Long Table 105. In the Treasure Room of the Sakra King

Friday, August 12
1:00 pm ET

In a lush valley within the Sakra peak in Gandhara (northwestern Pakistan) is a vast limestone cave temple, part of an ancient Hindu sacred complex. For over 700 years, this cluster of shrines minted hundreds of varieties of their own votive coinage – a unique case in Central and South Asia. These were miniscule copper coins, issued for pilgrims, featuring eclectic and original combinations of Greco-Roman, Iranian, Indic, and Islamic iconography. Join Dr. Waleed Ziad for an introduction to native Sakra copper coinage in the Nezak, Turk Shahi, Hindu Shahi, and Ghaznavid periods. These coins provide a window into what may have been an ecclesiastical administration exercising varying degrees of autonomy throughout its lifetime. They practically blur boundaries between vernacular folk art and monetary instruments serving political or confessional agendas.

The book relates both the remarkable story of these coins and the sacred sites and introduces the obscured history of the most neglected yet formative 500 years of Pakistan and Afghanistan’s history. It also offers new paradigms for conceptualizing local currency, the making of religious imagery, and the process of transculturation. Importantly, the Sakra coins issued under Ghaznavid rule overturn popular misconceptions about early Hindu-Muslim encounters, suggesting instead that the Ghaznavids pursued a flexible, negotiated policy with regard to Hindu sacred sites.

Assistant Professor and Ali Jerrahi Fellow in Persian Studies in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Dr. Ziad is the author of the ANS’s latest publication, In the Treasure Room of the Sakra King: Votive Coinage from Gandhāran Shrines.