Embroidery from Afghanistan, £10.99
Height: 6.700 cm
Diameter: 6.600 cm (at base)
Asia OA 1900.2-9.1
Room 33: Asia
From stupa 2 at Bimaran, Gandhara (in modern Afghanistan), 1st century AD
Cylindrical relic container of gold set with almandine garnets
The frieze on this
The arcading round the side consists of eight pointed arches, known as caitya arches, that rest on pilasters. The compartments are divided principally into two sets of three niches. Each has a Buddha in the centre flanked by two similar deities in profile who face the Buddha. The remaining two compartments show a figure frontally with his hands held together in a prayerful gesture of reverence, anjali-mudra. In the spandrels between the arches are eagles with outspread wings and heads turned so that they face each other. The entire frieze is sandwiched between registers of garnets that alternate with a four-lobed floral motif.
This reliquary is the best preserved example of goldsmithing to survive from early India. it is also a crucial object for the history of Buddhism and the development of the Buddha image on Buddhist art.
W. Zwalf (ed.), Buddhism: art and faith (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)