Gandharan Manuscripts

Australian news item:
The ancient communities of Gandhara and their priceless Buddhist manuscripts (text & audio)
For the crowd funding link see

this thread


(CNN) - The Library of Congress made public a rare 2,000-year-old text of early Buddhism on Monday, and it offers a glimpse into early Buddhist history during its formative years.


This is awesome. I’d love to see the translation but couldn’t find it online.


The translation project is ongoing @brooks. The OP included a link to the request for crowd funding. The target has now been met, enabling the project to go ahead. :blush:


Happy to hear! Thank you.


Recent developments:


Thanks for sharing that Paul. I would have liked the “unnamed scholar” to identify themself however. The article sheds light on an email that I received on Feb 22, the day before Buddhist Door published that article:

… I wrote to you in October to provide an update on the crowdfunding campaign you generously supported, the restoration and publication of Ancient Gandhari Buddhist Texts.

At this stage, we are still in the process of finalising an agreement with the government of Pakistan to grant the University rights to access the manuscripts to undertake the research activities and we hope an agreement can be finalised soon.

Dr Allon is also continuing to work with Pakistan’s government and the High Commission for Pakistan in Australia on the repatriation of the two manuscripts. The two manuscripts are being safely held by our Museum until the appropriate arrangements are in place to repatriate the manuscripts to Pakistan.

The fundraising campaign remains on hold …

Hopefully the matter is not as dire as the article suggests it may be.


I spoke at some length with Mark, and yes, the article is somewhat lurid.

As background, essentially the entire field of Gandharan studies is based on manuscripts of unknown provenance, i.e. black market. They have emerged from some of the most lawless and chaotic regions of the world, regions where, moreover, those in power—such as the Taliban—have sometimes made it their business to systematically destroy any remnant of Buddhism.

Scholars in the field of Gandharan studies—of whom there is a small circle—were made aware of this manuscript in a London antiquarian shop some years ago. Observing the deterioration of the manuscript, Mark decided the best approach was to first purchase it and ensure its survival, and arrange repatriation of the manuscript to Pakistan, the presumed country of origin. obviously it would be better to have proper authentication, but that was not possible. Mark has discussed these issues at length in prior interviews on the ABC.

Currently the manuscripts are safe, and negotiations with Pakistan government are proceeding. It is slow progress, as you might imagine. Hopefully it will all work out.


I posted a link to the talk Richard Salomon gave about this text in another thread. I’ll post it here, too. It’s fascinating.


It’s crazy to think that there could be many caves in Afghanistan filled with ancient Buddhist manuscripts just waiting to be discovered, but they are off limits to archeologists because the Taliban controls those areas.


It can’t possbly be the same manuscript. At the beginning of the video it says that the manuscript being described is held at the University of Washington (USA), whereas the one being discussed in this thread is being held at the University of Sydney (Australia).

Ah, my post was in response to the link Gabriel_L put in his post. I didn’t look close enough to see that he wasn’t referring to the manuscript in Australia, but just another Gandharan manuscript.


And I didn’t look closely enough to see that you were responding to Gabriel and not to Ven Sujato. :thinking:

:heart: :rofl: Just think what a beautiful place this forum would be if everyone read thoroughly and thought carefully before making a post. :rofl: :heart:

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The situation with the Bactrian language is very similar. Prior to the mid 90s, it was only really known on the basis of a rock inscription in Surkh Kotal (Afghanistan) and some short legends on coins and seals. Then all of a sudden in the early 2000s, more than 100 documents dating from 4th - 8th cents. turn up in the markets in Peshawar and in Nasser David Khalili’s private collection here in London. The provenance of these invaluable documents will probably never be publicly established.
As you say, the cave complexes in Afghanistan, despite the looting that has and continues to go on, certainly have not yielded all their secrets yet.


There could be an entire Tipitaka out there in a cave. Seriously.

Now that would be exciting.


Or buried in a stupa. However, since in the entire island of Sri Lanka, researchers have yet to find a single monastery that has a complete set of the Tipitaka in manuscript form, it seems unlikely. Individual manuscripts, yes.



Huh, I head never heard of Bactrian except in the context of Bactrian Greek, this one is an Iranian language… how interesting. Is there Buddhist literature in Bactrian?

Heads off down rabbit hole…


Bhante @sujato and Mark, please do not support or think about the repatriation. It is not the best way to ensure the survival of these historical Gandharan Manuscripts.

Anyway the library did not steal the manuscripts but buy it. In fact they, themselves, steal it in order to make money and a now they want it back to where it originally belong in order to steal it again, sell it again and make more money for their ‘so-called’ holy cause of killing more people.

I believe it would not be the best way to keep it safe. The best way to keep The Gandharan Manuscripts safe is to keep it where it is now.


I wonder how many actual full manuscript tripitakas there were in India? Even in the early 5th century, in northern India, Faxian had a difficult time finding any physical copies of the Vinaya. It was still largely transmitted as part of an oral tradition (at least in that region).

He later found a manuscript of the Mahasamghika Vinaya in Pataliputra, along with some other texts. Some of Faxian’s biggest textual finds seem to have been in Sri Lanka, where he found a copy of the Mahisasaka Vinaya, Dirgha Agama, Samyukta Agama, etc.