South Indian Inscriptions
No. 7.- THE INSCRIPTIONS IN THE CAVES AT KARLE.
The Editor of the Epigraphia Indica has been good enough to make over to me two sets of inked estampages of the inscriptions at Kârlê and at Nâsik, which he caused to be taken in the year 1899 by his Assistant, Mr. G. Venkoba Rao ; and he has kindly requested me to contribute a brief commentary on the Plates of them which he intends to issue. All these records have been commented on before by such scholars as Bhandarkar, Bhagwanlal Indraji and Bühler. Still, I cannot resist the temptation of adding my modest gloss in the wake of their learned interpretations. Nobody will expect, however, that I shall arrive at startline new results.
The difficulties with which the explanation of these precious documents has to cope are on the
whole due to two causes─ (1) their imperfect state of preservation ; and (2) the employment of
a certain number of obscure terms or formulas. Since the comparatively recent date to which
the preceding treatments of these inscriptions belong, few important new materials have come
to light. On the other hand, as regards fac-similes, the Plates now issued may at first sight
appear more imperfect than those which were published by the Archæological Survey. But,
having worked direct from the inked estampages, I can testify that the new Plates seem to have
been executed with scrupulous care, and that the collotypes are purely mechanical reproductions
of the estampages. Of course they do not show all the details of the originals,─ because this is
impossible,─ but they have not been subjected to any touching up by hand. The estampages
were made quite recently ; and, in the course of several years which separate them from the
earlier copies, the disintegration of the rocks which bear the inscriptions will have continued,
and characters which existed before may have lost in clearness. Is this enough to account for
the difference between the old and the new Plates ? It seems to me that the former, or
at least portions of them, were touched up by hand in details. These retouches, which were
executed by competent readers who worked from the monuments, certainly have a value of
their own. Nevertheless they imply certain minute alterations which are hardly compatible with
the scrupulous care that is now considered indispensable in such matters. I am dwelling on this
point only in order to vindicate myself for not appearing to be quite so well informed as my predecessors in the treatment of several passages, and besides, for admitting that certain apparent
readings of the earlier fac-similes do not exclude a priori some slightly different hypotheses.
I do not know if, in this field of enquiry and in the present state of our knowledge, it is not
more dangerous to affirm too much than to be too cautious. It goes without saying that I have
nowhere neglected the invaluable help which the earlier reproductions and transcriptions
furnished ; if reduced to my own resources, I would have had to leave more than one lacuna in
the texts. Nevertheless the readings which I propose are such as I consider to be actually warranted
by the context of the estampages which I have in my hands and which are represented by the
new Plates. In several cases where, though believing in a certain transcription, I do not venture
to affirm that it is perfectly sure, I enclose in square brackets the letters which to my mind
are more or less doubtful. I confess that even this distinction has not been a very easy matter.
One need only look at some of the Plates in order to understand that in many cases, if the
reading hardly admits of any doubt, the reason is that it is corroborated either by the
 Translated from the French by the Editor.