Skanda in Kushan [Afghani Arte-Facts Posting #2]


This Is #GangSteppe – a fine 2nd century AD Kushan depiction of Lord Skanda, from Gandhara in present-day Afghanistan/Pakistan.

Something I find pretty cool about this particular rendering, is that the well-known Hindu deity has been presented in a manner that doesn’t simply ‘update’ the features of the representation to be more in-line with Kushan mores and Greek-derived sculptural techniques: but it *preserves* the Hindu elements as well – most prominently, the rooster He is holding [this is one of the ways in which His bird vahana is often depicted]; and the Spear He is armed with.

So to recap, somewhat, on what’s going on here if you’ve just started reading/following my STEPPE posting – the material and religious culture in question is part of a ‘convection zone’ that even for centuries before this sculpture’s creation had seen a continuous interplay of mostly Indo-European peoples impacting upon and influencing each other.

It’s the same general area that the Indo-Aryans themselves went through to get to Northern India, perhaps two thousand years before; but in more recent times [by which I mean, like, the previous half-millennium or so to this statue’s rendering .. not *literally* “more recent times” – which would basically have meant the Soviets in 1979, maybe, and Pakistani ISI agents coming across Afghanistan’s Eastern border …], had seen the previous Indo-Iranian cultural dominance of the sphere challenged by the “Yavana” [“Ionian”] Greeks and related persons coming East from across Persia, under Alexander.

This exerted quite an enduring effect upon the region, even after the dissolution of the Indo-Greek *political* suzerainty by (re-)invading Indians, and (still-)Steppe Indo-Europeans.

So what we have here, in effect, is a Hindu deity, represented in a manner drawing from both Greek techniques and Steppe material culture, in a region that was significantly [if syncretically] Buddhist. And, to *add* to the ‘diversity’ of influences, there’s also a theory that the Kushan themselves may have been Tocharian IE speakers – which would mean they were a Centum-IE language grouping incursioning into what’s otherwise solidly been SatemGang for pretty much as long as the Indo-Europeans have been there.


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