informed about the region’s diverse religious and cultural background, and be better equipped to critically appreciate the region’s statuary.

Essential Readings:


• Coomaraswamy,A.K.‘OriginoftheBuddhaImage’originallypublishedJournaloftheAmericanOrientalSociety 1926, first Indian Ed. Munshriram Manoharlal 1972, and widely reprinted since

• Errington, Elizabeth (ed.), From Persepolis to the Punjab : exploring ancient Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, London : British Museum Press 2007

• Errington,E.,JCribbandMClaringbull(eds.)ExhibitionCatalogue:TheCrossroadsofAsia:transformationin image and symbol in the art of ancient Afghanistan and Pakistan; Fitzwilliam Museum. Cambridge : Ancient India and Iran Trust, 1992

• VanLohuizendeLeeuw,J.E.,The“Scythian”period:anapproachtothehistory,art,epigraphyandpalaeography of north India from the 1st century B.C. to the 3rd century. A.D. , Leiden : E.J. Brill 1949

• Marshall, Sir John, The Buddhist Art of Gandhara, Cambridge, 1960,

• Nehru, Lolita, Origins of the Gandharan Style: A Study of Contributory Influences, Oxford University Press, 1990

• Zwalf, Wladimir, A catalogue of the Gandhãra sculpture in the British Museum, British Museum Press, 1996



A warm welcome to the modified and updated website of the Centre for East Asian Studies. The East Asian region has been at the forefront of several path-breaking changes since 1970s beginning with the redefining the development architecture with its State-led development model besides emerging as a major region in the global politics and a key hub of the sophisticated technologies. The Centre is one of the thirteen Centres of the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi that provides a holistic understanding of the region.

Initially, established as a Centre for Chinese and Japanese Studies, it subsequently grew to include Korean Studies as well. At present there are eight faculty members in the Centre. Several distinguished faculty who have now retired include the late Prof. Gargi Dutt, Prof. P.A.N. Murthy, Prof. G.P. Deshpande, Dr. Nranarayan Das, Prof. R.R. Krishnan and Prof. K.V. Kesavan. Besides, Dr. Madhu Bhalla served at the Centre in Chinese Studies Programme during 1994-2006. In addition, Ms. Kamlesh Jain and Dr. M. M. Kunju served the Centre as the Documentation Officers in Chinese and Japanese Studies respectively.

The academic curriculum covers both modern and contemporary facets of East Asia as each scholar specializes in an area of his/her interest in the region. The integrated course involves two semesters of classes at the M. Phil programme and a dissertation for the M. Phil and a thesis for Ph. D programme respectively. The central objective is to impart an interdisciplinary knowledge and understanding of history, foreign policy, government and politics, society and culture and political economy of the respective areas. Students can explore new and emerging themes such as East Asian regionalism, the evolving East Asian Community, the rise of China, resurgence of Japan and the prospects for reunification of the Korean peninsula. Additionally, the Centre lays great emphasis on the building of language skills. The background of scholars includes mostly from the social science disciplines; History, Political Science, Economics, Sociology, International Relations and language.

Several students of the centre have been recipients of prestigious research fellowships awarded by Japan Foundation, Mombusho (Ministry of Education, Government of Japan), Saburo Okita Memorial Fellowship, Nippon Foundation, Korea Foundation, Nehru Memorial Fellowship, and Fellowship from the Chinese and Taiwanese Governments. Besides, students from Japan receive fellowship from the Indian Council of Cultural Relations.