Early Historic Inscriptions

Meera Visvanathan

in Hinduism

ISBN: 9780195399318
Published online June 2012 | | DOI:
Early Historic Inscriptions


The early history of Hinduism has often been understood through the prism of textual sources, beginning with the Vedas. In contrast, this entry focuses on epigraphic and archaeological materials from the early historic period (c. 300 bce–300 ce), showing how they can shed light on the incipient stage of Hinduism in different ways. While most accounts of Indian epigraphy begin with the edicts of Emperor Aśoka, it is in the period following Mauryan rule that a profusion of inscriptional material occurs, with votive inscriptions recording charitable endowments or gifts by individuals, families, and groups to religious establishments. Since a number of these inscriptions record donations to the heterodox sects, historians have tended to focus on Buddhism and Jainism in this period. So far, there exists no single work examining early Hindu cults and sects through inscriptional materials. But this does not mean that the rituals and deities of early Hinduism were absent from the record. Perhaps they did not receive a comparable degree of patronage, but they still possessed support of different kinds.

Article.  8098 words. 

Subjects: Hinduism

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