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Reliquary in the form of a model stupa


Height: 21.900 cm
Diameter: 11.800 cm (base)

Gift of Sir Alexander Cunningham

Asia OA 1887.7-17.34

Room 69a

    Reliquary in the form of a model stupa

    From Stupa 15, Sonala Pind, Manikiala, ancient Gandhara (north-west Pakistan), 1st-2nd century AD

    The reliquary is in three parts. The drum of the stupa has an ovoid cavity that opens into the circular hollow base. The harmika (the short square railing surmounting the dome of the stupa) and chhatravali (the multiple parasols rising from the middle) form another piece. The exterior of the whole reliquary has been turned and bears several registers of mouldings. Votive stupas were crafted to look just like the large architectural ones, and as containers of relic containers, they performed the same symbolic function.

    A rock crystal container was found inside the cavity in the dome. Its contents are no longer identifiable, but when Sir Alexander Cunningham first discovered it, he reported 'a very small piece of bone wrapped in gold leaf, along with a small silver coin, a copper ring and small beads of pearl, turquoise, garnet and quartz. These with the gold leaf wrapper make up the number of the saptaratna, or 'seven precious things' which usually accompany the relic deposits of the old Buddhists.' (Cunningham, Report of the ASI, 1871, p. 167). The coins of the Kushan dynasty found with the reliquary have been dated to the first century AD.

    W. Zwalf (ed.), Buddhism: art and faith (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)


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