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December 19, 2017

History of millennia encompassed in an hour


December 19, 2017

PESHAWAR: The Victoria Memorial Hall of the Peshawar Museum was on Monday the venue for a spellbinding lecture on the ancient Silk Route by Professor Dr Sayed Amjad Hussain, a United States-based luminary from the walled city of Peshawar.

The lecture was titled: “Silk Route - Ancient Pathway to the Modern World”. It encompassed history of millennia in an hour.

The event was organized by Creative Co., an organization working for the promotion of culture and the encouragement of creative enterprise, along with Sehrai Travels. The collaboration was struck with the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

In her introductory remarks, Dr Samra Fakhar of Creative Co. said Dr Sayed Amjad Hussain was part of a 9-member Pakistani expedition to explore the Silk Route in China in April-May, this year. She said the team subsequently followed the Silk Route in Pakistan down to the Arabian Sea.

The lecture by the scholar revolved around a personal narrative about his experiences during the fascinating journey along with historical accounts of the places visited.

Amjad Hussain said the Silk Route had originally been mentioned in ancient Chinese travelogues and in the diaries of the Chinese Buddhist pilgrims who went westward from the city of Xian, the ancient capital of the Qin (pronounced Chin) dynasty. They left detailed accounts of the places they visited and the paths they followed.

He said the Silk Route was an ancient network of trade paths that were for centuries central to cultural interaction originally through regions of Eurasia connecting the East and West and stretching from the Korean peninsula and Japan to the Mediterranean Sea.

The scholar said it was a unique passageway on which commodities such as silk, spices, gunpowder as well as religions, music, the arts and various philosophies travelled. It even facilitated the spread of diseases such as cholera, plague, smallpox and intestinal ailments.

It was along the Silk Route that smallpox vaccination was carried out routinely in Turkey that was 80-years ahead of Edward Jenner’s experiment in England, he informed the audience.

Dr Amjad Hussain said it was also on the Silk Route that for the first time in history biologic weapon was used when during the siege of Kaffa, the Mongols catapulted plague-infested bodies of their soldiers into the besieged city.

Buddhism, Islam and Christianity came to China from the Middle East and India. Silk travelled all the way from Shanghai to Rome where the see-through fabric was a sensation but was also considered scandalous by the Romans and thus banned in public.

The scholar said similarly the Silk Route promoted amalgamation and fusion of the statuary art of India with the Greek art. Somewhere, in the vast kingdom of Gandhara in the 2nd century CE, Buddha exchanged his Indian loincloth for a Greek toga. The string instruments from the east found eager audience in the west and the reed flute travelled from the Middle East in both directions to China and the West.

Dr Amjad Hussain said Peshawar remained the capital of Gandhara and centre of gravity of Buddhism. “China has one of the largest Buddhist populations in the world. Kashghar’s culture is closer to that of Peshawar”, he believed.

In the end a resolution was read out to declare Kashghar and Peshawar ‘sister cities.’

Earlier, Dr Samra Fakhar introduced Dr Sayed Amjad Hussain to the audience.

She said born and raised within the walled city of Peshawar, Dr. Sayed Amjad Hussain studied at Islamia College (1953-57) and Khyber Medical College (1957-62).

He was trained as a general surgeon and a cardiovascular surgeon in the United States. After completion of his studies, he returned to Peshawar in 1970 and taught at Khyber Medical College.

Currently, he is an emeritus professor of cardio-thoracic surgery and emeritus professor of humanities at the University of Toledo, Ohio in the USA.

Being a polymath in the truest sense of the term, Dr. Amjad Hussain’s cap has feathers of various colours.

She said the scholar was an award-winning photographer and an internationally acclaimed explorer. He has explored the entire 2000 miles of Indus River in Pakistan and also at its source in Tibet.

Dr Sayed Amjad Hussain has great love for his mother language, Hindko and is president of the North America chapter of the Gandhara Hindko Board. He joined hands with another distinguished writer, telecaster and columnist from Peshawar, Attique Ahmad Siddiqi, to arrange the 5th International Hindko Conference in New York, United States, on October 21, this year.

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