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Gupta era temple in Uttar Pradesh

Context:

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) discovered remains of an ancient temple dating back to the Gupta period (5th century) in a village in Uttar Pradesh’s Etah district.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-I: History, GS-I: Art and Culture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Gupta Empire
  2. About the ASI Discovery in Uttar Pradesh
  3. What is the Shankhalipi script?

About the Gupta Empire

  • The Gupta Empire was an ancient Indian empire which existed from the early 4th century CE to late 6th century CE.
  • This period is considered as the Golden Age of India by historians.
  • The ruling dynasty of the empire was founded by the king Sri Gupta; the most notable rulers of the dynasty were Chandragupta I, Samudragupta, and Chandragupta II alias Vikramaditya.
  • The 5th-century CE Sanskrit poet Kalidasa credits the Guptas with having conquered about twenty-one kingdoms, both in and outside India, including the kingdoms of Parasikas, the Hunas, the Kambojas, tribes located in the west and east Oxus valleys, the Kinnaras, Kiratas, and others.
  • Many of the literary sources, such as Mahabharata and Ramayana, were canonized during this period.
  • The Gupta period produced scholars such as Kalidasa, Aryabhata, Varahamihira, and Vatsyayana who made great advancements in many academic fields.

About the ASI Discovery in Uttar Pradesh

  • Two pillars were excavated on which there is an inscription about Kumaragupta I, the powerful ruler of Gupta dynasty, in ‘sankh lipi’ (conch script or shell script) typical of the 5th century AD.
  • The Guptas were the first to build structural temples, distinctly different from the ancient rock-cut temples.
  • ASI conducted further excavation and found stairs that led to a structural temple built during the Gupta period. He says the inscription on the stairs possibly reads ‘Sri Mahendraditya’, which was the title of Kumaragupta I.
  • The discovery becomes significant since only two other structural temples from the Gupta age have been found so far — Dashavatara Temple (Deogarh) and Bhitargaon Temple (Kanpur Dehat).

What is the Shankhalipi script?

  • Shankhalipi or “shell-script” is a term used by scholars to describe ornate spiral characters assumed to be Brahmi derivatives that look like conch shells or shankhas.
  • They are found in inscriptions across north-central India and date to between the 4th and 8th centuries.
  • Both Shankhalipi and Brahmi are stylised scripts used primarily for names and signatures.
  • The inscriptions consist of a small number of characters, suggesting that the shell inscriptions are names or auspicious symbols or a combination of the two.
  • The script was discovered in 1836 on a brass trident in Uttarakhand’s Barahat by English scholar James Prinsep, who was the founding editor of the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal.
  • Prominent sites with shell inscriptions include the Mundeshwari Temple in Bihar, the Udayagiri Caves in Madhya Pradesh, Mansar in Maharashtra and some of the cave sites of Gujarat and Maharashtra.

-Source: Indian Express

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September 2022
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