Ancient Indian Epigraphy
By Globus Press
The earliest traces ofÂ epigraphyÂ inÂ South AsiaÂ are found in the undeciphered inscriptions of theÂ Indus Valley CivilizationÂ (Indus script), which date back to the early 3rd millennium BC. According to most scholars, the earliest deciphered epigraphic inscriptions are theÂ Ashoka inscriptionsÂ of the 3rd century BCE, written in a form ofÂ Prakrit, withÂ Dravidian languageÂ Jain inscriptions appearing soon afterwards inÂ Sri LankaÂ andÂ South India.Â Some scholars have made claims for earlier appearances of small written fragments on South Indian potsherds, but these are as of yet not generally accepted. Writing inÂ SanskritÂ appears only later, in the early centuries AD. Indian epigraphy becomes more widespread over the 1st millennium, engraved on the faces of cliffs, on pillars, on tablets of stone, drawn in caves and on rocks, some gouged into the bedrock. Later they were also inscribed on palm leaves, coins,Â copper plates, and on temple walls. Many of the inscriptions are couched in extravagant language, but when the information gained from inscriptions can be corroborated with information from other sources such as still existing monuments or ruins, inscriptions provide insight into Indiaâs dynastic history that otherwise lacks contemporary historical records. Since 1886 there have been systematic attempts to collect and catalogue these inscriptions, along with the translation and publication of documents.