Another votive panel from the Khotanese Saka (Scythians) at Dandan Oilik in the Taklamakan.
Now there are a few points of interest here. Obviously, one of these is the fine horseman figure on the right of the image. He’s a direct resonancy with the similar figure I wrote about yesterday – tentatively identifiable as a form of the Sky Father (Vedic Rudra and other such forms), in a ritual offering context bringing/bestowing the Soma.
Here, there is no clearly visible offering-bowl, but the style of horse is obviously the same – and rather than one black bird (ostensibly a Corvid – a Crow or Raven), we have two. And yes, yes this would comport rather closely with the broader Indo-European typology I set out in my previous (A)Arti-cle that also draws significantly from Nordic Odin.
Of further interest is the Tree in the middle – which, as with the painting of the bird in yesterdays’ image, appears almost deliberately to visually recall the Trishula [Trident] of Mahadev. And thus the World-Spear which is also the Axis Mundi that we find so closely correlate with the Sky Father deific.
This has some figurative resonancy with the Iranic sphere conception of the Empowering Elixir being brought from a high tree of brilliant whiteness by certain birds, as well. Perhaps also mirroring the ‘Meli’ double-meaning which references both the Ash Tree and Honey as found in Ancient Greek linguistics and religion.
The figure on the left has not been identified – indeed, likely cannot be identified with any surety. One proposal from entirely within the Buddhist sphere would be a Vaishravana depiction. However, amongst the Khotanese’ Sogdian neighbours (part of that same East Iranic and trading sphere), it is well remarked upon that what is often identified as Vaisravana … draws heavily from the Hindu iconography of Lord Skanda. The lack of these (Hindu) elements may, therefore, ironically render the Buddhist (co-)identification less likely.
There are not necessarily the suitable iconographic details preserved upon this left figure to really make a hard determination in either direction. About the only thing we can say is that the figure on the left is a warrior – armed with a spear, armoured, and with what may be a building or shrine over the right shoulder.
Nevertheless, impressive art – especially given its age and provenance.