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Nature of epigraphs

Epigraphical Studies in India

Nature of epigraphs

Inscriptions can be broadly classified into two major categories namely, stone inscriptions and copper plate grants. Majority of stone inscriptions are donative in character, while some are secular in nature. Inscriptions found on walls of the temple are valuable in as much as they furnish information about the ruling king and his administrative setup, the donor, the builder of the temple and its date and circumstances under which it was built. The copper-plate inscriptions mostly record land-grants made to learned Brahmanas and educational institutions. Asoka’s inscriptions called ‘edicts’, heralding dharma (piety), form a separate class by themselves.

The word sasana means raja-sasana or a royal charter and tamra-sasana is a royal charter engraved on a plate or plates of copper. Raja-sasanas are classified under three heads:

Dana-sasana, recording gifts

Prasada-sasana, recording various kinds of favour

Jaya-patra, declaring victory of one of the parties in a dispute.

Inscriptions, from the point of view of their contents, have been classified into many types:

Yupa-sasana, engraved on a sacrificial post

Stambha-sasana, engraved on a pillar, either architectural or commemorative

Pratima-sasana, image inscriptions

Kraya-sasana, sale deed

Vijaya-sasana, victory edict

Viragal, hero-stone, which may be merely commemorative or even donative

Mahasati stones, inscriptions recording cases of self immolation by the deceased heroes’ wives, and so on.

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