Kashmir Smast





TREASURES OF THE KASHMIR SMAST - The Coins and Antiquities of Pakistan - Waleed Ziad - Coinage of the White Huns / Hephthalites in Gandhara


Kashmir Smast

Mardan, NWFP, Pakistan


By Waleed Ziad


Alxon Hunnic clay portrait found in Swat.  NWFP, Pakistan


‘…The mere sight or mention of a Hephthalite terrified everybody, and there was no question of going to war openly against one, for everybody remembered all too clearly the calamities and defeats inflicted by the Hephthalites on the king of the Aryans and on the Persians.’

                                                -Lazar of P’arp[1]


This series of articles on the unpublished Hunnic bronzes of the Kashmir Smast is part of a continuing project to document more than 100 hitherto unpublished varieties of coins and artifacts acquired by the author dating from the Kushano-Sasanian (circa 3rd century AD) to the Hindu Shahi (circa 9-10th century AD) periods.  I would like to extend special thanks to Mobin Ahmad, Mirza Rafi Ahmad Baig, Ijaz Khan, Dr. Munaf Billoo, Raushan Khan, and Bob Reis.


The Kashmir Smast


The Kashmir Smast Caves are a series of natural limestone caves, artificially expanded from the Kushan to the Shahi periods, situated in the Babozai mountains in the Mardan Valley in Northern Pakistan.[2]  A number of the cells have wooden interiors, carved with elaborate Hindu and Buddhist iconography.[3]  Remarkably, excavations at the Kashmir Smast site have not only brought forth artifacts of extreme historical importance but have also uncovered one of the most well organized town planning systems in ancient Gandhara.[4]  The Gazetteer of the Peshawar district 1897-1898 describes that “the name [Kashmir Smast] may be derived from the fact that the gorge here is fairly and picturesquely wooded, and this may have suggested Kashmir.”  “Smast”, or “Smats” as it was referred to by colonial sources, is the Pushtu word for “cave”.  Another explanation is that according to legend, the network caves was so vast that it stretched from Gandhara to the kingdom of Kashmir.


General Cunningham in “The Ancient Geography of India” and in the “Archaeological Survey Reports”, outlines the principal ancient sites in Gandhara, which at that time was part of the Yusufzai subdivision.  Among the sites covered is the Kashmir Smast. 


The Kashmir Smast sites are described by Cunningham as cave temples situated near the summit of the Sakri ridge of Pajja, and approached from the village in Babozai in the tappah Baezai.  Cunningham associated the Kashmir Smast with the cave of Prince Sudana in Mount Dantalok, described by the contemporary Chinese traveler Hsuan-tsang. 


A detailed discussion of the site in the Gazeteer of the Peshawar district 1897-1898 states the following[5]:


“This cave has not been thoroughly explored yet.[6]  A little way below the level of the cave, and opposite, there are the ruins of a small city, the walls of which still stand and are in good preservation…”


“The cave is situated on a cliff looking towards the south-west below the ridge on which the Kashmir Burj stands.  A road from Pirsai crosses the ridge, which is practicable for most of the distance for a good hill pony.  Another footpath leads to Babozai direct from the cave…” 


It goes on to describe the layout of the caves:


“There are three chambers in the limestone rock, of which the first two open into each other, and the third is reached by a winding flight of steps.  The length of the first two chambers from the entrance is 322 feet, and the height of the first about 60, and of the second about 100 feet.  The width of the first cave is 81 feet and of the second 90 feet, and fully between them about 40 feet.  The third cave is 80 feet high, and above 80 feet in diameter, with an opening in the roof which admits light and air, so that the air throughout is pure…” 


“In the third cave there is a square temple built on a dome-shaped rock of stalagmite, which was evidently the holiest shrine.  In the first cave there is an octagonal shrine just inside the entrance which contained a large wooden coffin, and in a similar shrine near the right wall some carved wooden plaques with figures of a fakir dancing and a woman giving flowers to the fakir, and portions of a wooden box were found.  In the center room there is a large square shrine, and a water tank 13 feet wide, 20 feet long, and 10 feet deep.  About 100 feet below the cave towards Babozai on a plateau there are remains of a considerable fort…  The Kashmir Burj and another on a western spur of Pajja were also evidently outposts to guard this shrine.  The entrance to the cave is difficult as the old masonry steps have fallen down and the cliff is very precipitous…”


“There are well built stone castles dating back to Buddhist times all along the northern hills.  One near Saughar in Baezai is specially interesting, as the care taken to bring down in a small stone duct that scanty supply of water from a spring, which still exists in the hill above the castle or monastery, would seem to show that the water supply was not much more plentiful then than it is at present.” 


What is being described here is an enclosed and fortified complex comprising a city and temples built into natural caves.  The presence of walls and a water system serving the area would indicate a certain level of economic independence exerted in the region. 


Bronze Statuettes from the Kashmir Smast


The Numismatic Discoveries


Given the fact that exact find data is not available for the coins of the Kashmir Smast, and that numerous symbols, legends, and images on the coins have come to light which have never before been encountered in 150 years of Hunnic numismatic study, the attribution and dating of these specimens becomes an arduous task.  As we study the varieties of coins found in the Kashmir Smast, it becomes apparent that during the period of the Kidara, the Alxon, the Nazek, the Turk Shahis, and the Hindu Shahis, a minor kingdom based in this region maintained some level of autonomy from the greater Hunnic hordes which ruled Gandhara.  This is evidenced by the use of hithertofore unrecorded images, stylistic peculiarities, and tamghas. 


The lot in the author’s possession can be divided into seven groups:

1)      Kushano-Sassanian.  The hoard includes numerous Kushano-Sassanian bronzes of the dumpy fabric, including mostly known varieties in addition to unpublished fractionals, and a number of anonymous Hunnic imitations minted in the dumpy Kushano-Sassanian fabric.

2)      Kidara.  Kidarite coins in the hoard comprise the majority of unpublished specimens.  The obverse of some varieties closely resemble, or are crudely rendered versions of, known Kidarite drachms.  The busts portrayed on these coins are depicted wearing headdresses associated with particular Kidara princes, often in turn borrowed from contemporary Sassanian / Kushano-Sassanian monarchs.  This group also includes thin AE units featuring bearded busts occasionally with Brahmi legends.  As they are notably different from other recorded Kushano-Sassanian bronzes, they may be attributed to Kidarite governors or princes under Kushano-Sassanian or Sassanian sovereignty.

3)      Alxon Huns.  The hoard includes a number of coins which are stylistically similar to the Alxon Hunnic series.  Some feature the royal Hunnic tamgha (Gobl Hunnen Symbole 1, the Lunar Bull tamgha[7]) most often associated with Khingila and his immediate successors.

4)      Nazek.  Common published Nazek bronzes abound in the hoard.  In addition to these, a number of unpublished varieties with stylistic similarities to Nazek bronzes have also been discovered.

5)      Turko-Hephthalite.  These include small AE units imitating larger silver Turko-Hephthalite drachms.  They are either anepigraphic or feature Bactrian Greek legends.

6)      The Shahi Kings of Kabul and Gandhara.  This category includes coins stylistically similar to the coins of Samanta Deva and Spalapalati Deva, characterized by linear stylized anthropomorphic or zoomorphic representations.

7)      Anonymous coins which can not be stylistically attributed to any particular Hunnic period or clan.


Wilfried Pieper had discussed this find in his article entitled ‘A New Find of Small Copper Coins of Late 4th century Gandhara’ (ONS) [8] in which he introduced a lot of bronze coins from the late Kushano-Sassanian and Kidarite periods.  Hunnic imitations of Menander’s drachms from the same hoard were discussed in the author’s article entitled ‘AE Imitations of Indo-Greek Drachms from the Swat Valley’ (ONS).[9]


An uncleaned hoard of bronzes from the cave


It is my contention that the bronzes introduced in these chapters were issued by local semi-independent governors, or Tegins, in the Kashmir Smast valley, paying allegiance to the greater Hunnic Tegins of Gandhara and Bactria.  The feudal and tribal nature of the ancient Central Asian states[10] allowed for substantial independence to be exercised by local governors.[11]  It is worth noting that all the new varieties found in this area are small bronze pieces, varying in weight between 0.5 and 1.1 g. (henceforth referred to as the Kashmir Smast standard).  They are occasionally small versions of more common drachms circulating in the region, or feature entirely new portraits / images with some or no resemblance to commonly circulating coins of the period.  Given the fact that these pieces have not been found elsewhere in Hunnic domains, we can infer that they were not considered acceptable currency outside of the Kashmir Smast region.  However, imitating the coins of the contemporary rulers of Gandhara, and employing certain of their dynastic symbols and portraits, along side a totally new set of portraits, names / titles, and symbols, may indicate that while they were issued independently for use in the local kingdom, the local rulers must have paid homage to and acknowledged their Hunnic overlords.  The fact that they were allowed to use some of their own tamghas and titles and that the greater chiefs gave them the privilege of minting their own currency strengthens this argument.  The minting of coins was a prerogative of the rulers, and carried with it a certain degree of governing authority.  Numismatically speaking, this can be likened to the period of Hephthalite and Turk Shahi sovereignty over Sogdiana, during which civic bronze coinage circulated along side of silver drachms referencing a Hunnic or Turkic overlord (the Bukharkhoda).[12]  The fact that such independent issues continued throughout five separate dynasties, until the Hindu Shahi period, means that to a degree this principality maintained its status for perhaps as long as three to four hundred years.  This theory will be explored further in later chapters.




Alram Alchon = Alram, Michael.  Alchon und Nezak Zur Geschichte der Iranischen Hunnen In Mittelasien.   La Persia E L'Asia Centrale - Da Alessandro Al X Secolo, Atti Dei Convegni Lincei 127.  Rome: Accademia Nazionale Dei Lincei, Roma, 1996.

Alram HCD = Alram, Michael.
'A Hoard of Copper Drachms From the Kapisa-Kabul Region,' Silk Road Art and Achaeology, Volume 6.  Kamakura: The Institute of Silk Road Studies, Kamakura, 2000.

Alram RHC = Alram, Michael.  'A Rare Hunnish Coin Type.'  Silk Road Art and Achaeology, Volume 8.  Kamakura: The Institute of Silk Road Studies, Kamakura, 2002.


Biswas = Biswas, Atreyi.  The Political History of the Hunas in India. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1973.


Callieri = Callieri, Pierfrancesco.  ‘Huns in Afghanistan and the North-West of the Indian Subcontinent: The Glyptic Evidence.’  Coins, Art, and Chronology: Essays on the Pre-Islamic History of the Indo-Iranian Borderlands. Wien: Osterreichischen Akademie Der Wissenschaften, Wien, 1999.


Choudhary = Choudhary, Radhakrishna.  ‘A Critical Study of the Coinage of the Hunas.’  Journal of the Numismatic Society of India: Volume XXV.  Varanasi: The Numismatic Society of India, 1964.


Gobl Hunnen = Gobl, Robert.  Dokumente Zur Geschichte Der Iranischen Hunnen In Baktrien Und Indien.  Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1967.


Gobl IHM = Gobl, Robert.  'Iranish-Hunnische Munzen, 1. Nachtrag.'  Iranica Antiqua XVI, In Memorium Roman Ghirshman (2). Gent: 1981.

Gobl SOI = Gobl, Robert. 'Supplementa Orientalia I.' Litterae Numismaticae Vindobonenses 2. Wien: Osterreichischen Akademie Der Wissenschaften, Wien, 1983.

Gobl SOII = Gobl, Robert.  'Supplementa Orientalia II.'  Litterae Numismaticae Vindobonenses 3. Wien: Osterreichischen Akademie Der Wissenschaften, Wien, 1987.


Gobl SOIII = Gobl, Robert.  ‘Supplementa Orientala III.’  Quaderni Ticinesi Di Numismatica e Antichita Classiche 22.  1993.


Kuwayama = Kuwayama, Shohin.  ‘The Hephthalites in Tokharistan and Northwest India.’  Zinbun- November 24 (1989).  Kyoto: Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University, 1989.


Litvinsky = Litvinsky, B.A., Ed.  History of the Civilizations of Central Asia, Volume III: The crossroads of civilizations: A.D. 250 to 750.  Paris: UNESCO Publishing, 1996.


Mitchiner ACW = Mitchiner, Michael. Oriental Coins, the Ancient and Classical World. London: Hawkins Publications, 1978.

Mitchiner ECCA = Mitchiner, Michael. The Early Coinage of Central Asia. London: Hawkins Publications, 1973.


Narain = Narain, A.K.  ‘Coins of Toramana and Mihirakula.’  Journal of the Numismatic Society of India: Volume XXIV.  Varanasi: The Numismatic Society of India, 1964.


Pieper = Pieper, Wilfried.  'A New Find of Small Copper Coins of Late 4th Century Gandhara.' ONS Newsletter No. 170. Surrey: Oriental Numismatic Society, 2002.


Qureshi = Qureshi, I.H., Ed.  A Short History of Pakistan: Book One- Pre-Muslim Period.  Karachi: University of Karachi, 1967.


Rtveladze = Rtveladze, E. The Ancient Coins of Central Asia. Tashkent, 1987.


Smirnova = Smirnova, O.I.  Svodnyi Katalog Sogdiiskikh Monet: Bronza. Moscow: Akademia Nauka CCCP, 1981.


Ziad AEI = Ziad, Waleed.  ‘AE Imitations of Indo-Greek Drachms from Swat.’ ONS Newsletter No. 181.  Surrey: Oriental Numismatic Society, 2004.




BMC Online = British Museum Collections online: Carved Wooden Plaque www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk/compass/ixbin/goto?id=OBJ5991


CNG = Classical Numismatics Group site and Mail Bid Auction Catalogues.



Khan, Shaivite temple at Kashmir Smast =  Khan, Nasim.  Shaivite Temple at Kashmir Smast: Study and Analysis.’  PANEL: The Temple in South Asia (Tuesday July 5 9.30 – 5.00)



Mallon = The Coins and History of Asia



Silk Road = The Silk Road Foundation: The White Huns- The Hephthalites



Soka Gakkai: Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism: Mihirakula



Zeno = Zeno: Oriental Coins database- Vladimir Belyaev, Moscow.



Ziad ACCAP = Ancient and Classical Coins and Antiquities of Pakistan: Waleed Ziad. www.oocities.com/ziadnumis


[1] Litvinsky, 139.

[2] Ziad AEI, 20.

[3] BMC.

[4] Khan, Shaivite Temple at Kashmir Smast. 

[5] Gazetteer of the Peshawar District, 1897-98, Compiled and published under the authority of the Punjab Government.

[6] One of the reasons for the lack of exploration was the fact that it was located on the Ashuzai border, and therefore conflict and local territorial issues would have prevented access.

[7] Gobl, 207.

[8] Pieper.

[9] Ziad AEI, 20-21.

[10] Litvinsky, 146.

[11] Biswas, 52.

[12] Mitchiner ACW, 240.