Sunday, 10 May 2015

The Ancient wonder of world : Kanishka Supta of Peshawar

In King’s Kanishka later days, when he had become a fervent Buddhist, he created a great relic tower – probably just outside the Ganj gate of Peshawar at Shahji ki Dheri.- with super structure of carved wood rising in thirteen storeys to a height of 400 feet , and surmounted by an iron pinnacle. Vincent Smith tell us how it was visited by Sung-Yan, a Chinese pilgrim, at the beginning of sixth century, by which time it had thrice been destroyed by fire and as often rebuilt by pious kings. A monastery of exceptional magnificence was still flourishing here as a place of Buddhist education  when it was visited by Vera Deva , an eminent Buddhist scholar. [1]. Hiuen Tsang (Xuan Zang) called it the “tallest architectural building” in this part of Asia.

A French archaeologist Alfred Foucher, who was a professor at University of Paris, visited Peshawar towards the end of 19th century, and noticed two mounds southeast of Peshawaroutside the Walled City. He attempted to relate them to Hiuen Tsang's description of the place.

In 1908, D. Brainerd Spooner, an American archaeologist working for the British Archaeological Survey of India and the first curator of Peshawar Museum, undertook excavation work at a site then known as Shahji Ki Dheri (Shahji's Mound, since it was privately owned by a Syed family).

Finding ruins of a stupa and monastery, he was able to confirm Foucher's hypothesis in the light of Chinese pilgrims' accounts.

In March 1909, when digging had reached the centre of the base of stupa, Mr Spooner made a sensational discovery that stirred the archaeological world. A relic casket in gilt-bronze was recovered containing Buddha's bone fragments and ashes.

The casket was inscribed with Emperor Kanishka's name and figure. The British Government later gifted the Buddha's relics to Burma where they are enshrined in the main pagoda at Mandalay. The bronze casket is on display in Peshawar Museum, while its replica is kept in the British Museum.

Subsequent excavation work yielded priceless Gandharan statues and other objects which are on display in museums around the world. When excavation work stopped the significance of the area was forgotten.[2]

1-Sir Olaf Careo, The Pathans, p-74

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