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624
[INDIAN
INSCRIPTIONS

historical line. We are interested here chiefly in the historical records; and we can notice only the most prominent ones even among them.

Of this king Aśōka we have now thirty-five different records, some of them in various recensions. Amongst them, the most famous ones are the seven pillar-edicts and the fourteen rock-edicts, found in various versions, and in a more or less complete state, at different places from Shāhbāzgarhī in the Yūsufzai country in the extreme north-west, to Radhia, Mathia, and Rāmpūrwa in the Champāran district, Bengal, at Dhauli in the Cuttack district of Orissa, at Jaugada in the Gan̄jām district, Madras, at Girnār (Junāgaḍh) in Kāṭhiāwār, and even at Sopāra in the Ṭhāṇa district, Bombay. These edicts were thus published in conspicuous positions in or near towns, or close to highways frequented by travellers and traders, or in the neighbourhood of sacred places visited by pilgrims, so that they might be freely seen and perused. And the object of them was to proclaim the firm determination of Aśōka to govern his realm righteously and kindly in accordance with the duty of pious kings, and with considerateness for even religious beliefs other than the Brāhmaṇical faith which he himself at first professed, and to acquaint his subjects with certain measures that he had taken to that end, and to explain to them how they might co-operate with him in his objects. But, in addition to mentioning certain contemporaneous foreign kings, Antiochus II. (Theos) of Syria, Ptolemy Philadelphus of Egypt, Antigonus Gonatas of Macedonia, Magas of Cyrene, and Alexander II. of Epirus, they yield items of internal history, in detailing some of Aśōka’s administrative arrangements; in locating the capital of his empire at Pāṭaliputra (Patna), and seats of viceroys at Ujjēni (Ujjain) and Takhasilā (Taxila); in giving the names of some of the leading peoples of India, particularly the Chōḷas, the Pāṇḍyas, and the Andhras; and in recording the memorable conquest of the Kaliṅga country, the attendant miseries of which first directed the thoughts of the king to religion and to solicitude for the welfare of all his subjects. Another noteworthy record of Aśōka is that notification, containing his Last Edict, his dying speech, issued by local officials just after his death, which is extant in various recensions at Sahasrām, Rūpnāth, and Bairāt in Northern India, and at Brahmagiri, Siddāpura, and Jaṭinga-Rāmēśvara in Mysore. Some three years before the end of his long reign of thirty-seven years, Aśōka became a convert to Buddhism, and was admitted as an Upāsaka or lay-worshipper. Eventually, he formally joined the Buddhist order; and, following a not infrequent custom of ancient Indian kings, he abdicated, took the vows of a monk, and withdrew to spend his remaining days in religious retirement in a cave-dwelling on Suvarnagiri (Sōngīr), one of the hills surrounding the ancient city of Girivraja, below Rājagṛiha (Rājgīr), in the Patna district in Behār. And there, about a year later, in his last moments, he delivered the address incorporated in this notification, proclaiming as the only true religion that which had been promulgated by Buddha, and expanding the topic of the last words of that great teacher: “Work out your salvation by diligence!” This record, it may be added, is also of interest because, whereas such of the other known records of Aśōka as are dated at all are dated according to the number of years elapsed after his anointment to the sovereignty, it is dated 256 years after the death of Buddha, which event took place in 483 B.C.

For the two centuries or nearly so next after the end of the reign of Aśōka, we have chiefly a large number of short inscriptions which are of much value in miscellaneous lines of research—palaeography, geography, religion, and so on. But historical records are by no means wanting; and we may mention in particular the following. From the caves in the Nāgārjunī Hills in the Gayā district, Bengal, we have (along with three of the inscriptions of Aśōka himself) three records of a king Daśaratha who, according to the Vishṇu-Purāna, was a grandson of Aśōka. From the stūpa at Bharaut in the Nāgōd state, Central India, we have a record which proves the existence of the dynasty of the Śuṅga kings, for whom the Purānas, placing them next after the line of Chandragupta and Aśōka, indicate the period 183 to 71 B.C. Two of the records from the stūpa at Bhaṭṭiprōlu in the Kistna district, Madras, give us a king of those parts, reigning about 200 B.C., whose name appears both as Kubiraka and as Khubiraka. From Bēsnagar in the Gwālior state we have an inscription, referable to the period 175 to 135 B.C., which mentions a king of Central India, by name Bhāgabhadra, and also mentions, as his contemporary, one of the Greek kings of the Punjab, Antalkidas, whose name is familiar from his coins in the form Antialkidas. From the Hāthigumphā cave near Cuttack, in Orissa, we have a record, to be placed about 140 B.C., of king Khāravēla, a member of a dynasty which reigned in that part of India. From a cave at Pabhōsā in the Allahābād district, United Provinces, we have two records which make known to us a short succession of kings of Adhichatrā, otherwise known as Ahichchhattra. From a cave at the Nānāghāt Pass in the Poona district, Bombay, we have a record of queen Nāyanikā, wife of one of the great Sātavāhana-Sātakarṇi kings of the Deccan. And from the stūpa No. 1 at Sān̄chi in the Bhōpāl state, Central India, we have a record of a king Śrī-Sātakarṇi, belonging to perhaps another branch of the same great stock.

The historical records become more numerous from the time of the Kushan king Kaṇishka or Kāṇishka, who began to reign in 58 B.C., and founded the so-called Vikrama era, the great historical era of Northern India, beginning in that year.[1] For the period of him and his immediate successors, Vāsishka, Huvishka and Vāsudēva, we have now between seventy and eighty inscriptions, ranging from 54 B.C. to A.D. 42, and disclosing a sway which reached at its height from Bengal to Kābul: we are indebted for some of these to the Buddhists, in connexion with whose faith the memory of Kaṇishka was preserved by tradition, but for most of them to the Jains, who seem to have been at that time the more numerous sect in the central part of his dominions.

The dynasty of Kaṇishka was succeeded by another foreign ruler, Gondophernēs, popularly known as Gondophares, whose coins indicate that, in addition to a large part of north-western India and Sind, his dominions included Kābul, Kandahār, and Sēistān. This king is well known to Christian tradition, in connexion with the mission of St Thomas the Apostle to the East. And the tradition is substantially supported by an inscription from Takht-i-Bahaī in the Yūsufzai country on the north-west frontier, which, like some of his coins, mentions him as Guduphara or Gunduphara, and proves that he was reigning there in A.D. 47.

Gondophernēs was followed by the Kadphisēs kings, belonging to another branch of the Kushan tribe, who perhaps extended their sway farther into India, as far at least as Mathurā (Muttra), and reigned for about three-quarters of a century. For their period, and in fact for the whole time to the rise of the Guptas in A.D. 320 we have as yet but scanty help from the inscriptions in respect of the political history of Northern India: we are mostly dependent on the coins, which tend to indicate that that part of India was then broken up into a number of small sovereignties and tribal governments. An inscription, however, from Panjtar in the Yūsufzai territory mentions, without giving his name, a Kushan king whose dominion included that territory in A.D. 66. And an inscription of A.D. 242 from Mathurā has been understood to indicate that some descendant of the same stock was then reigning there. The inscriptional records for that period belong chiefly to Southern India.

Meanwhile, however, in the south-west corner of Northern India, namely in Kāṭhiāwār, there arose another foreign king, apparently of Parthian extraction, by name Nahapāna, described in his records, whether by a family name or by a tribal appellation, as a Chhaharāta or Kshaharāta, in whom we have the

  1. It may be remarked that there are about twelve different views regarding the date of Kaṇishka and the origin of the Vikrama era. Some writers hold that Kaṇishka began to reign in A.D. 78: one writer would place his initial date about A.D. 123: others would place it in A.D. 278. The view maintained by the present writer was held at one time by Sir A. Cunningham; and, as some others have already begun to recognize, evidence is now steadily accumulating in support of the correctness of it.