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0436 Innermost Asia : vol.2
Innermost Asia : vol.2 / Page 436 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000187
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Turkestan. A single fall of rain, such as Sistan regularly experiences on one or two occasions during the winter months, would suffice to destroy these interesting relics of pre-Muhammadan mural paintings, the first, I believe, ever brought to light in Iran. Removal was obviously the only means of preserving what could be saved of them. The technical difficulties of this task were considerable, owing to the very friable condition of the mud plaster and the ease with which flakes of the painted surface detached themselves. After the necessary implements and materials had been improvised from such resources as the Consulate could offer, the removal in twelve panels of all that remained on this wall was systematically carried out by Afraz-gul and myself on the lines successfully followed by us at Turkestan sites. But I was well aware that the packing and long transit to India was bound to cause some further deterioration, while it was improbable that without expert help the paintings could be adequately reproduced on the spot. Hence I prepared notes of the paintings as they presented themselves on the wall, and their record here may prove useful even for those who may after reading them be able to examine the originals at New Delhi, as set up by Mr. Andrews' skilful and experienced hands. [Additions and modifications, as now suggested by Mr. Andrews from a careful examination of the panels, are inserted within brackets.]

The extant portion of the upper frieze is about 3 feet high and reaches to a height of about 8 feet above what appears to have been the floor level. Apart from the fragmentary indication of a dark red-brown tunic on the extreme left it shows five variously dressed male figures facing to front and preserved approximately up to their waists.2 The first from the left wears a wide purple tunic decorated with yellow circlets, obviously marking a figured (silk ?) textile of the usual ` Sasanian ' spot pattern. From the middle of the waist there descends [from a narrow white girdle] an angular piece of white fabric, wider below than above, closely corresponding to the triangular pleats seen in the same place in the dress of the Dvarapala statues of the Rawak Stûpa court,3 and to the flap hanging from the girdle of a mailed warrior figurine from the Ming-oi of Shôrchuk.3a [There are traces of loose white trousers below the tunic and of a white cloak (?) on each side.] All the rest is lost. The second figure is dressed in a red tunic. The legs are cased in high white boots or perhaps felt mocassins over which laces of red and yellow cord are diagonally passed down to the ankles and apparently fastened to sandals. Behind the tunic there is seen part of an animal's yellow skin [with the white of the fur showing next the tunic and at the edges], and a paw showing white claws dangles on the right. The dress of the third figure consists of a light red tunic with contours of ample folds drawn in white, and below this of baggy yellow trousers or Dhôti:-like leg covering tucked into white boots. [There seems to be a light green cloak showing on the right.] The portion below the knees is badly effaced. The fourth figure shows traces of a dark brown or pink coat above a white tunic. On the tunic is shown a pattern of yellow spots, curiously resembling the flowers represented as floating in the air in the wall-paintings from a cave-shrine at Bezeklik.4 [Dark red trousers spotted with the same pattern appear below, tucked into yellow top-boots.] Of a badly damaged fifth figure on the extreme right only the yellow tunic

Remains of figures in upper frieze.

2 [Mr. Andrews has furnished me with the following general note on the costumes of these figures :

` The costume of the six figures of the upper register resembles that of the standing silver statuette in a Berlin Museum (Sarre, Die Kunst des alten Persien, Pl. 43), the only difference being the absence of top-boots in the statuette. The same tunic is worn by Khosröes in the sculpture on the left wall of the large grotto at Taq-i-Bostân (Sarre, Pl. 89). In this the cloak is absent, and the legs are hidden by the sides of the boat in which the king stands. A similar costume, plus top-boots but without cloak, is shown on an embossed

gold plaque from the Oxus Treasure in the British Museum (Sarre, PI. 42). The same costume including cloak appears on many of the Kushana coins.']

3 See Ancient Khotan, i. p. 495 ; ii. Pl. XIV c.

3a See Serindia, iv. Pl. CXXXV, Mi. xii. 0017 ; also cf. von Le Coq, Bilderatlas, Fig. 56.

4 See von Le Coq, Bilderatlas, Fig. 128. Portions of the mural paintings from the same temple have been brought to New Delhi.

[To Mr. Andrews the pattern suggests a stylized and rapid rendering of a fire-altar (?).]