Friday, 14 September 2012

VISIT TO DIR MUSEUM, CHAKDARA, PAKISTAN


VISIT TO DIR MUSEUM, CHAKDARA, PAKISTAN
PROF WAQAR HUSSAIN


                   When we, me and my family, crossed curly road of Malakand Pass and stepped in But Khaila, the beautiful Swat River welcomed us. We stayed there for a while and asked about Chakdara, we were informed to go ahead. Chakdara is a town in Lower Dir, district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. After 4km, we found Chakdara by-pass, on the right side, road leads to Mengora and on the left, to Chakdara, Dir, Chitral, etc. We turned left and crossed the bridge of the Swat River and reached Chakdara. After travelling 2.5 km from by-pass, turned right on the University Road, at the corner was a magnanimous building of Dir Museum; fort like appearance, a grand facade, arched entrance, two square corner picket towers, battlements on the parapet and a beautiful lawn blossoming with flowers and shaded with trees in front of the building. After taking tickets we entered the museum and started snapping the inaugural board. Attendant Ali told for photography, pay 100 Rs more. So we paid the requisite amount, he didn’t give us receipt, instead of entangling with him, we started seeing pieces of museum, our prime goal. It was noon time and the sun was shining brightly but there was a pitch dark inside the museum as there was load shedding and the said museum had no alternate facility of UPS or generator. Fortunately we had four emergency lights. On seeing the statues and other items, I mumbled: How marvelous is Gandhara Art! Amsar Hussain, my eldest son, was near to me and thus heard my words, asked what Gandhara is? Gandhara, the territory round Peshawar and Rawalpindi, was in the time of Bimbisara, under the king named Pukkusati. In the middle of the sixth century BC, the hordes of Cyrus, the founder of the Achaemenian empire of Persia, knocking at the gates of India and destroying the famous city of Kapisa near the junction of Ghorband and Panjshir rivers north–east of Kabul. The district west of the river Indus became tributary to the Persians and the name of Gandhara began to appear prominently among the subject nations in the inscriptions of Darius (522-486), the most illustrious among the successors of Cyrus. And then….Amsar Hussain interrupted and said: ‘Papa please makes it simple, I am not following’. OK, my son! Gandhara is an area stretching from the west of River Indus to the north of Kabul River. It includes the valleys of Peshawar, Swat, Dir and Bajaur and it extends westwards to Hadda and Bamyan in Afghanistan and eastward to Taxila valley of the Punjab. Dir lies almost in the centre of Gandhara and is teeming with relics of Gandhara. So we are standing in the heart of Gandhara and this Museum has the distinction of containing a good number and precious remains of Gandhara Art; the style of Buddhist visual art that developed in this area between 1st century BC and 7th Century AD. Zawar Hussain, my middle son, who was listening carefully, said: “It means Gandhara is the name of ancient territory; things people used are now called remains and the way of manufacturing of different items; clothing, utensil, dwelling and worship places, in a specific way are collectively called Gandhara art”. Yes, you are right. But who told you? It is written in my sociology book, he added.
                   Nisar Hussain, my youngest son, inquired, how did we got all these things? In 1966-69, Archaeological department underwent excavation and unearthed valuable and unique remains. To accommodate these remains, state government of Dir constructed a museum. Captain Rahatullah Khan, political agent of Dir, proposed and allotted Rs 2, 50,000 for its construction. What is museum? My little daughter asked. Museum is a building for storing and exhibition of objects illustrating antiquities, natural history, art, culture, etc. Or you can say; it is the history in the shape of goods, once our elders used.
                  I started explaining where I did stop. Saidal Khan designed the building in local style of architecture and constructed it with bare stone (Malakandi stone) an architectural element common in the area. Lt.General Azhar khan, governor of NWFP, laid the foundation stone in 1970 while General Fazl-e-Haq, governor of NWFP, inaugurated the museum in 30th May, 1979. The purpose of museum is preservation and exhibition of archaeological heritage.There are about 2000 items, out them 75% are of Gandhara origin. Amsar said: One can call it - Gandhara Museum? Yes you can!
                   The main gallery was teeming with Buddha’s belongings. Zawar Hussain asked: Who was Buddha? There was a small state in the Valley of Himalaya, with capital at Kapilvastu, ruled by Suddhodana, head of Sakya clan. God bestowed him a boy in 563 BC, which he named Sidhartha. He was reared and groomed in royal traditions. On gaining age of puberty, he was married to a princess Yasodhara. One day Sidharata went out of for a walk and there he saw an old man, an ailing one, a dead that deeply mortified him feelings. He also saw a faqeer (saint) whose face was blushing with satisfaction.
                   He vowed to get rid of pains. Later, a beautiful boy, Mohindar, got birth in his home. But he was fed up from ostentatious and luxurious life. He regarded this world as “the place of pain and sorrow”. One night, he left his place, wife and baby and went away into the woods at the age of 28. He adopted many ways and followed many spiritual masters to get the solution of worries but all in vain. At last, after 7 years of ascetic life, one day he was meditating under banyan tree in Gaya, he saw a divine light (nirwana) and found the solution of the world’s problems that a man should lead a pious life. He started preaching at Maghadh and came to be known as Buddha (the enlightened one). He advised eight fold noble path; right views, right aspiration, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right contemplation, right mindfulness. He delivered his first discourse at Saranath and many people embraced Buddhism including his entire family. Buddha died at the age of 80 years in Kushinagara. His follower preached Buddhism in many parts of the world and thus it spread in many countries.  
                    We were talking and also seeing the Buddha gallery. There were solitary statues of Buddha(3-4 century AD),many winged Atlantes (1-4 century AD),Yaksha ( god of fertility holding cup in his hands), Buddha in reassurance and meditation postures engraved on stones, death and cremation scene of Buddha, there was great Variety of relic caskets, stupa models, etc. These collections portray the entire life of Buddha including pre birth, birth, early life, school life, wrestling matches, palace life, marriage life, renunciation of worldly life, ascetic life, meditation, miracles, worship postures, demons attacks, Nirwana (attaining enlightenment), first sermon at Sarnath, conversion of Kasyapa, Queen Maya dream and its interpretation, death scene, cremation, distribution of relics, construction of stupas on relic.
                     The miracle of Sravasti and taming of a wild elephant are the two commonly represented miracles in the museum collection. A panel showed furious elephant sent by his paternal cousin Devadatta to trample him but he was tamed by Buddha in a merciful pose.
                     Ethnographical Gallery was set up in 1977 with about 500 items; it included utensils, weapons, wooden architectural items, jewelry, dresses, music instruments, ceramics, household objects, furniture, books and manuscripts.
              In utensil portion, we saw brass ewer, wooden bowl, and wooden trays dating back to 19-20th century AD. Weapon section contained sword, knives, pistols, machine guns (British period), gun powder bags of 19-20th century AD.  In another self, there were wooden box, wooden shoes, wooden chair, wooden spoon, wooden sieve wooden spinning wheel, etc of 19-20th century AD. In jewelry section, there were ear pendant, finger ring, bracelet, anklet, necklace, buttons, amulets, etc. of 19-20th century AD. Garment section included bed sheets, cloak of wool, leather shoes, woolen caps, shawl(a sheet of cloth used by women as veil) with embroidery work, Kohistani shirts, Kohistani trousers, Kohistani caps, etc. of 19-20th century AD. In music section, there were wooden flute, wooden drums, wooden harps, etc, of 19-20th century AD.
                         In book section, there were many manuscripts of the Holy Quran, books of Hadith (record of sayings and deeds of Muhammad PBUH) and Fiqa ( Islamic jurisprudence).There we saw a sacred stone having naturally engraved name of ALLAH(God),SubhanAllah!(God is the Purest)
                   Amsar Hussain, my eldest son was keen to see the Buddha tooth.But we could not see the relic casket containing Buddha’s tooth which was lying in the store for security reasons. Archaeologist found the casket in 2003 during the excavation of a stupa at Shalkandi area of tehsil Munda in Lower Dir. The casket which can invite worldwide attention is being put in store, this is how we are spoiling our tourist industry and are snatching the bread and butter of people connected with it. On inquiring where is the in charge of the museum Mr Niaz Bacha to request him to show the casket. We learnt that he was away. Finally, I offered my comments on the visitor book and added few lines unwillingly on the request of the attendant.
                    Dir Museum is highly enriched with not only Gandhara remains but also has things of local tradition and culture. If there is no electricity, in charge and the things of keen interest are hidden, then how tourists will get courage to go there. Dost Muhammad Khan, who has also set up Museum Defense council (MDC), says: “There is need to bring such relic in the limelight for further research and recognition but unfortunately security situation and lack of government attention to this historical wealth has often over shadowed such success”.
                    I was astonished to learn that one of the previous governments tried to convert Dir Museum into a government college. The attempt was foiled by the Dost Muhammad Khan’s Museum Defense council. Establishment of college is good but not at the cost of sacrificing history, art and cultural as ‘history teaches everything, even the future’ (Lamatine); ‘art is the truest presentation of nature’ (N.P.Willis) and ‘the foundation of culture is at last the moral sentiment’ (Emerson).