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South Asian Studies

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The Dhanesar Kher Buddha in the British Museum and

the Politische Strukturen of the Gupta Kingdom in
Michael Willis
The British Museum, London
Published online: 14 Oct 2014.

To cite this article: Michael Willis (2014) The Dhanesar Kher Buddha in the British Museum and the Politische Strukturen of
the Gupta Kingdom in India, South Asian Studies, 30:2, 106-115, DOI: 10.1080/02666030.2014.962326

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02666030.2014.962326


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South Asian Studies, 2014
Vol. 30, No. 2, 106115, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02666030.2014.962326

The Dhanesar Kher Buddha in the British Museum and the

Politische Strukturen of the Gupta Kingdom in India
Michael Willis*
The British Museum, London

This article examines a bronze sculpture of the Buddha in the British Museum and oers a revised reading of its
dedicatory inscription. A close examination of the paleography, combined with a study of the sculptures style, shows
that the image belongs in the early years of the sixth century. This provides a date for the ruler Harirja named in the
record and allows us to disassociate him from the Harigupta known from early Gupta coins. In addition, the re-dating
of Harirja provides new material for understanding the historical and cultural complexities of the late Gupta
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Keywords: Buddhism; Buddhist art; Gupta period; British Museum; inscriptions; palaeography; Harirja; Harigupta;
political history of India; anuttarapadajna; anuttarajna

In 1895 Vincent Smith and William Hoey published three and, in particular, the nature of political relationships in
bronze gures of the Buddha from the village of Icchawr the Gupta kingdom. This will bring us back to questions
in Bnd district, Uttar Pradesh (Figure 1).1 The images of style because the regional connections betrayed by the
were recovered from Dhanesar Kher, an area just west of style both palaeographic and artistic help situate the
the village marked by ruins. The name comes from object historically and culturally.
Dhanasir D, a deity who is venerated there. He is The British Museum image shows the Buddha
described by Smith and Hoey as seated on a cushion seated in padmsana with his hands in the teaching
with one leg drawn up, wearing a beard and a cap. A gesture (Figures 2, 3). As can be seen from the illustra-
sword hangs at his side.2 Not much more is known about tions given here, the halo and back-plate of the image
Dhanasir D, but the name suggests he is a local god disappeared between its rst publication in 1895 and its
connected with the protection of crops. The word kher, arrival in the British Museum in 1969. The back-plate
variously written and pronounced, is widely used in this of one of the other images has shared the same fate. The
part of India to designate a place or location, and some- British Museum image shows traces of gilding in many
times also a village. Dhanesar Kher is, anyway, the site of places, and the face signs of rubbing from veneration.
an old settlement and an ancient Buddhist establishment, This has attened the nose and lips slightly. There is a
as shown by the Buddha images found there. small gash on the proper right side of the ua and
Of the three Buddhas collected by Hoey at Icchawr, similar cuts on the side of the proper right arm. When
one found its way to the National Museum in Bangkok, as and how these happened is impossible to say, but the
noted by Sheila E. Hoey Middleton elsewhere in the pages cuts appear to be ancient.
of this journal.3 The others were acquired by the British The sculpture is riveted to the pedestal and on the
Museum and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas top moulding of the pedestal is a dedicatory inscription
City. The art historical position of the images has been (Figure 4). This inscription was published twice by D.
discussed by a number of writers: that in Kansas City C. Sircar based on the hand copy in Smith and Hoey.5
shows links to Gandhra, while that in the British Studying the original inscription and using Harry Falks
Museum shows debts to the school of Srnth.4 The sty- epigraphic tool Indoskript, I am able to oer a few
listic relationships the main concern of old-school con- corrections and to verify the letters that Sircar found
noisseurs has meant that little attention has been paid to uncertain due to the awed nature of the old hand copy.
the inscription on the base of the British Museum image. Here, thanks are due to Dniel Balogh who took time to
The purpose of this article is to publish the inscription and oer comments on the reading, and to Sam van Schaik
explore its implications for the history of the fth century for general guidance on Buddhist history.

*Email: Mwillis@thebritishmuseum.ac.uk

2014 The British Association for South Asian Studies

South Asian Studies 107
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1. Map of north India showing Icchwar and neighbouring sites.


1) deyadharmmoya[*] guptava-[read: va-]

oditarharirjasya rjmahdevy | yad atra puya
[*] tad bhavatu
2) sarvvasatvn[*] mtpitp[r]vvagama[read: me]
na anuttarapadajnvptaye [||*]


This is the deyadharma of Mahdev the queen of r

Harirja born in the Gupta lineage. Whatever merit
there is in it, let it be for the attainment of knowledge
of the supreme state by all sentient beings, headed by
parents [of the queen].

Smith and Hoey expressed the view that the Buddha

was almost destitute of merit as a work of art, and is
an ordinary Indian production of the conventional
pattern.6 Considering that the merit of the work
is stated openly in the inscription to be for the
benet of all sentient beings, headed by parents,
we need not be too concerned if the sculpture failed
2. Dhanesar Kher, Icchwar (Uttar Pradesh). Seated to full the pre-conceived notions held by Smith and
Buddha, early sixth century. British Museum, London (Asia Hoey about what makes for a work of art and the
1969, 0725.1). merit such works might hold. Preoccupations of this
108 Michael Willis

term elsewhere.7 What is notable, as observed by

Schopen, is that the word pada has been inserted into the
phrase describing supreme knowledge or
anuttarajna.8 This is a well-known idea in Buddhist
thought and has been discussed, for example, by David
Ruegg and Rita Langer (who oers a useful counterba-
lance from the Sri Lankan side).9 However, the wording
anuttarapadajna is indeed unusual, and only appears, as
far as I am aware, in the Varrhavarastotra of Mtcea.
The relevant portion of this text reads as follows:10

anuttarapadajya sarvpadapahrie |
apadynupdya dvipadgrya te nama || 55

Translated also into Tibetan and Chinese, this was ren-

dered by Jens-Uwe Hartmann as: Dem, der die hchste
Sttte kennt, der alles Unheil beseitigt, der ohne Spur ist,
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ohne Anhaften, dem Ersten unter den Menschen, dir (sei)

Verehrung!11 Since the time of Winternitz, the author
Mtcea is generally thought to have lived in the
Kua period at the time of King Kaika, thus in the
second century CE.12 His popularity in the later Gupta
period is shown by Dignga (c. 480540 CE), who com-
posed one verse to be placed before each of the one
hundred and fty verses of Mtceas atapacatka.13
As Winternitz noted, the Chinese traveller Yijing who
travelled in India in the mid-seventh century says that
Mtcea was a very famous poet whose hymns to the
Buddha were sung far and wide:
3. Dhanesar Kher, Icchwar (Uttar Pradesh). Seated
Buddha in the British Museum as rst published in 1895.
Throughout India everyone who becomes a monk is
taught Mtceas two hymns as soon as he can recite
the ve and ten precepts (la). This course is adopted
order continue in the west and are unimportant. As by both the Mahyna and Hnayna schools.14
for the Buddhas conventionality, the gure is cer-
tainly conventional to the extent that all Buddha On the basis of this evidence, the texts of Mtcea and
gures reach back to an ideal type, as do images of the term anuttarapadajna cannot be taken to have
the Christian saints. Within this framework, how- specically Mahyna connotations. This means that
ever, the British Museums Buddha exhibits unique we cannot describe the British Museum image as some-
and interesting features both in terms of its inscrip- how Mahyna based on its inscription. What we can
tion and its style. say is that the image was made or at least inscribed
Firstly, the inscription records that the image is a in a milieu where the vocabulary of Mtcea was
deyadharma, that is, an object that should be given known. We may even speculate, quite reasonably I
(deya) because it has appropriate qualities (dharma). I think, that Mtceas works were studied at the monas-
have explored the meaning and historical use of this tery where the bronze images were found.

4. Dhanesar Kher, Icchwar (Uttar Pradesh). Seated Buddha, detail of inscription on the pedestal.
South Asian Studies 109

Harirja and Harigupta hundreds of records quickly, and instead of depending

on subjective descriptions we can refer directly to the
What we should like to know is the date of the British actual shapes. The relevant records can be referred to
Museum image given the connections outlined in the by their descriptive name and by the Indoskript num-
preceding paragraphs. The main evidence for the date is ber. If needed, the letters can be checked against the
the name r Harirja given in the inscription. This king original publications. The result is a more compre-
belonged to the Gupta lineage and was married to queen hensive and reliable assessment of the palaeographic
Mahdev. There are several historical possibilities. The style. With the Dhanesar Kher inscription before us,
rst is that Harirja is the same person as the King we can select some letters using this approach
Harirja mentioned in the Vras copper-plate char- (Figure 3).
ter. This charter registers a donation by him and his
wife Anantamhadev.15 This seems promising, but a
connection can be discounted because the record clearly Line 1: the letter de in the rst word deya
states that Harirja belonged to the ra lineage.16
Moreover, the style of the writing, with square box- This letter is normally written like it is in modern
headed letters, points southward to the arabhapurya script, even in Samudraguptas inscriptions. Here, how-
or Vkaka kingdoms. So this plate, although belong- ever, the vowel is reduced to a simple horizontal stroke,
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ing to the fth century, was found outside of its rst a somewhat rare treatment. The earliest parallel is the
geographical context. This means we have another Cgu Nryaa Inscription of Manadadeva (Indoskript
Harirja from somewhere in the Deccan and he is not no. 158, c. 464 CE). It also appears in the Katni Plates of
the Harirja mentioned in the Buddha image the Uccakalpa ruler Jayantha (Indoskript no. 660,
inscription. Gupta year 182, 50102 CE) and the Bodhgay
The other historical possibilities for Harirja have Inscription of Mahnman (Indoskript no. 15, c.
been summarised and commented on by P. L. 588 CE).
Gupta.17 The most likely is that Harirja is the
same person as the Harigupta named in copper
coins from Ahicchatra in Uttar Pradesh. P. L. Gupta Line 1: the letter gu in gupta
has rejected the proposal that these are late Gupta
coins, minted during the declining years of the The rst appearance of this letter, with the u drawn as
dynasty. He is of the opinion that the coins cannot it is in modern writing, is found in the Srnth Image
be placed at any distance from Kumragupta I and Inscription (Indoscript no. 802, of unsettled date but
Candragupta II, with whose issues they were found. placed by Hargreaves at the end of the fth century).
As a consequence, if we identify Harirja with Thereafter it appears with some (but not absolute) con-
Harigupta, then he must have ourished in the early sistency from the early sixth century, as in the
fth century. Given that the Harigupta coins bear Majhgawan Copper Plate of Mahrja Hastin
some similarity to those of Rmagupta, it is possible (Indoskript no. 50, c. 510 CE), the Mandasaur
that Hrirajas dates could be pushed back to the late Inscription of Yaodharman and Viuvardhana
fourth century.18 (Indoskript no. 48, c. 533 CE) and the Ngrjun Hill
Cave Inscriptions of Anantavarman (Indoskript nos. 179
and 404, c. 550600 CE).
Palaeographic considerations

A late fourth- or early fth-century date for Harirja Line 1: the letter ja in rjasya and in rj
could be supported by the palaeography of the
inscription, provided the inscription oers letters This is written in a peculiar manner, not like the capital
that are chronologically indicative. The normal E encountered in the many inscriptions where the
approach with palaeographic dating is to select letters word rja is given. We nd the Dhanesar Kher rendi-
from other inscriptions and describe the similarities tion most clearly in the Horiuzi Palm Leaf Manuscript
and dierences in detail. Palaeographic arguments of (Indoskript no. 733, c. 50050 CE). Epigraphically the
this kind, based on the style of the letters, are dicult rst vague hint comes in the Karam Liga
to follow, especially when debates about a particular Inscription of Kumragupta (Indoskript no. 247, c. 436
record become extended and heated. This whole man- CE), but otherwise the treatment is always later, as in
ner of working and reporting has, however, been the Taukhel Inscription of Auvarman in Kathmandu
made redundant by Harry Falks Indoskript. With (Indoskript no. 604, c. 613 CE), the Plates of
this tool we are able to compare the letters in aakarja (Indoskript no. 658, c. 619 CE) and in
110 Michael Willis

arabhapurya records, for example the Malg Plates of appears to be unique, probably because the space avail-
Smanta Indrarja (Indoskript no. 28, c. 60050 CE). It able was not sucient.
is also seen clearly in the Banskhera Plates of Hara What can we conclude chronologically from these
(Indoskript no. 363, c. 628 CE). comparisons? It is impossible to be precise because of
the fragmentary nature of the data. However, when a
particular letter shape is documented in, for example,
Line 1: the letter sya in rjasya an inscription of c. 500 CE, we can safely conclude it
was in general use at that time and earlier instances
Here again we have a letter that seems late in chron- may be found eventually. On the other hand, a number
ological terms, and one that is particularly telling of shapes from c. 400 CE are well documented, so the
because of the hundreds of examples available for appearance of a new type of letter does mean some-
comparison thanks to the fact that -sya is the genitive thing historically. To put the matter in a slightly dif-
case ending. All the available examples that are similar ferent way, while individual comparisons are not
to the Dhanesar Kher inscription are from the seventh conclusive, the observations as a whole are not lacking
century: the Tiwardkhe Plates of the Rraka in historical force. The observations made above thus
Nannarja of aka year 553 (Indoskript no. 623, 631 suggest that the British Museum inscription belongs
CE), the Baud Grant of Rabhajadeva (Indoskript somewhere in the sixth century, probably the rst half.
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no. 572, c. 650750 CE), the Mahkosala Historical Broadly speaking, the most useful parallel can be
Society Plate of Mahbhavagupta (Indoskript no. 268, found in the Katni charter, the rst leaf of which is
c. 650750 CE), and the Plate of aakarja from illustrated here in Figure 5.19 It should be noted that
Puri (Indoskript no. 658, c. 619 CE). The earliest docu- although this is called the Katni copper-plate, it was
ment occurrence seems to be the Sirpur Vihra found Uchahara, the ancient Uchchkalpa, in Satna dis-
Inscription of nandaprabha (Indoskript no. 688, c. trict, Madhya Pradesh. This charter is, anyway, dated
590650 CE). Gupta year 182 (50102 CE). The date and compar-
ison means that the Harirja in the British Museum
inscription cannot be the Harigupta of the copper
Line 2: the letter t in the word pit coins from Ahicchatra: they are at least a century
apart. With that much secure, we can safely set aside
The writing of the vowel is indicative and again like the the suggestion that the Harirja of the British Museum
modern treatment of the letter. The earliest record I have inscription might be Govindagupta, one of the sons of
traced is the Eran Boar Inscription of Torama Candragupta II.20 This has some implications in
(Indoskript no. 202, c. 500 CE). Thereafter there are
further examples, for instance, the Mahkosala
Historical Society Plate of Mahbhavagupta (Indoskript
no. 268, c. 650750 CE).

Line 2: the letter a in anuttara

The initial a changes noticeably between 400 and 600

CE. The earlier form gives way to the one we see here
in the late fth and early sixth centuries, as evidenced
by the Ngrjun Hill Cave Inscription of
Anantavarman (Indoskript no. 179, c. 550600 CE) or
the Muevar Inscription of Udayasena (Indoskript
no. 67, c. 57090 CE). The earliest evidence for the
Dhanesvar Kher shape appears in the Khoh Plates of
Mahrja Hastin (Indoskript no. 524, c. 483 CE).

Line 2: the letter j in jna

5. Uchahara (Satna district, Madhya Pradesh). Copper-plate
This presents the same problem as the simple letter ja charter, rst leaf, dated Gupta year 182 (CE 50102). Rani
mentioned above, the closest parallel being in the Durgavati Museum, Jabalpur (deposited by Mr Matthew
Horiuzi Palm Leaf Manuscript. The way this is written Morris of Katni on 4 December 1980).
South Asian Studies 111

theoretical terms. Historians have long disliked free-

oating rulers and attempted to writer neater and sim-
pler histories. This was noted many years ago by
Henige in an important article that attempted to chal-
lenge practices in history writing.21 When we get away
from this tendency to conate sources, we arrive at a
more complex picture potentially unresolved at
many points but a picture, nonetheless, that will
accommodate new data and allow new avenues of

Art style, Gupta dates, and the politische


To round o my analysis, I turn to the image itself in

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order to determine if its style conforms to the date

indicated by the inscription. This is a matter of some
interest because there is always a possibility that the
piece is composite, i.e. that the Buddha was riveted to
the plinth at a time later than the inscription. The
question can be addressed through an analysis of the
style. The diaphanous treatment of the Buddhas robe
without folds of any kind has long been recog-
nised as characteristic of the Srnth School.
However, so little work has been done on this school
that not much can be said about the geographical
extent of the idiom in South Asia, especially before 6. Mankuwr (Uttar Pradesh). Seated Buddha, dated Gupta
the sixth century. In other words, it is dicult to say year 109/428 CE. State Museum, Lucknow. Historic photograph
courtesy of the British Library.
if the British Museum sculpture was made locally at
Icchwar or brought from elsewhere. Chronology is a
related question. This is not the place for a detailed
history of the Srnth School, but we can, at least, Text
make a few relevant points based on J. C. Harles
landmark study of Gupta art. This established a his- 1) om namo budhna [|*] bhagavato samyak sambud-
dhasya svamatviruddhasya iya pratim pratihpit
tory of the style, and his conclusions are generally bhiku buddhamitrea
accepted.22 2) samvat 100 | o 9 mahrjarkumraguptasya rjye
In the late fourth century, to begin, sculpture jyehamsa di 10 8 sarvvadukkhaprahnrtham [||*]
showed many debts to the late Kua idiom, but by
the early fth century a vigorous new style had
emerged. This new style is best exemplied by the Translation
monumental rock reliefs at Udayagiri in central India.
Parallels to the Udayagiri material are found else- Om. Reverence to the Buddhas! This image of the Lord
where in north India. In the eastern plains, notable who thoroughly attained perfect knowledge (and) whose
examples are the Govardhana from Vrs (now tenets are consistent,24 has been installed by the Bhiku
Buddhamitra. Year 100 (and) 09 in the reign of mahrja
BKB collection) and the Buddha from Srnth (now r Kumragupta; the month Jyeha, day 10 8, with the
National Museum of India). With the mid-fth cen- object of averting all unhappiness.
tury a mature idiom appears, well-documented by
dated sculptures from Mathur and Mankuwr Before continuing, it is worth commenting on the
(Figure 6). The date of the Mankuwr Buddha is details of the date given in this record, and on Gupta
Gupta year 109 rather than 129, as pointed out by D. dates in general. The month Jyeha is given with the
C. Sircar some years ago.23 This is readily conrmed day indicated by the abbreviation di for divasa (i.e.
by an examination of photographs and rubbings of the day). The number eighteen refers to the day in the
inscription. solar month. There are generally between twenty-nine
112 Michael Willis

and thirty-two days in a solar month and they are

counted from one to twenty-nine, thirty, thirty-one, or
thirty-two, without reference to a tithi or lunar day.25 As
for the year itself, D. C. Sircar, summarising scholarly
opinion, noted that the Gupta era started on Caitra udi
1 and that the months of the Gupta calendar are
primnta. This means ending with the full moon,
i.e. that calculations begin with the new moon.26 The
Parivrjaka plates from central India show that the
primnta system was used for Gupta years, while
the Srnth Buddha inscription of Gupta year 157
shows the years were expired. The problem and its
historiography have been reviewed with skill by P. L.
Gupta.27 J. F. Fleets view that the Gupta calendar began
on or about 9 March 319 is therefore correct because
the new moon fell on that day or the night before. The
full moon before that occurred on 21 February 319.28
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So after a great deal of fuss and spilled ink, the old

master is shown to be right once again! In terms of
determining the year of Gupta inscriptions, this means
we can take the Gupta year and add 319, provided the
month comes before Paua, the winter month that falls
in December or January. After that we need to add 320.
For the Mankuwr inscription, this means the image
was dedicated in the summer of 428 CE. As noted by
Harle, the British Museums standing Buddha from
Srnth belongs with the Mankuwr Buddha in the
middle part of the fth century (Figure 7).
Gupta art in its mature phase as it is often termed
is documented by the famous images in the Srnth
Museum with the dates equivalent to 473 and 476 CE.
The rst of these is on the pedestal of a Buddha image
and was dedicated when Kumragupta was protecting 7. Srnth (Uttar Pradesh). Standing Buddha, mid-fth cen-
the earth in Gupta year 154 in the month of Jyeha (i.e. tury (1.44 m high). India Museum collection, British Museum,
473 CE in about the month on May).29 The second London (Asia 1880.6).
inscription is dated 157 in the month of Vaikha
when the asterism of Mla was visible. 30 This corre-
sponds to 476 CE in about the month of April. It should
be noted that the suggestions about the dates made by standing Buddha from Srnth, also now in the British
John Roseneld in his landmark article on the Srnth Museum (Figure 8). This is closely related to the dated
School in 1963 need to be updated in the light of the images of 473 and 476, but is more attenuated, with the
developments in our understanding of the Gupta calen- sway of the body exaggerated and the forms beginning
dar outlined in the preceding paragraph. 31 to show slight signs of distortion. Especially notable are
The Srnth sculptures have been published many the ways in which the folds of the robe on the side of
times and do not need to be illustrated here. 32 The style the gure are replicated in a more mechanical way
is characterised by extreme renement and abstract compared to earlier examples. This is a harbinger of
serenity. Moved by aesthetic emotion with a dash of the sixth century, when ballooning distortions become
religious fervour, art historians have vied with each plainly evident. This is usefully exemplied in one of
other in a long series of descriptive rhapsodies that the bronzes from Buddham in Andhra Pradesh
have become increasingly exaggerated and not a little (Figure 9). 33 This breakdown of the Srnth canon I
absurd with the passage of time. Sooner or later a believe it is accurate to describe the process in this way
detached attitude about this important style will have has parallels in dierent parts of India, as evidenced
to be arrived at given its continental impacts in the sixth by several stone sculptures at Snch. A more settled
century and beyond. How the style was developing after style appears in the seventh century (Figure 10). The
the last quarter of the fth century is shown by a example illustrated here shows how the distortions of
South Asian Studies 113
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9. Buddham (Andhra Pradesh). Standing Buddha, circa sec-

ond quarter of the sixth century (31.7 cm high). British
Museum, London (Asia 1905,1218.2).

8. Srnth (Uttar Pradesh). Standing Buddha, end of the fth

century (81 cm high). British Museum (Asia 1880.15).
Given that elements of the palaeography point south-
ward to the Deccan, the Dhanesvar Kher bronze may,
in fact, be from that area rather than Srnth. Such a
the sixth century were brought under control and how connection would hardly be surprising given that the
the forms were lled with voluminous energy, with the other Buddha from the site the one now in Kansas
fall of the robe and the hands and feet given a melliu- City betrays connections to Gandhra, and was evi-
ous outline. dently imported from there. We can, therefore, easily
While much needs to be done to rene this chron- accommodate the idea that the British Museum bronze
ological outline and add the necessary understanding of came from the south in a Buddhist world with well
regional variation, what has been presented here is developed inter-regional and international networks. In
enough to date the Dhanesvar Kher image. The treat- terms of the date, anyway, the Buddha gure belongs
ment of the gure presupposes the Srnth idiom, as with the pedestal and its inscription, so Harirja can be
shown especially by the chest and the robe covering it. xed to the early fth century.
The narrowness of the torso conforms to what we The foregoing points prompt a few theoretical
would expect in the late fth century, but the slightly observations about the history and organisation of
larger head and hands, and the conspicuous end of the the Gupta kingdom. The most recent book to address
robe in Buddhas left hand, point to a date in the early this issue was published under the title Politische
part of the sixth century. The attened ua also sug- Strukturen im Guptareich. 34 The book returns to an
gests that the gure is moving away from the conven- assessment of the primary sources and attempts to
tions of the late fth century. This latter feature may draw conclusions on that basis. This is laudable but,
reect a regional rather than chronological dierence. as Oskar von Hinber has noted, the scope of sources
114 Michael Willis

Gupta Empire disintegrated and was overtaken by the

Maukharis, Gupta princes were able to hold on to
their ancestral lands. 36 This shows, I hope, the impor-
tance at looking at records long known, and of think-
ing about them again using the new methods and
tools available.

1. Vincent Smith and William Hoey, Ancient
Buddhist Statuettes and a Candella Copper-Plate
from the Bnd District, Journal of the Asiatic
Society of Bengal, 64.1 (1895), 15563.
2. Ibid., p. 155.
3. Sheila E. Hoey Middleton, The Third Buddha,
South Asian Studies, 18.1 (2002), 6772; Sheila E.
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Hoey Middleton, The Quest for the Third

Buddha: A Sequel, South Asian Studies, 26.2
(2010), 11924.
4. Wladimir Zwalf, Buddhism Art and Faith
(London: British Museum, 1985), p. 97.
5. D. C. Sircar, King Harirja of Bundelkhand,
Journal of Oriental Research, 18 (194849),
18587; D. C. Sircar, Copper Coin of
Harigupta, Epigraphia Indica, 33 (195960), 97.
6. Smith and Hoey, p. 161.
7. Michael Willis, Oerings to the Triple Gem: Texts,
Inscriptions and Ritual Practice (forthcoming).
10. Srnth (Uttar Pradesh). Seated Buddha at the moment of
his victory over Mra, seventh century. India Museum collec- 8. Gregory Schopen, The Inscription on the Kun
tion, British Museum, London (Asia 1880.11). Image of Amitbha and the Character of the Early
Mahyna in India, Journal of the International
Association of Buddhist Studies, 10.2 (1987),
99134; republished in Figments and Fragments
has expanded considerably since the 1970s, when P. of Mhyana Buddhism in India: More Collected
L. Gupta wrote his fundamental and still valuable Papers (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press,
survey. The sources have especially expanded in 2005), pp. 24777. Despite Schopens tentatively
terms of Buddhist textual material preserved in expressed hope, the reading buda is simply not
Tibetan. 35 In addition, von Hinber shows through possible.
close analysis of several examples that almost all 9. David Seyfort Ruegg, Aspects of the Study of the
Gupta period inscriptions need re-examination to (Earlier) Indian Mahyna, Journal of the
establish a better reading and determine a more pre- International Association of Buddhist Studies, 27.1
cise (and sometime more problematic) understanding (2004), 361; Rita Langer, Buddhist Rituals of
of the contents. What he is pointing to is the fact that Death and Rebirth: Contemporary Sri Lankan
Virkuss book undertakes almost nothing new in Practice and its Origins (London: Routledge,
terms of critical reassessment. Von Hinber is rightly 2007), p. 180.
impatient with the brilliance of shiny theories. To 10. Jens-Uwe Hartmann, Das Varrhavarastotra des
put the matter another way, we will be left with Mtceta (Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht,
nothing but rusty old theories if we simply re-cycle 1987), Chapter 2, verse 55.
established reading. This is central to the historical 11. Ibid. The text has since been made available
project because inscriptions are key to the structure online by the Faculty of Humanities at the
of the Gupta kingdom and its history. I suppose it is University of Oslo.
especially telling that the Harirja of the inscription 12. Maurice Winternitz, A History of Indian
taken up in this article is not mentioned by Virkus. Literature: Vol. 2. Buddhist Literature and Jaina
What the inscription demonstrates is that, even as the Literature, 2nd edn (Delhi: Motilal Banarasidass,
South Asian Studies 115

1983), pp. 25960. Here we follow Harry Falks the term svamatviruddha- seems to be connected to
chronology for the Kua period. pubbparaviruddha-, which appears often in Pli
13. Winternitz, p. 261; subsequently and in detail, The texts to describe the consistent and non-contradic-
atapacatka of Mtcea: Sanskrit Text, Tibetan tory nature of the Buddhas thought. Otherwise and
Translation & Commentary, and Chinese more generally, the phrase means whose system of
Translation, ed. and trans. by D. R. Shackleton thought is unopposed. Jaganath Agrawal,
Bailey (Cambridge: University Press, 1951). On the Presidental Address, Journal of the Epigraphical
problems surrounding what survives of Dignga, Society of India,10 (1983), 39 (p. 7), has proposed a
Dan Lusthaus, A Pre-Dharmakrti Indian dierent understanding based on the Mahniddesa.
Discussion of Dignga Preserved in Chinese 25. D. C. Sircar, Indian Epigraphy (Delhi: Motilal
Translation: The Buddhabhmy-upadea, Journal of Banarsidass, 1965), pp. 22324.
Buddhist Studies, 6 (2009), 1981. 26. Ibid., p. 287.
14. Cited in Winternitz, p. 260. 27. Gupta, I, 20618.
15. Ahi Bhushan Bhattacharya, Benares Plates of 28. J. F. Fleet, Inscriptions of the Early Gupta Kings and
Hari Rja of ra Dynasty, Journal of the Their Successors (Calcutta: Superintendent of
United Provinces Historical Society, 18 (1945), Government Printing, 1888), p. 127. I have made
16773; and B. C. Chhabra and others, The some of these points before in Michael Willis, The
Downloaded by [British Museum] at 07:01 14 November 2014

Years of Indian Epigraphy, Ancient India, 5 Archaeology of Hindu Ritual (Cambridge: University
(1949), 478, Plates XXIXXII. Press, 2009), p. 259, but they are tucked away in an
16. Bhattacharya reads: 1) . . . ra- 2) vaa [read: ] un-indexed footnote and dicult to access.
alalmabhtasya. 29. D. C. Sircar, Select Inscriptions Bearing on Indian
17. Parmeshwari Lal Gupta, The Imperial Guptas, 2 History and Civilization, 2 vols (Calcutta:
vols (Varanasi: Vishwavidyalaya Prakashan, University of Calcutta, 194283), I, 328. I have
197479), I, 10607, 19697. dealt with Kumragupta II in Michael Willis, Later
18. Ibid., I, 106, where the kalaa types of Harigupta Gupta History: Inscriptions, Coins and Historical
and Rmagupta are compared. Ideology, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 15.2
19. Usha Jain, Katni Plates of Jayanatha, Year 182, (2005), 13150. There is no Kumragupta III.
Epigraphia Indica, 40 (197374), 95100. 30. Sircar, Select Inscriptions, I, 331.
20. Gupta, I, 197. For Govindagupta, the essential study 31. John M. Roseneld, On the Dated Carvings of
is now Hans T. Bakker, A Theatre of Broken Dreams: Srnth, Artibus Asiae, 26.1 (1963), 1026 (p. 10,
Vidi in the Days of Gupta Hegemony, in note 2).
Interrogating History: Essays for Hermann Kulke, 32. See for example Harle, Figures 6768; J. G.
ed. by Martin Brandtner and Shishir Kumar Panda Williams, The Art of Gupta India (Princeton:
(Delhi: Manohar, 2006), pp. 16587. University Press, 1982), Plates 8991.
21. David P. Henige, Some Phantom Dynasties of 33. Robert Sewell, Some Buddhist Bronzes, and
Early and Medieval India: Epigraphic Evidence Relics of Buddha, Journal of the Royal Asiatic
and the Abhorrence of a Vacuum, Bulletin of the Society (July 1895), pp. 61737.
School of Oriental and African Studies, 38.3 34. Fred Virkus, Politische Strukturen im Guptareich
(1975), 52549. (300550 n. Chr.), Asien- und Afrika-Studien der
22. J. C. Harle, Gupta Sculpture (Oxford: Oxford Humboldt-Universitt zu Berlin, 18 (Wiesbaden:
University Press, 1974). Harrassowitz, 2004).
23. D. C. Sircar, Indological Notes: 4. Date of the 35. Oskar von Hinber, Review of Virkus Politische
Mankuwar Buddha Image Inscription of the Strukturen Im Guptareich, Indo-Iran Journal, 50
Time of Kumaragupta I, Journal of Ancient (2007), 18392.
Indian History, 3 (196970), pp. 13337. 36. For this we now have a landmark study: Hans T.
24. As kindly pointed out to me by Mattia Salvini Bakker, The World of the Skandapura (Leiden:
(Bangkok, personal communication, August 2014), Brill, 2014).