Ancient Gandhara, located in the rugged foothills of the Himalayas in what is today northwest Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan, was for centuries a thriving center of trade and cultural exchange along the Silk Road linking China, India, Persia, and the Mediterranean region.
Gandharan art, characterized by its blend of Greek, Indian and Persian styles, flourished from the 1st to the 5th century and is known for its schist, stucco and terracotta reliefs and sculptures. The art is known for its depiction of the Buddha in human form, which was a departure from earlier Buddhist art that depicted the Buddha only symbolically.
Gandhara’s strategic position and wealth attracted many invaders, including the Greeks, Parthians, and Kushans, who brought with them diverse religious traditions and artistic conventions.
Buddhism, which had emerged from north India, was embraced by the Gandharan people, whose wealth gave them the means to invest large sums of money in the construction of Buddhist monasteries and sacred areas.