The abundance of Buddhist sculptures in Kashmir testifies to the faith's importance from the early centuries of the Common Era until the thirteenth century. One of the earliest sites associated with Buddhism is Harwan (about 3rd–5th century). Among the notable finds from Harwan—some of which are on display in this exhibition—are stamped terra-cotta tiles with figural and symbolic forms.

Buddhist sects flourished in the Valley alongside early Shaiva and Vaishnava practices. Vajrayana Buddhism was one of the most popular sects and may have originated in Kashmir. Apart from the Buddha who was the principle focus of Buddhist piety, the Bodhisattvas Avalokitesvara and Tara were also popular.

Monks from Kashmir played a major role in the spread of Buddhism into Tibet, central Asia, and China. When Buddhism declined in Kashmir, large numbers of portable sculptures were taken out of the Valley and placed into monasteries in nearby regions, especially Tibet. The dissemination of these sculptures ensured that the techniques and styles that were refined in the Kashmir Valley had an enormous impact on other Buddhist communities in what is now Pakistan, Ladakh, Western Tibet, and the Indian subcontinent long after Buddhism ceased to be important in Kashmir.


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