From the about the 6th century BC to the 5th century AD, Gandhara was a small community on the Silk Road from China to Rome. It was located near the border of modern Pakistan and Afghanistan just east of the Khyber Pass. Its capital, Taxila, was 20 miles from present day Islamabad. It was subject to frequent invasions, being ruled by the Persian, Greeks and others before being finally destroyed by the Huns. Alexander the Great conquered Gandhara in 326 BC. It was in Gandhara that Mahayana Buddhism began to emerge from the earlier Theravada Buddhism.
The sculpture produced in Ganhara reflected the variety of influences on its culture. Gandhara was a Buddhist society and was one of the first places in which the Buddha was represented in human form rather than by symbols. Gandhara sculptures, however, contained many Mediterranean elements. Statues of Buddha resemble Roman sculptures of Apollo and Corinthian columns, vine scrolls, cherubs and centaurs adorn many Gandharan sculptures. At the same time, Buddha was often represented with a Persian solar disk or “halo”.
Gandharam sculptors worked mainly in soft stone; although terracotta and stucco later became popular. The most typical Gandharan carving were friezes depicting events in Buddha’s life. These were carved in bas relief panels which were fitted together into the architecture of the Buddhist shrines.
(Copies cast in stone stone dust from moulds taken from the original are common and can be quite convincing.)