Indian copper plate inscriptions

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The Taxila copper plate, 1st century BC (British Museum).
Example of a Chola inscription in Tamil from the 12th century AD
Paramara Siyak's Harsola copperplate copper plate of 1005

Indian copper plate inscriptions play an important role in the reconstruction of the history of India. Prior to their discovery, historians were forced to rely on ambiguous archaeological findings such as religious text of uncertain origin and interpretations of bits of surviving traditions, patched together with travel journals of foreign visitors along with a few stone inscriptions. The discovery of Indian copper plate inscriptions provided a relative abundance of new evidence for use in evolving a chronicle of India's elusive history.


Indian copper plate inscriptions (tamarashasana), usually record grants of land or lists of royal lineages carrying the royal seal, a profusion of which have been found in South India. Originally inscriptions were recorded on palm leaves, but when the records were legal documents such as title-deeds they were etched on a cave or temple wall, or more commonly, on copper plates which were then secreted in a safe place such as within the walls or foundation of a temple, or hidden in stone caches in fields. Plates could be used more than once, as when a canceled grant was over-struck with a new inscription. These records were probably in use from the first millennium. The earliest authenticated plates were issued by the Pallava dynasty kings in the 4th century AD and are in Tamil, Prakrit although later Sanskrit was used. An example of early Sanskrit inscription in which Kannada words are used to describe land boundaries, are the Tumbula inscriptions of Western Ganga Dynasty, which have been dated to AD 444 according to a 2004 Indian newspaper report.[1] Rare copper plates from the Gupta period have been found in North India. The use of copper plate inscriptions increased and for several centuries they remained the primary source of legal records.[2]

Most copper plate inscriptions record title-deeds of land-grants made to Brahmanas, individually or collectively. The inscriptions followed a standard formula of identifying the royal donor and his lineage, followed by lengthy honorifics of his history, heroic deeds, and his extraordinary personal traits. After this would follow the details of the grant, including the occasion, the recipient, and the penalties involved if the provisions were disregarded or violated. Although the profusion of complimentary language can be misleading, the discovery of copper plate inscriptions have provided a wealth of material for historians[2][3]

Tirumala Venkateswara Temple have a unique collection of about 3000 copper plates on which the Telugu Sankirtans of Tallapaka Annamacharya and his descendants are inscribed.[4]

Copper plates of Kerala[edit]

The inscription from the Sasanam outlining the grant of rights of the Anjuvannam and 72 other properietary rights to Jewish Chief Ousepp Irabban

Between the eighth and tenth centuries, rulers on the Malabar Coast awarded various rights and privileges to Nazranies (Saint Thomas Christians) on copper plates, known as Cheppeds, or Royal Grants or Sasanam.[5]

  • Iravikorthan Sassanam, awarded by Shri Veera Raghava Perumal (in c. AD 774)


One of the most important sources of history in the Indian subcontinent are the royal records of grants engraved on copper-plates (tamra-shasan or tamra-patra; tamra means copper in Sanskrit and several other Indian languages). Because copper does not rust or decay, they can survive virtually indefinitely.

Collections of archaeological texts from the copper-plates and rock-inscriptions have been compiled and published by the Archaeological Survey of India during the past century.

Approximate dimensions of copper plate is 934 inch long × 314 inch high × 1/10 (to 1/16) inch thick.

The earliest known copper-plate, known as the Sohgaura copper-plate, is a Maurya record that mentions famine relief efforts. It is one of the very few pre-Ashoka Brahmi inscriptions in India.Template:Thapar, Aśoka and the Decline of the Mauryas,2014, pp. 10

See also[edit]


  1. ^ N. Havalaiah (2004-01-24). "Ancient inscriptions unearthed". The Hindu, Saturday, Jan 24, 2004 (Chennai, India: The Hindu). Retrieved 2006-11-25. 
  2. ^ a b Keay, John (2000). India: A History. New York: Grove Press. pp. 155–157. ISBN 0-8021-3797-0. 
  3. ^ "Nature and Importance of Indian Epigraphy". Retrieved 2007-03-16. 
  4. ^ Epigraphical lore of Tirupati published in Saptagiri magazine.
  5. ^ SG Pothen. Syrian Christians of Kerala (1970). p. 32-33.
  6. ^ A. Sreedhara Menon. Kerala History (1999). p.54.
  7. ^ N.M. Mathew History of the Marthoma Church (Malayalam), Volume I. p. 105-109.
  8. ^ Cheriyan, Dr. C.V. Orthodox Christianity in India. p. 85, 126, 127, 444-447.
  1. Dr. Romila Thapar, The Penguin History of Early India, From Origin to 1300 AD., 2003, Penguin, New Delhi, ISBN 0-14-302989-4
  2. N.M. Mathew. Malankara Marthoma Sabha Charitram, (History of the Marthoma Church), Volume I. Tiruvalla (2006).
  3. Cheriyan, Dr. C.V. Orthodox Christianity in India Kottayam. (2003).

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