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In Session: Reflecting on Buddhism in South Asia
Symbols in the Early Inscriptions of Kuda: A Reassessment of Epigraphy at a Buddhist Cave Site
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
8:30am – 10:00am EDT
Wofford College, United States
Remains of caves at Kuda (Raigad District, Maharashtra, India) constitute an intriguing exception among rock-cut sites and in possibilities for analysis. Although many of its twenty-six caves are simple in form, the site boasts thirty inscriptions among excavations and cisterns datable from approximately the first century through the third century CE. These inscriptions are characterized by two unusual features: mention of mahabhojas and/or Mandavas, and the repetitive use of unusual symbols or emblems at the beginning or end of the inscriptions. While study of early Buddhist caves may be characterized by a curious, yet understandable, emphasis on monumental architecture and sculptural embellishment at the expense of modest rock-cut excavations, these novel symbols or emblems serve as oft-ignored features that assist in building a relative chronology of a wide range of cave architecture at the site and in relating their remains to developments among other monastic complexes in the early western Deccan. They also provide insight into local rulers, the mahabhojas, and family of Mandavas who reigned concurrently with periods of Satavahana and Ksaharata rule in the early western Deccan. This paper proposes an alternative means to develop a chronology of the site through the examination of these symbols, their relationship to orthography of inscriptions, and their correlation with architectural elements found among caves with otherwise modest remains. Thus, remains at Kuda satisfy both the above scholarly preferences for interpretable data to aid in constructing relative and absolute chronologies and the integration of modest excavations into the history of rock-cut architecture.