159. A Terracotta Concave Mould

Arachosie, 3rd century BC
Size: 10 cm diameter

Download PDF

This mould is closely related to the bronze goblet that follows (no. 161), but here the popular story of Sakuntala from the Mahabharata is illustrated, as is probably the case with fragmentary roundel (no. 158). Contact with the Greeks brought a taste for figural illustration to northern India, encouraging the development of an iconography for both Buddhism and Hinduism. The previously aniconic representations of deities (such as Shiva’s Trident, no. 157) gradually became a fully figural story-telling iconography, best known from Gandhara. In the Mauryan context, there developed a peculiarly Indian idiom of telling complex tales in extraordinary detail in a small space, as can be seen here. Such vessels were like portable shrines, and the viewer would have appreciated every detail recounting the stories they loved and knew by heart.