Irwin, J., 'Late Mauryan or early Sunga ring-stones', Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, April 1951, pp.1-3 ed Guy, J., L'Escultura en els Temples Indis: L'art de la Devocio, Fundacio'la Caixa', Barcelona, 2007, No. 9, p. 52
Guy, John. Indian Temple Sculpture. London : V&A Publications, 2007. p.25. pl.19. ISBN 9781851775095
Willis, Michael. Buddhist Reliquaries from Ancient India. London : British Museum Press, 2000. ISBN 0 7141 1492 8. pp.71-2, fn.1.
Guy, John (ed.). L’Escultura en els Temples Indis: L’Art de la Devocio. Barcelona : Fundacio ‘La Caixa’, 2007. ISBN 9788476649466. p.52, cat. 9.
Ring stone, polished sandstone, Taxila, Pakistan, 3rd-2nd century BC
Diameter: 8 cm
: L’escultura en els temples indis: l’art de la devocio (CaixaForum, Barcelona 27/07/2007-18/11/2007)
South-East Asia, room 47b
Ring-stones of this type have been recorded across northern India from Taxila in the north-west, across the Punjab through to Patna in the East. The uniformity of the material and the designs, together with the portable nature of the objects, has led scholars to suggest the possibility of one centre of production from which they would be sold as luxury merchandise along the major trade routes of northern India. A probable centre for this production was Pataliputra (modern-day Patna), the capital of the Mauryan state of Magadha. Their purpose remains an enigma. The female figures may be symbolic of a fertility goddess. The tri-partite flowering plant may evoke the tri-ratna Buddhist symbol, while the square patterning bears a resemblance to the motifs on Buddha's throne pedestal at Bodhgaya.
Ring stone carved on the convex interior surface with female figures alternating with tripartite flowering stems, evoking the Buddhist triratna symbol. Above this on the upper surface are two concentric carved bands with a quatrefoil lozenge design between three borders of diagonal hatchings in alternate directions. Ring-stones of this type have been recorded across northern India from Taxila in the north-west to Patna in the East.
Ring stones of this type are an enigma and their intended function remains unknown. Their form and decoration suggest links to female fertility symbolism. The inner face of this stone is finely carved in low relief with female figures alternating with tripartite flowering stems, evoking the Buddhist ‘triratna’ symbol. The quatrefoil lozenge pattern is also seen on the Buddha’s ‘vajrasana’ throne seat at Bodhgaya. There it suggests a textile-inspired design.
It has been suggested that ring stones may have served as moulds. Goldsmiths might have used them to produce ear ornaments, such as those seen on ‘yaksha’ (nature-spirits) figures of this period and of a type which continued into the Kushan period (1st-3rd century AD).
Ring stones have been recorded across northern India, from Taxila in the north-west, the Punjab, to Patna in the east. They share a uniformity of materials and of design and a consistently high quality of carving. This, together with their portability, raises the possibility that they were produced in one centre and circulated as a form of luxury good along the early northern trade routes. A strong candidate as a production centre must be Pataliputra (modern Patna), the capital of the Mauryan kingdom of Magadha.