The Archaeological Survey of India publishes its South Indian Inscriptions from 1890 through the present. The series currently runs to 34 volumes. Here selected is vol.4, Miscellaneous Inscriptions in Tamil, Telugu and Kannada, published in 1923 (reprinted in 1986). The page on the left reproduces the rubbings of a pillar in front of the central shrine of the Malleswara Temple in Bezwada (now spelled as Vijayawada) in current-day Andhra Pradesh. Besides the inscribed text, the pillar also shows the figures of the sun and the moon, a linga, and two seated bulls on the tops and four dancing figures at the bottom. The transcription of the inscription is given in the page on the right.
Epigraphy is one of the major sources for South Asian history, especially before the early modern period. Stone pillars, metal plates, clay seals, and sometimes ivory and glass have all been used as materials for inscription. According to D. C. Sircar’s estimation, more than 90,000 such inscriptions have so far been discovered in all parts of India. The bulk of surviving inscriptions come from medieval south India and are written in the Dravidian languages with southern Brahmic scripts. Wars, temple patronage, and the building of water tanks are among the common themes of these inscriptions. For the medieval period of South Asian history, these inscriptions have furnished a large amount of information not recorded in manuscript sources and have been especially useful for establishing chronologies.