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What is the Shankhalipi script?

GS Paper 1

Topics Covered: Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.



Archeologists have found ‘shankhalipi’ inscriptions on the stairs on an ancient temple dating back to the Gupta period in Uttar Pradesh’s Etah district.

  • The inscriptions mention ‘Sri Mahendraditya’, the title of Kumaragupta I of the Gupta dynasty.


Significance of the latest findings:

Two decorative pillars close to one another, with human figurines have been discovered at Bilsarh site. The discovery becomes significant since only two other structural temples from the Gupta age have been found so far — Dashavatara Temple (Deogarh) and Bhitargaon Temple (Kanpur Dehat).



Who was Kumaragupta I?

  • In the 5th century, Kumaragupta I ruled for 40 years over north-central India.
  • He was the son of the Gupta emperor Chandragupta II and queen Dhruvadevi.
  • Kumaragupta performed an Ashvamedha sacrifice.
  • He may have subdued the Aulikaras of central India and the Traikutakas of western India.
  • The Bhitari pillar inscription states that his successor Skandagupta restored the fallen fortunes of the Gupta family.



Kumaradeva ruled his empire through governors (Uparikas), who bore the title Maharaja (“great king”), and administered various provinces (Bhuktis).


The districts (vishayas) of the provinces were administered by district magistrates (Vishyapatis), who were supported by an advisory council comprising:

  1. The town president or mayor (Nagara-Shreshtin).
  2. Rhe representative of the merchant guild (Sarthavaha).
  3. The chief of the artisan guild (Prathama-Kulika).
  4. The chief of the guild of writers or scribes (Prathama-Kayastha).


About the Shankhalipi script:

  • Shankhalipi or “shell-script” describe ornate spiral characters assumed to be Brahmi derivatives that look like conch shells or shankhas.
  • They are found in inscriptions across north-central India and date to between the 4th and 8th centuries.
  • The inscriptions consist of a small number of characters, suggesting that the shell inscriptions are names or auspicious symbols or a combination of the two.
  • The script was discovered in 1836 on a brass trident in Uttarakhand’s Barahat by English scholar James Prinsep, who was the founding editor of the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal.


Insta Curious:

James Prinsep was an officer in the mint of the East India Company. His contribution considered as a major turning point in early Indian history. What were his key contributions? Reference: read this.



Prelims Link:

  1. About Shankhalipi Script.
  2. Shankhalipi script vs Brahmi script.
  3. About James Princep.
  4. About latest findings.
  5. About Kumaragupta I and his administration.

Sources: Indian Express.