Carved wooden plaque

From the Kashmir-Smast caves, Mardan, North-West Frontier, Pakistan, 7th-9th century AD

An image of Shiva?

The Kashmir-Smast caves are natural set of caves in a limestone mountain that have been enlarged in several phases. Several Hindu caves have been found here with wooden architectural interiors. The settlement of the site can, like many others in the north-west, be traced back to the Kushan period (about 1st-3rd centuries AD). Captain H.A. Deane rediscovered the site in 1888, and reported it in a publication in 1896. In a small octagonal room at the site, he excavated four carved planks of a box, a pilaster and two carved wooden plaques including this one.

The plaque shows an emaciated dancing figure enclosed in a trefoil arch. Behind him sits a demonic band playing the flute and drum while two figures appear to be clapping their hands. There has been considerable controversy among scholars regarding the religious affiliation of these caves. Some have suggested that the caves might be Buddhist, as it was the dominant religion of the region at the time. However, the recent digging in the area has brought to light other Hindu sculptures from the site. This may be a depiction of Shiva as a beggar, dancing to the music played by the dwarf ganas that comprise his army.

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More information


S. Mizuno (ed.), Haibak and Kashmir-Smast: Budd (Kyoto, Kyoto Daigaku, 1962)


Height: 33.000 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1889.7-3.9


Gift of Capt. H.A. Deane


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