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622
[INDIAN
INSCRIPTIONS

brick tablets bearing Buddhist texts, one of which is a version in Sanskṛit of a short sermon preached by Buddha; and from the Jaunpūr district we have a brick tablet bearing an inscription which registers a mortgage, made in A.D. 1217, of some lands as security for a loan. Inscribed earthenware relic-receptacles have been found in the Bhōpāl state: donative earthenware jars, bearing inscriptions, have been obtained near Chārsadda in the North-West Frontier province: and from Kāṭhiāwār we have a piece of earthenware, apparently a fragment of a huge pot, bearing an inscription which presents a date in A.D. 566-67 and the name of “the glorious Guhasēna,” one of the Maitraka princes of Valabhī. For the great bulk of the inscriptions, however, stone was used: but limitation of space prevents us from entering into any details here, and only permits us to say that in this class the records are found all over India on rocks, on isolated monolith columns and pillars, of which some were erected simply to bear the records that were published on them, others were placed in front of temples as flagstaffs of the gods, and others were set up as pillars of victory in battle; on relic-receptacles hidden away in the interiors of Buddhist stūpas; on external structural parts of stūpas; on façades, walls, and other parts of caves; on pedestals and other parts of images and statues, sometimes of colossal size; on moulds for making seals; on walls, beams, pillars, pilasters, and other parts of temples; and on specially prepared slabs and tablets, sometimes built into the walls of temples and other erections, sometimes set up inside temples or in the courtyards of them, or in conspicuous places in village-sites and fields, where they have occasionally in the course of time become buried.

The inscriptional records of India which have thus come down to us do not, as far as they are known at present, pretend to the antiquity of the Greek inscriptions of the Hellenic world; much less to that of the inscriptions Reasons why the inscriptions are so valuable. of Egypt and Assyria. But they are no less important; since we are dependent on them for almost all our knowledge of the ancient history of the country.

The primary reason for this is that the ancient Hindus, though by no means altogether destitute of the historical instinct, were not writers of historical books. In some of the Purāṇas, indeed, they have given us chapters which purport to present the succession of their kings from the commencement of the present age, the Kaliyuga, in 3102 B.C.: but the chronological details of those chapters disclose the fault of treating contemporaneous dynasties, belonging to different parts of India, as successive dynasties ruling over one and the same territory; with the result that they would place more than three centuries in the future from the present time the great Gupta kings who reigned in Northern India from A.D. 320 to about 530. They have given us, for Kashmīr the Rājataraṁgiṇī, the first eight cantos of which, written by Kalhaṇa in A.D. 1148-49, purport to present the general history of that country, with occasional items relating to India itself, from 2448 B.C., and to give the exact length, even to months and days, of the reign of each king of Kashmīr from 1182 B.C.: but, while we may accept Kalhaṇa as fairly correct for his own time and for the preceding century or so, an examination of the details of his work quickly exposes its imaginative character and its unreliability for any earlier period: notably, he places towards the close of the period 2448 to 1182 B.C. the great Maurya king Aśōka, whose real initial date was 264 B.C.; and he was obliged to allot to one king, Raṇāditya I., a reign of three centuries (A.D. 222 to 522, as placed by him) simply in order to save his own chronology. They have given us historical romances, such as the Harshacharita of Bāṇa, written in the 7th century, the Vikramāṅkadēvacharita of Bilhaṇa, written about the beginning of the 12th century, and the Tamiḷ poems, the Kal̤aval̤i, the Kaliṅgattu-Paraṇi, and the Vikrama-Chōl̤an-Ul̤ā, the first of which may be of somewhat earlier date than Bāṇa’s work, while the second and third are of much the same time with Bilhaṇa’s: but, while these present some charming reading in the poetical line, with much of interest, and certainly a fair amount of important matter, they give us no dates, and so no means without extraneous help of applying the information that is deducible from them. Again, they have given us, especially in Southern India, a certain amount of historical details in the introductions and colophons of their literary works; and here they have often furnished dates which give a practical shape to their statements: but we quickly find that the historical matter is introduced quite incidentally, to magnify the importance of the authors themselves rather than to teach us anything about their patrons, and is not handled with any particular care and fulness; and it would be but a sketchy and imperfect history, and one relating to only a limited and comparatively late period, that we could piece together even from these more precise sources. The ancient Hindus, in short, have not bequeathed to us anything that can in any way compare with the historical writings of their Greek and Roman contemporaries. They have not even given us anything like the Dīpavaṁsa of Ceylon, which, while it contains a certain amount of fabulous matter, can be recognized as presenting a real and reliable historical account of that island, taken from records written up during the progress to the events themselves, from at any rate the time of Aśōka to about A.D. 350; or like the Mahāvaṁsa, which, commenting on and amplifying the details of the Dīpavaṁsa, takes up a similar account from the end of the period covered by that work. Even the Greek notices of India, commencing with the accounts of the Asiatic campaign of Alexander the Great, have told us more about its political history and geography during the earlier times than have the Hindus themselves: and in fact, in mentioning Sandrokottos, i.e. Chandragupta, the grandfather of Aśōka, and in furnishing details which fix his initial date closely about 320 B.C., the Greeks gave us the first means of making a start towards arranging the chronology of India on accurate lines. It is in these circumstances, in the absence of any indigenous historical writings of a plain, straightforward, and authentic nature, that the inscriptions of India are of such great value. They are supplemented—and to an important extent for at any rate the period from the end of Aśōka’s reign in 227 B.C. to the commencement of the reign of Kaṅishka in 58 B.C., and again from about a century later to the rise of the Gupta dynasty in A.D. 320—by the numismatic remains. But the coins of India present no dates until nearly the end of the 2nd century A.D.; the case of Parthia, which has yielded dated coins from only 38 B.C., illustrates well the difficulty of arranging undated coins in chronological order even when the assistance of historical books is available; and what we may deduce from the coins of India is still to be put into a final shape in accordance with what we can determine from the inscriptions. In short, the inscriptions of India are the only sure grounds of historical results in every line of research connected with its ancient past; they regulate everything that we can learn from coins, architecture, art, literature, tradition, or any other source.

That is one reason why the inscriptions of India are so valuable; they fill the void caused by the absence of historical books. Another reason is found in the great number of them and the wide area that is covered by them. They come from all parts of the country: from Shāhbāzgarhī in the north, in the Yūsufzai subdivision of the Peshāwar district, to the ancient Pāṇḍya territory in the extreme south of the peninsula; and from Assam in the east to Kāṭhiāwār in the west. For the time anterior to about A.D. 400, we already have available in published form, more or less complete, the contents of between 1100 and 1200 records, large and small; and the explorations of the Archaeological Department are constantly bringing to light, particularly from underground sites, more materials for that period. For the time onwards from that point, we have similarly available the contents of some 10,000 or 11,000 records of Southern India, and of at any rate between 700 and 800 records of Northern India where racial antagonism came more into play and worked more destruction of Hindu remains than in the south.

Another reason is found in the fact that from the first century B.C. the inscriptions are for the most part specifically dated: some in various eras the nature and application of which are now thoroughly well understood, often with also a mention of the