May 2, 2015

Major and Minor Rock Edicts of Ashoka, Yerragudi

December 23, 2014. This was the second day of my year end vacation. My friend Gurudutt and I had driven down from Hyderabad the previous day, visiting Chalukyan temples at Alampur and Belum Cave. It was too late to visit Yerragudi. So we camped at a lodge in Gooty the historic town.

December 24, 2014. We left the hotel early morning, took Gooty-Adoni road (a state highway), our destination was about 13 kms away. Gooty-Yerragudi was about 12 kms and Yerragudi-Ashokan edict site is about 1 km. We found the site easily. There it is.. the rock formation bearing Ashoka's message for peaceful existence.

This rock formation is about a kilometer from the state highway, connected by a concrete road. The site is well maintained,. Whoever is in-charge of the site has to be sincere and dedicated. Pleant of trees and flower bearing plants have been well cared for. The place's ambiance was superb; cool air, hazy sky, soft sunlight birds and squirrels chirping by,. ah what a peaceful ambience. I just realized that a year and a day after completing the tour of nine edicts of Karnataka, the tour of Ashokan edicts of Andhra has commenced.

I parked my car at the end of the road where a foor path leading to the hillock began. At the entrance is a pair of granite slabs installed by ASI Kurnool Sub Circle. The English board reads as follows: The great Mauryan emperor Ashoka issued the rock edict at this place during 3rd century BC. The rock edict was inscribed in Brahmi script and Prakit launguage. The inscription refers to Dharma as follows: Thus saith the beloved of Gods you should act as instructed by the beloved of the gods. You should order the Rajukas in their turn should order the people of the countryside as well as the local officers called Rastrikas in the following words. "Mother, Father and elders are to be loved, living being should be treated with kindness. Truth must be spoken."

The Hindu newspaper, Kurnool edition dated May 31, 2013 has an article authored by D Sreenivasulu- ASI to develop Ashoka rock site as tourist spot. Quoting few lines from the interesting and informative article:
The inscriptions in Brahmi Script and Prakrit language are believed to have been etched during the tours of King Ashoka after his Kalinga campaign. He was said to have camped at several places in his 256-day sojourn. According to local historians, Jonnagiri, which was known as Swarnagiri during Mauyan time, was treated as South Indian capital of the kingdom.
The content in the inscription was inconsonance with other Ashokan group of inscriptions where the king was referred to Piyadasi and the Beloved of Gods. The Yerraguidi inscriptions contained in 28 parts on nine rocks which advocated that one should be obedient to one’s parents, one should likewise be obedient to one’s elders, one should be kind to living beings, one should speak truth, one should propagate the attributes of dharma, no-living being be slaughtered for sacrifices. The rock edict says “on the roads, trees have been caused to be planted and wells dug for the enjoyment of animals and men.” The edict declares that “these records related to dharma have been caused to be written by me (Ashoka) for the purpose that it may last and that my sons and grandsons may exert themselves for the welfare of all men.” Dr. Abdul Khader, historian and principal of S.J. College, has said the rock edict could be considered the first law enacted for the welfare of wildlife in the entire world. In fact they were directive principles of state policy of Mouryan Kingdom. He underscored the need for preserving it for posterity and exposing the site to school and college students in Kurnool district.

This site has about 7 or 8 inscription bearing rocks at various levels of the formation. Letter sizes vary so does the depth of etching. Some letters seem like they have been written with a piece of chalk. In this picture below are three inscriptions- one in the lower section, the triangle-shaped rock and the the large rock at the rear. All these rocks seen here are east-facing while the other inscriptions are north-facing.

Closer look at the inscriptions. The surface is pretty coarse..
while this surface is smooth.

Here the inscriptions are just on the surface, hardly any depth in the etchings yet they are visible clearly.

Letter sizes are quite small compared to inscriptions in Karnataka. Here I could see maximum 3" letters while sites in Karnataka have 3" to 5" letters. I guess it depends of the length of the message and area available.

Surface is pockmarked yet the inscriber has done a great job.

The pair of rocks at the top-left of this stairway bear inscriptions. These are north-facing.

This particular rock is close to a edge however a metal railing fixed firmly helped me move around easily. This is another north-facing inscription. The path leads to the western tip of the rock formation.

A straight view of the edict; I think these letters are the smallest of this site.

I did not find any inscriptions on this side.. probably I missed if there were any.

View through the rocks. I squeezed through this passage across the gap between the rocks.

This comfortable  spot seems to be occupied by the message readers. The spot is cool and gives a good view of the plains below. However its not very spacious, just enough for one person.

Do watch this short video, please ignore the audio alerts;

An hour had gone by quickly; time to leave and resume our journey towards Bangalore. As we descended the steps and reached the base we found a young man laying out water pipes - he had to be the care-taker. His name is Venkatappa, resident of Yerragudi village and he's in-charge of the places well being.

A small rounded stone kept at the entrance. The text seems to be Telegu. This inscription was found at Yerragudi village and moved here for safe-keeping.

Before ending this post, I would like to go back to the Hindu article, the part where Jonnagiri is mentioned. Historians say that Jonnagiri was known as Swarnagiri during Mauyan time -if this is a fact then it clears the a doubt. Kanakagiri (in Karnataka) is not Suvarniagiri as some believe.

The next Buddhist/Ashokan site on my list is Amaravati near Guntur.


Manjula Umesh said...

Good work, collecting info about the edicts of Ashoka & sharing them. The place looks amazing, lovely ambiance about which you are talking is well captured, cld feel the atmosphere with the help of the video you have provided.

siddeshwar said...

Thank you, Manjula.

nonsolocolcervello said...

Dear Siddeshwar, do you know the English or the Indian name of the birds on the site?

Paddu said...

Excellent work, Sir. It was as if I had borrowed your eyes to see a long cherished monument. May you and your curiosity live long!

siddeshwar said...

On that day birds were only heard but out of sight. And there were lot of squirrels at the site, squeaking aloud :)

@Paddu - Thank you.