Lahore, Mar 29 : The Gandhara art replicas, known and collected worldwide, could be carriers of Pakistani culture as they are loved by the foreigners. They can also generate a lot of revenue if the government allows the artisans to make replicas within a given code of conduct, renowned archaeologists and experts believe.
The prices of these replicas range from a few hundred rupees to Rs 500,000 depending on the shape and size of the replica.
Currently, the Archaeology Department discourages artisans from making replicas, as it believes that sometimes artisans sell counterfeits.
Replicas of Gandhara art are in great demand all over the world as they speak volumes about the ancient history of the civilization. Artisans who make these replicas are from Taxila and work near archaeological sites. The expertise of these artisans is evident from their work that ranges from tiny replicas to towering 10-feet-statues of Buddha. These replicas attract foreigners and are equally loved by locals who are interested in ancient civilizations or archaeology, reported the Daily Times.
Nawaz, a well-known artisan said that the replicas were popular among foreigners. "I can make replica of any object but I never sell it as an antique. The time spent to prepare every replica varies. A small object can be prepared within a few hours while some times, a statue takes months to come into its final shape," the paper quoted him as saying.
He said that the government did not support the artisans because some of them had sold replicas after telling the customers that they were original antiques. Nawaz, who sends his replicas to traders in Lahore, said that if the government allowed artisans to make these replicas within given parameters, the art could evolve into a proper industry.
Govt does not support replica makers as some archaeological experts believe that the government does not legalise the making of replicas due to the involvement of influential people in the trade. A source in an Archaeology Department revealed that some Rawalpindi-based politicians were backing artisans who sold replicas as antiques and earned heavy profits. He said that such people did not want the replica-making business to be legalised since it would hit their illegal business adversely.
Noted archaeologist Dr Saifur Rehman Dar said that the government should raise awareness among the artisans that they should sell replicas as replicas and not originals. He said, "Replicas of Gandhara art are in great demand in Japan and Korea. These replicas will remain popular unless there are Buddhists in the world."
He further said that the government should discourage antique smuggling, so that a replica could not be sold as an antique. Artisans were working underground and were not supported by the government, he said and added that workshops should be organised to educate these artisans. He said that importing these replicas could promote Pakistan's culture abroad.