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0216 Serindia : vol.1
Serindia : vol.1 / Page 216 (Color Image)

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doi: 10.20676/00000183
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Remains of stucco relievos.

MS. finds in Kha. ii.

Miniature Stupas in clay


western of the two entrances which led from the north passage into the cella (marked b). Here, on the wall facing the passage, the lower portions of haloes were visible, evidently belonging to over-life-size figures now lost, and below these could be made out groups of small kneeling figures, representing worshippers. The colours had everywhere badly faded. But under the large halo to the west of the entrance there still showed in graceful and bold outlines, either pink or black, a Persian-looking vase with a white lotus, and to the right of it two pairs of richly dressed male figures with hands joined in prayer. Their height was only six or seven inches. The very friable condition of the stucco prevented an attempt at removal.

Plentiful small appliqué relievos of stucco turned up in the débris throughout. Most of these were fragments, evidently from the decorative aureoles which surrounded colossal figures, as explained in connexion with the Ak-terek remains. The hard material used, a kind of plaster of Paris, explained the survival of the small plaques, representing Buddhas seated or standing in the `Abhaya-mudrâ', flying garland-holding Gandharvis, adoring attendants, etc. (see Plate xv), which turned up with particular frequency along the north wall of the cella. But the former presence of life-size and colossal figures in stucco was also attested by finds of fingers, hands, and pieces of heads, found especially in the eastern part of the cella. Colours and traces of gilding often remained on these sculptural fragments. Of special interest were finds of moulds in hard plaster of Paris (Kha. ii. 0074-0077, Plate XVI) which had served for the production of various ornamental details in the large vesicas and also of portions of the hair and drapery in large figures. The remains of painted wood, though not so abundant as in Kha. i, comprised several panels evidently deposited as votive offerings, just as at the Dandân-oilik shrines. The survival of these and of pieces of wood-carving, including the figure of a seated Bodhisattva carved in the round (Kha. ii. N. oo8, Plate CXXXVIII), was all the more gratifying because in the north-west corner of the cella and in the adjoining passage a destructive fire had left clear traces in blackened stucco relievos, charred wood, and leaves from paper manuscripts almost completely perished.

But curiously enough it was just here, within the cella entrance b, that I came upon a small packet of leaves from a Sanskrit Pothi written on birch bark which had escaped in spite of the extreme brittleness of the material and the burning of a paper manuscript close by. The Bhûrja material pointed plainly to origin in Northern India, probably Kashmir, and the character of the writing in the Gupta type to a relatively early date. The leaf measured ten by three inches. Among the manuscript finds, which were less numerous than in Kha. i, special mention may be made also of some wooden tablets inscribed in cursive Brahmi and in what may be taken to be the old Îranian language of Khotan ; a wooden board, as used for holding Pothis, with leaves of paper sticking to it ; a badly damaged sheet of paper with miniature work in colour (Kha. ii. E. 6). For all these MS. remains reference may be made to Dr. Hoernle's Appendix F.

Very curious relics of the worship once offered here were miniature Sttipa models in clay, none higher than two inches, of which some two dozen were found in the cella. As the specimens taken (Kha. ii. C. o01, 002, 007-009) show, they reproduce roughly the succession of three bases, drum and dome. On the top a small twig was usually found inserted to represent the staff or mast which carried the umbrellas of the real Stûpas, while the small pieces of inscribed paper attached may have been meant by the humble donors to indicate flags. That other modest votive gifts could also be manufactured on the spot is shown by the mould for a small seated Buddha image (Kha. ii. N. 0014, Plate XvI). No doubt most of the manuscripts found here and in the other shrines of the site had been originally deposited as votive offerings. But as quarrying operations had disturbed both this and the larger shrine it was impossible to make certain to what extent the dispersion I observed of leaves, and often of small fragments, from the identical manuscripts in widely separated