This paper discusses collections of Gandharan sculptures in museums in India along two lines of enquiry: one, the nature and size of collections in some of the major museums of the country, such as the Indian Museum, Kolkata founded in 1814 and with the largest collection of 1602 Gandharan objects; or the National Museum, New Delhi, which was inaugurated on 15th August 1949, two years after Indian Independence and has 688 objects. In contrast to the Indian Museum’s collection made before 1927, the National Museum continued to add pieces until 1987. Other sizable collections include those in the Government Museum, Chandigarh and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai, though the history of the collection is unique in each case. How are these differences to be understood or contextualized? The focus on ‘collecting’ rather than ‘collections’ provides insights into the changing nature of engagement between the region of Gandhāra and the history of the subcontinent.
Himanshu Prabha Ray is recipient of the Anneliese Maier research award of the Humboldt Foundation (2014 – 2019) and Member of the Board of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, Oxford. She is former Professor, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Former Chairperson, National Monuments Authority, Ministry of Culture, Government of India.
She is series editor of Routledge Archaeology and Religion in South Asia book series in collaboration with OCHS. Her recent books include Archaeology and Buddhism in South Asia (Routledge, 2018); The Return of the Buddha: Ancient Symbols for a New Nation (Routledge, New Delhi, 2014); The Archaeology of Seafaring in Ancient South Asia (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2003), as also edited volumes: Buddhism and Gandhara: An Archaeology of Museum Collections (Routledge, 2018); Bridging the Gulf: Maritime Cultural Heritage Of The Western Indian Ocean (India International Centre & Manohar Publishers, 2016); Satish Chandra and Himanshu Prabha Ray edited, The Sea, Identity and History: From the Bay of Bengal to the South China Sea (Manohar Publishers, 2013).