Red sandstone pillar capital

Kushan dynasty, 1st century AD
From the Mathura region, Uttar Pradesh, India

A unique historical document

This pillar capital is covered with Prakrit inscriptions in the Kharoshthi script. Among the inscriptions is one which records that Queen Nadasi Kassa, wife of the satrap (local ruler) Rajula, had donated a stupa containing the relics of the Buddha. Some of her other relatives are also mentioned. This inscription clearly shows that political leaders were involved in the patronage of religious structures in ancient India. Also mentioned is the genealogy of the Shaka or Scythian satraps of Mathura. This information is available from no other source making this object a uniquely important historical document.

Pillar capitals with addorsed (back-to-back) lions are known in India from the Mauryan period (about 321-232 BC) onwards. The British Museum has in its collection a fragment from the side of a Mauryan pillar. Unlike the early Mauryan pillars, which are free-standing, in the Kushan period columns with animal capitals were used to support structures. There are differences in the form of the sculpture as well: the Kushan lions are more stylized in comparison to the robust and powerful Mauryan lions, probably influenced by Achaemenid art from Iran.

Between the two lions is a square crowning relief bearing auspicious symbols including the Buddhist triratna, or three jewels. The triratna is symbolic of, among other things, the veneration of the Buddha, his sangha or monastic order, and dharma, the faith or code of religious conduct that the Buddha professed.

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Height: 50.800 cm
Width: 74.000 cm
Depth: 28.500 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1889.3-14.1


Gift of Bhagwanlal Indraji, Ph.D.


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