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An early Indian hero-stone and a possible Western source

  • J. C. Harle

In the Archaeological Museum, Gwalior, stands a square stone pillar (No. 1/48; 1/21 ?) (Pl. I(a)) surmounted by the remains of the head and bust of a male figure supported by a throne-back. The stone is a light ochre sandstone, very worn and badly flaked; and the whole front portion of the pillar and bust has, in fact, split off and been replaced, with the exception of the bust and head portion which has been lost. The front and both sides of the pillar are divided into panels with bas-relief scenes while at the back there is an inscription. The museum label reads simply “Hasalpur Inscription of Nagvarman (c.a.d. 550) records the death of a warrior”. Hasalpur, in the district Sheopur (Shivapuri) is a village about 70 miles west of Gwalior. It is four miles from the Chambal River which forms the boundary with Rājasthān.

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1 The pillar and bust are 53⅜ in. (135 · 5 cm.) high; slightly rectangular in section, the pillar is 11 in. (30 cm.) on its broader faces corresponding to the front and back of the bust, and 9 in. (24 cm.) on the narrower sides.

2 It was during Garde's time as State Superintendent of Archaeology in Gwalior and probably largely due to his efforts that the Archaeological Museum was opened (1921). The only reference elsewhere, moreover, to the Hasalpur hero-stone is in Garde's Archaeology in Gwalior, 2nd edition, 1934, p. 18. There is thus good reason to believe that Garde provided the information on the label.

3 Epigraphica Indica, XVI. A copper-plate inscription from Wardha District is the work of the scribe Nāgavarman who recorded a grant by the Vākātaka king Pravārasena II (mid 5th century a.d.). Ep. Ind., XXVI, p. 155–161. For other inscriptions see footnotes 4 and 5.

4 Indrajit, Bhagwanlal, “New Copper-Plate Grants of the Rāṣṭhrakūṭa Dynasty”, JBBRAS, XVI, p. 105113.

5 R. C. Majumdar, History and Culture of the Indian People—IV: The Age of Kanauj, genealogical table, p. 519.

6 Fleet, J. F., “Sanskrit and Old-Canarese Inscriptions”, Indian Antiquary, X, p. 249255; see also Fleet, Dynasties of the Canarese Districts, genealogical table opposite p. 86.

7 R. C. Majumdar (ed.), History and Culture of the Indian People—III: The Classical Age, p. 272.

8 Beglar describes a “sati stone” from Balod, in the old Central Provinces, with an inscription, one of three, said by Prinsep to be in characters of the 2nd century a.d. It was later removed to the Nagpur Museum: A.S.R., VII, p. 136–137. A memorial stone reported at Eran with an inscription dated in the Gupta year 191 is given an incorrect reference in the Archaeological Survey Reports by Walsh, vide infra, p. 435. It is probably the portion of a pillar with an inscription dated in that year (A.S.R., XX, p. 45) which is still at Eran and which has none of the characteristics of a memorial stone.

9 They are constantly mentioned in Cunningham's Reports. See H. Cousens, Chalukyan Architecture of the Canarese Districts, chapter on “Inscribed Tablets and Memorial Stones”; Walsh, E. H. C., “Virakal and Sati Memorial Stones at Buddhpur and Buram”, JBORS, XXIII, p. 429433; Goetz, H., “Rajput Reliefs I”, Oriental Art, X, 3 (1964).

10 Vogel, J. Ph., “Additional Prakrit Inscriptions from Nagarjunakonda”, Ep. Ind., vol. XXI, p. 6364 and plate.

11 Enciclopedia dell' Arte Antica: under erma; Daremberg et Saglio, Dictionnaire des Antiquités: hermae, hermulae; Lullies, R., Die Typen der grieschischen Herme, Koenigsberg, 1931; Curtius, L., Zeus und Hermes, Deutsch. Arch. Inst., Röm. Abt. (Röm. Mitt.), I, 1931.

12 I am grateful to Professor D. E. Strong, Professor of the Archaeology of the Roman Provinces in the University of London, for advising me of the representation of a herm in a late 3rd century mosaic from Salona. It is published in La Mosaïque gréco-romaine (Colloque international du C.N.R.S.—29 Aôut–3 Septembre 1963—Paris), p. 290, fig. 13. It is an interesting example because it shows a complete bust at the top of a downward-tapering herm. Two very badly damaged herms, with heads (missing) only, rather than busts, in the Ashmolean Museum from near Athens date from the late 2nd and 2nd-3rd centuries (Michaelis 177 and 178—Dawkins Gift).

13 Garde, op. cit., p. 18–19. Goetz, simply on the palaeography of the inscription, dated it 8th–10th century. Goetz, op. cit., p. 166.

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Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society
  • ISSN: 1356-1863
  • EISSN: 1474-0591
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