inscription asoka pali found discovered prinsep caves edicts king dated
INDIAN INSCRIPTIONS, the inscriptions of India are very numerous and of great variety. They are found upon rocks, pillars, and buildings, in caves, topes, and temples, and on plates of copper. These last are grants of land made by kings for religious purposes, and they are historically valuable because they contain, not only the name of the grantor, but a more or less complete list of his predecessors. Implicit reliance cannot be placed on these documents. Vanity has sometimes led to the invention of an illustrious ancestry. So far back as the old lawgiver Manu, punishments were denounced upon the forgers of grants, and plates that are palpable forgeries have been discovered.
The oldest and most important of the inscriptions are the religious edicts of King Piyadasi, who is styled Devanantpiya, " the beloved of the gods." Their date is clearly proved to be about 250 B.C. This Piyadasi is now by universal consent admitted to be identical with the great Maurya king Asoka, grandson of Chandra-gupta, whose identification by Sir W. Jones with Sandrakoptos or Sandracottns, the ally of Seleucus Nicator, is the cornerstone of that very tottering structure, Hindu chronology. The first published inscription of Piyadasi was copied from a stone column 42 feet high, and known as the Lat or pillar of Firoz Shah, a sultan who, about the middle of the 14th century, conveyed it to Delhi from a village in the hills about 250 miles distant, and re-erected it as an ornament to his capital. The same monarch brought from Meerut and re-erected near his palace another similar column, but this was thrown down by an explosion in the year 1719, and, although it has lately been raised again, it is so much mutilated that scarcely half of the inscription remains, A copy of the inscription on the first of these columns was published by Captain Hoare in the Asiatic Researches in 1801. It was a subject of great curiosity and speculation, but it baffled all attempts to decipher it until the year 1837, when the acute sagacity of James Prinsep surmounted the difficulty.' This particular alphabet having been first discovered on and translated from a Lcit, or pillar inscription, obtained the name of the " Ltit alphabet," but the name "Indian Pali" is now generally preferred.
The mystery of the alphabet being thus penetrated, the longer and more important rock inscriptions were taken in hand. Two versions were then known, one at Girnhr in Kathiawar, the other discovered and copied by Kittoe at Dhauli in Orissa, at the extreme opposite side of India. -Dr Wilson of Bombay and Captain Postans furnished Prinsep with copies of the former, and he collated the two versions. He then transliterated them in modern characters, and with the help of a pandit lie rendered them into English. Not long afterwards Prinsep's brilliant discoveries were brought to a close by his untimely death in April 1840.
In the year 1836 M. Court, an officer in the service of Ranjit Singh, the ruler of the Punjab, made known the existence of a rock inscription at Kapur-di-giri, west of the Indus, and not very far from Attock. Subsequent explorations show that the rock is really situated in the village of Shahbhz-garhi. No copy was obtained until October 1838, when the traveller Masson most carefully and perseveringly made a calico stampage and an eye copy. These he presented to the Royal Asiatic Society, whose acute and laborious secretary, Edwin Norris, proceeded to make a reduced copy of the calico stampage. This inscription was not in the Lett character, but in that now known as the Bactrian Pali or Ariano-Phli, which bears strong indications of a Phoenician origin, The Lk alphabet or Indian Pali is written, like the character of the Sanskrit, from left to right ; the Ariano-Pali runs from right to ]eft. This character had previously been found on the bilingual coins of the Greek kings of Bactria, the obverse of which bore a Greek legend, and the reverse had some letters which proved to be a rendering of the same in Ariano-Pali. Masson first detected the connexion between the two legends, and Prinsep following up his suggestion soon settled the value of several of the Ariano-Pari letters. Similar discoveries were made simultaneously by Lassen in Germany. The letters so discovered were available as keys for the interpretation of the Shahhaz-garhi inscription, but only as keys, for the inscription contained many dubious and unknown characters, and, unlike the alphabet of the Indian Pali, it possessed numerous compound letters. It was in the process of copying that Norris, like Prinsep, hit upon a clue. He remarked a frequently repeated group of letters, and he came to the conviction that these represented the words Devanani-iiiya. He made known this opinion (J. R. A. S., viii. 303), and gave a copy of a short separate part of the inscription to a young student, afterwards Professor Dowson, who accepted the reading. Knowing that these words were the oft repeated title of Piyadasi in the Giruar inscription, Mr Dowson proceeded to make a comparison of the two and discovered their identity. The whole inscription eventually proved to be a third version of Asoka's edicts. In the year 1850 a fourth version was discovered and copied, though it was not made public, by Mr (now Sir Walter) Elliot, at Jaugada near Ganjam in Orissa, about 50 miles south of Dhauli. Lastly, a fifth copy was discovered by Mr Forrest early in 1860, at Khalsi, west of the Jumna, about 15 miles from Mashri or Mussooree. The late Captain Chapman (J. R. A. S., xiii. 176) brought from Ceylon a copy of a small fragment of rock inscription, and in this the words Devanam-piya are distinct, but the copy was made by eye and is unintelligible. These inscriptions show the extent of Asoka's influence, if not of his direct empire. Their master of the letter s. He used this key with such ardour and success that in the course of a month he was able to make a transliteration and translation of the whole inscription.
positions are Afghanistan, the foot of the Himalayas, the extreme east and west of the centre of India, arid presumptively Ceylon, where it is known from other sources that Aseka. ruled. The inscription of Shahbaz-garhi is the only one in the Ariano-Pali character, the others are in the Lat or Indian Pali alphabet. The language of all of them is a Praltrit or a sort of Pali, the immediate descendant of Sanskrit, but bearing marks of a long process of detrition. There are dialectical differences in the different versions, and there are also divergences of spelling, as 14ja=ntja, dipi---lipi, &c. The Khalsi inscription differs from the other Indian Pali versions in having two of the three distinct sibilants of the Sanskrit, while the others have only one. The inscriptions at Girnar, Khdlsi, and Shahbaz-garhi consist of fourteen distinct edicts ; those at Dhauli and Jangada omit three of them, but add two new ones, which, being written apart, are known as the "detached edicts."
When Prinsep and his pandit made their translations, they had before then only the two versions of Girnar and Dhauli. On the publication of the Shahbaz-garhi version Professor H. H. Wilson made a comparison of the three, and brought out an amended translation which was certainly an improvement upon Prinsep's ; but lie was far from satisfied with his performance, and declared it "open to' correction on every page." The learned and critical Burnout subsequently studied them, and made fresh translations of parts, which again marked an advance, but he declared that " personne no peut se flatter d' arriver du premier coup a Pintelligence definitive de ces monumens difficiles." Professor Kern of Leyden has since worked upon them, and his method is turning the language back into Sanskrit and then translating into English. This process only carries out more systematically that of the previous translators. They all interpreted the inscriptions through Sanskrit, making use of such knowledge of Pali and the other Prakrits as they possessed or could acquire. The translations are acknowledged to be imperfect and unsatisfactory, and no great improvement can be expected through Sanskrit alone. The words vary greatly in form from their Sanskrit originals, and some changes of meaning and construction no doubt accompanied their alterations in form. Comparative philology, in tracing back the modern tongues of India through the Pritkrits to the Sanskrit, will probably throw fresh light upon the language of the inscriptions, and make more perfect translations possible. All the known inscriptions of Asoka are now accessible to the student. General Cunningham, the Archaiological Surveyor of Hindustan, has published the first volume of his Corpus Inscription um, Indicctrum, in which lie has given carefully corrected facsimiles, with parallel transliterations, of the five versions and all published translations. Mr Burgess also has published an excellent collotype of the Girnar version, with transcriptions and translations, in his Arch&ological Survey of Keithidwar. Asoka was a convert to Buddhism, but his edicts bear few distinctive marks of that or any formal religion, and they are entirely free from vaunts of his power and dignity. They inculcate a life of morality and temperance, a practical religion, not one of rites and ceremonies. • They proscribe the slaughter of animals, and they enjoin obedience to parents, affection for children, friends, and dependants, reverence for elders, Buddhist devotees, and Brahmans, universal benevolence, and unreserved toleration. They would seem to have been set up at a time when there were few differences between Buddhists and Brahmans, and their apparent object was to unite the people in a bond of peace by a religion of morality and charity free from dogma and ritual. One of the edicts provides for the appointment of missionaries to spread the religion. The thirteenth edict refers to Asoka's foreign relations. It mentions the Greek king Antiochus, and refers to some connexion through him with four other kings, Ptolemy, Antigonus, hlagas, and Alexander, or, to quote the words of the Shahbaz-garhi version, " Antiyoke nama Yona-raja parancha tena Antiyokena chaturo 1111 rajane Turamaye nama Antikini nama, Maka nama Alikasandaro nama." The four strokes are numerals, equivalents of the word chaturo (four), and in the Khalsf version the numerical sign used is + . Prinsep and his pandit gave a confused rendering of this edict, but no one else has attempted to translate it. There has been some difference of opinion as to the identification of these Greek kings, but the most approved names are Antiochus Theos of Syria, Ptolemy II. of Egypt, Antigonus of Macedonia, Magas of Cyrene, and Alexander II. of Epirus, 253-251 D.C.
Besides the five great inscriptions of Asoka, there are six other rock inscriptions consisting of single edicts, three of which, found at Sahsaram, Rtipmith, and Bairat are the same, but the last is imperfect. Dr G. Biihler has translated them. A second and different inscription at Bairat has been translated by Wilson, Burnout, and Kern. These separate edicts are not found among the fourteen, but they are of similar style and spirit. Two of them have the distinction of being dated thus : "256 [years have elapsed] since the departure of the Teacher," i.e., since the death of Buddha, the time of which has been variously assigned to 544 and 478 B.C. In these two edicts Asoka, after stating that he had been " a hearer of the law" more than thirty-two years and a half, adds, "I did not exert myself strenuously. But it is a year and more that I have entered the community of [ascetics]."
The pillars erected by Asoka would appear to have been numerous, but only a few now remain. Six of these, at Delhi (2), Allahabad, Lauriya (2), and Sanchi, are inscribed. Five of them present in a slightly variant form the text of a series of six edicts that were promulgated by Asoka in the twenty-seventh year of his reign, 236 n.c. These pillar inscriptions, which are beautifully cut, are not repetitions of those on the rocks, but they are of similar purport. The pillars at Delhi and Allahabad have since been covered, wherever space was left, and even between the lines of Asoka's inscription, with records and scribblings of later dates. The only one of consequence is the inscription of Samudra-gupta on the Allahabad pillar. The " iron pillar " of Delhi belongs to a later age, and its inscription is dated In immediate succession to the rock and pillar inscriptions of Asoka come the inscriptions of the caves and rock-cut temples. There are caves in Bihar, Cuttack, and elsewhere with inscriptions showing that they were constructed by Piyadasi or Asoka. Soon after these, about the 2d century A.D., come the caves at Khanda,giri in Cuttack, over which there is an important but much defaced inscription. It records the construction of the caves by a king Aira of Kalinga, a convert from Brahmanism to Buddhism, and it gives glimpses of his religious and beneficent life that make its defacement a matter of especial regret.1 The letters of the inscriptions in the oldest caves show a slight departure from the forms of the Lk alphabet, and would seem to have been written from about the beginning of the Christian era to the 5th century. The caves at Ajanta, Karleu, Kanhari, Nasik, and Junfr are Buddhist, and contain many inscriptions, but most of these records are of no historical value, as they simply commemorate the dedication of a cave, chamber, cistern, or some other votive gift, coupled with the name of the donor. The same observation applies generally to the topes at Amaravati, Sanchi, and elsewhere. In the caves of Nasik there are some historical records, and the great cave-temple of Karlen is recorded to have been constructed for an emperor named DevabhAti, by a foreigner called " Dhanukakata " or " Dhinukakati," which name is understood to represent Xenoerates. In a Jain cave-temple at Maui there is an inscription of the Chalukya dynasty, dated in 578 A.D. The caves of Elephanta and Ellora are of a much later date. There have been many explorers of, the caves and copyists of the inscriptions. Dr J. Wilson successfully interpreted some of the inscriptions, but Dr Stevenson has been the greatest decipherer. The letters of the inscriptions in the caves are often formed with a want of precision and distinctness, and the copies obtained are not always satisfactory, so the translations are open to seine doubt, and are capable of improvement.
Soon after the inscriptions of Asoka, we have those of the Turnshka or Indo-Scythic kings Kanishka and Huvishka, the Kanerke and Ooerke of the bilingual coins, whose names are linked with a third as " Hushka, Jushka, and Kanishka" in the Kashmir chronicle called Baja Taranginf. Their inscriptions have been found in Afghanistan, in the Punjab, and in the hills, and as far east as Matlawra. With the exception of those at Mathura, they are in the ArianoPali character. They are all short ; some consist of only six or seven words. The majority of the inscriptions are dated. The Macedonian months are used, but there is no certainty as to the era. The word used is " Samvatsara," and, as there is an era so called, some maintain that they are dated in that era, but as the word " samvatsara " means also year, it may imply a year of some unknown era or of a king's reign. Their period is about the beginning of the Christian era. The first inscription discovered was on a stone slab found by General Court in a large tope at Manikyala in the Punjab ; the longest is one punched on a brass vase extracted by Masson from a tope at Wardak in Afghanistan. The former was discovered just before Prinsep's death, but he did no more with it than picking out the king's name as "Kaneshin," and conjecturing that the date figured xx9 signified cxx. General Cunningham subsequently interpreted the date as 446, and the title of the king correctly as " Kauishka, maharaja of the Gushang tribe." No further discoveries of importance were made until the year 1862, when Mr Roberts obtained, at Hasan Abdal in the Punjab, a copper plate with five lines of inscription, which he sent to the Royal Asiatic Society. The letters on this plate were clearly written, and, when read by Professor Dowson, the record furnished the long desired key to the numeral system, for the date was given both in words and figures. The forms of the numerals had made Prinsep and others suspect a Roman influence, but the figure 9 proved to be 10 and the x equivalent to 4. The inscription was a record made by a satrap named Liako Kusuluko of his having deposited a relic of Sakyamuni (Buddha) in an institution near Taxila. Before the publication of the translation copies of this inscription were sent to India with the explanation of the date, and with a call for independent translations of the text. General Cunningham made a translation which was revised by BAIA Rajendra L6,1, and when brought together the versions were found to be in close agreement.
Professor Dowson succeeded in making out considerable portions of the Manikyala, Wardak, and other inscriptions, and found that all had reference to the deposit of relics. No progress has since been made in the interpretation of these inscriptions, although there is ample scope for further study. The Manikyala inscription is dated in the year 18, and was made in the reign of Kanishka ; the Wardak urn is dated in the year 51, and was inscribed in the reign of his successor 1(uvishka. There are other inscriptions, in which the names of these kings appear, and the names of King Moga or Moa and of Gondophares have also been found. Several short inscriptions in this character owe their discovery to General Cunningham, who has been most persevering in his search and constant in his endeavours to interpret them. Another series of inscriptions of these Indo-Scythian rulers was obtained by General Cunningham from the ruins of the Buddhist temples and other buildings at old Mathura. These inscriptions are in the Indian Pali character and the Sanskrit language, and have been translated by Professor Dowson. Several of them are dated " ,S"ani-," the common abbreviated form of Samvatsara. The earliest certain date is 44, and as one of the dates is as high as 280, it is clear that some era is intended. If it be the Samvatsara era, the dates range from 13 B.C. to 337 A.D. These inscriptions have two peculiarities in which they agree with the practice of the inscriptions in western India : instead of months they use the triple series of seasons, and the numerals are arbitrary symbols having little or no arithmetical relation to each other. The explanation of these figures has occupied the attention of Prinsep, Dr Stevenson, General Cunningham, Dr Bhau Daji, and Mr E. Thomas, and may be said to be accomplished. Some further inscriptions have since been found at Mathura and translated by General Cunningham. The whole series furnishes the names of Kanishkii, Huvishka, and Vasudeva [uAzoArro of the coins], all of whom hear the arrogant title Devapetra, "son of God." One of the last discovered inscriptions is dated as early as the year 5.
About the period of the Indo-Scythians there was in Surashtra, on the western coast of India, a dynasty of rulers who called themselves Kshatrapas or satraps, and are known as the Sall or more properly Sinha kings. These have left some inscriptions commencing with their founder Nahapana, but they are better represented by their coins, the legends on which are in the Indian Pali character. On some of the earlier ones the distinctive name of the king is given also in Ariano-Pali. An inscription in a cave at INTasik records its construction and dedication by Nahapana. The most important of their inscriptions is that of Rudra llama, the seventh king of the dynasty, dated in the year 72, but of what era is undetermined. This is engraven on the famous rock of Girnar near Junagarb, the same as that on which the edicts of Piyadasi are inscribed. It is in Indian Pali, and was first deciphered by Prinsep. Since then the translation has been revised by Professor Wilson, Dr Bhau Daji, and Professor Eggeling. It commemorates the repair of a dam or embankment of the river Palasini. Its most interesting passage records the fact that the same darn had been formerly repaired by " the Maurya raja Chandragupta," the classical Sandrakoptos, and it is the only monumental mention known of that king. It also names Asoka specifically as "Asoka Maurya," not as Piyadasi. Mr Burgess has published a fine collotype of this inscription in his Archeological Survey.
After the Sills come the Guptas of Kanauj, a dynasty which must not be confounded with the Maurya dynasty of which Chandragupta (Sandrakoptos) was a member. The inscriptions of the Guptas arc in a slightly advanced form of the Indian Pali. One, the first known, translated by Dr Mill, was inscribed by Samudra-Gupta on the old Asoka column at Allahabad, another is inscribed on the Asoka rock at Girnar, being the third on that rock. It records another repair of the Palasini darn by Skanda-Gupta, and a copy with a translation by Bhau Daji is published in Burgess's Survey. All the Gupta inscriptions are dated in the Gupta-kcita, the Gupta era, the epoch of which has long been and still remains a subject of dispute. Other inscriptions of this dynasty have been found at Mathura, on a pillar at Bhitari in Ghazipfir, at Sanchi, Eran, and other places. After the Guptas come the inscriptions of Toramana, who seems to have succeeded them in Central IndioThe Guptas were overthrown by the Vallabhi or Ballabld kings, the founders of Vallabhi-pura in Kathiawar, who established themselves in the latter half of the 5th century A.D. No monumental inscriptions of this dynasty have been discovered, but their copper grants are numerous, and fresh discoveries are constantly being made. Far down in the south the Kongu kings have left grants of the 4th century, and one of questionable authenticity corresponds in date to 1SS A.D. In the Deccan reigned the great family of the Ch*lukyas, which in course of time divided into two branches. They reigned from the 5th to the 12th century A.D., and their inscriptions, especially their copper grants, are very numerous. Sir Walter Elliot made the history of this dynasty his especial pursuit, and succeeded in collecting and epitomizing some hundreds of inscriptions. Mr Burgess, the archeological surveyor of western India, and other explorers are constantly making fresh discoveries of inscriptions relating to the Chalukyas and other dynasties of the west and south; and these are quickly translated by the indefatigable Mr Fleet, Mr Rice, Dr Burnell, and other busy translators. Many other dynasties have left copper plate inscriptions which cannot be here described, and a mere list would be of greater length than value. The inscriptions are found in all parts of the country, and date from the early periods above stated until the establishment of the Mahometan rule. They are almost all in Sanskrit, but in the south inscriptions are found in Tamil and Old Canarese. Through all of them the gradual change of the letters from the old Indian Pali to the modern forms is distinctly traceable. Mr Rice has published a thick volume of inscriptions discovered in Mysore, and the pages of the Indian Antiquary acid every month to the store. A very handsome volume of photographs of inscriptions has been prepared by Mr Fleet at the expense of the Government, but only ten copies have been made.
The inscriptions of the Mahometans in India are also numerous. They are either in Arabic or in Persian, and are often engraved with exquisite skill and grace. Some celebrate victories, but most of them record the erection of mosques, palaces, tombs, and other edifices. These inscriptions are occasionally valuable in settling dates, but as the Mahometans are good historians their inscriptions are of less importance than those of their Hindu predecessors, who did not write history. (J. D.*)