Buddhism in Pakistan

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Statue of a Buddha seated on a lotus throne in Swat, Pakistan
Bronze statue of Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva from Gandhara. 3rd-4th century

Buddhism has a long history in the Pakistan region — over time being part of areas within Bactria, the Indo-Greek Kingdom, the Kushan Empire, Ancient India with the Maurya Empire of Ashoka, the Punjab region, and Indus River Valley cultures — areas now within the present day nation of Pakistan. Buddhist scholar Kumāralabdha (童受) of Taxila was comparable to Aryadeva, Aśvaghoṣa and Nagarjuna. Currently there is a small community of at least 1,500 Pakistani Buddhist in the country.[1]

Buddhism in antiquity[edit]

The region and nation, today known as Pakistan, once had a large Buddhist population and many religious structures in antiquity.



The majority of people in Gandhara, present day Southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, were Buddhist. Gandhara was largely Mahayana Buddhist, but also a stronghold of Vajrayana Buddhism. The Swat Valley, known in antiquity as Uddiyana, was a kingdom tributary to Gandhara. There are many archaeological sites from the Buddhist era in Swat.


The Buddhist sage Padmasambhava is said to have been born in a village near the present day town of Chakdara in Lower Dir District, which was then a part of Oddiyana. Padmasambhava is known as Guru Rinpoche in Tibetan and it is he who introduced Vajrayana Buddhism in Tibet.

Punjab region

Buddhism was practiced in the Punjab region, with many Buddhist monastery and stupa sites in the Taxila World Heritage Site locale. It was also practiced in the Sindh regions.

Islam and Hinduism[edit]

Gandhara remained a largely Hindu-Buddhist land until around 10th century CE, when Sultan Mahmud conquered the region and introduced Islam ans settlement Muslims and emigration of Hindu-Buddhists.[2]

Most Buddhists in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh were in process of converting to Hinduism from 600 CE onwards. Many Buddhists preferred to converting to Islam due to Buddhist-Hindu tensions. Buddhism was the faith practiced by the majority of the population of Sindh up to the Arab conquest by the Umayyad Caliphate in 710 CE. These regions became predominantly Muslim during the rule of Delhi Sultanate and later Mughal Empire due to missionary Sufi saints whose dargahs dot the landscape of Pakistan and the rest of South Asia.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Over 35,000 Buddhists, Baha’is call Pakistan home, By Irfan Ghauri Published: September 2, 2012, Dawn
  2. ^ Ousel, M. (1997). Ancient india and indian civilization. Routledge.

External links[edit]