History written in stone - A Story of Rajasthan 

History has been always written in stone, at least the one that we know. From the Great Pyramids to the ruins of Babylonian gardens, from our own cynosure of Taj to the lesser-known temples deep within the Deccan plateau. Rajasthan has its own story to tell, in stone. Not just from the ramparts of the gargantuan citadels of Mehrangarh or the spirituality suffused stone art of Osian Temples. Our own humble offering of a resort in Jodhpur which we hold to the highest standards of hospitality and service is also set in red sandstone built in the style of traditional Dhanis of Thar.

A few other humble precedents in stone that have a rich story to tell, of ordinary people, made heroic by their actions and not just by birth. Celebrating these forgotten lives we will take a walk through some landmark discoveries of the stone tablets and epitaphs from aeons ago found in Rajasthan.

Humans world over have a desire to leave their mark behind. Admire the stone henges of UK, the Moai, megalithic structure of Rapa Nui people or the many nameless and faceless stone inscriptions strewn all over India, in fields, in backyards and beyond. India, both south and north have a rich tradition of stone inscriptions with even Emperor Ashoka setting his learnings from the Buddha in stone in all directions of his kingdom and beyond, including Sri Lanka. South India has its famous and lesser-known Veergallu or Hero Stone found in Hampi and all over Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

Rajasthan has its own rich repertoire of these stones. Here we explore a list, not exhaustive by any means, yet which gives one an idea of the progression of languages, history and traditions with the flow of time. Manvar, our resort in Jodhpur prides in its rich legacy and traditions of the land. Showcasing these little known facts and facets of our rich history, where not just kings and warriors but even ordinary people’s contribution is celebrated is something dear to us.

One of the oldest stone inscriptions that have survived is found at Barli near Ajmer. It dates back to 443 BC. Inscribed in the Brahmi script, the Barli epitaph reveals the prevalence of Jaina cult in and around the region during the Madhyamika era.

Fast forward almost 500 years, Gosundi near the fort town of Chittor plays host to an interesting stone inscription that tells a story of King Sarvtata who ruled during 1 BC performing the Ashwamedha Yagna for expansion of his dominion. There are mentions of names Krishna and Sankarshana (Balarama) too. Whether this is historical proof of their existence is still open to debate.

Nandsa Jageer in Bhilwara has a rich history and the stone pillar found here dating back to 224 AD is a testament to its antiquity. The Nandsa Yupe Stambha in Bhilwara is incidentally bearing Sanskrit script, a language of the privileged caste. Why this becomes interesting is because Yupe Stambha or Yupa Stambha means a sacrificial post where animals were tied and ritualistic sacrifice held. Another Yupe Stambha from this era is now preserved in the Amer Museum at Jaipur. This again has Sanskrit inscriptions and mentions seven Pathashalas or traditional schools. One more stone pillar called the Badwa Stambha found at Baran with Sanskrit inscription dating to 240 AD describes in some detail the Triratra Yajna performed by three brothers who lived here at the time. A couple of other Stambhas describing yajnas or fire rituals are seen during 270 AD in Bichpuria, Tonk and Vijaygarh. The Tonk tablet refers to Agnihotra, the person who conducts the Yajna by a sanctified fire.

Certain epitaphs act as historical texts suggesting further archaeological investigations that could lead to some great discoveries. One such instance is the stone inscription found at Gungdhar in Jhalawar near the border of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, on the banks of an important tributary of the famed Chambal River. It suggests a Vishnu Temple was being built by Mayurakhsa, a minister in the court of Vishwakarma. A similar stone tablet from Nagari also suggests Vishnu worship implying the spread of Vaishnavism in the region.

Epitaphs from the late 5th century act as genealogical records of important families and can be found in various parts of Chittor, Mewar and Sirohi regions of Rajasthan. The late 7th century witnesses epitaphs narrating legends of local heroes. One of particular interest is found in Nadi village in Mewar. It sings about the bravery of Guhil ruler, Aparjit. Again the inscription itself is in Sanskrit language but the script is Kutil which is quite unusual. Another such tablet exists at Mandore not very far from Manvar Desert Camp and Resort in Jodhpur.

A village called Ghatiyala in Jodhpur district has many interesting epitaphs from 860 AD. One of them talks about the social, political and religious policies of the Pratihara dynasty and another by Harishchandra, the founding father of the Pratihara dynasty. The interesting thing about this is that inscription has Marathi verses with Sanskrit explanations of these verses. Osian near Jodhpur, a drivable destination from Manvar Resort in Jodhpur has an epitaph from the same period which clearly states the Varna system.

A few sporadic inscriptions are seen until the end of the first millennia after which it peters out. Possibly the advent of paper and record-keeping through books and journals replaced the good old stone epitaphs.

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