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Shell inscription in valley, looking north, Rajgir

Shell inscription in valley, looking north, Rajgir

Photographer: Caddy, Alexander E.

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1895

Shelfmark: Photo 1003/(213a)

Item number: 1003213a

Genre: Photograph

Photograph of the shell inscriptions at Rajgir, taken by Alexander E. Caddy looking south in 1895. Although difficult to make out in this photograph, similar inscriptions have been found all over northern India. Caddy reported at the time that, "The 'Shell' inscriptions occur on and along the main road leading across the valley. This road leads over the outcrop of a sparry lateritic rock which presents its fractured ends at an oblique angle to the foot of the traveller...I found altogether thirty-three spots, large and small, which retained the original inscript." Later in his entry, he informs us that the inscriptions, "Are said to be the marks of the hands and feet of Jarasandha and Bhima, who fought together until the former was slain.'' This clearly indicates a ritual significance yet these inscriptions have not been deciphered. An understanding of their meaning is essential if we are to assess their religous significance or date precisely. At present, their distribution in relation to contemporary structures and nearby cart or chariot marks, gives a tentative indication of a fourth or fifth century AD date. Rajgir is well known for it's association with the Buddha's life in the fifth century BC, yet we should not forget that the city was still occupied in subsequent eras, as these shown by these inscriptions.

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