Read the Past Episodes in this Series
IN THE PREVIOUS EPISODE, we described the broad categories which Hindu inscriptions belong to and mentioned three significant points in the context.
The first: the same inscription often contains valuable information related to events occurring in different periods. A Gahadavala inscription dated 1089-90 can cited as a representative example. It mentions an exigency tax known as the Turuṣka-daṇḍa levied in order to meet the expenses for maintaining a permanent defence system to deter the recurring invasions of Muslim armies. For more information, see the article below.
The second relates to the aforementioned Dāna-śāsanas or charitable grants. It was the duty of the king or donor, and not the donee, to issue them. The intent behind writing these grants was to enable the entire lineage of the recipient to enjoy the munificence in perpetuity. Even as recently as the 1970s, it was common to witness villagers safeguarding such grants in metallic or wooden trunks akin to a prized treasure. Some had even buried these grants in their farm or backyard. Some of these grants dated back to four or five hundred years. The other intent was to provide an inspiration and a model to the society as a whole. When the king or a powerful or wealthy person donates liberally, guided by an unenforceable sense of duty and records it in a highly public fashion, it sets a noble precedent for the rest. The final verse of every śāsana offers an intense caution that also has lasting value.
Svadattām paradattām vā yō harēta vasundharā |
ṣaṣṭhi sahasra varṣāṇi viṣṭhājjāyatē krimih ||
He who usurps or snatches the charity (grant, gift, donation, land etc) whether that charity was made by himself or by others, will suffer for 60,000 years as a worm in the gutter.
Western epigraphists nonchalantly dismiss this as “the usual imprecatory verse at the end.”
But it was Indira Gandhi’s so-called “land reform” legislation that proved to be the axe that annihilated this unbroken tradition and practice of magnanimity whose source-fount was spirituality. A poignant and heart-rending conversation in Dr. S.L. Bhyrappa’s classic, Tanthu slaps us awake over the dire consequences of this annihilation of virtue. One of the characters in the novel is an aged temple Purohita speaking to the protagonist about Indira Gandhi’s notorious Land Ceiling Act: “As far as I can remember, none of the kings or chieftains or even the British, took away the land which was given as a grant to us by others. But now, our own people have forcibly grabbed the land donated to us by others. May God bless this Government.”
In fact, Dāna-śāsanas are a splendid class in their own right and merit a serious study for its own sake.
The third is the element of civilisational and cultural continuity and the fundamental unity of India that our inscriptions reveal. Chola inscriptions found in Karnataka are written both in Tamil and Kannada, the majority in Tamil. However, whereas the script of some inscriptions is Kannada, the language is Tamil. Marathi inscriptions have been discovered in Shivamogga. Malayalam and Gujarati inscriptions have been unearthed in Shravanabelagola. Inscriptions are also classified for example, as Shaiva Inscriptions (Śiva-śāsana) and Jaina Inscriptions (Jina-śāsana), denoting grants made to Shiva and Jaina temples and institutions. It was incumbent upon the ruler to extend equal recognition to both notwithstanding his own religious persuasion. Likewise, it was also the king’s duty to uphold, preserve and maintain the perpetuity of charitable and administrative grants made in an earlier era. There is a twofold element in this. One: these earlier grants would have been made by a king belonging to a different (or even an enemy’s) bloodline and following a different Pantha. Two: the grant would have been made in a locality that lay in the enemy’s domain, which this king had now conquered.
These lived values are completely at odds with a spurious and values-bereft democracy that we’ve been practicing for more than seven decades in which the schemes and projects of an earlier Government are scrapped with impunity — only because the new party that comes to power hates its predecessor. This is revenge of the vilest kind, and not governance by any definition of the term.
To be continued
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