Kanisha's Chest

Kanisha's Chest
Kanisha's Chest

The Kanisha's Chest is a most peculiar ancient piece, and although the original is kept in the city of Peshawar, Pakistan, a wonderful replica can be seen at the British Museum in London. And what is the value of this jewel of the sculpture of Antiquity? Well, it is a surprising example of a type of art that fuses in the same object influences as varied as Hellenistic art or Buddhism.


Kanisha's Chest

It is a chest that was made specifically in the year 127, as indicated by the inscription on the piece itself. And there's even the name of the artist who did it, a certain Agesilas, which is a Greek name. But instead the piece appeared during excavations inside a Buddhist stupa in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, which by the way was also designed by Agesilas himself.

The fact is that King Kanisha was the ruler with whom the Kushana empire reached its peak. This empire originated in the westernmost area of ​​present-day China. From there they seized various territories reaching the middle reaches of the Indus River and Afghanistan.

Centuries ago, Alexander the Great had reached these territories and that had left a strong Hellenistic influence. An influence capable of coexisting with the Buddhist beliefs thatthey had also settled there. In short, the Kushana empire arrived in a territory like that, and knew how to harmonize all this with wisdom from the beginning of our Era until more or less the third century.

And not only that, but they achieved great prosperity by knowing how to exploit that extraordinary geographical location that made them a must for merchants traveling along the Silk Road. A route that linked East and West for centuries and that brought enormous we alth to certain places, as is the case of Samarkand in Uzbekistan, although that was several centuries after the existence of the Kushana empire.

Going back to the Kanisha's Chest, it must be said that relics as important as the bones of Buddha were supposedly kept there. And certainly in the upper part of the chest we see the representation of that god of Indian origin. Which on the other hand until now had not had too many naturalistic representations, and it was the special influence of Hellenistic art, which managed to create such natural figures of Buddha.

And while Buddha is above, King Kanisha himself is depicted in the reliefs on the cylindrical walls of the chest. There we see the monarch being crowned by another series of oriental gods, in a scene that is completely covered by a garland of hanging flowers and that is supported by cupids, in a type of representation clearly reminiscent of Hellenism.

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