Volume: II, Issue I, January-June 2011
A NEW ROYAL PĀLA SEAL
During my recent visit to the antique dealers' market (also called scrap market) of the Vārānasī city for examining a copper-plate charter on May 31, 2011, I came across a massive seal—12.5 cm high and 10 cm broad, weighing more than 2.5 kg—in the possession of an antique dealer. The bronze seal is not in a satisfactory state of preservation; it is full of patina which has damaged some figures on its upper portion. But the legend inscribed on it is intact and clear, making it a rare discovery throwing significant light on Pāl king Rājyapāl.
The seal consists of a circle with raised rim and beaded border, resting on an ornamental pedestal (Fig.1). Shaped like ‘the ace of spades’, it is surrounded on all sides with arabesque work and on its top is seemingly depicted a small chaitya over which seems to be an umbrella. A horizontal line divides the space within the circle. Above the line is a wheel on a pedestal with a couchant deer facing it on either side. Below it is the legend Śrī Rājyapāladevasya in raised letters in early Nāgarī script and Sanskrit language in one line. The place below the name is filled with arabesque foliage.
The seal closely resembles the published seals of Pāla kings who ruled over Bihar and Bengal during early medieval period and adopted the emblem of Wheel or dharmachakra, for they were staunch Buddhists and patronized learning. On the significance of the Pāla seals Hirananda Shastri (Epigraphia Indica,Vol.XVII : 310) has observed, “The Wheel or dharmachakra symbolizes Gautama Buddhas’s unfolding the Law and the diffusion of knowledge to the world that was groping in darkness and the deer refer to the Mrigadāva forest which is now represented by Sārnāth near Vārānasī where the Great Sage turned the ‘wheel’ for the first time while delivering the great sermon to the five monks or pañcavaggīya”. The seal evidently belongs to the Pāla king Rājyapāla, son of Nārāyanapāla, who is regarded to have reigned from CE 915 to CE 950. He is considered a powerful king of a vast kingdom spread in Bihar and Bengal in the first half of the tenth century and is credited to have excavated big tanks and constructed lofty temples. Seven inscriptions engraved on stone slabs and images belonging to his regnal years 13 to 32 have been reported from Monghyr, Nālandā and Kurkihār in Bihar and Bhaturiā in the Rajshahi district of Bangladesh1. But no copper-plate grant issued by him is hitherto known. The seal in question was evidently soldered to a plate which is unfortunately not forthcoming but raises the strong possibility that Rājyapāla also issued a land grant written on a copper-plate probably in favour of a Buddhist establishment.
1. Journal of Patna University , vol.I, p.85; Indian Antiquary, vol.XLVII, p.111; Journal of Bihar and Orissa Research Society, vol.XXVI, pp.240, 247-248; R.K.Chaudhary, Select Inscriptions of Bihar, Patna, 1958, p.66; Epigraphia Indica, vol.XXXIII, p.150ff.
FIGURE 1: ROYAL SEAL