THE GUPTA INSCRIPTIONS
The round monolith sandstone column, thirtyfive feet in height, on which this inscription
is incised, cannot be later than the third century B.C., as is clear from the famous edicts of
Aśōka on it.1 It now stands in a conspicuous position inside the Fort at Allahābād. It is doubtful, however, whether the column was originally erected at this place. As has been suggested
by General Cunningham,2 it was first set up at the ancient Kauśāmbī, now represented by the
village of Kōsam3 on the left bank of the Yamunā, about twenty-eight miles west by south from
Allahābād; and, was still at that place when the present inscription was engraved. He further
suggests that it was afterwards moved from there to Allahābād by one of the early Musalmān
kings of Delhi, perhaps Fīrōz Shāh, just as the two Aśōka columns now at Delhi are known to
have been brought there by him from their original positions at Mēraṭh and in the Śiwālik
hills. The point in favour of the former supposition is that the column contains a short Aśōka
edict addressed to the Mahāmātras of Kauśāmbī.4 The latter supposition seems unlikely, because,
Delhi was the capital of Fīrōz Shāh, not Allahābād, which, on the other hand, was founded,
or refounded, two centuries after him by Akbar. It is more likely that this ruler5 removed
the pillar from Kōsam to Allahābād,–an inference supported by the records of his favourite
Bīrbal and of his son Jahāngīr inscribed on it.
The writing, which covers a space of about 6'8" broad by 5' 4" high,6 commences on
the north of the column, towards the north-east, and in the longest part, line 30, runs all round
the column, except for a space of about 1'9".. The bottom line is about 6' 0" above the point
where the column starts from its present pedestal. There is a large crack in the column, from
above the first word of the first line, and extending down to the beginning of the fourteenth.
And the upper part of the inscription has suffered very much, partly from some of the mediaeval inscriptions, which are so abundant on the column, being engraved on and between the
original lines here, and partly from the peeling off of the surface of the stone in several places.
But nothing of historical nature appears to have been lost; except, perhaps, after the mention
of Nagasēna in line 13, and in connection with the mention of Pushapapura in line 14. A few
1etters, again, have been damaged or destroyed by the peeling off of the stone near the beginning of line 23, and in the centre of lines 23, 24, 31, and 32 ; but, except in line 32, the letters
can be supplied without any doubt. The really important part of the inscription, the historical
and genealogical passages commencing with line 19 and ending in line 30, is fortunately in a
state of excellent preservation, and is decipherable without the slightest doubt from beginning
to end. The size of the letters, by which is meant, here and throughout, the height of such letters as ch, d, p, m, b, v, etc., which are formed entirely within the limits of so to speak, the lines
of writing, without any projections above or below, varies from 17 ” to ¾”.
1 It is generally assumed that the pillars on which Aśōka’s edicts are engraved were set up by him. It is, however, doubtful whether they were all so chiselled and put up in his time. Thus Pillar Edict VII ends with the
following: “This Dhaṁma-lipi should be inscribed where stone pillars and stone tablets are found, so that it may
endure.” (D.R. Bhandarkar, Asoka, 1932, p. 356. See also CII., Vol. I, 1925, p. 137). Similarly about the close of
the Rupnath Minor Rock Edict, Aśōka says: “Here and far off where there is any stone column, have it engraved
on the stone column.” (D. R. Bhandarkar, Asoka, 1932, p. 370. See also CII., Vol. I, 1925, p. 169). This seems to
show that the pillars were already in existence and were well-known before his edicts were ordered to be inscribed
2 CII., Vo.. I, 1877, p. 39.
3 CASIR., Vol. I, pp. 304-05 and Cunningham, Ancient Geography of India, 1975, pp. 330 ff.; Ep. Ind., Vol. XI, pp. 91 and 141; JRAS., 1898, pp. 503 ff., and 1927, pp. 689 ff.; A.R. ASI., 1923-24, p. 123.
4 CII., Vol. I, 1925, pp. 159-60, Plate facing p. 159; see also in continuation of the end of line 10 of the
present inscription in the plate which contains part of Aśōka’s edict where the second word Kōsa[m*]biyaṁ is quite
5 Ibid., Introduction, p. xx.
6 [In this Volume, the measurements are given in feet and inches.—Ed.].