PROJECT> Gandhari Manuscript Project

Mark Allon's picture

Dear List members,

With the support of the Khyentse Foundation, a large collection of Gandhari birch bark manuscripts was donated to the Islamabad Museum, Pakistan, on 26 December 2022. The conservation, photographing, study, and publication of these manuscripts by the Gandhari Manuscript Project (GMP) will be carried out under the terms of an agreement between the (Federal) Department of Archaeology and Museums (DOAM), Islamabad, Pakistan, and the University of Sydney, Australia, that was signed on 20 December 2022. Both the Australian High Commission in Islamabad, Pakistan, and the Pakistan High Commission in Canberra, Australia, assisted its passage.

     Although the collection is yet to be fully conserved, a rough estimate is that it consists of at least 50 to 60 scrolls or scroll fragments, which constitutes the largest collection of Gandhari manuscripts known to date. These manuscripts are thought to have originated from northern Pakistan and to date to between the 1st century BCE and the 2nd century CE, although some manuscripts in the collection may well fall outside this range.

     The housing of these Gandhari manuscripts in Pakistan at the Islamabad Museum and their conservation there sets a precedent for the reversal of the common scenario whereby such materials are taken out of their region of origin as part of the antiquities trade, resulting in a significant loss of cultural heritage. In addition, this initiative will form the basis for collaboration with Pakistani scholars and for training Pakistani students in order to promote the conservation and study of such materials and the documentation of Pakistan’s rich Buddhist heritage.

     A more comprehensive account of the texts in the collection, their date and their significance, and of the collection as a whole, will be possible once all scrolls and scroll fragments have been conserved and an initial survey has been undertaken. 

     For further details on the collection and the Gandhari Manuscript Project, see

     The Khyentse Foundation recently posted notification on their website.


Best wishes

Gandhari Manuscript Project Management Committee

Mark Allon, Stephanie Majcher, Ian McCrabb, Jason Neelis

Categories: Announcement

  Dear GMPMC,

  Congratulations on the project. Everybody, it goes without saying, is eager to see the manuscripts, and I very much agree that this new model in which archeological finds remain in their country but available to scholars worldwide is both an ethical and logistical improvement on previous ones.
  What I find less encouraging is the reluctance to build upon what is already built. The fact that this will not be integrated with Stefan Baums and Andrew Glass', a true field-shaper of a resource, I do find very dispiriting.
  We do scholarship because we love knowledge, antiquity, the piecing together of large pictures from tiny bits. I am constantly saddened by how what should be a natural community of like-minded people, academia, so often becomes the turf of petty personal rancours, territorial neurosis, and rank-obsession.
  Please take my invitation and get along, on either side. This is a happy stroll through the woods with friends, not a race to… what? The undying personal glory of being the first modern editor of some Gāndhārī scholastic commentary on a lost scholastic treatise on the topic of the taxonomy of the void? That is secondary. What is primary is connection, empathy, relatedness, concern for others and for the field, not as a handful of specialists, but as a living tradition of interrogating the heritage of the humankind. 

  bahvyā maitryā,


  Diego Loukota Sanclemente - Assistant Professor (UCLA - ALC)

Forwarding on behalf of Mark Allon:

Dear Diego,

Allow me to reassure you that the strongly collaborative, international nature of research on Gandhari manuscripts, which has been the hallmark of this field since its inception in the 1990s, will continue.

The primary aim of the Gandhari Manuscript Project (GMP) is the conservation, imaging, study, and publication of the collection of Gandhari manuscripts that is now at the Islamabad Museum. The publication venues for these texts will include the Gandhāran Buddhist Text series of the UW Press for larger texts/manuscripts and more detailed studies of them (as has historically been the case), conventional journals, especially the Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, and the fully digital peer-reviewed Journal of Gandharan Buddhist Studies (JGBT), all open source publications.

Just to expand on our response on Indology List December 14th last year to your previous comments on this same subject, the site and the Journal of Gandhāran Buddhist Texts (JGBT) articles on the Gandhāran Buddhist Texts (GBT) site are entirely complementary., which was created by Andrew Glass and Stefan Baums, both very gifted Gandhari scholars, is an invaluable resource for Gandhari scholars (Gandhari Dictionary, catalogue of Gandhari materials, and bibliography for the field), whilst the GBT site is the published output of a collaboration platform that embeds scholarly editions within framing content, with translation, Sanskrit chāyā, glossary, structural analysis and paleography report aimed at engaging a wider audience, such as those with command of Sanskrit and those interested in Buddhist Studies and Gandharan Studies more broadly.  The site, the GBT site and a number of other Gandhari text and inscription research and publishing projects under development by North American, Australian and Pakistani institutional partnerships are all based on the same underlying digital platform and hence interoperable.

If you would like further clarification, please let me know.

Best wishes


(in consultation with members of the GMP Advisory Board and Management Committee)

Dear Diego,

thank you, as always, for your kind words about! The majority of our users are actually not from the narrow field of Gāndhārī philology, but South Asian and Buddhist Studies more broadly, and we always strive to make the website more useful for them. We also document new manuscript material as information about it is published. For the scrolls now in the Islamabad Museum, we have been doing this since 2007 under (so far) the following entries:

and for seven related scroll in other collections since 2002:

All best wishes,