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The Indo-Parthian Beginnings of Gandhara Sculpture[1]


By: Chantal Fabrégues




In 1941, Bachhofer wrote: "What makes a piece of sculpture a Gandhara work is, of course, not the subject-matter, but the treatment of forms. Gandhara sculpture is easily recognized when the style is fully developed; the difficulty arises when one comes to the beginnings.”[2] Following Foucher, Bachhofer contended that since Gandharan art was certainly derived from Hellenistic art, its earliest products must be those displaying most strongly the influence of this predecessor.[3] However, the presumed Hellenistic origin of Gandharan art has itself been a cause of controversy, as proponents of a Graeco-Roman origin have come forward.[4] The recent Butkara excavations have put both theories in question. Bachhofer's definition, which applies only to a welldefined but limited portion of Gandharan output, is no longer adequate. Again, Wheeler, in 1963, maintained that the representation of the Buddha was an essential feature of Gandharan art.[5] Thus, on this basis, the problem of dating the appearance of Gandharan art was identical with that of dating the Buddha image. All the sculptures which display a style similar to that of the objects found in the Indo-Greek and Saka levels at Sirkap, or which can be shown for other reasons to be early, and which do not include representations of the Buddha, have to be designated, as they were by Marshall, "proto-Gandharan.[6]


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 fig. 1. Coin of Azes I, Taxila mint (Click to enlarge)


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 fig. 2. Coin of Azes II, Taxila mint (Click to enlarge)


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fig. 3. Butkara. Frieze of stūpa 17. After D. Faccenna, Butkara 1, pl. 147-c. (Click to enlarge)


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fig. 4. Butkara. Frieze of stūpa 14. After Faccenna, Butkara 1, pl. 139-b, c. (Click to enlarge)


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fig. 5. Taxila, Dharmarājika complex. Frieze ascribed to building L. Taxila Museum 963-1937-38. Marshall, Taxila, vol. 3, p. 217, no. 80. (Click to enlarge)


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fig. 6. Taxila, Dharmarājika complex. Frieze ascribed to stūpa D 3. Taxila Museum 962-1937-38. Marshall, Taxila, vol. 3, pl. 217, no. 79. (Click to enlarge)


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fig. 7. Butkara. Fragment of frieze. Museo Nazionale d'Arte Orientale 1148, MAI 6841. Photo: Courtesy of ISMEO, Rome. (Click to enlarge)


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fig. 8. Butkara. Fragment of frieze, MAI 4080. Photo: Courtesy of ISMEO, Rome. (Click to enlarge)


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fig. 9. Taxila, Shah-Dheri. Bracket. British Museum 1892, 11.3.78. Photo: Reproduced by courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum. (Click to enlarge)


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fig. 10. Saidu Sharif (Swat/. Bracket, MAI 5429. Photo: Courtesy of ISMEO, Rome. (Click to enlarge)


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fig. 11. Butkara. Square CSB(4) between stūpa s 83 and 86, flying figure in the round. Museo Nazionale d'Arte Orientale 1145, MAI 3019-1461. Photo: Courtesy of ISMEO, Rome. (Click to enlarge)


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fig. 12. Bronze Parthian stature of nobleman from Shami, denoted to General Surena., the hero of Carrhae (Click to enlarge)


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fig. 13. Butkara. Square CNP(4) near south wall of stūpa 120, male figure in Parthian costume, MAI 2598. Photo: Courtesy of ISMEO, Rome. (Click to enlarge)


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fig. 14. Loriyan-Tangai. Relief of Buddha surrounded by wor

shippers. Lahore Museum 1634.

(Click to enlarge)


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 fig. 15. Gondophares' Crest according to Iranian source

At present, however putting aside a fragmentary stucco at Guldara),[7] there is no evidence for the representation of the Buddha before the time of Kaniska, whose coins show the Enlightened One on their reverses. It is likely, nonetheless, that these coins reproduce sculptural images of a Gandhara style that was already well established in the reign of Kaniska, and that they show the actual appearance of these images.[8] Yet this only means that they give a terminus ante quern for a certain type of image, which depends on the date of Kaniska's accession to the throne. The dates most commonly proposed for his accession are CE 78 and CE 128, but the representations on coins consequently do not provide a firm date for the sculptures depicted on them. Moreover, it is difficult to say for how long a time before Kaniska similar images may have been in existence. According to Cribb (whose opinion is widely shared), "If the invention of the Buddha image does predate his reign, it is only by a matter of a few years" (cited, n. 8, p. 243). Cribb considered the Gandhara image to have evolved from Mathura prototypes around CE 150, that is, by the latest possible accession year for Kaniska.


The excavations by Faccenna at Butkara in Pakistan have now brought to light new evidence for an opening date for the appearance of sculptures with definite Gandharan characteristics.[9] They illustrate not only a particular moment in the development of the style, but also raise the broader question of its origins. Numismatic evidence tends to show that these Butkara sculptures are to be placed around the beginning of the period of Parthian domination in the area. This conclusion is supported by the comparison of the sculptures in question with some from Taxila displaying similar subjects and style. Since all these sculptures are undoubtedly proto-Gandharan in Marshall's sense, they raise the question of the length of time between the first proto-Gandharan sculptures and the first reliefs which show the Buddha image. A review of a series of reliefs, and in particular the examination of one ornament depicted on them, indicates that the gap was not long, and that the Buddha image was likely to have been created towards the end of Gondophares' reign.



The Evidence From Butkara

In the center of the Sacred Precinct at Butkara stands the Great stūpa, rebuilt five times, with each new construction superimposed on the previous one.[10] In the dome of the first Great stūpa was found a die-struck "Tribal" copper coin (ascribed in BMC Ancient India, 232/144, to Taxila) bearing obv. "crescent on hill" and rev. "taurine." Göbl, following Durga Prasad,[11] was inclined to attribute this issue to Chandragupta Maurya, though recent opinion tends to regard the "crescent on hill" as the rājānka of Aśoka.[12] In either case, the earliest building would be dated to the third century BCE A painted inscription on an earthenware pot found on the north side of the Sacred Precinct called that stūpa Dharmarājika.[13] It is thus likely that it owes its origin to Aśoka, who is called in the Divyavadana the Dharmaraja. For this reason, among others, Sir John Marshall attributed the Dharmarājika stūpa at Taxila to Aśoka 's reign.[14] Techniques used in both constructions, in which the hemispheres of the domes are cut by walls radiating from the central axes, are consistent with the hypothesis of construction during the oldest period, that is to say, contemporary with the Shapur Tope near Shah-Dheri,[15] and the Jain stūpa at Kankali Tila.[16] The final phase (numbered 11) of the Great stūpa at Butkara is dated by an associated square copper coin of Menander (bearing obv. elephant's head, rev. club) to the end of the second or beginning of the first century BCE.


I begin with phase III of the Great stūpa. This stūpa is circular, decorated with Corinthian pilasters, and has four stairways disposed at the cardinal points. The pradaksinā path around the stūpa is surrounded by a circle of bases for freestanding columns. On the northern side, along the east-west tangent to that circle, there are two more columns (33 and 135), and four richly decorated subsidiary stūpas (14, 17, 27, 133). On the basis of stratigraphy the excavators deduced that column 135 and phase III of the Great stūpa were contemporary. Furthermore, stūpas 14 and 17 either belong to the same period or are immediately successive to it. A date for the construction of these several associated monuments is provided by one of the finds in a reliquary recess in column 135: two bowl-shaped relic caskets of green schist, full of objects. A coin (cat. no. 5229)[17] in one bowl was at first attributed to the Indo-Scythian ruler Azes I (fig. 1); later, however, (probably in the light of the discussion by Jenkins)[18] attribution to Azes II was proposed, suggesting a terminus post quem for the construction near the end of the first century BCE


The importance of this coin as a key to the absolute dating is obvious. Jenkins has shown that the silver issues of Azes II (fig. 2) can be distinguished from those of Azes I by the fact that their obverse displays the king mounted with a whip (hereafter KMW), rather than the king mounted with a spear (KMS) as for the earlier ruler. The silver issues in turn are linked to the corresponding bronze issues by their monograms. The piece in question here, a bronze with obv. type "Tyche" and rev. type "Hermes to left," belongs to the series of Azes II. With regard to its position within the reign, Gdbl observed that the specimen seemed to be overstruck on the bronze issue of Azes II showing obv. "bull" and rev. "elephant," the overstrike being in fact obverse on reverse. This overstrike confirms the sequence proposed by Jenkins, according to which the coin found at Butkara represents the last issue but one in the series of Azes II at the mint in question.


It is difficult to establish the precise dates of Azes II. The founder of the Indo-Scythian dynasty, Azes I, established the so-called Vikrama Era of 57 BCE The coin-series makes clear that Azes I was succeeded by Azilises, and the latter in turn by Azes II at a date for which there is no direct evidence. Allowance for generations suggests that the last ruler's accession might fall between 15 and 5 BCE A closer dating of Azes II is provided by the evidence relating to Indravarma.


A stone relic-casket of uncertain provenance, known as the Avaca or Indravarma casket, bears a Kharosthi inscription dated in the year 63 of the Maharaja Azes deceased (maharayasa ayasa atidasa).[19] The inscription alludes to one Ramaka, therefore relating it to a further dedication by the same Ramaka dated to the year 74 of the "Maharaja of ancient times" (maharajasa purvakalisa).[20] Doubtless the era is that of 57 BCE and the resulting dates consequently CE 6 and CE 17. Since in CE 6 it is stated that there had been a former king Azes, who was deceased, the implication could well be that the younger king (Azes II) was still alive and reigning, not only at the first of the two dates, but possibly also at the second. The reign, at any rate, presumably ended before CE 20, the year in which, on the evidence of the Takht-i Bahi inscription, the Indo-Parthian emperor came to the throne.


One can therefore conclude that column 135, phase III of the Great Stūpa, and stūpas 14 and 17 were erected towards the first decades of the first century CE, that is during the late Indo-Scythian or the beginning of the Parthian periods. The entablatures have been preserved on stūpas 14 and 17, which are built with "small soapstone blocks." They consist of an architrave with two fasciae (horizontal panels) and a row of ovoli, surmounted by a frieze ornamented with lion protomae, above which are dentils and a cyma reversa decorated with heart-shaped leafand-dart, and reversed ovolo patterns. The top of the entablature of stūpa 14 has three courses of plain slabs, while that of stūpa 17 has another frieze with triglyphs and metopes.


These friezes with animal decoration provide additional support for the early dating of these monuments. The frieze with lions' heads on stūpa 17 (fig. 3) is punctuated by small pilasters and horizontal scrolls. On stūpa 14 (fig 2), the lion protomae alternate with the so-called honeysuckle palmettes, eagles, or winged cupids on lotus flowers. The lions on both stūpas have protruding eyes with incised pupils. The alternation of floral ornament with lions' masks is undoubtedly a motif of Greek origin, appearing on late Classical buildings where the lions are used as spouts (cf. the Heraeum at Argos, the temple of Athena at Priene, the Mausoleum at Hallicarnassus), and on such Hellenistic monuments as the stoa of the agora at Priene and the Heroon at Belevi.[21] In the latter example, as on the stūpas 14 and 17 at Butkara, the cyma reversa is adorned with a leaf-and-dart motif, also a common Greek ornament. Palmettes and leaf-and-dart motifs, as well as lions' masks, similarly appear at Āi-Khānum in Bactria.[22] Although no example of lions' masks combined with honeysuckle palmettes has been discovered in Bactria, it is probable that this combination also was brought to Gandhara by the Graeco-Bactrians. The manner in which the manes of the Butkara lions are composed of separated tufts with curled ends is similar to the treatment of a lion's head used as a spout at Āi-Khānum.[23] Nevertheless, the lions' heads on the Butkara friezes differ from the Greek examples and from those at Āi-Khānum in having pointed ears, resembling some of the griffons represented on the gateways of Bharhut and Sanchi. There are particularly close connections between the frieze on stūpa 14 at Butkara and certain of the sculptures on the second crossbeam of the southern gateway at Sanchi.[24] On the latter the winged lions have manes similar to those of the lions at Butkara, and are associated with honeysuckle palmettes. One feature that is noticeable on both the Butkara and the Sanchi honeysuckle palmettes is the depiction of the ribs. Earlier at Bharhut, the brassards in the shape of honeysuckle palmettes worn by male figures have the same peculiarity. All these similarities with Sanchi suggest artistic connections. Since the Sanchi gateways are dated to the second half of the first century BCE, and Sanchi is no doubt the earlier site, it may be regarded as providing a terminus post quem for the Butkara friezes.




The Evidence From Taxila

A more precise dating, however, for the Butkara examples can be drawn in comparing them with two friezes from the Dharmarājika stūpa at Taxila, showing alternate lion protomae and honeysuckle palmettes. Frieze I (Taxila Museum 9631937-38; fig. 5) is said to have been found near building L to the southwest of the Great stūpa. Marshall claimed it belonged to building L, which, being built of large diaper masonry, is dated to the end of the first century CE[25] The large diaper masonry succeeded the small diaper masonry used during the third quarter of the first century CE The latter date derives from the discovery (chamber G 5 in the area of the Dharmarājika) of the Taxila Silver Scroll dated to the year 136 of Azes (corresponding to CE 78).[26] Confirmation is found in shrine A at Kalawan, also built of small diaper masonry: a copper plate inscription dated to the year 134 of Azes (CE 76).[27] The similarities between sculptures from the Kalawan shrine and others found near building L confirm their contemporaneity. Frieze I therefore can be dated towards the end of the first century, and hence much later than the Butkara friezes. Nevertheless, its examination is helpful in relation to the second Dharmarājika frieze, our frieze II (Taxila Museum 962-193738; fig. 6), which bears below the decorative band a Kharosthi inscription, of which only six characters remain: sa ba se . . . dre to na. Marshall does not indicate the find-spot. However, when listing inscriptions discovered in the vicinity of building L, he mentions one beneath a frieze with alternating lions' heads and honeysuckle palmettes, which he reads samvatsa . . . trena, which suggests that this frieze formed part of our frieze II, and that it should have come from the proximity of building L. Yet if frieze II came from building L itself, it should have been identical in detail with frieze I from that structure. However, the lions' heads and honeysuckle palmettes have very different forms.


The upshot is that frieze II could belong to stūpa D 3, which stands at the northeast corner of building L, in the ring of small stūpa s surrounding the Great stūpa. (The monuments are so close together that Marshall attributes the same sculptures sometimes to building L and sometimes to D 3.) Most of these small stūpa s are made of rubble masonry with a facing of squared kanjur, as is stūpa D 3. Coins of Maues and of Azes I in some of the stūpas built with that type of masonry date their construction to the second half of the first century BCE, and accordingly also that of D 3 and our frieze II. The palaeography of the inscriptions belongs in this early dating. Indeed, the aksaras sa, ba, and na have a shape similar to those on the oldest inscriptions, such as the Shahbazgarhi and Mansehra edicts of Aśoka (third century BCE), or on the Indo-Greek coins (second century BCE). Moreover, frieze II has another early connection. The mane of the lion's head is there rendered with parallel lines and a median parting as is the ceramic lion's head from Āi-Khānum, and the honeysuckle palmettes have their extremities turned backwards, a feature often met in the Hellenistic world.


On the other hand, there are indications that stūpa D 3 is somewhat later than the second half of the first century BCE Unlike the other small stūpas, its base is divided into panels by eight slender pilasters. A similar division of the base appears at Sirkap on a shrine in block F and on a stūpa in block G, both built in rubble masonry faced with kanjur. Marshall assigns these structures to the late Śaka period because a coin of Azes II ("mounted king and Pallas type") and one of Kujula Kadphises ("Roman bust and seated king") were found in block F, and eight coins of Azes II ("king seated cross-legged and Hermes" type) in the relic casket of a stūpa in block G. Now the intervals between the pilasters of the shrine in block F (the famous shrine of the double-headed eagle) form niches containing architectural facades, on top of which are eagles.


The representation of birds upon a roof is attested in early Indian art, and though birds often appear in Indian iconography, the eagle is not prominent. Marshall suggests the eagle was introduced in Gandhara by the Śakas.[28] Many representations of eagles with spread wings come from the Scythian lands around the Black Sea, and a bronze plaque showing frontally a double-headed eagle was discovered in the kurgan of Popovka near Kiev.[29] In southern Siberia also, the eagle seems to have been a favourite subject: gold plaques from the Altai display fights between eagles and various animals; and from the Touva region, north of the Altai, come gold pieces in the shape of eagles with outspread wings.[30] In Central Asia the motif is quite rare,[31] but it is very common among the Parthians, who even knew the double-headed eagle. Thus a tessera from Palmyra shows on its obverse the bust of Aglibol, and on its reverse a double-headed eagle.[32] The motif may have originated in Mesopotamia, where a Kassite cylinder of the second millennium BCE shows a similar subject.[33]


We may plausibly assume that the Parthians introduced this subject into Gandhara, and accept the traditional dating of this shrine to the Indo-Parthian period beginning in CE 20. Stūpa D 3 of the Taxila Dharmarājika, because of its similarities to the shrine and the character of its frieze, should therefore be assigned to the same period. The palaeography of the accompanying Kharosthi inscription need not conflict with such a solution. Ramaka's dedication of 74 v.E./ CE 17 shows similar Indo-Greek letter-forms still in use at that time, and they may even have persisted later. The Butkara stūpas 14 and 17, their bases decorated with slender Corinthian pilasters surmounted by a frieze of lion protomae and honeysuckle palmettes, certainly have much in common with the Taxila stūpa D 3. All may be assigned to the early years of the Parthian period. I have suggested that the eagles on the frieze of stūpa 14 could have had a Parthian inspiration. The representation of Eros standing on a lotus flower also could have been introduced during the Parthian period, since a copper relief featuring a similar theme was found in the Parthian levels of block C, together with a coin of Azes II, one of Aspavarma, one of Gondophares, and five of Kujula Kadphises.[34]


As Faccenna pointed out, the friezes of stūpas 14 and 17 can be connected with two others, MAI 2587 and MAI 6841 (fig. 7), showing below a row of ovoli a similar succession of lion protomae and eagles on lotus flowers, and decorated on a lower register with a row of busts.[35] The full implication of the dating of the preceding friezes now appears, since it enables us to place a sculptural style in the same period. The busts are seen frontally, and each figure holds in the right hand a bunch of lotus flowers. Between each pair of heads, filling the flat surface, is set an eight-petalled flower, and the sequence ends with a large acanthus leaf. The characteristic features of the portraiture are the wig-like hairstyle, either straight or curled; the large eyes with incised pupils (a rendering very similar to that of the lions); the long, pointed moustaches; the linear markings on the necks; and the flat rendering of the draperies with the folds indicated by parallel incised lines. All these characteristics are reminiscent of a toilet tray found in the Greek strata at Sirkap (Taxila, vol. 3, pl. 144, no. 63). Similar features appear on a Hellenistic (i.e. pre-Roman) toilet tray from Palmyra,[36] and on others from the Śaka-Parthian levels at Sirkap. They are typical also of the so-called archaic sculptures from Palmyra.



Palmyrene Analogies

Amongst these Palmyrene analogies are some relief fragments from the so-called T-foundation of the sanctuary of Bel.[37] They belong to the older temple, and are therefore earlier than CE 32, the date of the consecration of the new sanctuary.[38] Their frontality and the treatment of the drapery are similar to that on the Butkara fragments. Other features common to the two sites are the use of two lines to mark the neck and the wideopen eyes. The plinth of an ex-voto, from the early temple at Palmyra, offers resemblances not only of style but also of composition and of decorative motifs.[39] It is composed in two registers, each of panels framed between Corinthian columns and bearing a carved epistyle. One of the epistyles is ornamented with acanthus leaves, and the other with a row of ovoli. Outside the columns are carved long palm leaves. The upper register contains a frontal male bust with curled hair, and, on his right and left, a griffon and an eight-petalled rosette.


In the lower register appears the bust of a god with radiate nimbus flanked by eagles with spread wings and sixteen-petalled rosettes containing rosettes with eight petals. The busts have been identified as Malakbel. Collart and Vicari have linked this plinth with other monuments from Palmyra which are all dated before the middle of the first century CE[40] One of these (Palmyra Museum BC 449) shows a draped personage and a pine-cone, with the extremity of a wing visible to the personage's left, in a frame of palms surmounted by a row of ovoli. Another (Palmyra Museum B 450) shows within the frame of palms, above which is a vine scroll, an eagle sheltering under each of its spread wings a four-petalled rosette. Further, in the temple of Baalshamin are three niches framed with a vine scroll, and a lintel on which are similarly depicted eagles and rosettes that may represent Baalshamin.


These Palmyrene pieces contain elements borrowed from eastern Hellenism, from the ancient Semitic repertory, and from the newer Orient of the Parthians.[41] The eagle with spread wings and the rosette placed in the field should originate in the ancient Orient; the naturalistic treatment of the eagle, the Corinthian columns, the acanthus, the ovoli, and the vine scrolls from Greek Mesopotamia; while the frontality is probably Parthian.[42]


Thus the Butkara fragments share with the Palmyrene monuments a common style, make similar use of frontality and low relief, and also depict eagles, rosettes, ovoli and acanthus. It is probable that the Hellenic elements existed in Gandhara before the arrival of the Parthians. However, the manner of their arrangement, no less than other features, resembling those at Palmyra with their Parthian connections, suggest that they arrived via Parthia in Gandhara. The Palmyrene evidence, with its dating horizon of CE 32 provided by the restoration of the temple of Bel, leads to the conclusion that the Gandhara monuments examined here can be estimated to date between CE 20 and 30. Other friezes from Butkara displaying rows of busts executed in similar style can be assigned to the same period (fig. 8). A fragment of a frieze carved from micaceous schist, found between building L and stūpa D 3 at the Dharmarājika, is certainly to be dated as early as the Butkara friezes.[43] On its upper edge is a vine scroll with contiguous arches containing frontal busts beneath. The triangular space between each pair of arches holds an eagle with wings outspread. The motifs once more remind us of the Palmyrene monuments. A similar motif of figures under arches, with spread eagles in the spandrels, is also met in the Bimaran casket.


The dating here suggested for the Gandhara stūpa elements under consideration is corroborated by some of the brackets from Sirkap in the shape of winged male figures with hair treated in the manner of wigs and globular eyes with incised pupils. The folds of their draperies are indicated by multiple incised lines. These brackets were found in strata I and II which, according to the stratigraphic chronology, belong to the first century CE The characteristic letter-forms (notably that of the sa) on the bottom of one bracket are appropriate to the early first century CE[44] A number of similar brackets from various parts of Taxila and Butkara (e.g., figs. 7, 8, 9), despite some conflicting local excavation evidence, may also be assigned to the Parthian period.


Another indication of the link between these brackets and the Butkara and Taxila sculptures can be found in the jewellery represented on two of them. Two of the brackets from Taxila, and another of cruder workmanship from Saidu Sharif (fig. 10), wear torques represented as made of plain wire. The extremities are flattened and twisted round the wire itself. A torque of similar form is worn by one of the male busts on the Butkara facade (fig. 7) and by two standing male donors also from Butkara (fig. 12). A golden torque of that type was found in the Parthian stratum at Sirkap.[45] Its Parthian origin is evident in the fact that the Arsacid king Phraates (c. 3/2 BCE) wears one on his coins. Again the two donors from Butkara are dressed in what appears to be a Parthian costume, a short jacket without a collar, crossing at the front and secured by the belt, and the full trousers covered by horseman's chaps. The costume is identical with that worn by the bronze Parthian noble from Shami (denoted to General Surena), tentatively dated to the second century BCE but possibly later (fig. 12).[46] Similar costume can be seen on coins of Jihonika (Zeionises), which may indicate that it was used also by the Śakas.[47] However, there is little doubt that the two donor figures from Butkara represent Parthians. One of the two has his trousers, sleeves, and hem of his jacket ornamented with an embroidered band (fig. 14). This piece, stylistically superior to the other examples considered, might be taken as later in date, but its donor stands on a pedestal inscribed with the Kharosthi letter ka in script not greatly different from that of the Shahbazgarhi inscriptions. Hence this sculpture need not be considered significantly later than those discussed previously.


Doubt might be cast on the value of a single coin of Azes II for dating the Butkara monuments. It is true that the coin may have been obsolete when placed in the deposit, and the monuments therefore later, or that the coin had been inserted into a pre-existing structure. However, similar coins were found at Taxila associated with monuments whose decoration is comparable, adding weight to the evidence of the coin for dating. The Azes II coin from Butkara was from the penultimate Arachosian issue. At Taxila, the Azes II issue was associated with specimens of the Kujula Kadphises "Roman bust" type, probably struck after CE 10 and related to events after the demise of the younger Azes. This association suggests that the structures were being erected towards the end of the latter's reign, and that the work continued into the subsequent interregnum. The Parthian features and motifs of the sculptures probably belonging to these monuments strongly suggest that they were completed at the beginning of Parthian domination in Gandhara. At this time, coins of Azes II were still, or had recently been, in circulation, and so help along with the evidence of the earlier sculptures from Palmyra to fix more precisely the appearance of proto-Gandharan sculptures close to the moment of the inauguration of Indo-Parthian rule.


No evidence emerges for the existence of the Buddha image in association with these structures. Thus a lower bracket for the appearance of the Buddha image can be set around CE 30, while the reign of Kaniska, either CE 78 or CE 128, must be taken as the upper bracket. It is not unlikely that the inaugural Buddha image presented features similar to those seen on Kaniska coins, yet closer in style to that of the proto-Gandharan sculptures. In fact, the sculptures from Loriyan Tangai (fig. 14) and Butkara accord with this assumption.[48] One may note that on these examples the Buddha wears a moustache and his hair is dressed in a top-knot tied with a band, as on the Buddha coins of Kaniska. Yet the wide-open eyes, the manner of representing the hair, and the very fine pleating of the draperies with close parallel lines are characteristic of the work which I assign to the Parthian period. According to van Lohuizen de Leeuw, who assumes that the Gandhara Buddha was created towards the end of the first century BCE on the model of a Mathura Buddha, the first two features would be due to influence from the Mathura sculptures and the latter to influence from the early Indian sculptures. However, even though these Loriyan Tangai and Butkara reliefs studied by van Lohuizen undoubtedly present many links with the ancient art of India, it is clear that their style continues an earlier one already in existence in Gandhara and represented by the proto-Gandharan sculptures. As van Lohuizen points out in the only reference that she makes to our protoGandharan sculptures, the latter resemble the reliefs discussed by her in being carved out of chloritised mica schist. This material, according to Marshall, was mainly used when the school was in its infancy, and was afterwards given up in favour of phyllite.[49] A further link between the two phases of sculptures is that an Eros figured on one of the Loriyan Tangai reliefs (fig. 14, upper left) wears a torque with the extremities coiled around the wire, a type almost exclusively represented on the proto-Gandharan sculptures. Both observations argue for placing the reliefs noted by van Lohuizen in an intermediate position between the proto-Gandharan sculptures and the representations of the Buddha on Kaniska coins. Although time must be allowed for such pieces as the Bimaran casket and the fragmentary stucco from Guldara, it may well emerge that these reliefs are not separated by a long interval from the phase of the proto-Gandharan sculptures here examined.






[1] I would like to acknowledge the help I have received in the preparation of this article from my supervisor Dr. A. D. H. Bivar, and also the financial assistance given by the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, from funds made available by the Neil Kreitman Trust.

[2] L. Bachhofer, "On Greeks and Sakas in India," JAOS 61 /1941, 226.

[3] A. Foucher, L'art grew-bouddhique du Gandhara, vol. 1 (Paris, 1905), 258.

[4] H. Buchthal, "The Western Aspects of Gandhara Sculpture," Proceedings of the British Academy 31 (1945), 4; A. Soper, "The Roman Style in Gandhara," AJA 55 / 1951), 301-19; B. Rowland, The Art and Architecture of India (London, 1953), 79.

[5] M. Wheeler, "Gandhara Art: A Note on the Present Situation," in Le rayonnement des civilisations grecques et romaines sur les cultures peripheriques: 8eme Congres d'archeologie classique (Paris, 1965), 556.

[6] J. Marshall, Taxila (London, 1951), vol. 2, p. 693.

[7] G. Fussman and M. Le Berre, Monuments bouddhiques de la region de Caboul. I. Le monastere de Guldara, MDAFA, vol. 22 /Paris, 1976), p. 20, figs. 23, 24.

[8] Cf. J. Cribb, "The Origin of the Buddha Imagethe Numismatic Evidence," South Asian Archaeology 1981 (Cambridge, 1984), 231-44, esp. 231.

[9] D. Faccenna, "The Excavations of the Italian Archaeological Mission (ISMEO) in Pakistan: Some Problems of Gandhara Art and Architecture," in Proceedings of the International Conference on the History, Archaeology and Culture of Central Asia in the Kushan Period, Dushanbe 1968 (Moscow, 1973), vol. 1, pp. 161-76.

[10] D. Faccenna, Butkara 1 (Swat, Pakistan) 19561962, pt. 1, Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, Centro Studi a Scavi Archeologici in Asia, Reports and Memoirs, vol. 3, pt. 1 (Rome, 1980), 21.

[11] R. Gobl, A Catalogue of Coins from Butkara I (Swat, ParkistanJ, Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, Centro Studi a Scavi Archeologici in Asia, Reports and Memoirs, vol. 4 (Rome, 1976), p. 11, nos. 3, 4 (Inv. nos. 7786 and 7798), and pl. X-3; Durga Prasad, "Observations on Different Types of Silver Punch-marked Coins, Their Period and Locale," Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, Numismatic Supplement for 1937-38, 47/3 (1937), pp. 6162, pl. IX-5.

[12] . F. R. Allchin, "Upon the Contextual Significance of Certain Ancient Indian Signs," BSOAS 22 )1959), 548; P. L. Gupta, The Amaravati Hoard of Silver Punch-marked Coins (Hyderabad, 1963), 152; A. D. H. Bivar, "Bent Bars and Straight Bars: An Appendix to the Mir Zakah Hoard," Studia Iranica 11 (1982), 52.

[13] L. Petech, "A Kharosthi Inscription from Butkara I," E W 16 / 1966 ), 45-49.

[14] Marshall, Taxila, vol. 1, p. 24.

[15] Foucher, L'art greco-bouddhique du Gandhara, vol. 1, p. 87.

[16] V. A. Smith, The lain Stupa and other Antiquities of Mathura /Allahabad, 1901), 4.

[17] Gobl, A Catalogue of Coins from Butkara 1, p. 15, no. 15 (Inv. no. 5229) and pl. I.

[18] G. K. Jenkins, "Indo-Scythic Mints, " Journal of the Numismatic Society of India 17 /1955), 3.

[19] H. W. Bailey, "Two Kharosthi Casket Inscriptions from Avaca," JRAS /1978), 3; A. D. H. Bivar, "The Azes Era and the Indravarma Casket," in H. Hartel, ed., South Asian Archaeology 1979 /Berlin, 1981), 372; R. Salomon, "The Avaca Inscription and the Origin of the Vikrama Era," JAOS 102 (1982), 60.

[20] G. Fussman, "Nouvelles inscriptions Saka: Ere d'Eucratide, ere d'Azes, ere Vikrama, ere de Kaniska," BEFEO 67 (1980), 6.

[21] J. Charbonneaux, La Grece hellenistique Paris, 1970), figs. 29, 34, 35.

[22] P. Bernard, Fouilles d'AY Khanoum 1: Campagnes de 1965, 1966, 1967-68, MDAFA, vol. 21 (Paris, 1973), pls. 59, 101-4.

[23] P. Bernard, "Fouilles d'Ai Khanoum (Afghanistan)-Campagnes de 1972 et 1973," CRAI (1974), 305.

[24] J. Marshall and A. Foucher, The Monuments of Sanchi, vol. 2 (Calcutta, 1947), pl. XIV.

[25] Marshall, Taxila, vol. 1, p. 251.

[26] Ibid., 256.

[27] Ibid., 327.

[28] Ibid., 164.

[29] E. H. Minns, Scythians and Greeks /Cambridge, 1913), 178.

[30] M. Griaznov, Siberie du Sud (Geneva, 1969), figs. 45, 70.

[31] L. Hambis, "Recherches sur les Saces et leurs rapports avec les Wou-Souen," Annuaire du College de France, 1977-78 /Paris), 591.

[32] R. Du Mesnil du Buisson, Les tesseres et les monnaies de Palmyre (Paris, 1962), fig. 215.

[33] Ibid., fig. 216.

[34] Marshall, Taxila, vol. 1, p. 193; Taxila, vol. 3, pl. 186, no. 419.

[35] Faccenna, "Excavations," 173 (cf. n. 9 above); for the reproduction of MAI 2587, idem, Sculptures from the Sacred Area of Butkara 1 (Swat, Pakistan), pt. 3, Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, Centro Studi a Scavi Archeologici in Asia, Reports and Memoirs, vol. 2, pt. 3 (Rome, 1964), pl. DCLXII-b.

[36] H.-P. Francfort, Les palettes du Gandhdra, MDAFA, vol. 23 (Paris, 1979), pl. L-b.

[37] H. Seyrig, "Antiquites syriennes: Sculptures archaiques de Palmyre," Syria 22 (1941), figs. 10, 11; Syria 24 (1945), pl. I.

[38] The old sanctuary is said in an inscription dated A.D. 25 to be called: "the house of the Palmyrene gods." Cf. J. Cantineau, Inventaire des inscriptions de Palmyre (Beirut, 1933), fasc. ix, p. 21, ins. no. 12.

[39] Seyrig, "Antiquites syriennes," 39-44; D. Schlumberger, L'Orient hellenise (Paris, 1970), fig. 13.

[40] P. Collart and J. Vicari, Le sanctuaire de Baalshamin a Palmyre: Topographie et architecture, vol. 1, Texte (Rome, 1969), pp. 154-77, pls. XCV-CI.

[41] D. Schlumberger, "Descendants non-m6diterran6ens de Part grec," Syria 37 /1960), 267.

[42] On the origin of frontality, cf. E. Will, Le relief cultuel greco-romain /Paris, 1955), 249; R. Ghirshman, Parthes et Sassanides /Paris, 1962/, 6-9; M. A. R. Colledge, The Art of Palmyra London, 1976/, 125-26.

[43] Marshall, Taxila, vol. 3, pl. 217, no. 78; vol. 1, p. 251.

[44] S. Konow, Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, vol. 2, pt. 1: Kharosthi Inscriptions, with the Exception of Those of Asoka, /Calcutta, 1929/, p. 99, pl. XIX-6 (= Marshall, Taxila, vol. 3, pl. 213, no. 11 /. Cf. other brackets in Marshall, Taxila, vol. 3, pl. 212, no. 8, and pl. 213, no. 12.

[45] Second Butkara donor, MAI 3514: Faccenna, Sculptures from the Sacred Area of Butkara 1 (Swat, Pakistan), pt. 3, pl. CDLXXXVI. For the Sirkap golden torque, Marshall, Taxila, vol. 1, p. 191; vol. 3, pl. 195, no. 147.

[46] Ghirshman, Parthes et Sassanides, fig. 99.

[47] Marshall, Taxila, vol. 2, p. 839; vol. 3, pl. 241, no. 200.

[48] J. E. van Lohuizen de Leeuw, "New Evidence with Regard to the Origin of the Buddha Image," in H. Hartel, ed., South Asian Archaeology 1979, (Berlin, 1981 /, pp. 380-81 and figs. 6, 7; pp. 382-99 and figs. 9, 10, 12, 14-17, 19, 21, 32-34.

[49] Marshall, Taxila, vol. 2, p. 639.








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