Sri. N. Chandrababu Naidu, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh

Smt. Bhuma Akhila Priya , Minister of Tourism

Sri. Mukesh Kumar Meena, I.A.S, Secretary to Government, Youth Advancement Tourism and Culture




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What is epigraphy?

The word epigraphy is derived from two Greek words viz., epi means on or upon and graphie means to write. And hence, epigraphy is the study of writings engraved on stone metal and other materials like wood, shell etc. known as ?inscriptions? or ?epigraphs?. Though engraving is the chief characteristic of an epigraph, there are some exceptions when old writings in ink on rocks, boulders etc., are also accepted as epigraphs. A person who is engaged in the decipherment and interpretation of the epigraphs is called an epigraphist.

Epigraphy as a source of History

India is singularly rich in epigraphical wealth. Epigraphy forms one of the very important sources for understanding the history and culture of the Indian people from the time of Mauryan emperor Asoka (3rd century B.C.) to the late medieval period. It is only from a patient and painstaking study of a large number of connected inscriptions that a reconstruction of not only the political and dynastic history, but also the social, religious, administrative and economic History of a particular period or region.

Early Scripts

The earliest known system of writing is found on the seals used by the people of Indus valley of about 2500 B.C. to 1500 B.C. But this writing has not yet been deciphered successfully.

Mouryan?s Asokan edicts (3rd century B.C.) are the earliest decipherable inscriptions, so far available in India. Kharoshti, Brahmi scripts appearing for the first time in the Asokan inscriptions is the mother of all the scripts of the Prakritic, Sanskritic and Davidian inscriptions found in different parts of India today. Another ancient script which was predominately used in the north-west of India is Kharoshthi. Kharoshthi is a modification of the Aranic script and it is written from right to left. It was used in the seek edicts of Asoka found at Mansehra and Shah basgarhi ( in Pakistan) in the North-western part of Asoka?s empire. After him, the use of Kharoshthi script spread to Mathura region and prevalent in the ancient province of Gandhara upto 2nd century A.D.


A host of scholars like William jones, Ch. Lassen and others made successive efforts for the decipherment of early Brahmi script. It was James Princep in the year 1837 who unrevelled the mystery of Brahmi script. However, the credit of preparing a complete and scientific table of Brahmi characters goes to Buhler. In british Inida they appointed Archaeological surveyor in 1861. Alexander Cunningham compiled Ashokan edicts while he was working as a Director General (1871-1885). In the same manner J.F. Fleet published Gupta inscriptions and South Indian Inscriptions by E. Hultzsch. After Cunnigham J. Brugess worked as a Director General, he introducted ?Epigraphia Indica? to publish the collected Inscriptions Madras Government printed Annual Reports on South Indian Epigraphy from 1887 to 1921. In this 25000 inscriptions texts and 500 copper plate inscriptions were published. Some eigraphists prepared Indices for inscriptions. In 1898 F. Kielhorn published North Indian Inscriptions. Some foreigners like Buhler, Kielhorn, Fleet, Hultzsch worked in this area. In Indians D.R. Bhandarkar, N.G. Majundar, N. Venkataramanaiah and Krishnasastry worked in the field of epigraphy.

Epigraphical Studies in Andhra Pradesh

Like all other branches of archaeological investigations, epigraphical studies in Andhra Pradesh began as early as the last quarter of the 19th century when Col- Colin Mackenzie (1776 - 1821) embarked upon collecting innumerable inscriptions engraved on stone and copper, which lay scattered all over in different nooks and corners of the then Madras Presidency. For this, he appointed a band of young and devoted native scholars, among whom figure the famous Kavali brothers, who rank foremost as pioneers of Andhra epigraphy. The Kavali brothers (viz) Borraiah and his brothers Lakshmaiah and Ramaswamy, visited almost all the villages on foot, prepared faithful facsimiles and eye copies of inscriptions.

During this period epigraphical studies gained momentum. As a part of it, appeared the Journal Epigraphia Indica in 1888, meant exclusively for publishing rare and invaluable inscriptions. Burgess published the first two volumes of Epigraphia Indica. About the same time, also came the early volumes of South Indian Inscriptions. In 1887, began the publication of Annual Reports on Indian Epigraphy, which, subsequently, became Annual Reports on South Indian Epigraphy. In the latter half of 19rh century Buhler, Hultzsch, J.F.Fleet, Kielhorn, Stein Konow, and others contributed in a large measure to Andhra Epigraphy, by publishing some rare and unique records in the volumes of Epigraphia Indica, Indian Antiquary, Journal of Royal Asiatic Society and Journal of Asiatic Research. Luders prepared a comprehensive catalogue of Brahmi inscriptions, with texts of about 200 records from Amaravati and other adjoining sites in the neighbourhood.

The advent of 20th century brought about a new phase in the course of historical research and epigraphical studies in particular in Andhra.

In the year 1915 a separate department for History was opened in the University of Madras, meant exclusively for carrying out research in South Indian History. Hence forward began studies in the history of Andhra as well, under the stewardship of eminent scholars like S.Krishna Swami Aiyangar, K.A.Nilakantha Sastri, Nelaturi Venkataramanayya and A.Rangaswamy Saraswati. A large number of Brahmi inscriptions, assignable to the Ikshvakus, who exercised authority in the lower Krishna valley in 3rd _4th century AD.

During this period, Andhra was suffering from dearth of suitable journals or periodicals and a proper forum either for publishing articles of research or discussing matters pertaining to Andhra history and culture, was lacking. True, there were Andhra Sahitya Parishat patrika and Sarada, which, though published a few articles on history now and then, were primarily meant for Telugu language and literature. Further, Sarada did not have necessary financial support to publish articles with facsimiles of inscriptions. In these circumstances appeared Sri Kasinathuni Nagesvara Rao Pantulu, on the scene, who established Bharati a monthly journal in Telugu, which catered to the needs of historians and thus he stood by the scholars engaged in research in Andhra history and culture. To the same period belongs the Nellore District Inscriptions compiled in three volumes by Butterworth and Venugopalachetti, after arduous survey of the district, which indeed is a significant contribution.

To the same class belongs another journal of repute (viz.) Journal of Andhra Historical Research Society, published from Rajahmundry, on a quarterly basis. In addition, it also published Dynastic volumes (Viz) Rajaraja Naredra Pattabhisheka sanchika (1922) edited by B.v.Krishna Rao,Kalinga Sanchika (1930) edited by Rallabandi Subba Rao, Kakatiya Sanchika (1935) edited by M.Rama Rao and finally Reddi Sanchika (1947) edited by Vaddadi Appa Rao.

There was also another journal Andhra charitra-Samskriti a quarterly periodical published from Guntur, which also published a few Telugu inscriptions by Sri P. Seshadri Sastri.

During the same period flourished another great scholar, a jurist by profession but a versatile epigraphist by pursuit i.e.Jayanti Ramayya Pantulu, who edited Volume X of South Indian Inscriptions, which was entirely devoted to Telugu inscriptions alone.

Telingana region, which, at that time i.e. during the first half of 20th century, was under the Nizam of Hyderabad, did not lag behind, in unearthing original source material i.e inscriptions. In this, Lakshamanaraya Parisodhaka Mandali, did creditable service. Alongside the Dept. of Archaeology, headed by Ghulam Yazdani, who laboured hard, in discovering new inscriptions and publishing them. In fact, the credit of discovering a large number of Islamic inscriptions which lay hidden in the then Hyderabad State, should go to him, which were duly published in the Annual Reports of HEH Nizarn's Dominions.

Apart from the above, there were a few individual scholars who drew inspiration from Chilukuri and Komarraju and made research their passion. Among them, ranks first Sri Mallampalli Somasekhara Sarma (1891 - 1963), who worked hand in hand with the above savants and learnt modern methods of research. He also edited Volume-III of the Telugu encyclopaedia "Vijnana Sarvasvamu" entitled "Charitra - Sanskriti". His memorable works are A Forgotten Chapter of Andhra History and The History of the Reddi Kingdoms.

Dr. Nelaturi Venkataramanayya was another doyen who adorned the field of historical research and epigraphical studies in the first half of 20th century and whose contributions are no less. Soon, he got into association with Mallampalli and began working with him ever since. Their friendship continued throughout their lives and together, they embarked on collecting several new inscriptions from Anantapur, Cuddapah, Kurnool and Nellore districts, It is said that they were the first to discover the well known Asokan inscriptions at Erragudi and copy them. Venkataramanayya was a keen critic and a hard task master. His important works include The Eastern Chalukyas of Vengi, Further Sources of Vijayanagara History and The Third Dynasty of Vijayanagara. He was a great protagonist of the theory of the Telugu origin of the Vijayanagara rulers and in support of this he wrote the book Origin of the city and the empire of Vijayanagara. His another magnum opus was Early Muslim Expansion in South India. In his later years Dr. Nelaturi headed the Epigraphy branch of the Dept. of Archaeology and Museums, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad (1964-72) and trained a band of young and budding scholars to follow. During his stewardship of Epigraphy branch, Dr. Venkataramanayya initiated the publication of Annual Reports on Epigraphy, District Volumes of Inscriptions and a journal called Epigraphia Andhrica. After prolonged service spanning over half a century, Dr. Nelaturi breathed his last in the year 1977.

A yet another eminent epigraphist of the times was Kunduri Isvara Dutt, who, though an auditor by profession, took keen interest in historical studies. Possessing sound knowledge of Sanskrit, he published a series of articles in Andhra Sahitya Parishat Patrika andJournal of Andhra Historical Research Society, on different aspects such as administration and culture. He authored two major works (viz ) A Historical Geography of Andhra Pradesh and A Glossary of Epigraphical Terms which stand testimony to his scholarship and genius and which was of help to the next generation of scholars in understanding the expressions.

To the same class belongs Sri Rallabandi Subba Rao, who, as life time Secretary of the Andhra Hisrorical Research Society, Rajahrnundry, rendered invaluable service to the cause of Andhra epigraphy and historical research.

Fortunately enough, during this period Epigraphy received the attention of the Universities also. Andhra University was the first to start a separate chair for Epigraphy in the faculty of History and included it in the curriculum for Post Graduate course i.e Master of Arts, which paved way for the birth of new scholars in the field afterwards. The Department of Archaeology and Museums, Govt. of Andhra Pradesh, at the instance of the scholar - administrator Dr. N.Ramesan, established a separate branch for Epigraphy in the year 1964. Since then, the branch, headed by scholars like Dr. Nelaturi and Dr P.V. Parabrahma Sastri. and assisted by Sri M.V.N.Aditya Sarma, Sri N.Mukunda Rao, Sri G.Jawaharlal, and N.S.Rama Chandra Murthy, continued the job with missionary zeal and spirit, coupled with sincerity and devotion. As a result, came the publications - three Annual Reports on Epigraphy, 1965, 1966 and 1967 respectively, 6 District Volumes (Viz) Warangal, Karimnagar, Nalgonda, Medak, Cuddapah, and Mahaboobnagar, and 6 issues ofEpigraphia Andhrica. In addition, there were also a few individual monographs like Select Inscriptions, Copper Plate Inscriptions in Govt. Museum, and Vishnukundinulu. Likewise several individual scholars also contributed their mite to the growth of epigraphical studies in recent years. Some among them are Prof. C. Somasundara Rao, Prof. S.S. Rama Chandra Murthy, Dr. C.A. Padmanabha Sastri and finally Sri B.N. Sastri. The last mentioned i.e. B.N. Sastri, worked in the Telingana region of Andhra Pradesh and unearthed a large number of inscriptions and published them. In fact, it was he who brought to the notice of the scholarly world the two "Tummalagudem grants of Vishnukundi Govindavarma and Vikramendra Bhattaraka Varman." He also published a corpus of the inscriptions of the Recherla Velamas.

Types of Inscriptions

On the basis of the material used for writing epigraphs, they are classified as :

1. Stone inscriptions and

2. Metal inscriptions.

The stone inscriptions can further be classified as wall inscriptions, pillar inscriptions and floor inscriptions. All the wall inscriptions are incised on the walls of temples and forts. Examples like Mukhalingam, Srikurmam, Simhachalam, Draksharamam, Tripurantakam, Srisailam, only to cite a few, represent wall inscriptions. They are very much votive in nature and record the donations mostly by private individuals. Pillar inscriptions are mostly found on the pillars in frontal porches and subsidiary porches of a temple. They represent to a majority, the details of donations by kings, queens and other regal associates. At times pillar inscriptions like Rummindei inscription of Asoka, Allahabad inscriptions of Samudra Gupta, for instance, indicate such an inscribed data standing independent of its own. Such data is mostly recording an event of victory or a great contribution to society and state by ruling figures. Such independent pillar inscriptions are very much regal in nature.

The floor inscriptions are such records which are inscribed on the floor of the mandapas and temple. Huge blocks of stone used in the flooring are made use for carving out the inscriptions. Such floor inscriptions can be seen within and outside the campus of a temple or similar institution. Most of the floor inscriptions are votive in nature and record the donation and services by private individuals.

The metal inscriptions can be classified as copper plate inscriptions and silver plate inscriptions. The silver plate records are very few and almost rare. On the other hand. The copper plate inscriptions represent the donation by kings, queens and different royal personnel. By and large, the copper plate inscriptions record the donation of land or forming out an agrahara, which was more a bhoga (anentity of enjoyment) in nature. Hence most of the copper plate inscriptions are considered to be land grants. They present the political and economic details of the concerned.

Many copper plate grants remain the sources for the claims over a stipulated area of land with specified local boundaries and they are generally found by a royal seal, which indicates the impact of the sovereign power over the concerned action.

These inscriptions can be classified on the basis of the chronological details as undated inscriptions and dated inscriptions. Undated inscriptions are such records wherein no chronological details are found. Famous records like Asokan edicts, Naveghat inscriptions of Naganika, Addanki inscription of Pandaranga ( from Andhra Pradesh) etc. are all undated records. Such records are to be identified chronologically by only comparative methods. On the other hand those inscriptions, which mention the dates either the regnal reckoning or era of the cyclic year dating or with astrological details are called dated inscriptions.

On the basis of the authorship of the donation or service mentioned in the inscription, they can be classified as private inscriptions and public record. All the private inscriptions are recording donations by private individuals. The Public records are generally issued by kings, queens and royal personnel and such records clearly show the impact of king and his associates on state. For instance Aihole inscription of Pulakesin, Dharmavaram inscription of Chalukya bhima, Uttaramerur inscriptions of Chola Rajaraja and Simhachalam inscription of Srikrishnadevaraya etc. stand as examples for identifying the public records.

Among the types of inscriptions there are certain examples like 13 Rock edict of Asoka, Alahabad inscription of Samudragupta etc. representing the victories of the king. They are called vijaya sasanas (records of victory). Some examples like Naneghat inscription of Naganika, Nasik inscription of Gautami Balasriri, which are issued posthumously to a king and more known commemorative and are called smaraka sasanas. Some of the inscriptions record a declaration of security ? abhaya ? and are called as Abhaya sasanas. For instance, Motupalli inscription of Kakati Ganapati Deva mentions a security for mercantile community and hence called as Abhaya sasana. Most of the inscriptions are primarily Danasasanas (inscriptions recording donations) either by private individuals or royal associates and they record the donation either by cash or in kind, either land, dipa, cows, pillars, mandapas etc.

Format of inscriptions

Each inscription contains

1) Invocation

2) Donor

3) Date

4) Donee

5) Benedication

6) Imprecation


The purpose of the invocation is to invoke the God or any supreme power for the benefit of auspiciousness. Generally the words like Svasti, Svastisri, Subhamastu, Siddham Sri are found in the beginnings of the inscriptions and they are followed by the prayer of the favourite God.


The details of the donor, who is granting the donation recorded are two types. In one case the entire genealogical details since the mythical period tracing the origin of sun (surya) and Moon (Chandra) are found as in the examples like Nandampundi grant of Rajaraja. In the second case only the donor with a small note of two or three generations or even with out that note are mentioned. For instance Naneghat inscription of Naganika (satavahana dynastry) simply mentions the donor. Similarly Addanki inscription of Pandaranga briefly details the donor. Such records do not carry any legible genealogical demonstration.


This is very much optional in the Indian context and the earlier records donot have any date at all. But subsequently dates are found both in figures and chronograms. The eras like Saka era, Vikrama era, Kaliera, Gupta era, Harsha era, chedi era, Ganga era etc. were made use in detailing the dates. Of these saka and vikrama eras were used on national scale and the rest are very much regional.


This item deals with the person or group of persons or communities addressed for the donation recorded. Their details were found at length.


These are the verses which indicate that very much auspicious results will take place by protecting the previous grants.


The idea of imprecation is to linder the worng doing by successors. Imprecating is very much lengthy and descriptive in the late medieval period. Primaly the imprecation speaks of acquiring the sin of Killing either brahmana or cow or parents or all on the banks of river Ganga at Varanasi.

The main aim of imprecation is toward off notoriety by most lawful means like warning and describing the mythical sins and curses, one has to acquire by transgression.

About the Epigraphy Section

The Government of Andhra Pradesh had officially started the epigraphy section on 2nd December, 1964 in the Department of Archaeology. The main basis of epigraphy section is to collect lithic, copper plate inscriptions, Palm leaf manuscripts and paper manuscripts by conducting village to village survey in the districts and to publish the collected material.

During epigraphical survey the Department of Archaeology and Museums has collected 8,613 estampages belong to the different dynasties and which had ruled the Andhradesa. Out of which 5375 are from the districts of Andhra Pradesh, which are primary sources for reconstructing the history of Andhra Pradesh. So far the Department has published inscriptions collected from three districts namely Kadapa in three volumes, Kurnool in two volumes, Anantapur one volume, second volume of Anantapur is in the process to publish.

Palm Leaf Manuscripts

The Department has collected palm leaf manuscripts belong to the different periods. The life of the Palm leaf manuscripts is only 300 years. So, the scholars rewrite these manuscripts. The department has been preserving 4,741 palm leaf manuscripts at ASP Govt. Museum and R.I., Kakinada and RSR Govt. Museum, Rajahmundry. 200 manuscripts preserved in Dr. YSR AP State Museum, Hyderabad and 100 in Directorate Office.

Paper Manuscripts

In olden days people used the handmade paper nearly 200 yrs ago. In those days, Itihasas, Ayurveda and other traditional and devotional writings were available on paper manuscripts. Now, 150 yrs old Paper manuscripts are available. The department has very few paper manuscripts in preservation.

The Department has published Annual reports, Epigraphia Andhrica volumes and Distrit wise volumes under epigraphical series.

The following statement showing the number of inscriptions collected on district wise so far.

Sl. No.


Inscriptions collected











East Godavari



West Godavari












P.S. Nellore






YSR Kadapa










Epigraphical publications are as follows:

Sl. No.

Name of the publication


Neurgaon Inscription of Ramachandra, 1962


Tundi Copper Plate Grant of Vishnukundin King Vikramendravarma, Hyderabad, 1962


Select Stone Inscriptions of A.P. Government Museum, Hyderabad, 1962


Catalogue of Inscriptions copied upto 1964, Hyderabad, 1965


Copper Plate Inscriptions of Andhra Pradesh, State Museum, Vol. II, Hyderabad, 1970


Select Epigraphs of Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad, 1965


Corpus of Telangana Inscriptions, pt.IV, Hyderabad, 1973


Perur Inscriptions, Hyderbad, 1973


Vishnukundinulu, Hyderabad, 1973


Kakatiya Charitra, Hyderabad, 1977


Kakatiyas of Warangal, Hyderabad, 1978


Report on Epigraphy for 1965. Hyderabad 1968.


Siddhodvaha of Nrismiha. Hyderabad, 1968


Guntupally Brahmi Inscription of Kharavela, Hyderabad, 1968


Report of Epigraphy for 1966, Hyderabad, 1972


Epigraphia Andhrica Vol. I ? III


Inscriptions of Andhra Pradesh, Warangal Dist. Hyderabad, 1974.


Inscriptions of A.P. Karimnagar District Hyderabad, 1974


Ashokuni Erragudi Silasasanamulu, Hyderabad, 1975


Annual Report on Epigraphy, 1967, Hyderabad 1975


Inscriptions of Cuddapah District, Hyderabad. 3 V, 1977-1981


Inscriptions of Ikshvaku period, Hyderabad, 1979


Srisailam Temple Kaifiyat, Vol. I, Hyderaabad, 1981


Epigraphia Andhrica Vol. IV


Epigraphia Andhrica Vol. V


Epigraphia Andhrica Vol. VI


Inscriptions of A.P. Mahaboobnagar, Vol. I


Inscriptions of A.P. Mahaboobnagar, Vol. II


Inscriptions of A.P. Medak District


Inscriptions of A.P. Nalgonda District, Vol. I


Inscriptions of A.P. Nalgonda District, Vol. II


Inscriptions of A.P. Cuddapah District, Vol. I


Inscriptions of A.P. Cuddapah District, Vol. II


Inscriptions of A.P. Cuddapah District, Vol. III


Three Grants from Sri Prithvi Sri Mula Raja of Kondaveedu


Gifts and Grants by Srikrishnadevaraya, During visit at Andhradesa


Inscriptions of A.P. Kurnool District, Vol. I


Inscriptions of A.P. Kurnool District, Vol. II


The inscriptions of Vijayangara rulers in Anantapur District


The History of Kondapalli fort (through epigraphical evidences)

Preservation of inscription

Our predecessors have taken utmost care and pains to preserve our vast epigraphical and architectural wealth of Glorious, Inida. Now, it is the responsibility of modern youth to preserve and protect our epigraphical heritage and safely passed on to next generation. So that the generations to come can appreciate the rich cultural heritage our country possesses.

An appeal

Whenever you come across an inscribed material (stone & copper-plate) or coin please bring it to the notice of local authorities.

    Dr. G. Vani Mohan, I.A.S., Commissioner, Department of Archaeology & Museums

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