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Excerpted From:

An Inscribed Statue of the Year 207

From Maligaon, Kathmandu

by Angelo Andrea Di Castro
And Riccardo Garbini

Note; for diacritic system please see Notes on Diacritics (us "back" button to return here)
diacritics are not shown in all cases below.


         The one-line inscription (see reading above) consists now of twenty aksaras, the twenty-first being completely erased. Twelve aksaras are still perfectly legible; five are partially erased; for three of them (eighth, thirteenth and sixteenth), the reading is extremely doubtful.

         In his study Rajavamshi has proposed the following reading:

sam*vat 100 7 s'ri- pan~cadeva 4 maha-ra-jasya Jayavarmana

         This reading (see Rajavamshi 1993: 1; a first preliminary report was given in the local newspaper Gorkhapatra) has been generally accepted in Nepal, and the inscription is considered to belong to the last quarter of the 2nd century A.D. (Rajavamshi 1995: 212).

Palaeographical Features

         I was not convinced of the proposed reading even at a first glance, although, apparently, it presented no difficulty nor cause for objection. When in 1995 I was able to examine the inscription carefully, it became apparent to me that a few engraved horizontal strokes had been added at a later period. On the basis of internal and external palaeographical congruence, the following observation can be made:

          1) for the first three aksaras (with the last character engraved a little below the line), the reading sam* va t is convincing on the basis of the external evidence: from the Changu Narayana pillar inscription onwards, these letters display a similar shape.

However, two oddities appear in our specimen: a curvilinear leftwise stroke above the headmark of I (so that its reading should be si), and a long horizontal stroke just below the headmark of II. As for the sa sign, a striking resemblance to this particular 'loop variety' (Dami 1963: 289) appears to link the inscription with some specimens of Maharaja Bhadramegha (a ruler of Kausambi), one preserved in the Allahabad Museum, the other in the Provincial Museum of Lucknow (their findspots being close to the ancient remains of Kosam), dated respectively to the 87th and 88th year, likely of Gupta era, corresponding to 406 and 407 A.D. (Konow 1940; Sahni & Bahadur 1926).

          2) The fourth character, read as 100, very similar to aks*ara a- (Buhler 1898: 76), reveals in the upper part an infinity-like sign, which seems to be a later addition. Regarding the number indicated by the character, it appears to be 200 and not 100, as clearly indicated by the presence of the short horizontal rightwise stroke attached to the vertical one. Such a stroke is missing when the character indicates 100. The inscription engraved on the base of a sivalinga at Deopatan (Gnoli 1956: 9; Vajracharya 1973: 50; Joshi 1973: 37; Vajracharya 1974: pl. 83) containing both the number 100 (1. 3) and the number 200 (l. 4) is a palaeographical touchstone for our inscription.

          3) The fifth character looks like a simplification of the number 7 as it appears in the Damodarpur copper-plate inscription of Kumaragupta I (Chhabra & Gai 1981: 285); it differs only in the short slanting end of the right stroke, which is missing from our specimen. As the Gupta inscription belongs to the middle of 5th century A.D., it is a reasonable assumption to take this as terminus ante quem for the Maligaon inscription.

          4) The sixth character has been generally accepted as the 'flat-topped variety' of the conjunct s'ri- (Dani 1963: 288), despite the fact that the mid-line is missing. As the mid-line of this aksara represents the only feature to distinguish it from a gr*-sign, this phonetic value can be considered suitable for the character. Palaeographical comparison of the medial vowel sign, represented here by a vertical stroke with two arms added on the top right of the consonant, suggests us the possibility that only the upper arm is original, the other one showing an awkwardly squared shape. Moreover, the medial long vowel i sign is usually represented with two verticals on the top of the consonant (Dani 1963: 46). It seems reasonable, therefore, to propose the reading gr*i, remembering that 'as often the r* sign is here combined with the i-sign' (Luders 1961: 148, n. 6).

          5) The eighth character is extremely puzzling: the round-topped vertical stroke appears to have an erased triangular loop on the left side and a horizontal stroke on the right one. However, the difference in the engraving of the round-topped and horizontal stroke from the triangular loop is very clear. Moreover, the erasures all over the character, but mainly on the upper right side, prevent us from determining both its exact reading and its original shape. The reading n~ca proposed by Rajavamshi is not convincing, and it seems more reasonable either to consider the clean cut as the original engraving, the character being like the fourth one, or else to take it as a later engraving on the erased original character, as it appears for the first aksara.

          6) In the ninth and tenth characters, the headmarks are completely erased, so that only the medial vowel sign can be detected. Even though Rajavamshi's reading, deva, is acceptable from this point of view, the following character, number 4, may allow the hypothesis that these two aksaras are diva, i.e. the regular shortened form for divase, i.e. 'day', as found in several Nepalese inscriptions of a later date.

          7) The twelfth character appears to be an 'open-mouthed ma' (Dani 1963: 286), even though it is slightly erased on the left. Its shape recalls the epigraphical style of Mathura in the 2nd-3rd centuries A.D., after the coming of the Kusana rulers (Dani 1963: 85-86), rather than that of Kathmandu in the 5th century A.D. The thirteenth character is completely effaced, in the fourteenth the vertical of the ra-sign is recognizable, and the fifteenth character is a ja with the two lower arms bent down. The resulting sequence ma ( ) ra- ja can be integrated, therefore, as ma(ha-)[ra-]ja because of the place it occupies within the inscription, following the date and before a name.

          8) Regarding the sixteenth character, sya, its shape appears more easily distinguishable in the photos of the rubbing taken in 1993 (Fig. 14 not shown here, but see our fig 9/10) than it is at present, after the cleaning interventions.

          9) The characters seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth, ja ya va, are clearly legible and their style fits that of Nepalese inscriptions of the 5th-6th centuries A.D.

         10) The last visible sign, the twentieth, is made of two ma-signs joined to a vertical one which is at the same time the prolongation of the right arm of the upper sign and of the left arm of the lower one. Both grammar and a symmetrical arrangement of the engraving on the pedestal would require n*ah* as the last two characters. Traces of a loop and of a short horizontal stroke are visible on the left, the original presence of the 'looped variety of the open-mouthed n*a of the north' (Dani 1963: 282) being probable.



The Text

the inscription

On the basis of the above analysis, we propose the following reading of the text

sam*vat 200 7 gr*i pa {7} [di]va 4 ma(ha-)[ra-]ja[sya] Jayava[rmma](n*ah*)

( ) = character completely erased
[ ] = character partially erased
{} = character doubtful

                Our translation is:

'Of the great king Jayavarma, on the fourth day of the seventh (?) fortnight of summer, in the year 207'.

         Among the Nepalese inscriptions of the 'Licchavi' period, those engraved on pedestals are quite few; we recall here those consisting of a single line, typologically similar to our inscription. In the small temple of Tundala Devil at Visalnagar, there is this example: 'sam*vat 300 90 7 [Gnoli and Joshi read 9] jyes*t*hama-se s'ukladiva 2' (Gnoli 1956: 8; Vajracharya 2030 [1973]: 48;Joshi 2030 [1973]: 35; Regmi 1983: 25). Unfortunately, the related image is lost. There is no king's name, and the date differs slightly from ours since the fortnight of the lunar month is indicated instead of the season.
         An inscription at Gana-bahal, in the southern part of Kathmandu, reads: '...pu-rvan^gaman^kr*tva- sarvvasatva-na-n~ ca anuttara jn~a-na-vaptaye sam*...' (Regmi 1983: 159). Another one in the Hemakara Vihara is the famous Ekaslokl Prajnaparamita or 'Buddhist creed' (Gnoli 1956: 137; Vajracharya 2030 [1973]: 587; Joshi 2030 [1973]: 500; Regmi 1983: 159). Even from a cursory examination, it is clear that both the published rubbings display characters of a later period, and that their reading suggests a dedicatory use of the images in a Buddhist context. No date and no name of king appear in them.

The Date

          In the text, two aksaras follow the year, gr*i and pa. Their position suggests that both are a shortened form of the date, respectively gri-s*ma, summer (one of the three seasons constituting the ancient Indian official year; see Sircar 1966: 122), and paks*a, fortnight (Sircar 1965: 220, 224; Pandey 1952: 110).
         'In the earlier instances, day number is mentioned as belonging to one of the 8 fortnights of a season, of which three were regarded as constituting a year' (Sircar 1965: 219). This type of date was common in the lst-3rd centuries A.D. in Prakrit inscriptions in Kathiawad (Luders 1912: no. 906), in the Fatehgarh and Patna districts (Pargiter 1912; Luders 1912: no. 684a; Sircar 1960), at Sarnath (Vogel 1906: 171; Luders 1912: no. 922), Nasik (Senart 1907: 65; Luders 1912: nos. 1122-26, 1137, 1146-47; Sircar 1965: 236), Karle (Senart 1903: 61, 64, 71; Luders 1912: nos. 1100, 1105-6) and Kanheri (Luders 1912: nos. 987, 1001, 1024; Gokhale 1991: 75, 95). In Kusana bra-hmi- inscriptions, the sequence of the dates remained the same, even when the fortnight is omitted. In the contemporary kharos*t*hi- inscriptions, however, the lunar month is used instead of the season (Konow 1969: lxxxii-xc), while it remains the same in the contemporary inscriptions of the Maghas and Bandogarh rulers (Chakravarti 1960: 176); hereafter several examples of the Kusana period are recalled, mostly from Mathura, in which the same shortened form for the summer season has been used:

1. Mathura Jaina image pedestal inscr. of the yr 4 (Buhler 1894: 201; Luders 1912: no. 16);

2. Mathura Jaina image pedestal inscr. of the yr 5 (Buhler 1894: 201; Luders 1912: no. 17);

3. Mathura Naga pedestal inscr. of the yr 8 of Kaniska (Gupte 1924; Luders 1961: 148);

4. British Museum stone inscr. of the yr 10(?) of Kaniska (Luders 1909: 240; 1912: no. 23);

5. Mathura inscr. of the yr 15 of Kaniska (Buhler 1893b: 382; Luders 1912: no. 24);

6. Mathura Jaina image inscr. of the yr 18 (Buhler 1894; Luders 1912: no. 23);

7. Mathura Jaina image inscr. of the yr 20 (Buhler 1893b: 395; Luders 1912: no. 28);

8. Mathura inscr. of the yr 22 (Buhler 1893b: 391; Luders 1912: no. 31);

9. Mathura inscr. of Dharmasoma of the yr 22 (Buhler 1893b: 395; Luders 1912: no. 30);

10. Mathura pedestal inscr. of the yr 22 (Luders 1961: 110);

11. Sonth pedestal inscr. of the yr 23 (Luders 1961: 172; Chhabra 1958) or 24 (Tiwari 1986);

12. Mathura inscr. of the yr 33 of Huviska (Bloch 1907: 182; Luders 1912: no. 38; 1961: 55);

13. Mathura inscr. of the yr 47 (Buhler 1893b: 396; Luders 1912: no. 45);

14. Anyor inscr. of the yr 51 (Luders 1961: 170);

15. MathuraJaina image pedestal inscr. of the yr 62 (Luders 1904; 1912: no. 57)

16. Bodh Gaya inscr. of the yr 64 of Trikamala (Luders 1912: no. 949; Agrawala 1994);

17 Lucknow Museum Jaina image inscr. of the yr 74 (Banerji 1910 115; L uders 1912: no. 5')a);

18. Mathura Jaina image pedestal inscr. of thc yr 74 (Buhler 1894; Luders 1912: no. ] 2);

19. Three Jamalpur mound pillar inscr. of the yr 77 of Huviska (Luders 1912: nos. 61-63; 1961: 68-70);

20. Mathura Jaina image pedestal inscr. of the yr 83 (Luders 1904; 1912: no. 68);

21. Jamalpur Jaina image inscr. of the yr 83 (Luders 1912: no. 69);

22. Mathura Jaina panel inscr. of the yr 99 (Buhler 1893b: 392; Luders 1912: no. 75).

         Even though 'there is not a single Gupta inscription dated in this manner' (Agrawala 1994), and since then all over Northern India (Bhandarkar 1932), we have examples of a similar sequence in the reckoning system in the Satavahana records in several sites of Deccan peninsula, on one side (Luders 1912: nos. 1186, 1195; Pandey 1952: 180-82; Sircar 1965: 236), like Nanaghat (Luders 1912: no. 1120), as well as in Andhra Pradesh (Hultzsch 1902; Buhler 1893a; Luders 1912: nos. 1202-5, 1328, 1340-41; Vogel 1932; Sastri 1952; Pandey 1952: 180-82; Sarma 1960) and in Maharashtra during the reign of the Vakatakas (3rd-6th centuries A.D.; see Mirashi & Mahajan 1952; Mirashi 1952: 300, no. 2; Pandey 1952: 209), on the other side, also in several stone inscriptions from Kausamb~ (Mirashi 1952: 300; Sahni & Bahadur 1926).
         If the proposed reading of the fortnight is correct, we must assume that the Maligaon inscription was issued on the 4th day of the 7th fortnight of the summer season of the Saka year 207, which corresponds approximately to the last two weeks of May of A.D. 285 (Sircar 1965: 224, 236).

Jayavarman in the Nepalese Royal Genealogies

         Regarding the historical references to king Jayavarman, the Gopa-lara-javam*s'a-vali- (Vajracharya & Malla 1985: 28, 123) quotes king Jayadeva in the 20th folio as ruling for 45 years, about 628 years before Manadeva's accession (the same work has 713 as the total number of years between Manadeva's and Amsuvarman's reigns).
        An abridged version of this genealogy, in the collection of Dhanavajra Vajracharya (Vajracharya 1977), quotes the king Jayadeva in the 5th folio as ruling for 67 years, his reign ending about 879 years before Manadeva's accession (here the number of years between the reigns of Manadeva and Amsuvarman is 602).
        In the modern Parbatiya Vam*s'a-vali-, edited by Wright (1877: 76; Petech 1984: 8, maintains that Wright's translation is reliable), the place of this king is taken by Jyestha Barma', the seventh king of the Solar race in which Manadeva is ranked 21st. In Kirkpatrick's list we find a 'Jeestvarman' which seems to correspond to Jyestha Barma given by Wright (Regmi 1960: 77).
        As to epigraphical records, the famous Pasupati inscription of Jayadeva II (Indraji & Buhler 1880; Levi 1905-8: II, 85-97; Gnoli 1956: 115; Vajracharya 2030 [1973]: 548; Joshi 2030 [1973]: 577; Regmi 1983: 144) provides us with a royal genealogical list quoting among others a famous (khya-tah*, 1. 8) and victorious (vijayinah*, 1 9) king Jayadeva, who was the 37th king after the founder of the family, the illustrious Licchavi (1. 6), and preceded fifteen kings, and then Manadeva (11. 9-10) (see note below)
        It is likely that the king Jayavarman of the Maligaon inscription is the same sovereign who appears in the royal genealogies as Jayadeva or Jyestha Barma. If it is so, our evidence supports the theory: in fact, the number of years elapsing from the date of the Jayavarman's inscription up to that in the first dated one of Manadeva's (380-207= 173) is, broadly speaking, half as much again as that from Manadeva's to Am. suvarman's reign (536-428 = 106); the same ratio between the two periods, 173 and 106 years, is found in the abridged genealogy quoted above, where the ratio is 879 to 602 years (Vajracharya 1977).


(note) Besides the above-quoted inscription of Jayadeva II, the inscription of the year 413 engraved on the base of a linga opposite the northern door of the Pasupati temple (Indraji & Buhler 1880; Levi 1905-8: II, 111; Gnoli 1956: 11; Vajracharya 2030 [1973]: 62; Joshi 2030 [1973]: 48; Regmi 1983: 12) is another example where this name occurs, this time under the form Jayavarman. However, it is clear that this Jayavarman, who is the donor of the linga as well as the recipient of 'the blessing of king Manadeva'a feet' (manadevan...pates caranaprasadat), cannot be the same person as our maharaja.

         Among the Indian inscriptions, the name Jayavarman is attested as the grandfather of the Malava's ruling king Naravarman in the Mandasor inscription dated 404-5 A.D. (Shastri 1915).

         An interesting copper seal matrix from Rajghat (Benares), in the Saraswati collection of Calcutta, contains the name Jayavarman inscribed below the representation of a bull (Ray 1954: 558, pl. XLIII.99-100).



The attribution of the above-examined statue to the stylistic current of Kusana tradition, and to the second half of the 3rd century A.D., is supported by the epigraphical and palaeographical evidence of the one-line inscription carved on its pedestal. The archaeological evidence from Kathmandu and in particular from Harigaon (Verardi 1992; very near to the find-spot of the statue) points out the role of Indian culture (especially of Mathurd) in the 1st century BC in the Kathmandu Valley. The finding of a Sikri sandstone artifact, in a layer datable to this period, is very significant.

At present, it is not possible to put forward a solution to the iconographical problem related to the identification of the image, which we can not say whether it represents Jayavarman himself. However, the hypothesis that the sculpture is an idealized royal portrait, possibly through yaksa features, can not be ruled out a priori.

We want to point out that the intriguing hypothesis presented by Pal (1974: 46). about the presence of a gallery of royal portraits on the bank of the river Bagmati at Pasupatinatha (like the famous one of the Kusana kings at Mat), as well as the more recent hypothesis regarding the existence of a yaksa temple in the Harigaon-Maligaon area, both accepted by several Nepalese scholars, are still lacking any definitive proof.

As said above,-the one-line inscription on the pedestal shows that the statue was offered in the 4th day of the 7th fortnight of the summer season in the year 207,of the Saka era, corresponding to an undefinable day of the month of May of the year 285 A.D.

A.A.D.C.- R.G.



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