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INDIAN]
623
INSCRIPTIONS

year of the twelve-years or of the sixty-years cycle of the planet Jupiter; others in the regnal years of kings whose periods are now well fixed. And, in addition to usually stating the month and the day along with the year, the inscriptions sometimes give, under the influence of Hindu astrology, other details so exact that we can determine, even to the actual hour, the occurrence of the event registered by a particular record.

A final reason is found in the precise nature of the inscriptions. A certain proportion of them consists of plain statements of events,—recitals of the pedigrees and achievements of kings, records of the carrying out of public works, epitaphs of kings, heroes, and saints, compacts of political alliance, and so on; and some of these present, in fact, short historical compositions which illustrate well what the ancient Hindus might have done if they had felt any special call to write plain and veracious chronicles on matter-of-fact lines. But we are indebted for the great bulk of the inscriptions, not to any historical instinct, but to the religious side of the Hindu character, and to the constant desire of the Hindus to make donations on every possible occasion. The inscriptions devoted simply to the propagation of morality and religion are not very numerous: the most notable ones in this class are the edicts of Aśōka, which we shall notice again farther on. The general object of the inscriptions was to register gifts and endowments, made sometimes to private individuals, but more usually to gods, to priests on behalf of temples and charitable institutions, and to religious communities. And, as the result of this, in the vast majority of the inscriptional remains we have a mass of title-deeds of real property, and of certificates of the right to duties, taxes, fees, perquisites, and other privileges. Now, the essential part of the records was of course the specification of the details of the donor, of the donee, and of the donation. And we have to bear in mind that not only are the donative records by far the most abundant of all, but also, among them, by far the most numerous are those which we may call the records of royal donations; by which we mean grants that were made either by the kings themselves, or by the great feudatory nobles, or by provincial governors and other high officials who had the royal authority to alienate state lands and to assign allotments from the state revenues: also, that many of them register, not simply the gift of small holdings, but grants of entire villages, and large and permanent assignments from the public revenues. It is to these facts that we are indebted for the great value of the records from the historical point of view. The donor of state lands or of an assignment from the public revenues must show his authority for his acts. A provincial governor or other high official must specify his own rank and territorial jurisdiction, and name the king under whom he holds office. A great feudatory noble will often give a similar reference to his paramount sovereign, in addition to making his own position clear. And it is neither inconsistent with the dignity of a king, nor unusual, for something to be stated about his pedigree in charters and patents issued by him or in his name. The records give from very early times a certain amount of genealogical information. More and more information of that kind was added as time went on. The recital of events was introduced, to magnify the glory and importance of the donors, and sometimes to commemorate the achievements of recipients. And it was thus, not with the express object of recording history, but in order to intensify the importance of everything connected with religion and to secure grantees in the possession of properties conveyed to them, that there was gradually accumulated almost the whole of the great mass of inscriptional records upon which we are so dependent for our knowledge of the ancient history of India in all its branches.

Coming now to a survey of the inscriptions themselves, we must premise that India is divided, from the historical point of view, though not so markedly in some other respects, into two well-defined parts, Northern and Southern. A Survey of the inscriptions. classical name of Northern India is Āryāvarta, “the abode of the Āryas, the excellent or noble people.” Another name, which figures both in literature and in the inscriptions, is Uttarāpatha, “the path of the north, the northern road.” And, as a classical name of Southern India answering to that we have Dakshiṇāpatha, “the path of the south, the southern road,” from the first component of which name comes our modern term Deccan, Dekkan, or Dekhaṇ. Sanskṛit literature names as the dividing-line between Āryāvarta or the Uttarāpatha and the Dakshiṇāpatha, i.e. between Northern and Southern India, sometimes the Vindhya mountains, sometimes the river Nerbudda (Narmadā, Narbadā) which, flowing close along the south of the Vindhya range, empties itself into the gulf of Cambay near Broach, in Gujarāt, Bombay. The river seems, on the whole, to furnish the better dividing-line of the two. But it does not reach, any more than the range exactly extends, right across India from sea to sea. And, to complete the dividing-line beyond the sources of the Narbadā, which are in the Māikal range and close to the Amarkaṇṭak hill in the Rēwā State, Baghēlkhaṇḍ, we have to follow some such course as first the Maniārī river, from its sources, which are in that same neighbourhood but on the south of the Māikal range, to the point where, after it has joined the Seonāth, the united rivers flow into the Mahānadī, near Seorī-Nārāyan in the Bilāspūr district, Central Provinces, and then the Mahānadī itself, which flows into the bay of Bengal near Cuttack in Orissa. Even so, however, we have only a somewhat rough dividing-line between the historical Northern and Southern India; and the distinction must not be understood too strictly in connexion with the territories lying close on the north and the south of the line sketched above. In Western India, Kāṭhiāwār and all the portions of Gujarāt above Broach lie to the north of the Narbadā; but from the palaeographic point of view, if not so much from the historical, they belong essentially to Southern India. Our modern Central India lies entirely in Northern India, but has various palaeographic connexions with Southern India. Our Central Provinces extend in the Saugar district into Northern India; and that portion of them presents in ancient times both northern and southern characteristics. Eastern India may be defined as consisting of Bengal, with Orissa and Assam: it belongs to Northern India.

The inscriptional remains of India, as known at present, practically begin with the records of Aśōka, the great Maurya king of Northern India,—grandson of that king Chandragupta whose name was written by the Greeks as Sandrokottos,—who reigned 264 to 227 B.C. The state of the alphabets, indeed, in the time of Aśōka renders it certain that the art of writing must have been practised in India for a long while before his period; and it gives us every reason to hope that systematic exploration, especially of buried sites, will eventually result in the discovery of records framed by some of his predecessors or by their subjects. But those discoveries have still to be made; and matters stand just now as follows. From before the time of Aśōka we have an inscription on a relic-vase from a stūpa or relic-mound at Piprahwa in the north-east corner of the Bastī district, United Provinces, which preserves the memory of the slaughtered kinsmen of Buddha, the Śākyas of Kapilavastu according to the subsequent traditional nomenclature. We may perhaps place before his time the record on the Sōhgaurā plate, from the Gōrakhpūr district, United Provinces, which notifies the establishment of two public storehouses at a junction of three great highways of vehicular traffic to meet any emergent needs of persons using these roads. And we may possibly decide hereafter to refer to the same period a few other records which are not at present regarded as being quite so early. But, practically, the known inscriptions of India begin with the records of that king who calls himself in them “the king Dēvānaṁpiya-Piyadassi, the Beloved of the Gods, He of Gracious Mien,” but who is best known as Aśōka by the name given to him in the literature of India and Ceylon and in an inscription of A.D. 150 at Junāgaḍh (Junagarh) in Kāṭhiāwār. From his time onwards we have records from all parts in constantly increasing numbers, particularly during the earlier periods, from caves, rock-cut temples, and Buddhist stūpas. Many of them, however, are of only a dedicatory nature, and, valuable as they are for purposes of religion, geography, and other miscellaneous lines of research, are not very helpful in the