Page images

without reaching the neck. There is no hair-knot. His nose is prominent and quite straight, and his forehead rather high.

The throne is of a very interesting shape. The side is an oblong; enclosed in a plain frame there are four horizontal rows of square hollows, each row now consisting of seven, but apparently nine on the full design, separated by raised bars; this represents very open basket-work. The right corner rests upon two feet,' which are formed of round balls placed upon flat bases. The whole back of the chair winds backward, and the end of the upright bar at the side curls over above the transverse bar, which passes quite through this upright and across to the other rear upright, immediately below the level of the shoulder.

The engraver has taken great pains to make it perfectly clear that this side upright of the back is a rustic one, and he has shown five short branches projecting from it and cut off at a distance from it equal to about its thickness. This rustic post passes down to the feet of the throne, and into the lower horizontal bar of the frame of the basket-work. From the points where the branches unite with the stem three curled ornaments spring upward on the outer side, the two lower ones ending in a curl which turns inward to the upright, and the top one curling outward below the level of the cross-bar at the back of the throne, and terminating in two tassels which hang from its end.

At the level of the king's face the tip of another design appears at the fractured edge of the stone; it consists of four leaf-like projections in close contact.

There can be no reasonable doubt that this gem was deposited in the relic-chamber of the dāgaba along with the relic-receptacles which have been described in a previous chapter, and it may be assumed that it dates from some time prior to the original construction of the dagaba. When it was submitted twenty-four years ago for the inspection of the

1 We learn from the Mahā Hansa Jātaka, No. 534, that one royal throne had eight feet.

authorities of the British Museum, the opinion expressed regarding it was that it is of Indian origin and workmanship, and that it might perhaps belong to the seventh century A.D.; but on its being re-examined in 1903 in the light which increased knowledge of early Indian art throws upon such designs, it was considered to be of pre-Christian date, and perhaps to go back to the third century B.C. but to no earlier period. This authoritative opinion is therefore entirely in favour of the arguments previously advanced regarding the age of the gem. and relic receptacles, since all probabilities forbid the assumption that the dagaba was re-opened, and these articles and especially the two Purānas also found with them were afterwards placed in it in either pre-Christian or early post-Christian times.

In the Mahavansa we read of numerous presents passing between the great Indian Emperor Aśōka and the Sinhalese monarch Dēvānam-piya Tissa, the brother of Mahā-Nāga; and there are accounts of at least two embassies that Tissa sent to Aśōka's capital, Pāṭaliputta, on both occasions the king's nephew, Mahā Ariṭṭha, being the ambassador. This prince afterwards became a monk, and according to the Dhatuvansa resided at Tissa. Thus we get a direct communication between Tissa and Aśōka's capital.

It may be surmised that either the Prince-monk, or much more probably King Mahā-Naga or his son Yaṭṭhāla Tissa, deposited this finger-ring in the relic-chamber on the occasion of the festival that would be held at the time when it was closed. In the next century, at the closing of the relic-room in the Ruwanwaeli dāgaba at Anuradhapura we read (Mah., i, p. 122) of King Duṭṭha-Gāmiņi that' while [he was] within the [relic] receptacle he made an offering of all the regal ornaments he had on his person.' The Dhātuvansa, in relating the account of the deposition of relics in the Sēruvil or Sēruwāvila dāgaba by King Kakavaņṇa-Tissa, doubtless describes what usually occurred at important structures of the kind. It says, 'All the dancing women offered the ornaments that each one was wearing. Then the king and the great ministers, etc., having taken off the ornaments that each one was wearing offered


them in the relic chamber.' Mahā-Nāga or his son may have acted in a similar manner at the Yaṭṭhāla dāgaba.

As the gem is an early Indian work, exhibiting strong Greek influence and therefore probably not of south Indian origin, and as it seems certain that it represents a king on his throne, it is quite possible-one might even say probable—that the figure is that of Aśōka himself, or is copied from representations of him.

The nearest approach to the attitude of the king which I have found on early Indian coins is that of the sitting Herakles on the coins of Euthydemos, King of Baktria (circa 230-200 B.C.), as he appears in Plate I, Nos. 3 and 5, of Mr. V. A. Smith's 'Catalogue of the Coins in the Indian Museum, Calcutta.' The Indian engraver took a nearly similar design, and adapted it to Indian requirements by raising the bent leg till the foot rested on the throne, and giving the raised hand a small object, possibly a flower but not recognisable as such in this example, to hold in place of a club.

The sitting figure on several of the oblong coins is in the same attitude as the king in the gem, with the exception that one hand rests on the thigh instead of holding a scarf or sash. On both gem and coins one leg hangs down while the other is doubled up; and one hand holds a flower or other object near the level of the shoulder, while the other hangs down to the level of the thigh. In the figure on this gem, therefore, we have the original Indian design of the sitting figure on the oblong coins, as well as the original type of the sitting king on the later coinage of Parakrama-Bahu I and his successors. On these last the throne has degenerated into one or two horizontal lines with short vertical lines crossing themthe basket-work on the gem.

The similarity of the design on the gem and the later coins, where the monarch's name at his side leaves no doubt that the figure is intended for him, renders it most probable that the sitting figure on the oblong coins is also intended for a representation of the ruler of the time. The monarch is placed in nearly the same position on many Indian coins; it was the conventional attitude in delineations of the seated kings.

[graphic][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »