Buddhism in Pakistan took root some 2,300 years ago under the Mauryan king Ashoka, whom Nehru once called “greater than any king or emperor.” Buddhism has a long history in present-day history of Pakistan — over time being part of areas within Bactria, the Indo-Greek Kingdom, the Kushan Empire; Ancient India with the Maurya Empire of Ashoka, the Pala Empire; the Punjab region, and Indus River Valley cultures — areas now within the present day nation of Pakistan. Buddhist scholar Kumāralabdha of the Taxila was comparable to Aryadeva, Aśvaghoṣa and Nagarjuna.
In 2012, the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) indicated that the contemporary Buddhist population of Pakistan was minuscule with 1,492 adult holders of national identity cards (CNICs). The total population of Buddhists is therefore unlikely to be more than a few thousand. In 2017, number of Buddhist voters was stated to be 1,884 and they are mostly concentrated in Sindh and Punjab.
The only functional Buddhist temple in Pakistan is in the Diplomatic Enclave at Islamabad, used by Buddhist diplomats from countries like Sri Lanka.
Buddhism came to this part of the country in the late 7th century when most of the masses were practicing bon religion. Before the arrival of Islam, Tibetan Buddhism and Bön (to a lesser extent) were the main religions in Baltistan. Buddhism can be traced back to before the formation of the Tibetan Empire. The region has a number of surviving Buddhist archaeological sites. These include the Manthal Buddha Rock, a rock relief of the Buddha at the edge of the village (near Skardu) and the Sacred Rock of Hunza. Nearby are former sites of Buddhist shelters.
Baltistan had Buddhist majority till the 15th century, before the arrival of Islam in this region. Since then most of the people converted to Islam, the presence of Buddhism in this region has now been limited to archeological sites, as the remaining Buddhists of this region moved east to ladakh where Buddhism is the majority religion.
The majority of people in Gandhara, present-day Southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, were Buddhist. Gandhara was largely Mahayana Buddhist, but also a stronghold of Vajrayana Buddhism. The Swat Valley, known in antiquity as Uddiyana, was a kingdom tributary to Gandhara. There are many archaeological sites from the Buddhist era in Swat.
The Buddhist sage Padmasambhava is said to have been born in a village near the present day town of Chakdara in Lower Dir District, which was then a part of Oddiyana. Padmasambhava is known as Guru Rinpoche in Tibetan and it is he who introduced Vajrayana Buddhism in Tibet.
Buddhist sites in Sindh are numerous but ill preserved and various stages of deterioration. Sites at Brahmanabad (Mansura Sanghar district, Buddhist stupa at mohen jo daro, Sirah-ji-takri near Rohri, Sukkur, Kahu Jo Daro at Mirpur Khas, Nawabshah, Sudheran jo Thul near Hyderabad, Thul Mir Rukan stupa, Thul Hairo Khan Stupa and Bhaleel Shah Thul square stupas (5th-7th century A.D) at Dadu, Kot Bambhan Thul buddhist tower near Tando Muhammad Khan. Many terracota tiles from Kaho jo Daro and Buddha statues are exhibited in Chatrapati Shivaji museum, Mumbai.
The presence of Pakistani Buddhists in modern pakistan is unclear, although a few Pakistanis have reported themselves as Buddhist. A report mentions that they are only found in the Azad Kashmir region. The Nurbakhshi sect is said to retain some elements of Buddhism.
According to the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) in 2012 there 1,492 buddhists in holding national identity cards (CNICs). In 2017 it increased to 1,884 holders.They are mostly concentrated in Sindh and Punjab.According to a report most of the Baori Buddhists doesnt have CNIC cards and the actual buddhist population could exceed 16,000.
In Punjab,Buddhists live primarily in the in outskirts of Mandi Yazman and Rahimyar Khan of Rohi region.Today they have around 15 colonies in various villages of Mandi Yazman.
Tridev Roy, the Chakma chief, supported Pakistan during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War left the Chittagong region and settled in Pakistan. He claimed to represent the Buddhists of Pakistan by founding and chairing the "Pakistan Buddhist Society" from 1996 until his death in 2012. His family stayed behind in Bangladesh.
Lala Rajoo Raam is the representative of the Baori Buddhists community.He is also a councillor for Chak number 75 DB, Union Council number 88. He also twice contested elections for the Punjab assembly.
Gandhara remained a largely Hindu-Buddhist land until around 10th century CE, when Sultan Mahmud conquered the region and introduced Islam. There was settlement of Muslims and the emigration of Hindu-Buddhists.
Most Buddhists in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh were in process of converting to Hinduism from 600 CE onwards. Buddhism was practiced by the majority of the population of Sindh up to the Arab conquest by the Umayyad Caliphate in 710 CE. These regions became predominantly Muslim during the rule of Delhi Sultanate and later the Mughal Empire due to the missionary Sufi saints whose dargahs (shrines) dot the landscape of Pakistan and the rest of South Asia.
The Swat Valley in Pakistan has many Buddhist carvings and stupas, and Jehanabad contains a Seated Buddha statue. Kushan era Buddhist stupas and statues in Swat valley were demolished by the Taliban and after two attempts by the Taliban, the Jehanabad Buddha's face was dynamited. Only the Bamiyan Buddhas were larger than the carved giant Buddha statue in Swat near Mangalore which the Taliban attacked. The government did nothing to safeguard the statue after the initial attempt at destroying it, which did not cause permanent harm, but when the second attack took place on the statue the feet, shoulders, and face were demolished. Islamists such as the Taliban and looters destroyed much of Pakistan's Buddhist artifacts left over from the Buddhist Gandhara civilization, especially in Swat Valley. The Taliban deliberately targeted Gandhara Buddhist relics for destruction. The Christian Archbishop of Lahore Lawrence John Saldanha wrote a letter to Pakistan's government denouncing the Taliban activities in Swat Valley including their destruction of Buddha statues and their attacks on Christians, Sikhs, and Hindus. Gandhara Buddhist artifacts were also looted by smugglers. A group of Italians helped repair the Buddha at Jahan Abad, Swat.
In March 2013, a group of around 20 Buddhist monks from South Korea made the journey to the monastery of Takht-e-Bahi, 170 kilometres (106 miles) from Islamabad. The monks defied appeals from Seoul to abandon their trip for safety reasons and were guarded by Pakistani security forces on their visit to the monastery, built of ochre-coloured stone and nestled on a mountainside. From around 1,000 years BC until the seventh century AD, northern Pakistan and parts of modern Afghanistan formed the Gandhara kingdom, where Greek and Buddhist customs mixed to create what became the Mahayana strand of the religion. The monk Marananta set out from what is now northwest Pakistan to cross China and spread Buddhism on the Korean peninsula during the fourth century. The authorities are even planning package tours for visitors from China, Japan, Singapore and South Korea, including trips to the Buddhist sites at Takht-e-Bahi, Swat, Peshawar and Taxila, near Islamabad.
Takht means “throne” and bahi, “water” or “spring” in Persian/Urdu. The monastic complex was called Takht-i-Bahi because it was built atop a hill and also adjacent to a stream. Located 80 kilometers from Peshawar and 16 kilometers Northwest of the city of Mardan, Takht-I-Bahi was unearthed in early 20th century and in 1980 it was included in the UNESCO World Heritage list as the largest Buddhist remains in Gandhara, along with the Sahr-i-Bahlol urban remains that date back to the same period, located about a kilometer south.
The modern town of Taxila is 35 km from Islamabad. Most of the archaeological sites of Taxila (600 BC to 500 AD) are located around Taxila Museum. For over one thousand years, Taxila remained famous as a centre of learning Gandhara art of sculpture, architecture, education and Buddhism in the days of Buddhist glory. There are over 50 archaeological sites scattered in a radius of 30 km around Taxila. Some of the most important sites are: Dhamarajika Stupa and Monastery (300 BC - 200 AD), Bhir Mound (600-200 BC), Sirkap (200 BC - 600 AD), Jandial Temple (c.250 BC) and Jaulian Monastery (200 - 600 AD).
Mingora, 3 km away from Saidu Sharif, has yielded magnificent pieces of Buddhist sculpture and the ruins of a great stupa. Shingardar Stupa is one of the famous located near Bariko Other stupas like Amaan Kot and Jehan-a-Abad are too a great asset.
The Lush-green valley of Swat District—with its rushing torrents, icy-cold lakes, fruit-laden orchards and flower-decked slopes—is ideal for holiday-makers intent on relaxation. It also has a rich historical past: "Udayana" (the "Garden") of the ancient Hindu epics; "the land of enthralling beauty", where Alexander of Macedonia fought and won some of his major battles before crossing over to the plains of Pakistan, and "the valley of the hanging chains" described by the famous Chinese pilgrim-chroniclers, Faxian and Xuanzang in the fifth and seventh centuries. Swat was once a cradle for major strands of Buddhism, where 1,400 monasteries flourished: Little Vehicle, Great Vehicle and the Esoteric sects. It was the home of the famous Gandhara School of Sculpture which was an expression of Graeco-Roman form in the local Buddhist tradition.
list of Buddhist scholars who hailed from present day regions of Pakistan
Kashmir has been one of the most important centres for the spread and development of Buddhism. Buddhism was an important part of the classical Kashmiri culture, as is reflected in the Nilamata Purana and the Kalhana's Rajatarangini. Buddhism is generally believed to have become dominant in Kashmir in the time of Emperor Ashoka, although it was widespread there long before his time. It enjoyed the patronage not only of the Buddhist rulers but of Hindu and early Muslim rulers too. From Kashmir, it spread to the neighbouring Ladakh. Accounts of patronage of Buddhism by the rulers of Kashmir are found in the Rajatarangini and also in the accounts of three Chinese visitors during 630-760 CE to Kashmir.Although Buddhism declined in the Kashmir valley, it continues to flourish in the Ladakh region.Butkara Stupa
The Butkara Stupa (Urdu: بت کڑہ اسٹوپا) is an important Buddhist stupa near Mingora, in the area of Swat, Pakistan. It may have been built by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka, but it is generally dated slightly later to the 2nd century BCE.
The stupa was enlarged on five occasions during the following centuries, every time by building over, and encapsulating, the previous structure.Decline of Buddhism in the Indian subcontinent
The decline of Buddhism in the Indian subcontinent refers to a gradual process of dwindling and replacement of Buddhism in India, which ended around the 12th century. According to Lars Fogelin, this was "not a singular event, with a singular cause; it was a centuries-long process."The decline of Buddhism has been attributed to various factors, especially the regionalisation of India after the end of the Gupta Empire (320–650 CE), which led to the loss of patronage and donations as Indian dynasties turned to the services of Hindu Brahmins. Another factor was invasions of north India by various groups such as Huns, Turco-mongols and Persians and subsequent destruction of Buddhist institutions such as Nalanda and religious persecutions. Religious competition with Hinduism and later Islam were also important factors. Islamization of Bengal
and demolitions of Nalanda, Vikramasila and Odantapuri by Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khalji, a general of the Delhi Sultanate are thought to have severely weakened the practice of Buddhism in East India.The total Buddhist population in 2010 in the Indian subcontinent – excluding that of Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan – was about 10 million, of which about 7.2% lived in Bangladesh, 92.5% in India and 0.2% in Pakistan.Gandharan Buddhism
Gandhāran Buddhism refers to the Buddhist culture of ancient Gandhāra which was a major center of Buddhism in the Indian subcontinent from the 3rd century BCE to approximately 1200 CE. Ancient Gandhāra corresponds to modern day north Pakistan, mainly the Peshawar valley and Potohar plateau as well as Afghanistan's Jalalabad. The region has yielded the Gandhāran Buddhist texts written in Gāndhārī Prakrit the oldest Buddhist manuscripts yet discovered (1st century CE). Gandhāra was also home to a unique Buddhist artistic and architectural culture which blended elements from Indian, Hellenistic, Roman and Parthian art. Buddhist Gandhāra was also influential as the gateway through which Buddhism spread to Central Asia and China.Gandhari language
Gāndhārī is the modern name, coined by scholar Harold Walter Bailey (in 1946), for a Prakrit language found mainly in texts dated between the 3rd century BCE and 4th century CE in the northwestern region of Gandhāra. The language was heavily used by the former Buddhist cultures of Central Asia and has been found as far away as eastern China, in inscriptions at Luoyang and Anyang. Gāndhārī Prakrit appears to be descended from, or heavily influenced by, Vedic Sanskrit or a closely related language, although there is an ongoing debate about the question of whether some Prakrits were originally non-prestige contemporaries and/or antecedents of Sanskrit.
It appears on coins, inscriptions and texts, notably the Gandhāran Buddhist texts. It is notable among the Prakrits for having some archaic phonology (some being characteristic of the Dardic languages of the modern region), for its relative isolation and independence, for being partially within the influence of the ancient Near East and Mediterranean and for its use of the Kharoṣṭhī script, a unique sister to the Brahmic scripts used by other Prakrits.Greco-Buddhism
Greco-Buddhism, or Graeco-Buddhism, is the cultural syncretism between Hellenistic culture and Buddhism, which developed between the 4th century BC and the 5th century AD in Bactria and the Indian subcontinent. It was a cultural consequence of a long chain of interactions begun by Greek forays into India from the time of Alexander the Great. The Macedonian satraps were then conquered by the Mauryan Empire, under the reign of Chandragupta Maurya. The Mauryan Emperor Ashoka would convert to Buddhism and spread the religious philosophy throughout his domain, as recorded in the Edicts of Ashoka. Following the collapse of the Mauryan Empire, Greco-Buddhism continued to flourish under the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, Indo-Greek Kingdoms, and Kushan Empire. Buddhism was adopted in Central and Northeastern Asia from the 1st century AD, ultimately spreading to China, Korea, Japan, Siberia, and Vietnam.Hindu and Buddhist architectural heritage of Pakistan
The Hindu and Buddhist architectural heritage of Pakistan is part of a long history of settlement and civilization in Pakistan. The Indus Valley civilization collapsed in the middle of the second millennium BCE and was followed by the Vedic Civilisation, which extended over much of northern India and Pakistan.Jnanagupta
Jñānagupta (Sanskrit: ज्ञानगुप्त; Chinese: 闍那崛多 or 志德; pinyin: Shénàjuéduō or Zhì Dé) was Buddhist monk from Gandhara in modern-day Pakistan who travelled to China and was recognised by Emperor Wen of the Sui Dynasty. He is said to have brought with him 260 sutras in Sanskrit, and was supported in translating these into Chinese by the emperor.
In total, he translated 39 scriptures in 192 fascicles during the period 561 to 592, including:
Sutra of Buddha's Fundamental Deeds, 60 fascicles(Chinese: 佛本行經; pinyin: Fó Běnháng Jīng)
Candrottaradarikapariprccha, 2 fascicles(Chinese: 月上女經; pinyin: Yuè Shàng Nǚ Jīng)Kanishka stupa
The Kanishka stupa (Urdu: کنشک اسٹوپ) was a monumental stupa established by the Kushan king Kanishka during the 2nd century CE in today's Shaji-ki-Dheri on the outskirts of Peshawar, Pakistan.
The stupa was built during the Kushan era to house Buddhist relics, and would become perhaps the tallest buildings in the ancient world. The stupa is also famous for its Buddhist relics, which were transferred to the U Khanti Hall at Mandalay Hill, in Mandalay, Burma after their discovery.Kashmir Smast
The Kashmir Smast (Urdu: کشمیر سمست) caves, also called Kashmir Smats (کشمیر سمتس), are a series of natural limestone caves, artificially expanded from the Kushan to the Shahi periods, situated in the Pirsai Sakrah mountains in the Sudam Valley Mardan in Northern Pakistan. According to recent scholarship based on a rare series of bronze coins and artifacts found in the region, the caves and their adjacent valley probably comprised a sovereign kingdom in Gandhara which maintained at least partial independence for almost 500 years, from c. 4th century AD to the 9th century AD. For most of its history, it was ruled by White Hun (or Hephthalite) governors or princes. The current research investigations at the site that have been carrying out by Professor Meritorious Dr. M. Nasim Khan (TI), a re-known historian and archaeologist, has shown that the site remained the earliest Hindu university or learning institution in South Asia. According to Dr. M. Nasim Khan, this area may have hosted and fed thousands of students and gurus at least from the 2nd century BC to 10th century AD. He claims that Kashmir Smast area remained an independent entity with its own monetary system and cultural and religious environment.Kushan Empire
The Kushan Empire (Ancient Greek: Βασιλεία Κοσσανῶν; Bactrian: Κυϸανο, Kushano; Sanskrit: Kuṣāṇa Sāmrājya; BHS: Guṣāṇa-vaṃśa; Chinese: 貴霜; Parthian: Kušan-xšaθr) was a syncretic empire, formed by the Yuezhi, in the Bactrian territories in the early 1st century. It spread to encompass much of Afghanistan, and then the northern parts of the Indian subcontinent at least as far as Saketa and Sarnath near Varanasi (Benares), where inscriptions have been found dating to the era of the Kushan Emperor Kanishka the Great. Emperor Kanishka was a great patron of Buddhism. He played an important role in the establishment of Buddhism in the Indian subcontinent and its spread to Central Asia and China.
The Kushans were one of five branches of the Yuezhi confederation, a possibly Iranian or Tocharian, Indo-European nomadic people who migrated from Gansu and settled in ancient Bactria. The Kushans possibly used the Greek language initially for administrative purposes, but soon began to use Bactrian language. Kanishka sent his armies north of the Karakoram mountains. A direct road from Gandhara to China remained under Kushan control for more than a century, encouraging travel across the Karakoram and facilitating the spread of Mahayana Buddhism to China.
The Kushan dynasty had diplomatic contacts with the Roman Empire, Sasanian Persia, the Aksumite Empire and the Han dynasty of China. While much philosophy, art, and science was created within its borders, the only textual record of the empire's history today comes from inscriptions and accounts in other languages, particularly Chinese.The Kushan empire fragmented into semi-independent kingdoms in the 3rd century AD, which fell to the Sasanians invading from the west, establishing the Kushano-Sasanian Kingdom in the areas of Sogdiana, Bactria and Gandhara. In the 4th century, the Guptas, an Indian dynasty also pressed from the east. The last of the Kushan and Kushano-Sasanian kingdoms were eventually overwhelmed by invaders from the north, known as the Kidarites, and then the Hepthalites.Maues
Maues (Greek: Μαύης; epigraphically ΜΑΥΟΥ Mauou; r. 85–60 BCE) was the first recorded Indo-Scythian king. He invaded India and established Saka hegemony by conquering Indo-Greek territories.Outline of Pakistan
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Pakistan:
Pakistan – sovereign country located in South Asia. It has a 1,046 kilometres (650 mi) coastline along the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan in the west, Iran in the southwest, India in the east and China in the far northeast.Seri Bahlol
Seri Bahlol, also Sahri Bahlol (Urdu: سری بہلول), is located near Takht-i-Bahi, about 70 kilometer north-west of Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan.Siraj-ji-Takri
Siraj-ji-Takri or Seeraj-ji-Takri is a Buddhist archaeological site located in Sindh, Pakistan. The Buddhist city of Siraj-ji-Takri is located along the western limestone terraces of the Rohri Hills in the Khairpur District of Upper Sindh. Its ruins are still visible on the top of three different mesas, in the form of stone and mud-brick walls and small mounds, whilst other architectural remains were observed along the slopes of the hills in the 1980s.Swat District
Swat District (Pashto: سوات ولسوالۍ, Urdu: ضِلع سوات) pronounced [ˈswaːt̪]) is a district in Malakand Division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan. Swat is renowned for its outstanding natural beauty.
Centred upon the upper portions of the Swat River, Swat was a major centre of early Buddhist thought as part of the Gandhara kingdom, and today is littered with ruins from that era. Swat was home to the last isolated pockets of Gandharan Buddhism, which lasted until the 11th century, well after most of the area had converted to Islam. Until 1969, Swat was part of the Yusafzai State of Swat, a self-governing princely state. The region was seized by the Pakistani Taliban in late 2007, and its tourist industry decimated until Pakistani control over Swat was re-established in mid 2009.Swat's capital is Saidu Sharif, though the largest city, and main commercial centre, is the nearby city of Mingora. With a population of 2,309,570 according to the 2017 census, Swat is the 15th-largest district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The region is inhabited largely by Pashtuns, except in the valley's uppermost reaches, where the Kohistani people dominate.Swat's average elevation is 980 m (3,220 ft), resulting in a considerably cooler and wetter climate compared to most of Pakistan. With lush forests, verdant alpine meadows, and snow-capped mountains, Swat is one of the country's most popular tourist destinations.Takht-i-Bahi
Takht-i-Bahi (Urdu: تختِ باہی; "Throne of the water spring"), commonly mispronounced as Takht-i-Bhai (Urdu: تخت بھائی; "Brother's throne"), is an Indo-Parthian archaeological site of an ancient Buddhist monastery in Mardan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. The site is considered among the most imposing relics of Buddhism in all of Gandhara, and has been "exceptionally well-preserved."The Buddhist monastery was founded in the 1st century CE, and was in use until the 7th century. The complex is regarded by archaeologists as being particularly representative of the architecture of Buddhist monastic centers from its era. Takht-i-Bahi was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980.Taxila
Taxila (from Pāli: Takkasilā, Sanskrit: तक्षशिला, IAST: Takṣaśilā, Urdu: ٹيکسلا meaning "City of Cut Stone" or "Takṣa Rock") is an important archaeological site of the ancient Indian subcontinent, located in the city of Taxila in Punjab, Pakistan. It lies about 32 km (20 mi) north-west of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, just off the famous Grand Trunk Road.
Ancient Taxila was situated at the pivotal junction of the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia. The origin of Taxila as a city goes back to c. 1000 BCE. Some ruins at Taxila date to the time of the Achaemenid Empire in the 6th century BCE, followed successively by Mauryan Empire, Indo-Greek, Indo-Scythian, and Kushan Empire periods.
Owing to its strategic location, Taxila has changed hands many times over the centuries, with many empires vying for its control. When the great ancient trade routes connecting these regions ceased to be important, the city sank into insignificance and was finally destroyed by the nomadic Hunas in the 5th century. The renowned archaeologist Sir Alexander Cunningham rediscovered the ruins of Taxila in the mid-19th century. In 1980, Taxila was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2006 it was ranked as the top tourist destination in Pakistan by The Guardian newspaper.By some accounts, the University of Ancient Taxila was considered to be one of the earliest (or the earliest) universities in the world. Others do not consider it a university in the modern sense, in that the teachers living there may not have had official membership of particular colleges, and there did not seem to have existed purpose-built lecture halls and residential quarters in Taxila, in contrast to the later Nalanda university in eastern India.In a 2010 report, Global Heritage Fund identified Taxila as one of 12 worldwide sites most "On the Verge" of irreparable loss and damage, citing insufficient management, development pressure, looting, and war and conflict as primary threats. However, significant preservation efforts have been carried out since then by the government which have resulted in the site being declared as "well-preserved" by different international publications. Because of the extensive preservation efforts and upkeep, the site is a popular tourist spot, attracting up to one million tourists every year.Thatta
Thatta (Sindhi: ٺٽو; Urdu: ٹھٹہ) is a city in the Pakistani province of Sindh. Thatta was the medieval capital of Sindh, and served as the seat of power for three successive dynasties. Thatta's historic significance has yielded several monuments in and around the city. Thatta's Makli Necropolis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is site of one of the world's largest cemeteries and has numerous monumental tombs built between the 14th and 18th centuries designed in a syncretic funerary style characteristic of lower Sindh. The city's 17th century Shah Jahan Mosque is richly embellished with decorative tiles, and is considered to have the most elaborate display of tile work in the South Asia.
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