Epigraphist says the inscription may be older than that of Halmidi
MYSORE: The long-drawn movement by Kannadigas to secure classical language status to Kannada language got a shot in the arm with a Mysore-based scholar discovering an inscription, which is said to be at least 50 years older than Halmidi inscription — the earliest known record in Kannada characters and is dated 450 A.D.
M.G. Manjunath, an epigraphist who is considered an authority on “Nishadi” (Sallekhana Samadhi or Nishadi stone memorials erected for the departed revered) inscription of Jainism, deciphered “Gunabhushitana Nishadi Shasana”, one of the 271 inscriptions on Chandragiri hill of Shravanabelagola. He concluded recently that Nishadhi is the oldest known Kannada language inscription dating to 400 A.D.
Although this undated inscription has a mention in the Epigraphia Karnataka, epigraphists, who decoded Gunabhushitana Nishadi Shasana have said that “the purport of the inscription is not clear”.
After a detailed study and based on palaeographical and linguistic inferences, Dr. Manjunath, who teaches Kannada in University of Mysore, said Gunabhusita Nishadi Shasana is as late as first half of the 400 A.D.
Although there is a disagreement among epigraphists about the antiquity, Halmidi inscription is considered as the oldest known Kannada language inscription. This undated inscription was discovered in 1936 by M.H. Krishna, Director of Archaeology in the princely State of Mysore at Halmidi in Hassan taluk.
Dr. Manjunath told The Hindu that when he was doing research to present a paper on Inscriptions of Shravanabelagola, he was puzzled by the content of “Gunabhushitana Nishadi Shasana”, which is near Parshwanatha Basadi.
“After in-depth study I figured out Prakrit, Sanskrit and Purvada Halegannada words. I was aware of the fact that there are no Prakrit words in Halmidi inscription. The four-lined inscription has six words, besides Prakrit words. I also discovered that the inscription is in Shatavahana Brahmi and Aadi Ganga script. With great difficulty I restructured the text of inscription and reached the conclusion that the inscription in question is much older than Halmidi inscription,” he said.
When contacted M. Chidanandamurthy, Kannada scholar, said that there was no doubt that Gunabhushitana Nishadi Shasana was a Kannada inscription, which was in Purvada Halegannada script. The inscription in all probability was older by 50 to 100 years than Halmidi inscription. “In case the complete text is made available to me, I am interested in studying it,” he said.