South India’s earliest Sanskrit Inscription found in A.P.

The Epigraphy Branch of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has discovered the earliest Sanskrit inscription to have been discovered in South India as on date. This significant finding is also the earliest epigraphic evidence for ‘Saptamatrika’ cult so far. The discovery was made in Chebrolu village in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. The inscription came to light when some local villagers informed ASI authorities about a pillar with some engravings when they were restoring and repairing local Bheemeshwara temple. ASI called for conservation and preservation of pillar given its historical importance.

Key Findings

What is Saptamatrikas? They are a group of seven female deities worshipped in Hinduism as personifying the energy of their respective consorts. There are references of Saptamatrika worship in early Kadamba copper plates as well as early Chalukyas and Eastern Chalukya copper plates. But this new discovery predates them by almost 200 years.

The Inscription found: It is in Sanskrit and in Brahmi characters and was issued by Satavahana king Vijaya in 207 A.D. The inscription records construction of a prasada (temple), a mandapa (a pavilion for public rituals) and consecration of images on southern side of temple by a person named Kartika for merit of king at temple of Bhagavathi (Goddess) Saktimatruka (Saptamatrika) at Tambrape (which is the ancient name of Chebrolou). All the available records when verified, proved that Chebrolu inscription of Satavahana king Vijaya issued in his 5th regnal year (207 A.D.) is also the earliest datable Sanskrit inscription from South India so far. Until now the Nagarjunakonda inscription of Ikshavaku king Ehavala Chantamula issued in his 11th regnal year (4th century A.D.) was considered the earliest Sanskrit inscription in South India.

The place also yielded another inscription which is in Prakrit language and of Brahmi characters and belongs to 1st century A.D. This is thus the earliest epigraphic reference to Mutts and records gift of a cloister mandapa and chaitya to bhavatho (Lord) of the Gadasa Mutt by a person hailing from Tabaava.