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Guha Lekh – Inscription Inside A Cave Or Cave Temple In Ancient India

Guha Lekh is an inscription inside a cave or a cave temple. The earliest inscriptions in India were those of Emperor Asoka, dated to the 3rd century BC. The practice of carving inscriptions on rock surfaces found favor with the later kings and ministers. Thus we have a number of epigraphs carved in rock-cut chaityas and viharas of the Buddhists and other religious sects.

The guha lekhs are better preserved from other inscriptions because they are shielded from sun and rain, and so they form an extremely valuable source of information on ancient India.

Important Guha Lekh In India

The earliest Guha Lekh or cave inscription is that of King Dasaratha of the Maurya dynasty, recording the excavation of caves for the use of monks in the Barabara hills of Bihar.

Then there is the Hathlgurhpha cave inscription of King Kharavela of Orissa, narrating the important events of his career.

The earliest record in western India is to be found in the Naneghat caves near Junnar in Pune district. This was in the nature of name plates below the relief sculptures of some of the Satavahana princes.

King Nahapana of the Ksaharata dynasty of western India had caused an inscription to be done in Cave no. 10 in the Nasik area. Cave no. 3 at the same place contains a fairly long record of the achievements of Gautamiputra Satakarni caused to be carved by Vasistha Putra Pulumavi, his son.

It is useful in determining the chronology of the Satavahanas as well as of King Kharavela.

Minor records of donations for the excavation of cave are to be found in a number of caves in western India. The Kanheri cave inscriptions throw light on the various sects of Buddhism which were active in this part of the land.

An inscription in Harisena in Cave no. 16 at Ajanta, recording the donations by his minister Varadeva for cutting the cave, is extremely important in determining the chronology of the rock-cut architecture of western India.

This tradition of carving inscriptions was continued by the Chalukyas of Badami and the Rashtrakutas of Manyakheta. The former have left an inscription of King Mahgalesa in Cave no 3 at Badami, while the latter have their record in m the famous Kailasa temple at Ellora.

Most of the inscriptions are carved in the Brahmi script and in Prakrit or Sanskrit.

Source - A History of Indian Painting - the modern period (1994) by Krishna Chaitanya  - Abhinav Publications
Encyclopedia of Hinduism Volume IV page 371 - 372 - IHRF