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Friday, May 18, 2012


North Indian Inscriptions




It is well-known that prior to the rise of the Guptas, the Kushāṇas1 exercised sovereignty over North India. For a long time the coins and inscriptions of Kanishka and his successors had been found at Mathura and the adjoining districts. And it was thought by scholars that the Kushāṇa power had not spread far to the east of that place. In the winter of 1904-05, however, during the course of excavations carried on by F. O. Oertel at Sarnath near Varanasi, a considerable number of epigraphs came to light along with a wealth of other archaeological material. Two of these have been incised on a colossal standing Bōdhisattva statue and one on a stone umbrella originally placed over the image. They are dated in the third year of Kanishka and say that the image and umbrella were the gift of the Bhikshu Bala, with whom, inter alia, were associated Mahākshatrapa Kharapallāna and Kshatrapa Vanashpara.2 This shows that the dominions of Kanishka extended so far eastward as to include Varanasi at least. As Vanashpara was a mere Kshatrapa, he must have been in charge of Varanasi and the surrounding district. The jurisdiction of Kharapallāna, who was a Mahākshatrapa, must have been of a wider extent and certainly included the Varanasi District, but where his headquarters exactly were we do not know.3 What, however, cannot be incontestably proved by inscriptions may be proved almost conclusively through numismatic finds. There is a class of copper coins termed “Puri Kushān”, which were so called by the late A. F. R. Hoernle, because the earliest known specimens that he examined came from a site from the Puri District.4 They are, however, found from Singhbhum to Ganjam. They are generally uninscribed, and seem to have been issued in the 4th or 5th century A.D. “All numismatists acknowledge that they exhibit a reminiscence of the characteristic Kushāṇ type.”5 For a long time it was a mystery how the Kushāṇa coinage exercised influence on this class of coins, because no Kushāṇa coins had actually been found in that region or in Bengal. Not long ago, however, a hoard of coins was discovered in the erstwhile Mayurbhanj State, Orissa, containing 282 copper coins, of which 170 were Puri Kushāṇas and 112 Imperial Great Kushāṇas of Kanishka and Huvishka.6 And, further, R. D. Banerji informs us that the coinage, both gold and copper, of the Later Great Kushāṇas is still extremely abundant in the markets of Patna and Gaya,7 showing that Bihar, too, was under the domination of the Later Great Kushāṇas. In Bengal also three coins have subsequently come to light, one from Malda and two from Mahasthan in Bogra District

1 The exact name of the race to which Kanishka and his successors belonged was for long not known. The discovery of the Māṭ inscription which is in Brāhmī and presents the Sanskrit form Kushāṇa-putrō (A. R. ASI., 1911-12, Pt. II, p. 124) now leaves no doubt as to Kushāṇa being the correct name of this race. This name has therefore been adopted throughout this book. In JRAS., 1914, pp. 79 ff. and pp. 754 ff., Baron A. von Staël-Holstein ingeniously seeks to show that this name was Kusha or Kuśa, and not Kushāṇa. But his view has been strongly dissented from by scholars like J. F. Fleet (ibid., pp. 369 ff., pp. 1000 ff.), J. Allan (ibid., pp. 403 ff.) and others.
2 J. Ph. Vogel, Ep. Ind., Vol. VIII, pp. 173 ff., No. III, a, b, c, and d. Correction of the name Kanishka into Kāṇishka by H. Lüders, ibid., Vol. IX, p. 241.
3 R. D. Banerji, however, surmises that Kharapallāna was in charge of North-eastern India, and Vanashpara, of Magadha (The Age of the Imperial Guptas, Benares, 1993, p. 2). As Vanashpara was the smaller officer and is associated with the benefaction, presumably he was in charge of the Varanasi District.
4 PASB., 1895, pp. 61 ff. Rapson’s Indian Coins, pp. 13-14, § 54.
5 Smith’s Catalogue of the Coins in the Indian Museum, Vol. I, p. 65. For a better account of this type of coins, see Sushil K. Bose’s A Fresh Hoard of so-called Puri Kushan Coins (IC., Vol. III. pp. 727 and ff.).
6 R. D. Banerji. Hist. of Ori., Vol. I, p. 113.
7 The Age of the Imperial Guptas, p. 2. The statement was confirmed later by the excavations of Spooner at Patna, as we shall presently see.

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