Impact of Vedic Culture on Society

by Kaushik Acharya | 2020 | 120,081 words

This page relates ‘Religious Epithets (Brahmanical and Buddhist)’ of the study on the Impact of Vedic Culture on Society as Reflected in Select Sanskrit Inscriptions found in Northern India (4th Century CE to 12th Century CE). These pages discuss the ancient Indian tradition of Dana (making gifts, donation). They further study the migration, rituals and religious activities of Brahmanas and reveal how kings of northern India granted lands for the purpose of austerities and Vedic education.

Religious Epithets (Brahmanical and Buddhist)

4th century CE onwards many rulers, royal officials and private persons in northern India have issued copper-plate charters that were the traditional Indian mediums for recording donations for religious purpose. The royal epithets mentioned in these grants refer to both the political status and specific religious affiliation of the rulers.

Royal grants in favour of religious institutions reflect an essential and deep interconnection between politics and religion. The political reasons behind making these grants have been discussed in the previous chapter. Usually land grant charters contain three essential parts, viz. the genealogy of the ruler/ issuer, the particulars of the grant including the location and boundaries of the land, the names and qualification of the donees, the privileges granted and the people associated with the donation, and finally, the dharmānuśaṃsana (imprecatory) stanzas praising the donation and /or cursing the confiscator and appealing to future rulers for protecting the donation. The eulogistic stanzas preceding the description of the grant contain plenty of information about the spiritual ideas fostered by the rulers and royal dynasties. In the genealogical passages the religious patronage and the charity activities of the rulers are also often referred to in a general manner where the donor kings and their ancestors and queens are compared with different gods and goddesses, and sometimes with epic characters.

References to religious views and religious leanings occur in various contexts, and it is often seen that those charters refer to multiple religious beliefs and religious inclinations of the same king at different times. Dynastic traditions of religious beliefs, king’s personality, and their choice, the characters of the particular donee, the universally applied notion of religious legitimacy, and of course, the religious orientation of the tenants were responsible for this diversity.

The grant portions contain an enumeration of titles for the donor king with descriptions of the dynastic genealogy, where kings gave information about their personal and their predecessors’ religious leanings through the use of particular epithets. In some cases, a family deity is mentioned with glory. The recipients of the grants were exclusively religious ones, and villages and plots of land were donated to get religious merits.

To suggest the faith in the particular religious ideology, the kings of Northern India had ascertained the religious epithets. Among the religious epithets of the kings, one frequently comes across such terms as Parama-Māheśvara, ParamaBhāgavata, Parama-Vaiṣṇava, Parama-Saugata, Parama-Brāhmaṇya, Parama-Daivata and so on . These titles may be divided broadly into two categories, viz., Brahmanical epithets and non-Brahmanical (predominantly Buddhist) epithets.

In the chart below are shown some popular religious epithets from the inscriptions that have been used frequently by the kings.

Some notable religious titles adopted by the King and their

Brahmanical epithets
Parama-Māheśvara Highly devoted to Maheśvara (Śiva)
Atyanta-Māheśvara A great devotee of Maheśvara (Śiva)
Atyanta-Maheśvarabhaktā Extremely devoted to Māheśvara (Śiva)
Parama-Māheśvarī The feminine form of Parama-Māheśvara
Parama-Bhāgavata Highly devoted to Bhāgavata (Viṣṇu)
Atyanta-Bhāgavata A great devotee of Bhāgavata (Viṣṇu)
Atyanta-Bhagavadbhaktā Extremely devoted to Bhāgavata (Viṣṇu)
Bhāgavatpadanudhaytā Favored by the feet of the Bhāgavata
Parama-Vaiṣṇava A great devotee of Viṣṇu
Parama-Narasiṃha A great devotee of Narasiṃha (incarnation of Viṣṇu)
Parama-Vaiṣṇavī The feminine form of Parama-Vaiṣṇava
Parama-Saura Highly devoted to Sūrya
Parama-Ādityabhakta A great devotee of Sūrya (the sun god)
Parama-Brāhmaṇya Highly devoted to the Brāhmaṇas
Parama-Daivata Highly devoted to the Gods
Buddhist epithets
Parama-Upāsaka A great devotee of Buddha
Parama-Saugata A great devotee of Saugata (Buddha)
Saugatāśraya A disciple of Saugata (Buddha)
Parama-Tathāgata A great devotee of Tathāgata (Buddha)

As is found the word parama is prefixed to the name of the deity or religious teacher to whom the issuer of the inscriptions felt attached. Sometimes such epithet would also contain a third and final element in the word bhakta, for example, ParamaĀdityabhakta, Parama-Bhāgavatabhakta. In a few cases, parama is substituted by another equivalent word like atyanta, for instance, Atyanta-Māheśvara, Atyanta Bhāgavatabhakta.

Brahmanical epithets:


This epithet Parama-Māheśvara, ‘highly devoted to Maheśvara (Śiva),[1] is the geographically and chronologically widest spread and most used religious title in the royal inscription. It was an appellation of several members of various dynasties belonging to the Vākāṭakas, Maitrakas , Kaṭāccuris , Gurjaras , Sendrakas, several dynasties from Odisha and others, of Harṣa of Kanauj and the Gurjara Pratihāra ruler Vatsarāja as well as of the Sena, and Candella kings and some members of the late western as well as of the Eastern Cālukyas. Bhauma-kara king Subhākara-III,[2] Subhākara-IV were devout worshippers of Śiva. Queen Dandi Mahādevi[3] and other Bhauma-kara queens also regarded themselves as Parama-Māheśvarī. [4] Besides Parama-Māheśvara, there are other śaiva epithets attested as, for instance, the term Atyantasvāmimahābhairavabhakta used for the Vākāṭaka King Rudrasena-I.[5][6]


The first Gupta king, who was called Parama-Bhāgavata, was Candragupta-II.[7][8] The use of this epithet spread among several kings and local princely houses within the sphere of influence of Gupta culture from Gujarat (Maitrakas)[9] to Odisha in the 5th/6th centuries. Prabhāvatīguptā, daughter of Candragupta-II and the famous Vākāṭaka queen was called Atyantabhāgavadbhaktā, a devout worshipper of the Bhāgavata, and Bhāgavatpādānudhayātā, ‘favored by the feet of the Bhāgavata.’[10] The Sarabhapuriyas in Kalahandi and Sambalpur region is known to have patronized the worship of Viṣṇu in the 5th century CE.[11] The Aranga plate of Mahārāja Sudevarāja refers to him as a Parama-Bhāgavata. [12]


Apart from the religious epithet Parama-Bhāgavata, there are epigraphic pieces of evidence for some other vaiṣṇava titles. After Parama-Māheśvara, Parama-Vaiṣṇava was the most used religious title in the royal inscription in northern India. It cannot always be decided whether different terms denoted different traditions within Vaiṣṇavism. Parama-Vaiṣṇava[13] was the religious epithet used for several rulers in Northern India, e.g., 9th/ 10th-century Gurjara -P ratihāras[14] and Eastern India, e.g., Odisha 8th-century Pānḍuvaṃsins[15] 10th-century and Senas.[16] For a Bhauma-kara queen from 9th-century Odisha, the female equivalent Parama-Vaiṣṇavī was used.[17] Again the Sena King Lakṣmaṇasena called himself Parama-Narasiṃha along with ParamaVaiṣṇava. [18]

In the Dhenkanal plate, Queen Tribhuvanamahādevī has been mentioned as Parama-Vaiṣṇavī or the devout female worshipper of Viṣṇu.[19] In the Tālcher plate of Subhākara IV, she has been referred to as a devotee of Hari. [20] The Baud plate of Queen Pṛthvimahādevī mentions her as Parama-Vaiṣṇavī. [21] Somavaṃśin Queen Vāsatā was a great votary of Viṣṇu, and she embraced Vaiṣṇavism as her faith is known from her Sirpur Stone Inscription.[22]

The titles of Parama-Māheśvara, and Parama-Vaiṣṇava used by the Somavaṃśin rulers indicate their faith about Śaivism and Vaiṣṇavism. The Somavaṃsis though devout worshippers of Lord Śiva, had shown reverence to Lord Vishnu. Tivaradeva[23] and his son Nānnarāja[24] called themselves Parama-Vaiṣṇava and all others were known as ParamaMāheśvara. All of them except Indraratha adopted the coronation sobriquets of Mahāśivagupta and Mahābhavagupta alternatively. These two epithets identify the rulers as descendants of Somavaṃśins (Lunar race). Some scholars called the Somavaṃśins as Kośalaguptas[25] or Somaguptas.[26] Some of the princes and kings of this dynasty decorated their names with the title of Kesarī. [27] Thus the Somavaṃśin dynasty is usually known as the Kesarī dynasty of Odisha. For an example of a shift into the opposite direction we must mention the 10th/11th-century ruler Raņabhañja I of Kiñjalimandala was first called himself Parama-Vaiṣṇava, and later Parama-Māheśvara. [28] The same thing happened to some rulers such as eastern Gaṅgas.[29]


Since 4th century some kings, e.g., Pānḍuvaṃsins,[30] Śailodbhavas,[31] etc. used the title Parama-Brāhmaṇya, ‘highly devoted to the brāhmaṇas,’[32] which-given the extreme density of grants favoring individual brāhmaṇas and Brahmanical groups-one would have expected to be spread all over India. Moreover, it is notable that this epithet was often combined with at least one further religious appellation. Some of the Pānduvaṃsin and Sendraka kings in the 6th /7th centuries[33] and some Eastern Cālukyas called themselves Parama-Māheśvara and Parama-Brāhmaṇya. [34] Madhavarāja II, the most outstanding ruler of the Śailodbhava dynasty, declares in his Ganjam grant as a ‘Parama-Brāhmaṇya.’[35]


The rather unspecific appellation Parama-Daivata, ‘highly devoted to the Gods,’ and its derivations, however, seem to have been limited to the Gupta period. It was used by the local authorities of Bengal to characterize the Gupta kings.[36] In the 5th/6th centuries, local chiefs in Eastern India (Assam, Odisha, and Andhra Pradesh) derive also bore this title-sometimes together with other religious epithets.[37]

It is well known that the Guptas gave a substantial impetus to the selfrepresentation of contemporary as well as successor dynasties, which is particularly apparent in the development of titles. It was them who finally introduced epithets denoting imperial status or claims as Maharājadhirāja, Paramabhaṭṭāraka, Parameśvara, etc.. Since Gupta times, religious appellations completed the title lists in the charters of monarchs as well as of their vassals.[38]


Besides, the evidences for śaiva and vaiṣṇava titles, some epithets referring to an affiliation towards the sun god, can be found in copper plate charters dating from the 6th to the 12th centuries. The 6th-century Maitraka Dharāpatta, who probably never ruled, was called Parama-Ādityabhakta in the epigraphs of his grandson Dharāsena II.[39] Harṣa of Kanauj recorded in his three known copper-plate grants[40] that his great grandfather, his grandfather, and his father, who had probably also lived in the 6th century C.E., had been ‘devout worshippers of the sun god’ (Parama-Ādityabhakta). Two 9th/10th century Gurjara -P ratihāra rulers, Ramabhadra and Vināyakapāla, were endowed with the appellation Parama-Ādityabhakta as well. Parama-Ādityabhakta and Parama-Saura bear the same meaning; some of the king prefers the later one.[41]


Although it sounds like a religious epithet, this is an imperial title closely related to Mahārājādhirāja and Paramabhaṭṭāraka; [42] it will be discussed further with other administrative epithets in another chapter. Some Maitraka grants reveal their devotion to their religious teachers (gurus) or other imperial kings or their fathers.[43]

Of all the sects prevalent in northern India, only Jainism and Buddhism came to stay as independent religions. These two ancient Indian religions developed in Magadha (Bihar) and continue to thrive in the modern age,[44] and Buddhism made its entry into Utkala and Kaliṅga in the 6th century BCE. As a contender of Jainism during the days of Buddha. However, in later centuries Jainism found congenial soil in Gujarat and Rajasthan, parts of north India and Karnataka in the south, especially in Mysore.[45] In the 7th century C.E., when Xuan Zang visited Odisha, Puṣpagiri, Parimalagiri, and Śrikṣetra [Śrīkṣetra?] were great centers[46] of Buddhist learning and religion. This Chinese pilgrim gives a vivid account of the condition of Buddhism in the country in the 7th century C.E.[47] Buddhism spread more during Puṣyabhūti and Maitraka rule in early and early medieval periods in northern India. But, as we know, after the Kaliṅga war during 261 BCE, the Maurya Emperor Aśoka[48] played a very conspicuous role as its propagator.

Jainism is an ancient religion and eternal with twenty-four Tīrthaṅkaras, and the last two Pārśvanātha and Mahāvīra are generally accepted as historical persons, with the 23rd Tīrthaṅkara predating the Buddha and the Mahāvīra by probably some 250 years.[49] So, before Buddha, the Jaina ideas were already being circulated in seventh century BCE by Pārśva, to whom four fundamental principles[50] of Jainism are ascribed. Jainism is inherently atheistic. Buddhism, based on an eight-step path (aṣṭāṅga-mārga)[51] and anyone who follows this path, would attain nirvāṇa (salvation irrespective of his social origin). Despite differences, certain features are common to both religions. But compared to Jainism, Buddhism was moderate in the stress on ahimsā. We notice a sharp contrast between the Brahmanical and the Buddhist attitude to certain features in urban life. Of all the religious preachers of sixth century BCE, born in 586 BCE, Gautama Buddha is the best known compared to Jainism, and his religion had a strong hold in the society all over the regions of northern India.[52]

The growing popularity of Buddhism and Brahmanical faith limited the realm of Jainism. Jainism then developed in a very declining form in certain parts of Odisha.[53] Thus we do not find so many epithets of this religion[54] used by the rulers of Northern India during the early and early medieval period.

Buddhist epithets:

Besides the Brahmanical or Hindu epithets mentioned above, there are, of course, also epigraphic references to Buddhist titles for kings.

In a 6th-century Maitraka charter from Gujarat, the royal patron Gūhasena is described as Parama-Upāsaka, ‘excellent [Buddhist] laid follower.’[55] However, he was Parama--Māheśvara in earlier life, and then afterward, he became Parama-Upāsaka.[56] The more common epigraphic appellation for Buddhist rulers, however, was ParamaSaugata, highly devoted to the Saugata (Buddha),[57] which was used by Harṣa of Kanauj to describe his elder brother Rājyavardhana. The epithets Parama-Upāsaka, Paramasaugata, and Parama-Tathāgata occur under the early Bhauma-karas of 8th-century Odisha, too.[58] And the Bengal kings of the Pāla dynasty also called themselves ParamaSaugata. [59]

The epigraphic material of the Maitraka dynasty, which ruled in Gujarat from the 6th to the 8th centuries, is particularly dense: More than a hundred copper-plate charters issued by sixteen different rulers in favor of various religious recipients are known. According to their testimony, most of the Maitraka kings were adherents of Śiva (Parama-Māheśvara), and only some of the early members of this royal line deviated from this general scheme. Unlike the mainstream, Dhruvasena I was described as ‘highly devoted to the Bhāgavata’ (Parama-Bhāgavata) in his more than twenty inscriptions and the epigraphs of his immediate successors. Dharapatta was, as already mentioned, labeled ‘devout worshipper of the sun (Parama-Ādityabhakta) in the charters of his grandson, and Gūhasena was referred to as ‘excellent (Buddhist) follower’ (Parama-Upāsaka). This epithet was used in one of Gūhasena’s three records, all of them being Buddhist. Initially, he had himself called Parama-Māheśvara. However, in his latest known charter, he or his clerks shifted to the title Parama-Upāsaka. But all his successors described him and themselves as an adherent of Śiva. Since the beginning of the 7th century, only those early kings were mentioned in genealogies of the later ones, who had considered themselves as Parama-Māheśvara. This attempt to consolidate the religious heritage can probably be interpreted as part of an attempt to build a continuous dynastic history.

Nevertheless, there is no congruity between the established religious affiliation of the Maitrakas and their official patronage patterns. Approximately three-quarters of their charters record land grants in favor of individual brāhmaṇas or Brahmanical groups without any association with a temple, and one quarter registers the bestowal of villages on Buddhist monasteries. Despite śaiva leanings, there are only five pieces of evidence available so far for donation by Maitrakas in favor of temples; just one belongs to Śiva, two for the Sun-god, and rests for different goddesses.[60]

In contrast to the well-attested Maitraka grants, there are merely three known copper-plate charters that belong to the royal family of their famous quasi-contemporary Harṣa of Kanauj.[61] Harṣa himself issued all of them. As their Maitraka counterparts, these records contain no metrical genealogy, but a prose description of the sequence of rulers with integrated title list Naravardhana, the first king mentioned, has not been endowed with any religious epithet. His immediate successors, Rājyavardhana I, Ādityavardhana, and Prabhākaravardhana, were called Parama-Ādityabhakta. While Harṣa’s elder brother Rājyavardhana II was described as Parama-Saugata and even compared with the Buddha regarding benevolent activity, Harṣa himself was styled Parama-Māheśvara and compared to Śiva. The authenticity of one of the grants is attested by a seal depicting the śaiva symbol ofthe bull.[62] And they were repeating the enumeration of the rulers and their appellations.[63] All the three title deeds, however, record donations of villages in favor of one or two brāhmaṇas each without any obvious affiliation towards a śaiva institution. In this context, it is also worth mentioning that the Chinese pilgrim Xuan zang, who met Harṣa during his travels through Northern India in the early 7th century, described this ruler of Kanauj as a patron and follower of Buddhism.[64]

A few copper-plate charters issued in 9th /10th century by Gurjara-Pratihāra rulers, were found scattered over a vast territory that reaches from Gujarat to Bihar,[65] resemble Harṣa’s records in so far as they also contain a prose genealogy with integrated title list and a seal repeating the names and epithets of the rulers. The genealogical portion reveals that three of the kings were endowed with the religious appellation ParamaBhāgavatībhakta, devout worshipper of Bhāgavatī, two with Parama-Vaiṣṇava, two with Parama-Ādityabhakta and one with the epithet Parama-Māheśvara (Vatsarājadeva). The beneficiaries of the five known Gurjara-Pratihāra grants were g-Sāma-Yajurvedins and Atharvavedins, [66] but no temples or among others, although several temples are referred to in several stone inscriptions from the Gurjara-Pratihāra period. There have been found even a few attestations for donations meant to support temples in Gujarat from the Gurjara-Pratihāra period. The relevant copper-plate charters, however, were not issued by the imperial rulers themselves, but by their feudatories, who only mentioned the imperial titles of their overlords, not their religious epithets.[67]

A gradual shift in the patronage pattern from the overall dominance of grants in favor of brāhmaṇas with no connection to any temple towards an increase of bestowals on temples and brāhmaṇas attached to them can be detected in East-Indian epigraphs. In the nine known copper-plate charters of the 8th-century Pānḍuvaṃśin dynasty of Kośala, the rulers called themselves either Parama-Vaiṣṇava or Parama-Māheśvara. Their patronage pattern and religious affiliation are reflected in the design of their seals. During the reign of Parama-Maheśvara Śivagupta, seals that depicted bulls (symbol) were in use, and apart from brāhmaṇas, Śiva temples were endowed along with the land as well.[68]

Still three-quarters of the twenty copper-plate charters issued by the 8th/9thcentury kings and queens of the Bhauma-kara dynasty of Odisha record endowments on brāhmaṇas, sometimes on large groups of them. But the beneficiaries of the remaining title deeds were Śiva temples and Buddhist monasteries. Although the Nelpur grant[69] reveals that all the early Bhauma-kara kings regarded themselves as Buddhists, the endeavor for some variety in the epithets can be traced in their epigraphs. Subhākaradeva-I was a Saugatāśraya[70] or disciple of Saugata (Buddha), he bore another Buddhist title Parama-Saugata, [71] the devout Buddhist. Śivākaradeva I assumed the Buddhist epithet like Parama-Tathāgata, [72] the pious worshipper of the Tathāgata (Buddha). The sixth king of the dynasty, Śubhākaradeva II, adopted the title Parama-Saugata. [73] The Bhauma inscriptions use some new epithets as Unmattasiṃha, ParamaSaugata, and Parama-Tathāgata which identify the Bhauma-kara rulers as Buddhist rulers of Odisha. Unmattasiṃha refers to courage and valor. Different designations were used for various rulers, Parama-Upāsaka, Parama-Saugata, and Parama-Tathāgata. Even Saugatāśraya, the one who has taken refuge in the feet of Saugata (Śivākara III bore this title).[74] Despite their Buddhist affiliation, not all the early Bhauma-kara rulers were characterized as founders of monasteries. But in the 9th century, the religious learning of the Bhauma-karas seems to have finally changed. The later kings, starting with Śubhākara V, were denoted as Parama-Māheśvara and the queens called themselves Parama-Māheśvarī.[75] This change in the epithets, however, did not coincide with any change or the shift in the patronage pattern of the dynasty.

Buddhism suffered a significant setback with the decline of the Bhauma-kara dynasty in Odisha towards the middle of the 10th century CE. The Somavaṃsīs, who succeeded the Bhauma-karas, were the ardent devotees of Lord Śiva. However, the Somavaṃsī kings were not intolerant towards other creeds. They instead patronized and showed great respect to Buddhism as well as to other faiths. Among the Somavaṃsī kings who patronized Buddhism Mahāśivagupta Bālārjuna was prominent.[76] Though he was a Śaivite by faith, yet he was a great patron of Buddhism. The ‘Sirpur stone inscription[77] of Bālārjuna’ praises the lotus feet of the Saugata or Buddha. It records the construction of a monastery by Bhikṣu Ananda Prabha, as well as the establishment of a sattra (free kitchen) for the monks.[78] However, they became more inclined towards Śaivism after shifting their capital to the coastal tracts of Utkala. Consequently, Buddhism, due to the lack of royal patronage and support as well as the rise of Śaivism and Vaiṣṇavism gradually lost its hold over the population and went underground. The exponents of Brahmanism treated Lord Buddha as an incarnation of Viṣṇu.

The Buddhist Pāla kings, who reigned in Bihar and Bengal from the 8th to the 12th centuries, called themselves Parama-Saugata. This is more interesting that, Grants of villages and land mostly in favor of individual brāhmaṇas evidenced by fifteen land grant charters of twenty-two known copper plate charters. Buddhist monasteries and Hindu temples were also bestowed. Since the 10th century, the predominantly Brahmanical donations were explicitly made ‘in the name of the Lord Buddha.’[79] But despite a specific Buddhist influence on the design of the Pāla epigraphs, one comes across the usual comparisons with Purāṇic Gods and epic heroes for several Pāla kings in the genealogical portions, well-known from the inscriptions of non-Buddhist rulers.

In the 12th century, the Pālas was succeeded by the Sena dynasty, who left some copper plates charters. As the late Pāla kings, the Sena s seem to have issued grants exclusively in favor of individual brāhmaṇas. In contrast to the Pāla s, however, the Sena s were no Buddhists. Vijayasena and Ballālasena, who called themselves ParamaMāheśvara, opened their copper-plate charters with an invocation formula and an invocation stanza to praise Śiva, and Vijayasena dedicated his Brahmanical donation to Māheśvara. [80]

Lakṣmaṇasena considered himself as Parama-Vaiṣṇava and Parama-Narasiṃha, respectively, opened his records with an invocation formula for Nārāyaṇa, and made his grants in the name of Nārāyaṇa.[81] But his epigraphs also contain an invocation stanza for Śiva.[82] Visvarupasena was one of those kings who preferred to use Parama-Saura. [83] A seal depicting the ten-armed Sadāśiva and described as Sadāśivamudra in some of the records were attached to all the known Sena title deeds.[84]

The epigraphic records of many early medieval rulers of Northern India begin with verses praising Śiva and Viṣṇu and compare the deeds of these kings with the activities of Hindu gods and goddesses. Although most of the royal patrons called themselves ‘devout worshippers’ of either Śiva and Viṣṇu, the total number of grants for the upkeep of śaiva or vaiṣṇava temples is rather small compared to those in favor of brāhmaṇas. This ambivalent relationship between the personal beliefs of the kings and their donative practices seems to be strongly connected with the general objectives of the imperial patronage policy and with the specific character of the Brahmanical donees. In this context, it is worth mentioning that the formula used to describe the religious merit (puṇya) acquired by royal grants was, despite minor modifications, a pan-religious one in the vast majority of official charters, regardless of who the donees were.

Mostly, endowments were made “for the increase of religious merit (and fame)” of donor and his parents in a general way. Only in a few cases, a different sectarian influence can be traced. Some Buddhist kings included all beings’ into the puṇya formula, but again irrespective of the affiliation of the recipient of the grant.

Until the 10th century and in some regions even later (Pālas, Senas) most Indian rulers, although they often tended to balance their patronage somehow, seem to have clearly preferred Brahmanical recipients in their land-grant policy -for the greater mobility of brāhmaṇas compared to religious institutions, for their evidently higher adaptability to the rural environment of the objects granted to them and for several other reasons. Since the middle of the 10th century, however the number of copper-plate grants in favor of temples and brāhmaṇas attached to them increased dramatically, as can be seen in the epigraphic corpora of many dynasties. The way for these developments had been paved mainly by local and regional elites who had founded and supported Hindu temples much earlier than the imperial rulers. Their activities are mainly recorded on stone, and not on copper-plates.

There were some kings who did not take any religious or other epithets, maybe because they hesitated or being almost independent did not like to use their predecessors’ royal titles or unable to use those glorious titles owing to the political condition of that time. Kharagraha I and Dhārāsena III, the two Maitraka kings, were not using any religious or other titles. They remained satisfied to use only Śri [Śrī?] as the title.

[Religious beliefs of the Kings who ruled in Northern India]

Religious royal epithets are reliable indicators of the distinct religious affiliations of kings. Since the 4th century C.E. in almost every charter, the religious affiliation of their royal donors has been mentioned. However, as we see most dynastic inscriptions contain evidence of those religious titles and often these epithets were applied regularly. A ruler's personal religious recognition as śaiva, vaiṣṇava, Buddhist, etc. was often remarkably in stark contrast to certain pattern of patronage he followed in his official charters. This is a striking feature of information that almost all north Indian dynasties endowed first and foremost brāhmaṇas and only secondarily other potential donees, whether Buddhist and Jain monasteries or Hindu temples and among others. Even those kings who considered as Buddhists instead of bestowed villages and land predominantly on individual brāhmaṇas or large groups of vedic brāhmaṇas and secondarily to the other fields. In contrast, this ambivalent relationship between the personal beliefs of the kings and their donative practices has been repeatedly described as an expression of Indian religious ‘tolerance’ which has arisen from the co-existence and mingling of different cultures.

Footnotes and references:


D.C. Sircar, Indian Epigraphical Glossary, p. 236.


JBORS, vol. XVI, pp. 69-83.


Ibid., vol. V, p. 567.


S. Tripathy (ed.), Inscriptions of Orissa, [New Series], vol. 2: Inscriptions of the Bhaumakaras, pp. 175, 180, 187, 193, 205.


CII, vol. V, pp. 12, 18, 23, 30.


The title Parama-Pāsupatācārya, which occurs in a 13th-century inscription from Gujarat (IA, vol. II, p. 242), does not belong to this class of epithets as it denotes an 'excellent teacher of the Pāśupatas', and is thus a denomination like Parama-Brāhmaṇya.


CII, vol. III, p. 253-254


The daughter of Candragupta II and queen of the Vākāṭaka King Rudrasena II, Prabhāvatīguptā also referred to her father as Parama-Bhāgavata (CII, vol. V, p. 7).


Dhruvasena I was the only Maitraka king being labeled Parama-Bhāgavata (EI, vol. 11, p. 107).


CII, vol. IV, pp. 24, 27.


EI, vol. XXI, p.153.


Ibid., vol. XXIII, p. 20.


D.C. Sircar, op. cit., p. 237.


IA, vol. XV, pp. 140-153.


A.M. Shastri (ed.), Inscriptions of the Sarabhapurīyas, Pānduvamsins and Somavamśins, vol. II, pp. 105-108.


S. Tripathy (ed.), op. cit., vol. VI, Inscriptions of the Bhañjas, p. 53.


Ibid., vol. II, Inscriptions of the Bhauma-karas, pp. 156-170.


N.G. Majumder (ed.), Inscriptions of Bengal, vol. III, pp. 95, 111.


JBORS, vol. II, p. 419.


B. Mishra, Orissa under the Bhauma Kings, p. 37.


EI, vol. XXIX, p. 210.


OHRJ, vol. III, no. l, p. 14.


CII, vol. III, p. 295.


EI, vol. XXXI, p. 221.


B.C. Majumder, Orissa in the Making, p. 154.


S.P. Dash, Sambalpur Itihas, p. 163.


EI, vol. XI, p. 191.


Ibid., vol. LXII, pp. 66-70.


D.C. Sircar, Indian Epigraphy, p. 347.


A.M. Shastri (ed.), op. cit., pp. 73-90.


S. Tripathy (ed.), op. cit., vol. 1: Circa Fifth-Eighth Centuries CE, p. 210.


D.C. Sircar, op. cit., p. 347.


EI, vol. XXVIII, pp. 201-204.


Ibid., vol. IV, p. 307.


Ibid., vol. VI, pp. 143-146.


CII, vol. III (revised edition), pp. 285, 336.


S. Tripathy (ed.), op. cit., pp. 98, 108, 124, 180.


The fact that subordinate rulers also bore religious epithets beginning with Parama, although they did not use imperial titles as Parameśvara and Parama-Bhaṭṭāraka and were thus not described as 'supreme lord' or 'supreme sovereign', but merely as Mahāsāmanta or Mahārāja, corroborates the translation of these designations with ‘highly devoted to’ instead of ‘supreme devotee of.’


EI, vol. 11, pp. 241-245.


For the Madhuban charter, see Buhler 1892; for the Baṅskhera charter, see Buhler 1896/97 and for the Kuruksetra-Varanasi charter, see Agrawal, 2003 and Goyal, 2005.


Visvarupasena was one of those kings who preferred to use Parama-Saura. [N.G. Majumder (ed.), Inscriptions of Bengal, vol. III, p. 145].


D.C. Sircar, Indian Epigraphical Glossary, p. 237.


Śilāditya III to Śilāditya VII meditate on the feet of the Bava and Bappa and they were assigned the royal titles of the kings. G. Buhler has explained this very interesting phenomena in the following way, Śilāditya II & Śilāditya III of our grant are said to mediate on the feet of the supreme Bhaṭṭāraka, the king of kings the supreme lord Bava, and of the supreme Bhaṭṭāraka the king of kings the supreme lord Bappa, respectively; and in the grant of Śilāditya IV, that king also professes his devotion to Bappa.

V.N. Mandlik expresses his belief that Bava and Bappa were the gurus or religious teachers, whom the three kings, sat. It seems to us that as they were feudatory royal family, it is possible "king of kings" or "supreme lords" were real kings, they may not be gurus, or it is also possible that he was a guru earlier then became a king, to whom those Maitraka kings were meditating.

According to Fleet, the word Bappa here stands for their fathers.


Damien Keown and Charles S. Prebish, Encyclopedia of Buddhism, pp. 127–130, and E. Robert (ed.), Encyclopedia of Buddhism, p. 383.


D.N. Jha, Ancient India, in Historical Outline, p. 70.


N.K. Sahu, Buddhism in Orissa, pp. 48, 84, 100.


During his itinerary in Odisha Xuan-Tsang visited Odradeśa, Kongoda, Kaliṅga and South Kośala. Regarding the condition of Buddhism in Odradeśa he informs us that "They (the people of Odradeśa) were indefatigable students, and many of them were Buddhists. There were 100 Buddhist monasteries and myriad brethren, all Mahayanists".

Further the pilgrim states that "The priests of this country Odradeśa all study the little Vehicle and do not believe in the Greater Vehicle." Thus both Hīnayāna and Mahāyana forms of Buddhism flourished side by side in Odra country. About the religious condition of Kongoda, Xuan-Tsang states that "They (the people of Kongoda) greatly respect the teachings of heretics and do not believe in the law of Buddha. (S. Beal, Buddhist Records of the Western World, vol. II, London, 1906, p. 206).

In the first quarter of the 7th century CE, Kongoda-maṇḍala was under the paramount of the King of Gauḍa (Bengal), Śasānka, who was an arch enemy of Buddhism. So the people of Kongoda did not venture to embrace Buddhism as their religion. (Proceedings, Orissa History Congress, 1978, pp.7-16) Regarding Kaliṅga, the pilgrim states that “there were above ten Buddhist monasteries and five hundred Brethren students of the Mahāyanist Sthavira School System (T. Watters, On Yuan Chwang’s Travels in India, vol. II, p.198)."

He found Buddhism in thriving conditions in South Kośala also. He states that “the king was a Kṣatriya by birth, a Buddhist in religion and of noted benevolence. There were above 100 Buddhist monasteries and 10,000 Brethren all Mahayanists (loc.cit.). Thus both Hinayāna and Mahāyāna forms of Buddhism were in a flourishing condition in Odra, Kaliṅga and South Kośala excepting Kongoda in 7th century CE.


It was under Aśoka’s patronage and able guidance that Buddhism emerged from being a local obscure religion and grew into an all India religion. The Kaliṅga War in 261 B.C. brought a great transformation in the impressionable mind of Aśoka. The war brought untold miseries and hardship to the people of Kaliṅga.

The colossal war caused suffering not only to the military population but also to a large number of civil populations, including brāhmaṇas and other religious communities. The havoc and bloodshed of the war and the untold miseries of the people caused much mental agony, profound sorrow, regret and remorse in the mind of Aśoka, who ultimately veered towards Buddhism. According to some scholars, Aśoka got a set of his (Rock Edicts and two special Kaliṅga edicts at Dhauli near Bhubaneswar) edicts engraved to attract the people towards Buddhism (K.C. Panigrahi, History of Orissa, p. 305 and B.M. Barua, Aśoka and his Inscriptions, pp. 187-191).


Dundas Paul, The Jains, pp. 30-33.


The four fundamental principles of Jainism are, taking no life (ahiṃsā), taking no property of others, possessing no property of one’s own and truthfulness. However, Mahāvīra added celibacy to this list.


The central theme of Buddha's religion is the eight-step paths (aṣṭāñgamārga). The first step is the proper vision leading to the realization that the world is full of sorrows caused by desire, greed, etc. The second step is right aim, which leaves no room for covetousness or indulgence but encourages everybody to love others fully and increase their happiness. Right speech is the third step; it implies the practice of truthfulness promoting mutual friendship. Proper action, the fourth step, includes abstention from killing, stealing and fornication, and performance of such deeds as would benefit other people. The fifth step is proper livelihood, earned by pure and honest means. Right effort, the sixth step, means mental exercise to avoid evil thoughts. The seventh step is correct awareness, according to which the human body is made of unclear substance. The last step is meditation leading to the removal of evils generated by bonds of flesh and attachment to the mind. Anyone who would follow this noble eightfold path would attain final salvation (nirvāṇa) irrespective of his social origin.


Some scholars believe that these religions spread mostly in north-eastern region. According to them, Kaliṅga was not accepted as an Aryan kingdom because the epics call the people as Durdharmans and Mlecchas, with whom any social relations were forbidden. This was probably because the people of Kaliṅga were followers of heterodox religions -Jainism and Buddhism and hence were unacceptable to the followers of Brahmanism.

However, according to D.N. Jha Buddhism like Brahmanical religion seems to have recognized the phenomenon of untouchability. He opines, “Neither of the two religions sought to debar members of the lower castes from acquiring knowledge. According to them anybody who becomes a teacher deserves respect irrespective of his caste. In a Buddhist birth story a brāhmaṇa loses the charm learnt from a Candāla because he denies his teacher out of shame.

Consistent with this is an example mentioned in a later Jaina work of a king who while learning spells from a Mātanga (Candāla), occupied a lower seat. These stories prove that member of the lower castes often joined the Buddhist and the Jaina orders though they may have done so owing to their poverty. Buddhist and Jaina tolerance towards the lower sections of society is further borne out by the scriptures of the two sects. A Buddhist monk or nun, in contrast to a brāhmaṇa, could approach families of all the four varṇas for food, or could eat at their houses if invited by them. Similarly an early canonical work permits the Jaina monk to accept food from lower caste families including weavers. But to what extent the practice of the monks and nuns influenced the lay followers of Buddhism and Jainism is a matter of speculation.

The fact that neither slaves nor debtors were admitted to the Buddhist and Jaina church suggests that neither of the two religions sought to challenge existing social relations. In fact both seem to have accepted the caste system. In a Buddhist birth story it is claimed that the Buddhas are born only in the two higher castes and never as Vaiśya or Śūdra.

Similarly an early text states that the Jaina teachers are not born in low, mean, degraded, poor, indigent or brāhmaṇa families. According to some Jaina legends, Mahāvīra was originally conceived in the womb of a brāhmaṇa woman but his embryo was later transferred to that of the noble Kṣatriya Triśāla who gave birth to him. This reveals the intense Jaina hostility towards brāhmaṇas.

The remaining categories of people among whom the Jaina teachers are not to be born evidently belong to the lower social orders. In spite of the protestant character of Buddhism and Jainism neither waged any powerful struggle against caste system and untouchability.

On the contrary, Buddhism, like Brahmanical religion, seems to have recognized the phenomenon of untouchability, which originated in the post-vedic period and remains to this day an appalling feature of Indian social life. The Candālas and Niṣadas, originally aboriginals, were untouchables to the Buddhists. At one place the Buddha himself equates the food earned by unlawful means with the leavings of a Candāla. This is in tune with the attitude of the early brahmanical lawgivers, who prescribed bathing as essential for those members of the higher castes who touched a Candāla. The new religions therefore did not try to abolish the existing social differentiations; they strongly refuted, however, the importance of caste for the attainment of nirvāṇa. Buddhism and Jainism tried to improve the position of slaves in some ways. Whereas Apastamba forbids trade in human beings only for the brāhmaṇas, the new religions prohibit it even for their lay followers. The Digha Nikaya advises masters to treat their slaves decently. A Jaina text also states that dāsas and dāsis, karmakāras are deserved to be well maintained by their employers. Passages such as these may have generated at least in the Buddhist and the Jaina monks and nuns a feeling of generosity and kindness, which may have added to their following among the lower orders.” (D.N. Jha, Ancient India, In Historical Outline, pp. 76-77).


Jainism had been the earliest religious faith, there are places of Jaina monuments in Bhubaneswar, Koraput, Khiching and Bhadrak etc. widely scattered in Odisha. In these places many images of Ṛṣabhanātha have been found. During the time of Khāravela, Jainism enjoyed the status of state religion in Kaliṅga. He had excavated a large number of caves for the welfare of Jain monks. We have epigraphic evidence to suggest that even in the 11th century Jainism received royal patronage from the Somavaṃśin kings who not only gave liberal grants for its promotion, but also built a number of Caves.

Afterwards, Jainism appears to have suffered setbacks on account of the growing popularity of Vaisnavism. After the decline of the Chedi dynasty, Jainism suffered a great setback in Odisha. It had to compete with the rising tide of Buddhism and the Brahmanical religions in the early Christian era to retain its hold. The growing popularity of Buddhism and the Brahmanical faiths restricted the area of Jainism. Jainism, thereafter, continued to flourish in a much diminished form in some specific areas of Odisha.


We have epigraphic evidence to suggest that even in the 11th century Jainism received royal patronage from the Somavaṃśin kings who not only gave liberal grants for its promotion, but also built a number of Caves. Afterwards, Jainism appears to have suffered setbacks on account of the growing popularity of Vaisnavism.


D.C. Sircar, op. cit., p. 237.


IA, vol. V, p. 207.


D.C. Sircar, op. cit., p. 237.


S. Tripathy (ed.), op. cit., vol. 2, Inscriptions of the Bhauma-karas, pp. 110, 125, 131.


N.G. Majumder (ed.), Inscriptions of Bengal, vol. III, Containing Inscriptions of the Chandras, pp. 5, 12.


IA, vol. IX, pp. 237-239, also see, EI, vol. XXI, pp. 116-119 & JBBRAS, vol. XX, pp. 1-10.


EI, vol. I, pp. 67-75 & EI, vol. IV, pp. 208-211.


The [copper] seal of the Madhuban charter is not forthcoming, and the seal of the Banskhera charter is extremely blurred. For the Nalanda clay seal of Harṣa, this also contains the bull device and his genealogy.


JESI, vol. XXXI, pp. 136-146.


T. Watters, On Yuan Chwang’s Travels in India, vol. I (AD 629-645), p. 341.


B.N. Puri, The History of the Gurjara-Pratihāras, p. 220.


IA, vol. XV, pp. 140-141.


EI, vol. IX, pp. 4-10.


A.M. Shastri (ed.), op. cit., vol. 2, p. 129.


EI, vol. XV, pp. 1-8.


Ibid., vol. XXVII, p. 212.


Ibid., vol. XV, pp. 1-8.


Loc. cit.


EI, vol. XXVII, p. 212.


S. Tripathy (ed.), op. cit., p. 121.


S. Tripathy (ed.), op. cit., pp. 156-170.


EI, vol. XXXVI, pp. 197-198.


Loc. cit.


D. Mitra, Bronzes from Achvutaraipur, p. 28.


EI, vol. XXIX, pp. 8-13.


N.G. Majumder (ed.), op. cit., p. 41.


Ibid., p. 43.


Ibid., p.85.


Ibid., p. 145.


Ibid., pp.132-137.

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