Pakistan is hosting a three-day conference on Gandharan Buddhism this week in the hope of fostering greater harmony between Buddhist and non-Buddhist nations in the region and to showcase their preservation of ancient Buddhist sites. The symposium, titled “Cultural Diplomacy: Reviving Gandhara Civilization and Buddhist Heritage in Pakistan,” is host to a number of diplomats, tourism promoters, interfaith experts, and others from China, Malaysia, Nepal, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Pakistani president Arif Alvi said that the country hopes to step up efforts to promote diplomacy through religious tourism. At his address at the symposium, Alvi noted that hatred, polarization, and conflicts are on the rise in the world, giving greater urgency to those wishing to promote dialogue among nations and cultures.
The event was organized by the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Gandhara Tourism, the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI), and the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums, Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The head of the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Gandhara Tourism, Dr. Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, said that the event was aimed at promoting peace, interfaith harmony, and a welcoming atmosphere for tourists to Pakistan.
“The objective of the symposium is to raise global awareness about the historical and cultural significance of the Gandhara civilization and Buddhist heritage in Pakistan,” he said. “After this grand event, we will hold a national-level Gandhara art competition to involve students and artists in the promotion of Gandhara tourism at home and abroad.” (Pakistan Today, Dawn)
Prof. Dr. Haridaya Ratna, former vice chancellor of Lumbini Buddhist University, Nepal, expressed joy as he arrived in Islamabad for the symposium.
“The Mahayan Buddhism that we practice in Nepal came from Gandhara to our country and I am deeply touched to be here. This is a legacy and heritage that we share between Kathmandu and Pakistan,” said Prof. Dr. Ratna. “People went from Gandhara to Nepal via Tibet and now we pay homage to Taxila and other areas by visiting these places. This is the place from where the light of Buddhism spread all over the world.” (Dawn)
Malaysian monk Ven. Jue Chenk seconded this view, saying that Buddhists from all over the world should come to Pakistan. “I feel very touched, I cannot explain it. I am impressed with the hospitality of Pakistanis; this is a beautiful country,” Ven. Jue Chenk said. “Pakistan has a precious history.” (Dawn)
Gandhara was one of the most important regions for the development of early Buddhism as it spread beyond northwestern India, where it originated. Situated in present day Pakistan and Afghanistan, Gandhara once hosted thriving trade between Greek and Persian empires to the west, India to the south and east, and China, to the north and east, all connected by the Silk Road, which traveled first north and then east through Dunhuang into central China.
Re-discovered cities in the Gandharan region display elements of art from numerous civilizations and time periods, offering often-detailed clues to archaeologists about the life and practices of the time. Paintings, sculptures, pottery, and coins all offer glimpses into an as-yet shrouded past.
Int’l Gandhara Symposium to promote interfaith harmony, religious tourism: Ramesh Kumar (Pakistan Today)
Monks, scholars reach Islamabad to attend Gandhara symposium (Dawn)
Pakistan eyes on promoting softer image to world through Gandhara tourism: Official (Orissa Post)
Symposium on Gandhara civilisation, Buddhist heritage in Pakistan begins today (Dunya News)
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