see also IM.218, IM. 220-222-1921 Guy, John: 'Indian Temple Sculpture', London, V &A Publication 2007, p 30. pl. 29. ISBN 971851775095 Guy, John (ed.). ‘L’Escultura en els Temples Indis: L’Art de la Devocio’, Barcelona : Fundacio ‘La Caixa’, 2007. p.158, cat.116. ISBN 9788476649466
Reliquary from Stupa No 2, Sonari, central India, steatite, c 200 BCE
Diameter: 7.125 in, Height: 16.8 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
Vase shaped relic casket of mottled steatite, discovered by Gen A Cunningham and Gen Maisey in about 1851, in the Stupa No 2, at Sonari, 6 miles SW of Sanchi, Bhopal State, Central India. It contained the small relic caskets Nos 220 and 222-1921, as well as a quantity of calcined bone-ash and a piece of sandal-wood (?). The casket may date from about the year 200 BC and the stupa may be a few years later. The casket is shaped to resemble the seed-capsule of a lotus (lota-shape), of which the small cover forms the central corona. It was turned on the lathe, and then carved in low relief with bands of lotus-petals on the shoulder and lower part of the body, whilst on the upper body is a broad zone divided into eight rectangular compartments in each of which is an elephant, or a horse, a deer or a winged lion(?). The present contents of the casket consist of powdered bone-ash, and a piece of wood.
Willis, Michael. Buddhist Reliquaries from Ancient India. London : British Museum Press, 2000. ISBN 0 7141 1492 8. p. no.85 and fig.91.
It was customary from the time of the Buddha’s death to preserve and venerate his relics. Under the great Mauryan emperor Asoka (circa 268-233 BC), a convert to Buddhism and an energetic patron of the faith, a series of stupas, relic mounds, were erected across the empire, marking sites of significance in the Buddha’s life. This practice continued, and this relic container is believed to have been interned around 200 BC. Relic deposits of this period usually represented re-deposits of original Buddha corporal relics.
This relic container was excavated at Sonari, a Buddhist monastery six miles south-west of Sanchi, by A Cunningham and F C Maisey in 1851. Stupa No 2 at Sonari was found to contain three miniature reliquaries – two in steatite and one in rock crystal - as well as a quantity of powdered bone-ash and a piece of wood. This steatite reliquary casket is shaped to resemble a lotus bud, with incised petals decorating the lower half of the reliquary. It was turned on the lathe and then carved in low relief with bands of lotus-petals on the shoulder and lower part of the body, whilst on the upper body is a broad zone divided into eight rectangular compartments in each of which is an elephant, horse, deer or winged lion, typical motifs of the Mauryan period. It was first published by A Cunningham in The Bhilsa Topes in 1854.