In this article we are going to know about some of the most important inscriptions and edicts of ancient times which are considered critically important from UPSC Exam point of view.



In this article we are going to know about some of the most important inscriptions and edicts of ancient times which are considered critically important from UPSC Exam point of view, both in Preliminary as well as Civil Services Mains Examination.

1.Sohgaura Copper Plate InscriptionThe earliest known copper-plate, known as the Sohgaura copper-plate, is a Mauryan record that mentions famine relief efforts. It is one of the very few pre-Ashoka Brahmi inscriptions in India.
2.Ashokan EdictsThe Edicts of Ashoka are a collection of 33 inscriptions on the Pillars of Ashoka as well as boulders and cave walls made by the Emperor Ashoka of the Mauryan Empire during his reign from 269 BCE to 232 BCE. These inscriptions were dispersed throughout the country and it represents the first tangible evidence of Buddhism. The edicts describe in detail the Ashoka’s view about dharma, to solve the severe problems faced by the complex society.

The Edicts are divided into:
1. Pillar Edicts
2. Major Rock Edicts: 14 Edicts (termed 1st to 14th) and 2 separate ones found in Odisha.
3. Major Rock Inscriptions: Minor Rock Edicts, the Queen’s Edict, Barabar cave inscriptions and the Kandahar bilingual inscription.

These inscriptions show Ashoka’s devotion towards the
Buddhist philosophy. The inscriptions show his efforts to spread and develop the Buddhist dharma throughout his kingdom.

The edicts mainly focus on social and moral precepts rather than specific religious practices or the philosophical dimension of Buddhism.

The inscriptions revolve around a few themes:

1. Ashoka’s conversion to Buddhism,
2. The description of his efforts to spread Buddhism, his moral and religious precepts, and his social and animal welfare programmes.

In these inscriptions, Ashoka refers to himself as “Beloved servant of the God” (Devanampiyadasi). The identification of Devanampiyadasi with Ashoka was confirmed by an inscription at Maski.

The inscriptions found in the eastern part of India were written in Magadhi Prakrit using the Brahmi script.
3.Rummindei Pillar Edicts (Lumbini)These inscriptions come under the Minor Pillar Inscriptions.

These contain inscriptions recording their dedication. The inscriptions mentions Ashoka’s visit to Lumbini (Rummindei), Rupandehi district, Nepal, the birthplace of Lord Buddha.

Ashoka exempted Lumbini from paying tax, and fixed its contribution of grain at one – eighth.

The inscriptions are written in Brahmi script.
4.Prayag-PrashastiPrayag-Prashasti is the name given to the Allahabad Pillar. “Prayag” means a meeting place for something or someone.

Prayag is an ancient name of Allahabad as it is the meeting place or ‘Sangam’ of rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati.

Prashasti means “in praise of someone” and is a eulogy. The Allahabad Prasasti was originally engraved on the Ashokan Pillar in Kausambhi near Allahabad. Later it was removed to the Allahabad fort. It is an Ashokan Stambh but has 4 different inscriptions i.e.

1. The usual Ashokan inscriptions in Brahmi script as in all

2. The Queen’s edict regaling the charitable deeds of Ashoka’s
wife Kaurwaki.

3. Samudragupta’s (335 AD – 375 AD) inscriptions written by Harisena in Sanskrit language and Brahmi script. It mentions about the conquests of Samudragupta and boundaries of the Gupta Empire.

4. Jahangir’s inscriptions in Persian.
5.Mehrauli InscriptionThe Mehrauli Iron Pillar is located in Delhi in the Qutub Minar complex. It is notable for the rustresistant composition of the metals used in its construction.

This pillar was established by Chandragupta-II of Gupta dynasty as Vishnupada in the honor of Lord Vishnu.

This pillar credits Chandragupta with conquest of the Vanga Countries by his battling alone against the confederacy of the
enemies united against him.

It also credits him for conquest of Vakatakas in a fight that ran across seven mouths of Indus River.
6.Kalsi InscriptionKalsi town is known for its heritage importance. It is a small town located in between Chakrata and Dehradun on the banks of Yamuna river.

The site of Ashoka’s inscriptions at Kalsi is singularly unique as it is the only place in North India where the great Mauryan emperor has inscribed the set of the fourteen rock edicts.

The language of these edicts is Prakrit and the script is Brahmi.

The Rock edict was written around 450 B.C and is made of quartz which is 8 feet broad and 10 feet long.

These rock edicts reflect Asoka’s human approach in his internal administration when he converted himself to Buddhism.

It also reflects the policies for the commitment to non-violence and restriction of war.

The inscription also tells about is life when he took the path of spirituality.
7.Maski InscriptionMaski is a village and an archaeological site in Raichur district of Karnataka. It lies on the bank of the Maski river which is a tributary of the Tungabhadra.

The site has a minor rock edict of Emperor Ashoka. It was the first edict of Emperor Ashoka that contained the name Ashoka in it instead of ‘Devanampriya’ or ‘Piyadassi’.

The inscription remains a dharma shasana, and tells the people to follow the tenets of Buddhism.

Moreover the inscription also suggests the spread of Mauryan rule up to the Krishna valley of north-eastern Karnataka.
8.Kalinga EdictsKalinga in present Odisha still stands tall as a witness of its thousand year old legacy.

The Kalinga War was the turning point in Ashoka’s career and he not only gave up his ambition of “Digvijaya” but also decided to take the path of non– violence and to follow Buddhism.

The set of Rock Edicts contain eleven out of the well known
fourteen Rock Edicts of Ashoka

The language of the edicts is Magadhi Prakrita and the script being the early Brahmi.

In place of the eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth rock edicts, two special edicts known as Separate Rock Edicts or Kalinga Edicts have been incorporated, which are peace-making in nature and meant for the pacification of the newly conquered people of Kalinga.
9.Aihole InscriptionAihole in Karnataka was the first capital of Chalukyas. Many inscriptions were found at Aihole, but the inscription found at Meguti Temple popularly known as Aihole inscription witnessed many historical events of Chalukyas.

The inscription is written in Sanskrit and it is in Kannada script.

There is a mention about the defeat of Harshavardhana by
Pulakeshin II
and the victory of Chalukyas over Pallavas.

It also mentions about the shifting of the capital from Aihole to Badami. They were written by Ravikirti, the court poet of
Pulakeshi II who reigned from 610 to 642 CE.
10.Hathigumpha InscriptionThe Hathigumpha Inscription also known as Elephant Cave Inscription from Udayagiri-Khandagiri Caves in Odisha, were inscribed by King Kharavela during 2nd century BCE.

The Hathigumpha Inscription consists of 17 lines in Prakrit language and in Brahmi script.

Hathigumpha Inscription at Udayagiri Caves is the main source of information about Kalinga ruler Kharavela.

The Hathigumpha Inscription is like the history of Kharavela as a king, a conqueror, a patron of culture and a champion of Jainism.



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