Inscriptions play a very important part in shaping the history of Odisha. We find the place-names, territorial boundaries, religion, administrative units, grant of lands as well as the social and economic condition of the people Odisha from inscriptions which were very useful in reconstructing the political, social, economic and religious history of Odisha.
Inscriptions in different forms
We find the inscriptions in different forms and at different places of Odisha. The pictographs project the earliest examples of inscriptions in Odisha. Pictographs are found in several rock shelters in the hills of Sundargarh, Sarnbalpur and Kalahandi districts. Some classic examples of such writings are the Vikramkhol, Yogimath and Gudahandi rock art sites. The inscriptions and signs in these shelters have not been properly deciphered. In spite of that these earliest signs and pictographs had expressed the idea of men who were living in Odisha in prehistoric period. Not only on cave walls, inscriptions in Odisha are largely engraved on copper plates stone pieces and temple walls. Two sets of Asokan stone edicts (separate Kalinga edicts found at Dhauli and Jaugada are the earliest epigraphs in the pre-Christian era which throw light on the administrative arrangement of Asoka in Kalinga. The Hatigumpha inscription of Kharavela is the first of its kind in the entire country that throws light on the achievements of Kharavela for the long thirteen years of his rule ceaselessly. Written in Brahmi script and prakrit language, the inscription has allured the attention of scholars from different parts of the country
for its uniqueness.
Inscriptions in Sanskrit language
On the other hand, the Sanskrit language was used largely in other inscriptions. The Bhadra inscription of Maharaja Gana (3rd century A.D.), the Allahabad inscription of Samudragupta (4th cenury AD.), the Asanapat stone inscription of Satrubhanja (4th century A.D.), the Ningond grant of Mathara ruler Prabhanjanavarman (5th century A.D.), the Rithapur grant of Nala ruler Nandivardhana (5th century A.D.), the Narla grant of Parvatavaraka ruler Nandaraja and Terasingha charter of Tustikara of the same dynasty (both the inscriptions belonging to 5th century A D.), the Jirjingi charter of the Eastern Ganga ruler Indravar the I(urud charter of Sarbhapuriya rulers Narendra (6th century A.D) and the Khariar charter of Sudevarajal (7th century A.D.) are the inscriptions which throw good deal of early history of this land. Similarly, the inscriptions found from Kanasa, Sumandala, Tekhali, Ganjam etc. depict the achievements of Sailodbhava rulers.
The inscriptions of the Bhaumakaras
The inscriptions of the Bhaumakaras provides a great deal of knowledge for the reconstruction of the history of Odisha. It is because the rule of the Bhauma-Karas (8th-9th century A.D.) forms glorious epoch in the annals of Odishan history. The Talcher copper plate of Sivakaradeva-I, the Hindol copper plate of Subhakaradeva-I, the Terundia copper plate of Subhakaradeva-l , the Dhenkanal copper plate of Tribhubana Mahadevi-I and several other Bhauma copper plates throw a good deal of light on the territorial expansion with Bhaumas, their administration, religion, grant of land to others etc.
The inscriptions of the Somavamsi rulers
We get the idea of territorial expansion, division of state, administration, religion etc. from the inscriptions of the Somavamsis who ruled from 9th to 11 th century A.D. The Bonda copper plate of Tivaradeva, Adhavara copper plate of Mahanannararaja, the Patna, Kalibhana and other inscriptions of Janamejaya, the Cuttack, Nibinna and Patna copper plates and the Kalanjar and Sirpur stone inscriptions of Yayati-I and several other inscriptions give information about the-Sornavamsi rule.
Other important inscriptions
The four hundred years glorious rule of the Gangas brought stabilization in Odishan politics. The Korni, Nagari, Draksharam, Chinnabadamu, Simhachalam, Choudwar and many other inscription acquaint the scholars with the achievement of Ganga rulers. Similarly Lingaraj temple inscription, Velagalani, Srisailam, Velicherla, Simhachalam and other inscriptions explain the achievements of the Gajapati rulers.
Thus, inscriptions form a major source of information for the reconstruction of the history of Odisha. In fact, in the majority of cases, these are the, only source of information to reconstruct history. Their merit lies in the fact that they are authentic government records issued under the seal and the authority of kings and, are not subject to any change through interpolation, exaggeration or distortion. It is rightly said that original contribution on Odishan historiography is not possible without epigraphy.