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  • Dr.T.S. Ravishankar

Preserving and Conserving Our Epigraphical Heritage

When we look at our past, no other country presents before us such a rich, vivid, diversified culture as seen in our country. Indian sub - continent saw the emergence of great civilization and varied cultures, having a hoary past. The greatest contribution of mankind is the art of writing, which flourished in different forms in different parts of the continent, and India is not an exception to it. The beginning of our writing system could be traced and seen in Indus seals and sealings. Till today it has remained as an enigmatic script, due to non-availability of bi scriptal and bi lingual records. After the eclipse of the Indus civilization, there is emergence of pan Indian script known as Brahmi in the beginning of 3rd century B C. The great Mauryan emperor Asoka got his edicts written in this unique script found in entire Indian sub-continent.

India has a vast epigraphical wealth found throughout the length and breadth of the country, far flung in time and space. The extensive epigraphical survey conducted, beginning from last quarter of 18th century CE has yielded several thousands of inscriptions beginning from 3rd century BCE to late medieval period, written in like, Brahmi, Kharosti, Box headed and Nail headed characters, Siddhamatrika, shell characters, early Nagari etc., and in Prakrit and Sanskrit in early period. Particularly in South India we find the emergence of both regional scripts and languages in the 4th century CE onwards. There are many Tamil Brahmi inscriptions of an earlier phase. With this background, one can well imagine the richness and the antiquity of our Epigraphical heritage.


Epigraphs or inscriptions forms the primary source to understand our Indian History, especially early Indian history. If we know about emperor Asoka or Samudragupta it is through their inscriptions. The epigraphical sources are nothing but a mirror to understand our past, which are replete with not merely political history but also socio economic, religious and many more aspect, connected with human activities. To understand and appreciate heritage sites, secular monuments, temples and even archaeological sites, knowledge of epigraphs or inscriptions are very essential to know dating, the lineages of dynasties, the benefaction made by the ruler or donor and many aspects of which are of great cultural significance.


Unfortunately, in the recent years we are losing our vast epigraphical wealth because of vandalism, and vagaries of nature. There are instances where beautiful inscribed stone slabs are used as washing stones, many hoards of copper plates and coins in gold and silver are melted just for the value of metal. We can imagine how our previous history was lost and also disappearing. As heritage enthusiasts and responsible citizens of India it is our prime duty to conserve and preserve our great Epigraphical Heritage. So that, our future generation can appreciate and understand the richness of our scripts, languages and abundant historical facts contained in the epigraphs to reconstruct Indian History.

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