Archaeological Remains of Jainism in West-Pakistan and Afghanistan

Published: 12.10.2010
Updated: 02.07.2015

The following article was first published in 1956 in a very rare issue of "The Voice of Ahinsa. Lord Mahavira Special Number" (Vol. VI, No. 3-4, March-April 1956, pp. 84f., continued at p. 81). Among the various essays of this issue there is an interesting article by the German scholar Dr. Klaus Fischer which treats a neglected part of Jaina art and history, viz. the few evidences of a Jaina diaspora outside of the traditional areas - to be more precise: Jaina monuments of Gandhara and East Turkestan.


Archaeological Remains of Jainism in West Pakistan & Afghanistan

After studying Jain archaeology in all parts of India I returned to Germany on land route in order to see the Western borders of Indian art. On this way I found some interesting ruins and sculptural remains, which have not yet been published as far as I can see, and which shall be brought before the public.

Indian art outside the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent has been discovered beyond the Khyber pass and even beyond the Hindukush, mainly engaged in the embellishment of Buddhist sites. Recently a temple, which may have been devoted to the Hindu Sun God, has been un-earthed near Kabul; at the same time Buddhist export and Buddhist ruins have been discovered in South Russia, Iran and Egypt. Nothing definite can be surmised at the moment, and we have no archaeological traces to support the literary evidence. The same is true with Jain archaeology outside India proper; there are, however, legends of far remote past establishing some links between Indian Jainism and the West. Linguistic connections between Pārśvanātha and Persia have, of course, no historic meaning, but ideas of that kind are interesting from the folkloristic point of view. In this paper I have simply to explain a few snapshots from my last archaeological excursion.

Jain places in the West Pakistan have been described by Cousens in the "Antiquities of Sind" at Viravah and by Wheeler in "Five Thousand Years of Pākistan", at Gori. In the Museum of Lahore the Curator was kind enough to draw my attention to the architectural and sculptural remains of a Jain temple from Murti, near Choa Saidan Shah, reported to belong to the 5th cent. A. D. Pillars, kudus and Maithuna pairs in balconies or windows are of excellent workmanship and deserve to be included in the further studies of early Indian art.

At Kabul the Austrian teacher Dr. Elmers had the kindness of showing me his fragment of a sitting statue, resembling one of the canonical postures of Digambara saints. The statue is from white marble, and has been bought at Bamiyan, the well known place of Buddhist art. Nothing can be said how this fragment came to Bamiyan. The marble is the same variety which is found in the Ghazni Muslim tombs, but this stone occurs also in Western India as Gujarat and Rajputana. The Jain statue may have been made in Afghanistan, but it is also possible that it has been imported on caravan tracks. One German architect who does engineering work in the Royal Court at Kabul, told me that he had seen a standing figure in the private museum of the king; according to the description this figure may be a Jaina Tīrthankara.

Once more, we cannot say something definite on Jaina archaeology beyond the Khyber pass; but I should like to remind the reader on the East Turkestan fresco of a Jain ascetic, discovered by Le Coq. Die buddhistische Spätantike, Vol. III, Pl. 4 and described again by Waldschmidt, Gandhara, Khutscha, Turfan, Leipzig 1925, pl. 43b.




Fig. 1: Pillar from Mūrti (W. Pakistan) - Lahore Museum.

Fig. 2: Fragmentary Digambara from white marble bought at Bāmiyan in Afghanistan, now at Vienna (Austria).

Fig. 3: Pair in Window from Jain Temple at Mūrti (W. Pakistan) - Lahore Museum.

Fig. 4: Architectural detail from Mūrti (W. Pakistan) - Lahore Museum.


The Voice of Ahinsa

Compiled by PK

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