Hathibada Ghosundi Inscriptions

The Hathibada Ghosundi Inscriptions, sometimes referred simply as the Ghosundi Inscription or the Hathibada Inscription, are among the oldest known Sanskrit inscriptions in the Brahmi script, and dated to the 2nd-1st-century BCE. The Hathibada inscription were found near Nagari village, about 8 miles (13 km) north of Chittorgarh, Rajasthan, India, while the Ghosundi inscription was found in the village of Ghosundi, about 3 miles (4.8 km) southwest of Chittorgarh.

Hathibada Ghosundi Inscriptions
Hathibada Brahmi Inscription at Nagari, Hinduism Sanskrit India.jpg
Fragment C of the Hathibada Ghosundi Inscriptions, in Sanskrit. 2nd-1st century BCE.
Created2nd-1st Century BCE
Discovered24°58′01″N 74°40′59″E / 24.967°N 74.683°E / 24.967; 74.683
PlaceNagari (Chittorgarh), Rajasthan
Present locationGovernment Museum, Udaipur
Nagari (India)


Dated to the 1st-century BCE, the Hathibada Ghosundi Inscriptions are among the oldest known Sanskrit inscriptions in Brahmi script from the Hindu tradition of ancient India, particularly Vaishnavism.[1][2] Some scholars, such as Jan Gonda, have dated these to the 2nd century BCE.[3][4]

The Hathibada Ghosundi Inscriptions were found in the same area, but not exactly the same spot. One part was discovered inside an ancient water well in Ghosundi, another at the boundary wall between Ghosundi and Bassi, and the third on a stone slab in the inner wall of Hathibada. The three fragments are each incomplete, but studied together. They are believed to have been displaced because the Mughal emperor Akbar during his seize of Chittorgarh camped at Nagari, built some facilities by breaking and reusing old structures, a legacy that gave the location its name "Hathi-bada" or "elephant stable". The part discovered in the Hathibada wall has the same style, same Brahmi script, and partly same text as the Ghosundi well text, thereby suggesting a link.[5][6]

Religious significanceEdit

The inscription is significant not only for its antiquity but as a source of information about ancient Indian scripts, the society, its history and its religious beliefs.[5] It confirms the ancient reverence of Hindu deities Samkarshana and Vāsudeva (also known as Balarama and Krishna), an existence of stone temple dedicated to them in 1st-century BCE, the puja tradition, and a king who had completed the Vedic Asvamedha sacrifice.[1][7][8] The inscription also confirms the association of the two deities Samkarshana and Vāsudeva with Narayana (Vishnu), possibly a step in their full incorporation into the Vaishnaite pantheon as avatars of Vishnu.[9]

Taken together with independent evidence such as the Besnagar inscription found with Heliodorus pillar, the Hathibada Ghosundi Inscriptions suggest that one of the roots of Vaishnavism in the form of Bhagavatism was thriving in ancient India between the 2nd and 1st century BCE.[7][10] They are not the oldest known Hindu inscription, however. Others such as the Ayodhya Inscription and Nanaghat Cave Inscription are generally accepted older or as old.[2][11]


The discovered inscription is incomplete, and has been interpolated based on Sanskrit prosody rules. It reads:[5]

Fragment A
Fragment A (Ghosundi stone inscription).

1 .....𑀢𑀸𑀦 𑀕𑀚𑀬𑀦𑁂𑀦 𑀧𑀭𑀰𑀸𑀭𑀺𑀧𑀼𑀢𑁆𑀭𑁂𑀡 𑀲..
2.....𑀚𑀺𑀦𑀸 𑀪𑀕𑀯𑀪𑁆𑀬𑀁 𑀲𑀁𑀓𑀭𑁆𑀱𑀡 𑀯𑀸𑀲𑀼𑀤𑁂𑀯𑀸𑀪𑁆𑀬𑀁
3.....𑀪𑁆𑀬𑀁 𑀧𑀽𑀚𑀰𑀺𑀮𑀸 𑀧𑁆𑀭𑀓𑀸𑀭𑁄 𑀦𑀸𑀭𑀸𑀬𑀡 𑀯𑀸𑀝𑀺𑀓𑀸

1 ..... tēna Gājāyanēna P(ā)rāśarlputrāṇa Sa-
2 ..... [j]i[nā] bhagavabhyāṁ Saṁkarshaṇa-V[ā]sudēvābhyā(ṁ)
3 ......bhyāṁ pūjāśilā-prākārō Nārāyaṇa-vāṭ(i)kā.

Fragment B

1 .....𑀢𑁆𑀭𑁂𑀡 𑀲𑀭𑁆𑀯𑀢𑀸𑀢𑁂𑀦 𑀅𑀰𑁆𑀯𑀫𑁂𑀥𑀸...
2.... 𑀲𑀭𑁆𑀯𑁂𑀲𑁆𑀯𑀸𑀭𑀪𑁆𑀬𑀁

1. ....[tr](ē)(ṇa) Sarvatātēna As[v]amēdha....
2 .....sarvēśvarābh(yāṁ).

Fragment C

Fragment C (Hathibada stone inscription)

1....𑀯𑀸𑀢𑀸𑀦 𑀕𑀚𑀬𑀦𑁂𑀦 𑀧𑀭𑀰𑀸𑀭𑀺𑀧𑀼𑀢𑁆𑀭𑁂𑀡 𑀲𑀭𑁆𑀯𑀢𑀸𑀢𑁂𑀦 𑀅𑀰𑁆𑀯𑀫𑁂𑀥𑀸 𑀬𑀚𑀺𑀦
2....𑀡 𑀯𑀸𑀲𑀼𑀤𑁂𑀯𑀸𑀪𑁆𑀬𑀁 𑀅𑀦𑀺𑀳𑀸𑀢𑁂𑀪𑁆𑀬𑀁 𑀲𑀭𑁆𑀯𑁂𑀲𑁆𑀯𑀸𑀭𑀪𑁆𑀬𑀁 𑀧𑀽𑀚𑀰𑀺𑀮𑀸 𑀧𑁆𑀭𑀓𑀸𑀭𑁄 𑀦𑀸𑀭𑀸𑀬𑀡 𑀯𑀸𑀝𑀺𑀓𑀸

1 ....vat(ēna) [Gā]j(ā)yan[ē]na P(ā)r(āśarīpu)t(rē)ṇa [Sa](r)[vatā]tēna Aś(vamē)[dha](yā)- [j](inā)
2 ....(ṇa)-V(ā)sudēvābh[y]ā(ṁ) anihatā(bhyāṁ) sa(r)v(ē)[ś]va[r](ā)bh(yāṁ) p(ū)[j](ā)- [ś](i)l(ā)-p[r]ā[k]ārō Nār[ā]yaṇa-vāṭ(i)[k](ā).

– Ghosundi Hathibada Inscriptions, 1st-century BCE[5]


Bhandarkar proposed that the three fragments suggest what the complete reading of fragment A might have been. His proposal was:

Fragment A (extrapolated)
1 (Karito=yam rajna Bhagava)tena Gajayanena Parasariputrena Sa-
2 (rvatatena Asvamedha-ya)jina bhagava[d*]bhyaih Samkarshana-Vasudevabhyam
3 (anihatabhyarh sarvesvara)bhyam pujasila-prakaro Narayana-vatika.

D. R. Bhandarkar[5]


The Hathibada/Hathiwada enclosure in which was found one of the inscriptions.[12]
The two deified heroes Samkarshana and Vāsudeva on the coinage of Agathocles of Bactria, circa 190-180 BCE.[13][14]

Bhandarkar – an archaeologist, translates it as,

(This) enclosing wall round the stone (object) of worship, called Narayana-vatika (Compound) for the divinities Samkarshana-Vāsudeva who are unconquered and are lords of all (has been caused to be made) by (the king) Sarvatata, a Gajayana and son of (a lady) of the Parasaragotra, who is a devotee of Bhagavat (Vishnu or Samkarshana/Vāsudeva) and has performed an Asvamedha sacrifice.

– Ghosundi Hathibada Inscriptions, 1st-century BCE[5]

Harry Falk – an Indologist, states that the king does not mention his father by name, only his mother, and in his dedicatory verse does not call himself raja (king).[15] The king belonged to a Hindu Brahmin dynasty of Kanvas, that followed the Hindu Sungas dynasty. He translates one of the fragments as:

adherent of the Lord (bhagavat), belonging to the gotra of the Gajayanas, son of a mother from the Parasara gotra, performer of an Asvamedha.[15]

Benjamín Preciado-Solís – an Indologist, translates it as:

[This] stone enclosure, called the Narayana Vatika, for the worship of Bhagavan Samkarsana and Bhagavan Vāsudeva, the invincible lords of all, [was erected] by [the Bhaga]vata king of the line of Gaja, Sarvatata, the victorious, who has performed an asvamedha, son of a Parasari.[16]


  1. ^ a b Richard Salomon (1998). Indian Epigraphy: A Guide to the Study of Inscriptions in Sanskrit, Prakrit, and the Other Indo-Aryan Languages. Oxford University Press. pp. 239–240. ISBN 978-0-19-509984-3.
  2. ^ a b Theo Damsteegt (1978). Epigraphical Hybrid Sanskrit. Brill Academic. pp. 209–211.
  3. ^ Jan Gonda (2016). Visnuism and Sivaism: A Comparison. Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 166 note 243. ISBN 978-1-4742-8082-2.
  4. ^ James Hegarty (2013). Religion, Narrative and Public Imagination in South Asia: Past and Place in the Sanskrit Mahabharata. Routledge. pp. 46 note 118. ISBN 978-1-136-64589-1.
  5. ^ a b c d e f D. R. Bhandarkar, Hathi-bada Brahmi Inscription at Nagari, Epigraphia Indica Vol. XXII, Archaeological Survey of India, pages 198-205
  6. ^ Dilip K. Chakrabarti (1988). A History of Indian Archaeology from the Beginning to 1947. Munshiram Manoharlal. pp. 137–138. ISBN 978-81-215-0079-1.
  7. ^ a b Gerard Colas (2008). Gavin Flood (ed.). The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 230–232. ISBN 978-0-470-99868-7.
  8. ^ Rajendra Chandra Hazra (1987). Studies in the Puranic Records on Hindu Rites and Customs. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 200–201. ISBN 978-81-208-0422-7.
  9. ^ Srinivasan, Doris (1979). "Early Vaiṣṇava Imagery: Caturvyūha and Variant Forms". Archives of Asian Art. 32: 50–51. ISSN 0066-6637. JSTOR 20111096.
  10. ^ Lavanya Vemsani (2016). Krishna in History, Thought, and Culture. ABC-CLIO. pp. 37–38. ISBN 978-1-61069-211-3.
  11. ^ Julia Shaw (2013). Buddhist Landscapes in Central India: Sanchi Hill and Archaeologies of Religious and Social Change, C. Third Century BC to Fifth Century AD. Routledge. pp. 264 note 14. ISBN 978-1-61132-344-3.
  12. ^ ASI Jaipur circle Hathiwada enclosure
  13. ^ Singh, Upinder (2008). A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th Century. Pearson Education India. p. 436–438. ISBN 978-81-317-1120-0.
  14. ^ Srinivasan, Doris (1979). "Early Vaiṣṇava Imagery: Caturvyūha and Variant Forms". Archives of Asian Art. 32: 50. ISSN 0066-6637. JSTOR 20111096.
  15. ^ a b Harry Falk (2006). Patrick Olivelle (ed.). Between the Empires: Society in India 300 BCE to 400 CE. Oxford University Press. pp. 149–150. ISBN 978-0-19-977507-1.
  16. ^ Benjamín Preciado-Solís (1984). The Kṛṣṇa Cycle in the Purāṇas: Themes and Motifs in a Heroic Saga. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 23. ISBN 978-0-89581-226-1.