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Reliquary - Relic casket

Relic casket

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Sanchi (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 200-100 BC (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    South Asian Sculpture, Room 47b, case 1

Physical description

Relic casket of mottled steatite, turned on the lathe, containing four small pieces of calcined bone. Flattened globular shape, with small chattra-like disc on the cover. The only ornament consists of a few concentric rings. On the outsides of the body and the cover, and the inside of the cover, are the three following Pali inscriptions, written in the early Brahmi characters : -Inside the cover, 'Sapurisa(sa) Majhimasa', i.e. [the relics] of the Emancipate Kasapagota (kasayapagotra) the Teacher of the whole Hemawanta (Himalaya region). Outside the body, 'Sapurisasa Haritiputasa,' i.e., [the relics] of the Emancipated Haritiputa (Haritiputra)
After the Council of Patna, convened in the 18th year of the reign of the Emperor Asoka (B.C. 273-232), the Arhats Kasayapagotra and Majhima with three other missionaries went to the Central Himalayan District (Hemavate) to spread the newly coordinated Buddhist doctrine in those parts. Fragments of the bones of these two saints were formerlycontained in this casket. As to Haritiputra, nothing certain is known of him, but he may have been one of the Council of Patna, or possibly a missionary.

Place of Origin

Sanchi (made)


ca. 200-100 BC (made)



Materials and Techniques



Height: 4.1 cm, Diameter: 6.6 cm

Object history note

Found about 1851 by Gen. Maisey and Gen. Cunningham, in the Stupa No. 2, at Sanchi, Bhopal State, Central India, the casket may date from about the year 200 B.C., although the stupa in which it was discovered was not built, probably, till after the year 185 B.C.; or it may date from later in the second century B.C. contemporary with the foundation of the stupa.
Two pieces of calcined bone from the steatite relic-casket were handed over to Mr Perera, Deputy High Commissioner for Ceylon in the U.K, on the 27th of January1958. The other two pieces of calcined bone from this casket appear to have been handed over to Professor M.S Sundarain, Education Counsellor at the Indian High Commission, on 18th June 1958, the Ministry of Education in London having suggested that all Buddhist relics from Sanchi and Sonari still in the V&A should be offered to the Indian Government (see also under IM219 &221-1921).

Historical context note

Descriptive line

Mottled steatite, Sanchi, Stupa No. 2, c. 200-100 BC

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Willis, Michael. Buddhist Reliquaries from Ancient India. London : British Museum Press, 2000. ISBN 0 7141 1492 8. pp. 74-5, No. 6 and fig. 61.

Production Note

Sanchi, Bhopal State, Madhya Pradesh, India

Subjects depicted





South & South East Asia Collection

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