Canberra :A large collection of Gandhari Buddhist manuscripts which date back to the 1st century BC to the 3rd century AD and originate from present-day Pakistan were handed over to Pakistan during an official ceremony organized at the University of Sydney.
The handing over ceremony was attended by H.E. Mr. Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri, High Commissioner for Pakistan to Australia, Ms. Kristen Andrews, Vice President, External Engagement of the University of Sydney, Prof. Adrian Vickers,Deputy Head of School (Education) and Chair of Asian Studies and a large number of researchers, historians, academicians and media persons.
The Gandhari manuscripts, which are amongst the oldest Buddhist manuscripts yet discovered,are of inestimable value. These manuscripts will be repatriated to Pakistan under a Collaboration Agreement between the Department of Archaeology and Museums of Pakistan and the University of Sydney. The Agreement is a part of the GandhariManuscripts Project of the Sydney University’s School of Languages and Cultures. The manuscripts will be housed at the Islamabad Museum.
Under the Collaboration Agreement, the manuscripts will be conserved, photographed, published, and used to study the history of Buddhism in ancient Gandhara and other parts of Asia. The ancient manuscripts will also be helpful in studying the development of Buddhist thought, art, literature, and languages.
Under the Agreement ,conservation facilities at the Islamabad Museum will be augmented and conservation skills will be transferred to the Museum staff by world renowned experts in the conservation of the Gandhari birch bark manuscripts.
Speaking on the occasion, High Commissioner Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri thanked the University of Sydney for repatriation of the manuscripts to Pakistan under the Collaboration Agreement. He appreciated the ongoing cooperation between the Department of Archaeology and Museums of Pakistan and the University of Sydney.
Talking about the rich Buddhist heritage of Pakistan, the High Commissioner stated that present-day Pakistan is the birthplace of Mahayana Buddhism and renowned Buddhist mystics and philosophersincluding Asanga, Vasubandhu, Guru Rinpoche and Monk Marananta.He added that Pakistan is home to some of the most sacred Buddhist sites. It has unique Buddhist artistic and architectural culture.
The High Commissioner also reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to work with its international friends and partners for the protection and promotion of what he described as“our common cultural heritage”.