ASI unearths two Gupta-era temple steps with ‘Shankhalipi’ inscriptions in Uttar Pradesh

admin November 8, 2021
Updated 2021/11/08 at 10:20 AM

In a hamlet in Uttar Pradesh’s Etah district, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) found the ruins of an ancient temple dating back to the Gupta era (5th century). The temple steps contained ‘shankhalipi’ inscriptions, which archaeologists translated as ‘Sri Mahendraditya,’ the title of Kumaragupta I of the Gupta dynasty.

In 1928, the Bilsarh site was designated as “protected.” The ASI does cleaning work at the protected sites once a year. According to Vasant Swarnkar, superintending archaeologist of ASI’s Agra circle, the crew uncovered “two ornamental pillars next to one another, with human figures” this year, and “to comprehend their importance, we did additional excavation and located the steps.”

According to him, the inscription on the steps may read ‘Sri Mahendraditya,’ which was Kumaragupta I’s title.

According to the ASI, the stairwell led to a Gupta-era structural temple. The finding is noteworthy since only two other Gupta-era structural temples have been discovered so far: Dashavatara Temple (Deogarh) and Bhitargaon Temple (Kanpur Dehat).

Kumaragupta I governed north-central India for 40 years in the 5th century. The Guptas were the first to construct structure temples, as opposed to the earlier rock-cut temples.

What is the Shankhalipi script?

Shankhalipi, or “shell-script,” is a word used by academics to describe elaborate spiral symbols that resemble conch shells or shankhas and are thought to be Brahmi derivatives. They may be found in inscriptions from the 4th to the 8th century in north-central India. A similar inscription was discovered on the back of a stone horse sculpture from the same period, which is currently housed at Lucknow’s State Museum.

Shankhalipi and Brahmi are both stylized scripts that are mainly used for signatures and names. The inscriptions are made up of a limited number of characters, implying that they are names, auspicious symbols, or a mix of the two.

Meaning and chronology

English scholar James Prinsep, the founding editor of the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, discovered the writing on a brass trident in Uttarakhand’s Barahat in 1836. A year later, he discovered two additional identical writings in the Barabar Hills near Gaya’s Nagarjuna series of caves. The Mundeshwari Temple in Bihar, the Udayagiri Caves in Madhya Pradesh, Mansar in Maharashtra, and several cave sites in Gujarat and Maharashtra are also notable locations containing shell inscriptions. In reality, shell inscriptions have been found on the Indonesian islands of Java and Borneo.

Scholars have attempted but have been unsuccessful in deciphering shell scripts. Professor Richard Salomon of the University of Washington conducted the first comprehensive examination of shell inscriptions. He claimed that there are enough shell symbols to represent the Sanskrit language’s syllables, and he provisionally ascribed sounds to some of the letters. Historian B N Mukherjee suggested a decipherment method based on a few important inscriptions in recent years, however, his ideas do not hold up to examination.

Shankhalipi may be seen carved onto temple pillars, columns, and rock faces. So yet, no such inscriptions with dates or numbers have been recorded, despite the fact that the chronology of the items on which they are inscribed may be established.


Source: The Indian Express

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