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Vajrayana coralstone relic boxes
North Ari, Thaa and Faafu atolls, Maldives




A

B

C



D

E

F


Photos A to J
c. 9th century CE.
Maalhos island, Alifu Alifu (North Ari) atoll
Height: 35 cm, Width: 35 cm, Depth: 35 cm

Large square coral stone casket with Vajrayana Prakrit mantras inscribed in Protobengali script on the top of the lid (photos H and J) in a square within the visvavajra, according to Romero-Frias in The Maldive Islanders. The same Protobengali script was used in the ancient Buddhist learning centres in Nalanda and Vikramashila.

On the front and back side of the casket (photos A and D, and C and F) are a chakra and padmacakra design. They both have eight stylised wheel spokes. In photos A and D, the spokes are reminiscent of the usual lotus leaf pattern, but they have been transformed into spear points.

On the other opposite sides (photos B and E, and G and I) are engravings of a vajra and a vajra+pillar+visvavajra.

In 1991, the casket was found in a house compound named 'Fazaa', while digging a well.




G

H




I

J





K

L

M


Photos K to R
c. 8th century CE.
Hirilandoo island, Thaa atoll
Height: 18 cm, Width: 18 cm, Depth: 19 cm

Inside the lower half of this coral stone casket, carved in the centre, is an image of the Purna-ghata, the Urn of Plenty, (photos K to M) used in the rituals of the Buddhist, Hindu and Jain religions.

The Triratna, the Triple Gem (photo R), is engraved on the cover of this casket, while images of the Makara, Turtle, Conch and Lotus (photos N to Q) are seen engraved in detail, one on each of the four sides of the relic.

In 1994, this casket was found while digging close to the heritage site called 'Munnaaru'. The name of the island, Hirilandoo (Noble Landoo), indicates a place of some religious significance.

The presence on this island of mounds and the discovery of Buddhist/Hindu artifacts, point to the presence of a monastery or a religious complex at some time in the pre-Islamic period of Maldives.




N

O

P




Q

R




S

T

U


Photos S to W
c. 8th-9th century CE.
Nilandoo island, Faafu atoll
Height: 22.8 cm, Width: 23 cm, Depth: 22.8 cm

Coral stone casket with a lid, carved on all sides. The casket was found in 1984, approx 250 feet from the gate of the old Friday Mosque on Nilandoo, said to be the site of an ancient Buddhist monastery. The top of the block has a 9.5 x 9.5 x 7 cm carved cavity for relics.

A stone lid (photos V and W) engraved horizontally with a vajra covers the top face of the casket. An arrow of the vajra goes through the conch on a lotus on a geometric star. The bottom face of the casket is blank.

All four sides of the casket are engraved. The right side of each panel is engraved with a pot standing on a lotus (photos S to U). There are legends engraved on the pot bellies. The left side of each panel have the Swastika, Triple Fish, symbol of the goddess Sri, and a three storied miniature stupa, each pictured on a lotus.

Found inside the socket of the casket was a copper plate measuring 6.2 x 4.8 x 6.9 x 4.9 cm. Nothing was visible on the oxidized surfaces of the plate.




V

W


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