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Hadda, Afghanistan

Coordinates: 34°21′42″N 70°28′15″E / 34.361685°N 70.470752°E / 34.361685; 70.470752
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Buddhist stupas at Hadda, by William Simpson, 1881.[1]
Hadda, Afghanistan is located in Afghanistan
Hadda, Afghanistan
Shown within Afghanistan
Hadda, Afghanistan is located in Gandhara
Hadda, Afghanistan
Hadda, Afghanistan (Gandhara)
Hadda, Afghanistan is located in South Asia
Hadda, Afghanistan
Hadda, Afghanistan (South Asia)
Coordinates34°21′42″N 70°28′15″E / 34.361685°N 70.470752°E / 34.361685; 70.470752
TypeGroup of Buddhist monasteries
Founded1st century BCE
Abandoned9th century CE

Haḍḍa (Pashto: هډه) is a Greco-Buddhist archeological site located ten kilometers south of the city of Jalalabad, in the Nangarhar Province of eastern Afghanistan.

Hadda is said to have been almost entirely destroyed in the fighting during the civil war in Afghanistan.


Some 23,000 Greco-Buddhist sculptures, both clay and plaster, were excavated in Hadda during the 1930s and the 1970s. The findings combine elements of Buddhism and Hellenism in an almost perfect Hellenistic style.

Although the style of the artifacts is typical of the late Hellenistic 2nd or 1st century BCE, the Hadda sculptures are usually dated (although with some uncertainty), to the 1st century CE or later (i.e. one or two centuries afterward). This discrepancy might be explained by a preservation of late Hellenistic styles for a few centuries in this part of the world. However it is possible that the artifacts actually were produced in the late Hellenistic period.

Given the antiquity of these sculptures and a technical refinement indicative of artists fully conversant with all the aspects of Greek sculpture, it has been suggested that Greek communities were directly involved in these realizations, and that "the area might be the cradle of incipient Buddhist sculpture in Indo-Greek style".[2]

The style of many of the works at Hadda is highly Hellenistic, and can be compared to sculptures found at the Temple of Apollo in Bassae, Greece.

The toponym Hadda has its origins in Sanskrit haḍḍa n. m., "a bone", or, an unrecorded *haḍḍaka, adj., "(place) of bones". The former - if not a fossilized form - would have given rise to a Haḍḍ in the subsequent vernaculars of northern India (and in the Old Indic loans in modern Pashto). The latter would have given rise to the form Haḍḍa naturally and would well reflect the belief that Hadda housed a bone-relic of Buddha. The term haḍḍa is found as a loan in Pashto haḍḍ, n., id. and may reflect the linguistic influence of the original pre-Islamic population of the area.

Buddhist scriptures[edit]

It is believed the oldest surviving Buddhist manuscripts-indeed the oldest surviving Indian manuscripts of any kind-were recovered around Hadda. Probably dating from around the 1st century CE, they were written on bark in Gandhari using the Kharoṣṭhī script, and were unearthed in a clay pot bearing an inscription in the same language and script. They are part of the long-lost canon of the Sarvastivadin Sect that dominated Gandhara and was instrumental in Buddhism's spread into central and east Asia via the Silk Road. The manuscripts are now in the possession of the British Library.

Tapa Shotor monastery (2nd century CE)[edit]

Seated Buddha, Tapa Shotor monastery (Niche V1), 2nd century CE, Hadda

Tapa Shotor was a large Sarvastivadin Buddhist monastery.[3][4] According to archaeologist Raymond Allchin, the site of Tapa Shotor suggests that the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhara descended directly from the art of Hellenistic Bactria, as seen in Ai-Khanoum.[5]

The earliest structures at Tapa Shotor (labelled "Tapa Shotor I" by archaeologists) date to the Indo-Scythian king Azes II (35-12 BCE).[6]

A sculptural group excavated at the Hadda site of Tapa-i-Shotor represents Buddha surrounded by perfectly Hellenistic Herakles and Tyche holding a cornucopia.[7] The only adaptation of the Greek iconography is that Herakles holds the thunderbolt of Vajrapani rather than his usual club.

According to Tarzi, Tapa Shotor, with clay sculptures dated to the 2nd century CE, represents the "missing link" between the Hellenistic art of Bactria, and the later stucco sculptures found at Hadda, usually dated to the 3rd-4th century CE.[8] The scultptures of Tapa Shortor are also contemporary with many of the early Buddhist sculptures found in Gandhara.[8]

Chakhil-i-Ghoundi monastery (2nd-3rd century CE)[edit]

The Chakhil-i-Ghoundi monastery is dated to the 4th-5th century CE. It is built around the Chakhil-i-Ghoundi Stupa, a small limestone stupa. Most of the remains of the stupa were gathered in 1928 by the archeological mission of Frenchman Jules Barthoux of the French Archaeological Delegation in Afghanistan, and have been preserved and reconstituted through a collaboration with the Tokyo National Museum. They are today on display at the Musée Guimet in Paris. It is usually dated to the 2nd-3rd century CE.

The decoration of the stupa provides an interesting case of Greco-Buddhist art, combining Hellenistic and Indian artistic elements. The reconstitution consists of several parts, the decorated stupa base, the canopy, and various decorative elements.

Tapa Kalan monastery (4th-5th century CE)[edit]

The "Genius with flowers", Tapa Kalan, Hadda, Gandhara. 2-3rd century CE. Musée Guimet.

The Tapa Kalan monastery is dated to the 4th-5th century CE. It was excavated by Jules Barthoux.[12]

One of its most famous artifact is an attendant to the Buddha who display manifest Hellenistic styles, the "Genie au Fleur", today in Paris at the Guimet Museum.[13]

Bagh-Gai monastery (3rd-4th century CE)[edit]

The Bagh-Gai monastery is generally dated to the 3rd-4th century CE.[15] Bagh-Gai has many small stupas with decorated niches.[16]

Tapa-i Kafariha Monastery (3rd-4th century CE)[edit]

Head of a female devotee, Tapa-i-Kafariha, III-IVth cent.

The Tapa-i Kafariha Monastery is generally dated to the 3rd-4th century CE. It was excavated in 1926–27 by an expedition led by Jules Barthoux as part of the French Archaeological Delegation to Afghanistan.

Tapa Tope Kalān monastery (5th century CE)[edit]

This large stupa is about 200 meters to the northeast of the modern city of Hadda. Masson called it "Tope Kalān" (Hadda 10), Barthoux "Borj-i Kafarihā", and it is now designated as "Tapa Tope Kalān".[19]

The stupa at Tope Kalan contained deposits of over 200 mainly silver coins, dating to the 4th-5th century CE. The coins included Sasanian issues of Varhran IV (388–399 CE), Yazdagird II (438–457 CE) and Peroz I (457/9–84 CE). There were also five Roman gold solidi: Theodosius II (408–50 CE), Marcianus (450–457 CE) and Leo I (457–474 CE). Many coins were also Hunnic imitations of Sasanian coins with the addition of the Alkhon tamgha, and 14 Alkhon coins with rulers showing of their characteristic elongated skulls. All these coins point to a mid-late 5th century date for the stupa.[20]



  1. ^ Simpson, William (1881). "Art. VII.—On the Identification of Nagarahara, with reference to the Travels of Hiouen-Thsang". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. 13 (2): 183–207. doi:10.1017/S0035869X00017792. ISSN 2051-2066. S2CID 163368506.
  2. ^ John Boardman, The Diffusion of Classical Art in Antiquity (ISBN 0-691-03680-2)
  3. ^ Vanleene, Alexandra. "The Geography of Gandhara Art" (PDF): 143. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ Vanleene, Alexandra. "The Geography of Gandhara Art" (PDF): 158. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ "Following discoveries at Ai-Khanum, excavations at Tapa Shotor, Hadda, produced evidence to indicate that Gandharan art descended directly from Hellenised Bactrian art. It is quite clear from the clay figure finds in particular , that either Bactrian artist from the north were placed at the service of Buddhism, or local artists, fully conversant with the style and traditions of Hellenistic art , were the creators of these art objects" in Allchin, Frank Raymond (1997). Gandharan Art in Context: East-west Exchanges at the Crossroads of Asia. Published for the Ancient India and Iran Trust, Cambridge by Regency Publications. p. 19. ISBN 9788186030486.
  6. ^ Vanleene, Alexandra. "Tapa-e Shotor". Hadda Archeo Data Base. ArcheoDB, 2021.
  7. ^ See image Archived 2012-07-31 at archive.today
  8. ^ a b Tarzi, Zémaryalai. "Le site ruiné de Hadda": 62 ff. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  9. ^ Behrendt, Kurt A. (2007). The Art of Gandhara in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 978-1-58839-224-4.
  10. ^ Boardman, George. The Greeks in Asia. pp. Greeks and their arts in India.
  11. ^ Tarzi, Zémaryalai. "Le site ruiné de Hadda". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  12. ^ Vanleene, Alexandra. "Tapa Tope Kalān". Hadda Archeo DB.
  13. ^ See image Archived 2013-01-03 at archive.today
  14. ^ "Photograph". RMN.
  15. ^ Barthoux, J. (1928). "BAGH-GAI". Revue des arts asiatiques. 5 (2): 77–81. ISSN 0995-7510. JSTOR 43474661.
  16. ^ Rhie, Marylin M. (14 June 2010). Early Buddhist Art of China and Central Asia, Volume 3: The Western Ch'in in Kansu in the Sixteen Kingdoms Period and Inter-relationships with the Buddhist Art of Gandh?ra. BRILL. pp. Fig. 8.32 a to d. ISBN 978-90-04-18400-8.
  17. ^ Behrendt, Kurt A. (2007). The Art of Gandhara in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Metropolitan Museum of Art. p. 87. ISBN 978-1-58839-224-4.
  18. ^ "Photograph". RMN.
  19. ^ Vanleene, Alexandra. "Tapa Tope Kalān". Hadda Archeo DB.
  20. ^ Errington, Elizabeth (2017). Charles Masson and the Buddhist Sites of Afghanistan: Explorations, Excavations, Collections 1832–1835. British Museum. p. 34. doi:10.5281/zenodo.3355036.
  21. ^ "Head of Buddha, Afghanistan (probably Hadda), 5th–6th century". Metropolitan Museum of Art website.

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