Dated Kushâna Inscriptions. By Satya Shrava. pp.v + 360. New Delhi, Pranava Prakashan, 1993. (Hardback) 38

This book is available from Biblia Impex Ltd. who can be contacted by e-mail on or by writing too 2/18 Ansari Road, New Delhi-110 002, India. Biblia Impex will charge for delivery.

This is a source book for Kushan inscriptions. In particular those with some attached date. The purpose of the book is to collect all the inscriptions of the Kushan dynasty in one place. Inscriptions which lacked a date were excluded so, as the author says, this is only really the first half of a larger project. How long before we see the promised second collection of undated Kusana inscriptions is an open question.

The book is organised in three parts. The first contains the inscriptions, divided into Karoshti and Brahmi. The second part consists of maps of the find spots, indexes of proper names and locations and a list of where the originals now reside and in which publications the inscription is featured. The last part is a series of plates showing the inscriptions.

Each inscription has a short introduction explaining where and how it was found, and pointing out anything of interest. Then the inscription is given in bold and a translation provided underneath. Lastly, any points of interest are made about the translation. Each inscription is headed with the name of the king and a date. Discussion of alternative translations is adequate and references are given to the differing scholars.

The indexes and references are quite complete allowing easy searching of the inscriptions. Despite this there are one or two omissions in the index which meant searching the entire collection page by page. The rest of this section is rather disappointing. Several of the locations mentioned in the text cannot be found on the maps of find spots. Charts in the same section show Brahmi, and Kharoshti, alphabet and numerals. There is no chart showing the transliterations that have been used. This is unfortunate as each inscriptions text is presented in western characters.

The plates are an excellent addition to the volume. There are two hundred and seventeen plates illustrating the entire set of inscriptions. The quality of the inscriptions varies. Some, like inscription 34, which commemorates the setting up of a statue, are drawings of the inscription not pictures of the original. Others, like 209, are taken from a considerable distance and nearly illegible in the photographs. A very small number, like 210, are missing pictures all together. Despite this, most of the pictures are adequate.

The book has a number of shortcomings. Inscriptions are being recovered with Kushan dates so fast that this book is already out of date. Important inscriptions from Dasht-i-Nawur have not been included and the Rabatak inscription of year one is also missing. So if a second volume of work is produced that contains undated inscriptions it would be helpful if it contained a supplement section for the dated inscriptions. The translation of the inscription on the Kanishka Reliquary (No.170) is a poor choice. There are two other readings available for the item and both suit the context better than the one presented in this volume. The decision to split the inscriptions into Karoshti and Brahmi is confusing. It means flicking backwards and forwards through the book to compare contemporary inscriptions. Organising the inscriptions according to date and simply making a note of the language would have been a better choice. The maps which I mentioned above are completely inadequate. More care should have been taken to ensure that inscriptions could be located by the reader.

Despite this there can be no doubt at all that this is a hugely important work. As a source of reference for nearly all the inscriptions of the Great Kushan dynasty it is an essential buy. Satya Shrava does an excellent job of recording and collecting all these items. For anyone with more than a passing interest in Kushan history this book is essential.

Contents Page The Crossroads of Asia  Silk Route Portraits From Gandhara Brahmi Inscriptions Index of Inscriptions

Robert Bracey.