3. LARGE SCHIST GUILDED RELIQUARY IN THE FORM OF A STUPA
1st - 2nd c.
38cm tall x 18cm square base
An extremely rare and large grey schist reliquary in the form of a stupa in four sections, consisting of a square base (Sanskr. medhi) with a large circular relic chamber. Above sits a round drum (ghantãkãra) with mouldings to form a plinth around the bottom and a cornice on the upper edge, both receding into a central band. Fitting into the circular cavity of the base by means of a flange is a hemispherical dome (anda) with mouldings’ around the bottom and middle receding into a plain register echoing those on the base, at the top do the dome is a circular recess that accommodates the central shaft (yasti) supporting a series of five parasols (chattra) of diminishing size. Within the stupa is housed an unusual fith section, a carved Schist inner stupa that forms a relic chamber. Extensive gilding throughout.
A Stupa (Sanskrit Thupa or Thapa: ‘mound’) is the principal type of Buddhist shrine, the most characteristic emblem of Buddhism, and was originally a funeral mound, constructed to house relics of the Buddha or of one of his noble acolytes. By the Kushan era they had evolved into places of pilgrimage consisting of a large hemispherical dome, often on a square base and decorated with statues and reliefs depicting the life of the Buddha. Pilgrims would often construct small votive stupas around the main Stupa as a mark of homage and to commemorate their visit.
A crystal example: Sotheby’s, The Art of the Buddha New York 21 Sept. 2007. Sale #N08345. Lot #3.
A larger Crystal and gold stupa is in the collection of the Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney.
A schist example published, Harle, J.C. and Topsfield, A. Indian Art in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 1987, p.16, fig.19 and a selection of reliquary stupas in Kurita, I. Gandharan Art II, the World of the Buddha, Japan, 1990 pp.261-273, figs.790-873
Gandharan Buddhist Reliquaries, University of Washington Press 2012
Detail: alternate view #1
Detail: alternate view #2