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Fortification: Virtual Sirkap


Virtual Sirkap

As we are only modeling the Lower City, we chose to build the cross-wall identified by Ghosh to serve as an “end” to the world, thus completely enclosing the Lower City inside the fortification wall.

The visitor first encounters Virtual Sirkap from outside the Northern Gateway of the fortifications, or in gaming terminology, “the avatar spawns outside the Northern Gateway.” In this iteration of the MUVE, the world outside the fortifications is empty, but it does give the visitor a sense of entering the city through the gate {future developments}.

Since only the footprint of the Northern Gateway remains, we had to use other sources to reconstruct its three-dimensional form. Ananda Coomaraswamy’s 1930 Early Indian Architecture was particularly helpful for this problem. [4]

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Ananda Coomaraswamy, Early Indian architecture: Cities and City Gates Etc, First Indian ed. (New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1991)

While Coomoraswamy pays undue attention to the idealized textual evidence for early Indian architecture, relying most heavily on Kautilya’s Arthashastra, more useful is his cataloguing of stone and stucco reliefs which depict fortifications and gateways. Some of the best preserved reliefs depicting gateways come from the stupa complex at Sanchi. While these reliefs come from the same chronological frame as Sirkap’s gateways (first century BCE to second century CE), there is a significant geographical shift. Sanchi is located in modern Madhya Pradesh, about 1,200 kilometers to the south-east of Sirkap. Another source for the three-dimensional form of the Northern Gateway is the stone reliefs depicting the gates of Kushinagara. [5]

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M. A. Shakur, A Guide to the Peshawar Museum, Part I (Peshawar, 1954), p. 107. Also found in Harald Ingholt, Gandharan Art in Pakistan (New York: Pantheon Books, 1957), p. 97, nos. 151 and 152, and illustrated in Domenico Faccenna and Anna Filigenzi, Repertorio Terminologico per la Schedatura delle Sculture dell'Arte Gandharica: Sulla Base dei Materiali Provenienti dagli Scavi della Missione Archeologica Italiana dell'IsIAO nello Swat, Pakistan (Roma: IsIAO, 2007), p. 61, no. 1.1 and 1.2.

While these reliefs are found in the Peshawar Musuem, the city of Kushinagara is located in modern Uttar Pradesh also about 1,200 kilometers from Sirkap. The provenance of these reliefs are unknown, and that they depict the walls of Kushinagara, not a city in Gandhara, is problematic. Now, there certainly was certainly some cultural overlap between central India (Sanchi), northern India (Kushinagara), and Gandhara (Sirkap), but it is also true that Gandhara had its own style. Thus, we brought together these reliefs and the footprint of Sirkap to create the Northern Gateway {future developments}.

Further, we were unable to reproduce to much detail of the Gateway and its intricate defenses. We did not model the barbican, the barracks, the access points to the bastions and defensive walls, nor the drainage system that runs underneath the fortifications. Improving this area will be a priority in the next phase of the project, but for now the gateway structure remains quite simple {future developments}.[6]

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Marshall describes the barbican in detail as “A large hall, constituting the gateway proper, with an inside measurement of about 62 ft. north and south by 35 ft. east and west. This hall projected about 20 ft. on both sides of the wall, but the outer projections, which formed as it were, a barbican in front of the gateway, was, as might be expected, a much more solid construction than the inner; and, indeed, it seems likely that the latter may have been a subsequent addition—in which case the original hall (including the barbican) would have been approiximately square.” Taxila, p. 115.