Gandhāran Buddhist Reliquaries

Five years ago, I published my new edition and translation of the corpus of 58 inscribed Gandhāran reliquaries then known (Baums 2012). Work on this edition had started in 2006 and proceeded in tandem with the compilation of an illustrated online corpus and catalog of the same reliquaries on Gandhari.org together with Andrew Glass. (The complete set of reliquary inscriptions – now numbering 66 – is retrievable by filtering for type ‘relic establishment’ in the Inscriptions section of our Catalog.)

Since the publication of my print edition, I have kept this online edition of the Gandhāran reliquary inscriptions up to date, improved several readings, provided complete lexicographic coverage for it in the Dictionary of Gāndhārī and enriched the presentation of the inscriptions with a number of new features. New additions to the corpus are CKI 240, 267, 827, 332, 455, 466, 828 and 975. Images formed a feature of Gandhari.org from its inception, and I have been working towards complete image coverage for the reliquaries in particular, with the aims of allowing users to verify the readings presented, of preparing a paleography of the inscriptions and of contextualizing them with better documentation of the inscribed objects that would be of use to art historians and archeologists. In my years of working on the relic inscriptions, it also became clear that the complexities of this particular epigraphic genre had led to a large number and wide range of interpretations by different scholars, and that a complete documentation of the history of research was desirable (for these as for all texts in our Gandhari.org corpus). I therefore compiled a set of digital texts of all earlier editions of the relic inscriptions which are currently available from the Comments section of each individual entry.

It is my hope that these materials are of use to scholars already in their current form, but they will fully come into their own with the forthcoming update of Gandhari.org to a new software backend that has been developed at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities with partners over the last three years. The new software will make it possible to offer a more integrated presentation, by linking our Dictionary edition of each reliquary inscription as well as all historical editions to a reference image, enabling comparative visualisation of the differences of editions, synchronized navigation between texts and images and the generation of paleographic tables.

Last not least, I would like to take this opportunity to share some material from presentations that I have given on my work on the relic inscriptions over the years: a set of highlighted slides illustrating the formulaic structure of a variety of inscriptions (from a talk at the Center for Buddhist Studies, University of California, Berkeley in January 2011; under CC BY-ND license) and a video of a lecture on the dating of the inscribed Gandhāran reliquaries (from the workshop “Problems of Chronology in Gandharan Art” at the Classical Art Research Centre, University of Oxford, in March 2017).