Inscriptions have a significant impact on the shaping of Odisha’s history. From inscriptions, we learn about place names, territorial boundaries, religion, administrative units, land grants, and the social and economic conditions of the people of Odisha. These inscriptions have been extremely useful in reconstructing Odisha’s political, social, economic, and religious history.
Inscriptions are found in a variety of styles and locations throughout Odisha. The pictographs depict the earliest inscriptions found in Odisha. Numerous pictographs have been discovered in rock shelters in the Sundargarh, Sarnbalpur, and Kalahandi districts. The Vikramkhol, Yogimath, and Gudahandi rock art sites are all classic examples of this type of writing. The inscriptions and signs on these shelters remain untranslated. Despite this, these early signs and pictographs expressed the thoughts of men living in Odisha during the prehistoric period. Not only on cave walls, but also on copper plates, stone pieces, and temple walls, inscriptions are prevalent in Odisha. Two sets of Asokan stone edicts (separate Kalinga edicts discovered at Dhauli and Jaugada) are the earliest pre-Christian epigraphs that shed light on Asoka’s administrative organisation in Kalinga. The Hatigumpha inscription of Kharavela is the first of its kind in the entire country. It sheds light on Kharavela’s accomplishments over the course of his thirteen-year reign. The inscription, written in Brahmi script and in the Prakrit language, has attracted the attention of scholars from across the country due to its uniqueness.
By contrast, the Sanskrit language was extensively used in other inscriptions. The Bhadra inscription of Maharaja Gana (3rd century A.D.), the Allahabad inscription of Samudragupta (4th century A.D.), Satrubhanja’s (4th century A.D.) Asanapat stone inscription, the Ningond grant of Mathara ruler Prabhanjanavarman (5th century A.D.), the Rithapur grant of Nala ruler Nandivardhana (5th century A.D.), the Nar Similarly, the inscriptions discovered in Kanasa, Sumandala, Tekhali, and Ganjam depict the Sailodbhava rulers’ accomplishments.
The Bhaumakaras’ inscriptions
The Bhaumakara inscriptions contain a wealth of information that aids in the reconstruction of Odisha’s history. This is because the Bhauma-Karas rule (8th-9th centuries A.D.) represents a glorious epoch in 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 shed significant light on the Bhaumas’ territorial expansion, administration, religion, and grant of land to others, among other things.
The Somavamsi rulers’ inscriptions
We learn about territorial expansion, state division, administration, and religion, among other things, from the inscriptions of the Somavamsis, who ruled from the ninth to the eleventh centuries A.D. The Bonda copper plate of Tivaradeva, the 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, as well as several other inscriptions, all provide information about the Sonavamsi rule.
Additional significant inscriptions
The Gangas’ four-hundred-year glorious reign brought stability to Odisha politics. The Korni, Nagari, Draksharam, Chinnabadamu, Simhachalam, and Choudwar inscriptions, among others, inform scholars about the accomplishments of Ganga rulers. Similarly, the inscriptions at Lingaraj temple, Velagalani, Srisailam, Velicherla, and Simhachalam detail the achievements of the Gajapati rulers.
Thus, inscriptions are a significant source of information for reconstructing Odisha’s history. Indeed, these are frequently the only sources of information available for reconstructing history. Their value stems from the fact that they are authentic government records issued under the seal and authority of kings that are unaffected by interpolation, exaggeration, or distortion. It is true that without epigraphy, no original contribution to Odishan historiography is possible.