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Epigraphy is study of inscriptions, both ancient and present. Epigraphy is; Sine
Qua; mon for constructing the political and cultural history of ancient India.
Epigraphy can be defined as any descriptive analytical study of the
Epigraphs. An epigraph is defined by the lexicographers as a document
or record written on a slab or stone or a plate of metal . Generally any
Historical information is acknowledged as true blue when it is sustained by an
epigraphical record. So too in the study of the history literature and language
Epigraphy as a vital role to play.6

What is Inscription
Epigraphy is the study of Inscriptions literally means any
Writing engraved on some object. In India, rock as well as lithic metallic
Earthen or wooden pillars ,tablets , plates and pots as also bricks , shells,
ivory, plaques and other object were generally used for incising inscription
often writing in relief such as we find in the legends on coins and seals

6. Vincent A Smith(et.all) India its Epigraphy , Antiquties,Archaeology,Numismatics an

Architecture, ESS ESS Publications,Delhi,1975,p.4

which are usually produced out of molds for dies ,and also records painted
on cave walls or written in ink on wooden tablets are regarded as
Inscriptions although these writings are not actually engraved as is usually the
Case with inscriptions in the pessio arabic script, the letters of certain late
Medieval records in the indigenous Indian alphabets are generally engraved but
are formed by scooping the space around them.7

The epigraphy is derived two Greek words, one is epi

Meaning on or upon and graphy meaning to light and hence, epigraphy is the
Study of writings engraved on stone , metal and other materials like wood ,
Shell etc, known as inscriptions or epigraphs. According to D.C Sir car
Inscriptions literally means only writing engraved some object.
The encyclopedia Britannica says that inscriptions are the document for insisted
on some had permanent material in the form of letteror conventional
Science, for the purpose of conveying some informations or preserving
A record. Though engraving is the chief characteristics of an epigraph .
There are some exceptions where old writings in ink on rocks boulders etc are
Also accepted as epigraph.8

7 . D.C Sircar,Indian Epigraphy,Motilal Banasidas , Delhi, 1965,p.1

8 . -sans about.asp


After knowing the definition it is worthwhile to know about the nature
Of this disciplines epigraphy has three distinctive stages of study . The first
one is generally called taking the copy of the written material and stage is
generally called taking assemblages. The second one is identifying the letters
and reading the literary text and this stage is called deciphering and the third
one applying the recorded literary data for the writing of history and this stage is
called as analysis and interpretation .As the epigraphical study is primarily a
study related with letter and the word the nature of the subject is more literary
speaks about the behaviour of the writer. Thus the nature of epigraphical
studies is more of the behavioural patters represented in the writings
recorded both in public places like temple and other religious institutions
forts and the private places like ashrams and houses.9
Inscriptions may greatly very in point of length.
Some time an epigraph contains only a mark or one single word or expressing
indicating the name of an individual, often a pilgrims at a holly religious
Establishments engraving his name on a wall or a stone to commemorate is visit
,or standing as the label of a sculptured scene from the epics or the jatakas.

9 . k. sathyamoorthi,The Textbook of Indian Epigraphy,LowprIce publications,Delhi,1992,p.1


Some what longer inscriptions may record the dedication of the images of
Deities or such curious social customs as the self immolation of a widow and
the head of a devoting.10
Epigraphical records may be broadly classicfied under
two groups . Those engraved behalf of the ruling authority and second those
incised on behalf of private individuals or organizations. The largest number of
epigraph of the second category record donations made in favour of religious
establishments or installation of images worship. They are usually incides on
the object that were donated or installed and are as rule ,small.11
The nature and purpose of the inscriptions are many
And various. Hundreds of them are merely label inscriptions which give out the
names of pilgrims, sculptures, stone masons and off course vandals. A large
number of inscriptions contain, in varying details and degrees, such
information as render them do native or commemorative in nature. Besides
we have also inscriptions which recorded political, religious, commercial
compacts, deeds of sale of land and labour, or which deal with matters of
trade and commerce many more pertain to the construction or renovation
and there adjuncts and annexes and to the lakes, tanks, wells and water is

10. ibid, p.2

11. D.C Sarkar, op.cit, p.2

terms cisterns, and to the making and renovation of images. There are also
inscriptions of a purely religious nature though religious orientation or
influence is also noticed in the most of the inscriptions.12
The study of the epigraphy, therefore is a matter of vital
importance, the inscriptions throw light on the life of sovereigns and the
people. Over whom they ruled important incidents are recorded in them.
Sometimes they supply or strengthen a work link in accounts of dynasties to us
from other literary sources. They help us to locate the sites of ancient places by
the geographical material recorded by them. The long and pompous descriptions
of the royal families known as prasasthis or meykirtis give graphic
account of various exploits.13

The Importants of epigraphy for the reconstruction of Indian

History can be best highlighted by adverting to the reign of Asoka, himself it is
Not that Asoka would not have been known to us but for famous inscriptions.
The epigraphically information that is available to us through the numerous
Inscriptions of Asoka give us the touch stone with which to polish the
Historical personality of Asoka. One of the most important contributions made
by the inscriptions of Asoka to our knowledge. However, pertain to the

12. K.V Ramesh, Indian Epigraphy,vol;1,Sundeepprakashan,delhi,1948,p.2

13. C.Sivaramamoorthi,Indian Epigraphy,govt.of Madras,1948,p.p.1,2

historical information furnished by them. By thus providing much vital

information in the inscription of Asoka have placed him at the very portals
of Indian history as well as the history of Indian epigraphy.14


In India there is a lots of scope for epigraphy or study of

Inscriptions strewn over the whole the country and extended over the
Countries .We know that the earliest writing in India belongs to the greatest
Civilizations that existed in this part of the continent. The sinduvally
civilization. This scope the epigraphical studies is limited to the so called
ancient and medieval periods. Chronologically at the most it can be extended up
to the end of the seventeenth century.15
Even though written, the epigraphical evidence is quite
different from the other type of different documents which are called
generallyaechaeival source. Achieves is identified by lexicographers as
usually archives, documents or rewards relating to the activities writes ,clients
,treaties, constitutions etc of a family ,cooperation, community , nation or
historical figure.

14. K.V Ramesh ,op.cit,p.p .7 -8

These archaeival sources are more on paper and palm leaves etc.
And other easily perishable material the stones and the copper plates, which
were the order of the day.16
As far as the technicalities are concerned the first one
Is related with reading the script this is called Paleography .where in the paleo
means old and graphic means science or skill of identifying the symbols
(graphs). Hence , paleography in its totality may be taken as a science for
deciphering and Reading such script, which are very old not in use at present.
The second one is identifying the language which the epigraph is written in
prakrit, Sanskrit, Hindi, Telungu, Bengali and other distinctive vernacular were
in use.17
Hence the scope of the epigraphy divorce around the
Relation between the Indo-Aryan and Dravidian languages were in Prakrit
,Sanskrit, Bengali, Hindi, Bengali etc are Indo Aryan and Telungu,
Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam etc are Dravidian. After having an identifiable
relation established Between the script written or incised and the language
represented the third stage drags to identify the political , social, cultural,
economic and literacy details of the life .Thus the scope of epigraphical studies
is related with detailing different dimensions of life.18

16. ibid,p.2
17. ibid,p.3
18. D.C Sarkar,Studies in Indian Epigraphy,K.V Ramesh(Ed),Geetha Books

On the basis of the basis of material used for wring of

they were classified as stone inscriptions and metal

inscriptions. The stone inscription can further be classified as wall inscription,

pillar inscriptions and floor inscriptions are incised on the wall of temples and
forts ,examples like mukhalingam, srikarnam, draksharamam, tripuranthakam
only to site a few represent wall inscriptions .The pillar inscriptions are mostly
found on the pillars in the frontal porches and subsidiary porches of a temple.
Pillar inscriptions like rumindei inscriptions of Asoka .Allahabad inscription of
Samudragupta for instance ,indicate such an inscribed data standing
independent of its own .

The floor inscriptions are such records which are inscribed

On the floor of the mandapams and temple huge blocks of stone used in the
Flooring are made use for carving out the inscriptions, are can be seen with in
And outside the campus of a temple or similar institution most of the floor
Inscriptions are votive in nature and record the donation and services by private
Individuals .19
The metal inscriptions can be classified as copper plate
Inscriptions and silver plate inscriptions. The silver plate records are very few
and almost rare. One the other hand the copper plate inscription represent
the donation by kings, queens and different royal personal. Hence, most of the
copper plate inscription are considered to be land grants. They represent the
political and economic details of the concerned.


Dr. P.V.P Sasthri in a discussion on epigraphy declined to
identify a specified for inscriptions because many inscriptions are incomplete
and even the complete records are not informal in nature. But if we find
copper plate , there is almost a set pattern . The inscriptions begins with a
simple verse of invocation . It is followed by the genealogical and individual
details of the donor. Then the date and aim of the grant are mentioned
subsequently the details of the done including his greatness are recorded finally
there are to follow the verses of benediction and imprecation with a note to the
other rulers to succeed is made to protect the previous rulers grants. On the
other hand the stone inscriptions are with a verse of invocation , details of
donee, donor, details of the land grants and benedication and imprecation. At
times of the date are not found in all records . thus, most of the inscriptions are
very much with out uniformity.
INVOCATION : The purpose of the invocation is to invoke the god or any
Supreme power for the benefit of auspiciousness .Generally the words like
Swarthy , sri ,subhamaster,siddam sri are found in the beginnings of the
Inscriptions and they are followed by prayer of the favorite god.
DONOR : The details of the donor ,who is granting the donation recorded
Are two types. In one case the entire genealogical details since the mythical
period tracing the origin of the sun (surya) and moon (Chandra) are found as in
the examples like Nandampundi grant of Raja Raja . In the second case only
the donor with a small note of two or three generations over even without that

note are mentioned. Similarly Addanki inscription of Pandaranga briefly

details the donor .
DONEE : The item deals with the person or groups of persons or communities
Addressed for the donation recorded their details found at length.
IMPRECATION : The idea of imprecation is to Hindu the wrong doing by
the successors . Imprecating is very much lengthy and descriptive in the late
medieval period .The main aim of imprecation is toward off note retie by most
lawful means like warning and describing the mythical sins and courses one has
to acquire by transgression. 20

19.ibid, p.p,4-5
20 .ibid, p.6