Kanishka casket

The Kanishka Casket is a Buddhist  reliquary made in gilded copper, and dated to the first year(127 AD) of the reign of Kushan Emperor Kanishka. It is now in the Peshawar Museum in Peshawar City, Pakistan.It was discovered in a deposit chamber under the monumental Kanishka Stupa (described by Chinese pilgrims in 7th century as the tallest stupa in India), during the archaeological excavations in 1908-1909 in Shah-ji-Dheri on the outskirts of Peshawar. It is said to have contained three bone fragments of  Lord Buddha and sent them to Burma by the British Authorities. They still remain in the same place.  The lid of the casket shows the Buddha on lotus pedestal, and worshipped by Brahma and Indra.The edge of the lid is decorated by a frieze of flying Swan,symbolizing the travel of departing souls and the removal from samsara.

The casket is in Peshawar Museum.And a copy is in British Museum-London. The casket is dedicated in Kharoshthi. The inscription as follows.

“(*mahara)jasa kanishkasa kanishka-pure nagare aya gadha-karae deya-dharme sarva-satvana hita-suhartha bhavatu mahasenasa sagharaki dasa agisala nava-karmi ana*kanishkasa vihare mahasenasa sangharame”

“In the acceptance (i.e. for the acceptance) of the Sarvāstivādin teachers, this perfume box is the meritorious gift of Mahārāja Kanishka ( . . . jasa Kani) in the city of Kanishkapura [Kanishkapure nagare]. May (it) be for the welfare and happiness of all beings. . . . sa, the superintendent of construction of the refectory in Kanishka’s vihāra (nashkasa vihare), in Mahāsena’s saṁghārāma (Mahasenasa saṁgharame).”

Originally it was believed that the text is signed by the maker, a Greek artist named Agesilas, who supervises work at Kanishka’s stupa,confirming the direct involvement of Greeks with Buddhist realizations at such a late date: “The servant (dasa) Agisalaos, the superintendent of works at the vihara of  Kanishka in the monastery of Mahasena” (“dasa agisala nava-karmi ana*kaniskasa vihara mahasenasa sangharame”). However, a recent cleaning of the casket had shown that the old reading was not accurate. Instead, the name is to be read agnisala, which is the refectory of the monastery.

The lid of the casket shows the Buddha on lotus pedestal, and worshipped by Brahma and Indra.The edge of the lid is decorated by a frieze of flying Swan,symbolizing the travel of departing souls and the removal from samsara. Some of the Swans have a wreath of victory in their beak.The body of the casket represents a Kushan Monarch, probably Kanishka in person, with the Iranian Sun god and Moon god at his side. On the sides are two images of a seated Buddha, worshiped a royal figures, possibly a Bodhisattava. A garland, supported by cherubs goes around the scene in typical Hellenistic style.

Meanwhile  relics of Kanishka stupa, were sent to Burma by the British in 1910 in order to safeguard them. They are in Mandalay.

Kanishka Stupa: Kanishka stupa was a monumental stupa established by Kushan king Kanishka during the 2nd century CE in today’s Shaji-ki-Dheri on the outskirts of Peshawar, Pakistan.The stupa was built to house Buddhist relics, and would become perhaps the tallest construction in the ancient world.  Stupa is also famous for Buddhist relics.

Kanishka: Kanishka (127–150 AD) was Emperor of  Kushan dynasty.His conquests and patronage of  Buddhism, played an important role in the development of  Silk Road, and the spreading of Mahayana Buddhism from Gandhara to China.

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