Ever since its discovery in AD1825, Kharavela's Hathigumpha Inscription has had a fascinating course. It is not a royal panegyric merely; it is an epitome of history, specially of the so-called dark period -- unveiling, as it does, the political and cultural conditions that prevailed in India during the three centuries before Christ's birth. And yet more significantly, it is the only hitherto-known document to tell the saga of its heroic author: the first historical king from India's eastern coast to lead extensive campaigns in different directions. But for this inscription, Mahameghavahana Kharavela could never have been resurrected from oblivion.
Likewise personal in character is Ashoka's Bhabru Edict, considered as the earliest written record of Buddhist scripture and monastic organisation. For the history of Buddhism, this little document is as important as the Kharavela's Hathigumpha Inscription is for that of Jainism.
Shashi Kant's study examines afresh these inscriptions: not just for their thematic similarity, but essentially for their crucial historicity. Going into their tenor and context, it is the first ever decipherment/interpretation of the two rare documents, with the whole Jaina and Buddhist traditions in the background. The author demolishes myths, addresses controversies and, these besides, offers convincing theories that are authenticated by recent archaeological findings.
Acclaimed and favourably reviewed in India and elsewhere alike, this epigraphic study is now in its second, enlarged edition -- including a whole new section on the genesis of the Prakrit languages and the ancient Indian scripts. Together with the original epigraphs, their romanised transliteration and English translation, it holds out immense appeal to the scholars of ancient Indian history, epigraphy, archaeology, and Buddhist-and-Jaina studies.