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Volume: V, Issue: I, January-December 2014



In this article a copper-plate epigraph in Northern Gupta Brāhmī script has been deciphered and edited for the first time. It has been in the possession of Mr. Noman Nasir, a noted antiquarian from Dhaka in Bangladesh. The copper-plate comes from a village near Mahāsthān in the Bogrā district; it was purchased by Mr. Noman with a view to get it preserved and published with the help of an epigraphist. Some high resolution photographs were sent to the first author of this article for decipherment. Article is based on the deciphered content of this copper-plate which brings to light many new facts relating to the late Gupta history.

Keywords Content

The copper-plate, which is edited here for the first time, has been in the possession of Mr. Noman Nasir, a noted antiquarian of Dhaka in Bangladesh. So far as the available information goes, the plate comes from a village near Mahāsthān in the Bogrā district; Mr. Noman purchased it when it came to the market for sale. He mailed some good photographs of it to the first author for decipherment and publication in the middle of May 2014. His enlightened concern to preserve and bring to light an important historical record is really commendable.

This is a single sheet of copper, measuring 22.5 cm long x 11 cm broad, which is incised on both sides lengthwise. A circular seal, 5.5 cm in diameter, is soldered on the right side of the plate and is roughly oval in shape with a rim all around it. Its weight is approximately 850 gram inclusive of the seal. The extremely corroded surface of the seal bears in relief, seemingly a two-armed figure, possibly of a goddess, standing on a full-blossomed lotus and flanked by two attendants in standing posture on either side. Just below the pedestal there is a horizontal line and below it occurs in raised letters the legend, which is very much corroded, in two lines. It reads: 1. si(śrī)paramabhaṭṭā[ra]kaVainyaguptama(t-ā)dhi 2. karaasya. The seal actually belonged to the adhikaraa (the office of the Board of administrators), attached to the kumārāmātya who is described in the inscription as favoured by the feet of the parama-bhaṭṭāraka (i.e. lord) meaning the contemporary Gupta monarch Vainyagupta. The seal appears resembling other seals of the kumārāmātyas of the Gupta period. Dikshitar (1952: 157) has drawn our attention to the figure of Lakṣmī depicted on such seals. He says, ‘On them, Lakṣmī is shown standing on a lotus, with dwarfs on her either side holding a pot (ghaa) and pouring coins; elephants shown above.’ There are 26 lines of writing; of these 12 lines are engraved on the obverse and 14 lines on the reverse. A slice appears to have been cut away from the bottom right corner. As a result of the damage, some letters in lines 11-12 on the obverse and in lines 13-15 on the reverse are lost. The plate bears marks of corrosion in a few places. Moreover, the inscribed text contains mistakes of omission and commission because either the person responsible for its composition had poor knowledge of the Sanskrit language or the inscriber was careless in the execution of his work. These facts make the decipherment of some letters difficult. The plate is otherwise in a fairly good condition.

The characters are of the Eastern variety of the Northern Gupta Brāhmī script and closely resemble those of the other epigraphs of the fifth-sixth centuries belonging to the Bogrā-Rājshāhī-Dinājpur region in Bangladesh, such as Baigrām (Basak 1931-32: 78-83), Pahāṛpur (Dikshit 1929-30: 59-64), Dāmodarpur (Basak 1919-20: 134-141), Kalaikuri (Sircar 1943: 12-26), Guṇaighar (Bhattacharya 1930: 45-60) and Mallasārul ( Majumdar 1935-36: 155-61). The inscription employs the initial vowels like a, ā, i, e, u. The sign for ā has two forms, the superior form is used in the shape of an upright stroke with a curve on the right on the upper part of the consonant such as in raktamāl-āgrahārāt, kumārāmātya (l.1). The medial sign for i closely resembles with it,  the only difference being that its curve is to the left, such as in mahati (l.1), khaḍḍi (l.2). Another sign for the medial ā is hook-like attached to the lower right part of some consonants as in brāhmao, pradhānādi (l. 2), yathā (ll.4,18), etc. The subscripts r and y are indicated by long flourishes, which are prominent features of the palaeography of the eastern variety of north Indian alphabet of this period. As regards the forms of individual letters, the dental sa and cerebral a, la and ha, and ta and bha are not easily distinguishable. The record contains examples of the final forms of ta and ma and the numerical signs for 2, 9, 30, 50 and 100. The word kulyavāpa is abbreviated as ku in line 20, while dina as di in line 26.

The language of the inscription is Sanskrit prose excepting in the four imprecatory and benedictory stanzas in the anuṣṭubh metre at the end of the charter in lines 22-25. The well-known feature of the Gupta records to add a superfluous suffix ka to the words is also seen in this charter, as in dattaka (ll.6, 10,17), Govardhanaka (l. 8), agrahārika (l.16), etc.

As regards orthography, the letter b is used for v, as in sambatsare (ll.4,6) and a consonant is occasionally doubled either after or before r, as in pūjyairmmama (l.4), dharmmea (ll.6,10), svargge (l.22), pūrvva (l.24), śakkraḥ śukkra (l.25), etc. The word vara is written as varia in line 22 and gupta is written as guupta in lines 7 and 11. The letter da is unnecessarily doubled in the word ddīnārān (l.5). The visarga is replaced by the letter ha in dattaha (l. 20) and rule of sandhi is violated in sādhunā (ll.14,17).

The record is dated in Saṁvat 180 and supplies the day and month as 9th day of the month of Jyeṣṭha in line 26. The year is mentioned in the numerical symbols for 100, 50 and 30 in this line as well as in words (aśīty-uttara-śata-savatsare) in line 6. This Saṁvat evidently refers to the Gupta Era current in north Bengal during the fifth century CE, hence, the date would correspond to May 24, CE 499-500. In line 4 the record furnishes another date in words as sapta-pañcāśad-uttare śata-savatsare which stands for the [Gupta] year 157 corresponding to CE 476-77.

The object of the inscription under study is to record the restoration and transfer of the sale-deed of the purchased two kulyavāpa revenue-free fallow land designed for akaya-nīvī from the village of Govardhanaka to the locality of Khaḍḍi Raktamālikā due to the bad governance condition prevailing in the former locality. The inscription opens with the word svasti (hail), followed by the address of the kumārāmātya, who was also the leader of forces (yūthapati) and described as favoured by the feet of the Parama-bhaṭṭāraka meaning the contemporary Gupta monarch, from the headquarters of the adhikaraa (office of the Board of administration) at the agrahāra village of Mahati (great) Raktamāla to the brāhmaṇas, minor administrative chiefs and agriculturist householders residing at Khaḍḍi (small) Raktamālikā (ll.1-2). It is informed that a brāhmaṇa named Nandabhūti of the Kautsa-gotra, who had studied the four Vedas and was a follower of the Vājasaneya-charaṇa of the Śukla Yajurveda (chātur-vidy-ādhyayana-rata-kautsa-sagotra-vājasaneya-brāhmaṇa) and a resident of the agrahāra village of Mahati Raktamāla lying under the jurisdiction of Kuddālakhāta district has informed that his revered father paid the required dīnāras to Suvarchasa, the mahāmātra of Puṇḍravardhana, in [Gupta] year 157 for purchasing two kulyavāpa revenue-free fallow land situated at the village of Govardhanaka for dedicating it as an akṣaya-nīvī (perpetual endowment), to be enjoyed for all time to come (śaśvat-kāl-opabhogyam) in favour of brāhmaṇas who hailed from the village of Puśvotika, so that they might perform their daily pañchamahāyajña rites. The purpose was to gain religious merit for himself and his parents. But that fell to decay by the [Gupta] year 180 due to the maladministration (apaśāsana) there (ll.3-7). This fact was already communicated to the adhikaraṇa by the uparika Brahmadatta who recommended for the transfer and creation of the land (bhūkṣetra-parivartanam, bhūm-īdam kriyatām-iti) to another locality so that the fallow land given in accordance with the akṣaya-nīvī-dharma at Govardhanaka for the brāhmaṇas of Puśvotika by the mahāmātra Suvarchasa of Puṇḍravardhana might not perish (vinaśyeta) due to the maladministration (ll.8-13). The inscription further records that the application of Nandabhūti was granted and he agreed at the oral order (āsy-ājñā) of the deś-oparika Svāmichandra to get the sale-deed of aṣkaya-nīvī at the village of Govardhanaka exchanged for land grant executed on a copper-plate (tāmrapaṭṭa-kṣetram) in the village of Khaḍḍi Raktamālikā in the Kuddālakhātika district. Accordingly, the venerable (pūjya) Svāmichandra directed the concerned district officers (viṣay-ādhikāriṇaḥ) for the compliance of his order. Then according to this determination, two kulyavāpa fallow land property (pāriṇāyya) at Khaḍḍi Raktamālikā of the Kuddālakhātika district was given to Nandabhūti for the religious benefit of the brāhmaṇas of Puśvotika, in accordance to the principle of perpetual endowment (śaśvat-kālam-akṣaya-nīvī), to be enjoyed forever, after measuring it out by 8 x 9 reeds (nalābhyām) by the rabho-naivika, assisted by the trustworthy kulakupa, who were deputed by the record-keeper (pustapāla) for the purpose of demarcating the granted land (ll.14-22). This is followed by the four usual imprecatory and benedictory verses, described as uttered by His Holiness Vyāsa (ll.22-25). In lines 25-26 the record states that the document was written by the Kāyastha Āryadāsa and that the plate was heated for affixing the seal by the Pustapāla Manorathadāsa.

The most striking point of historical importance that can be mentioned is that in this inscription we find the use of the title kumārāmātya who was also invested with the power of the leader of forces (yūthapati). Thus, his position was quite different from other kumārāmātyas mentioned in inscriptions from Bengal during the Gupta period. The words Mahati (ll.1,3,16) and Khaḍḍi (ll.2,20), used before the names of villages Raktamāla and Raktamālikā respectively, may stand for Kalāñ (big) and Khurda (small) prevalent in connection with the names of some villages in India from the late medieval period. Two district (viaya) revenue officers rabho-naivika and kulakupa (l.21) of the Gupta period are mentioned in this inscription for the first time. The Rabho-naivika (rabhas, impetuosity, and naivika from nīvī, endowment) seems to be a revenue officer-in-charge of akaya-nīvī land and kulakupa was an officer who demarcated boundaries on four sides of land by the beam of a pair of scales. Pañcha-mahāyajñas (l.9) were the five sacred duties of a brāhmaṇa householder. They are enumerated as adhyayana, tarpaa, homa, bali and atithi-pūjana, but, sometimes as bali, charu, vaiśvadeva, agni-homa and atithi in the Dharmaśāstric texts.

The amount of dīnāras (Gupta gold coins) paid by the father of Nandabhūti to the mahāmātra of Puṇḍravardhana for the purchase of two kulyavāpa fallow State land for making the akaya-nīvī is not specified in this inscription. As the rate was two dīnāras per kulyavāpa fallow land for religious purposes in Puṇḍravardhana region (Sircar 1943: 16), it may safely be presumed that his father also deposited four dīnāras for the two kulyavāpa fallow land in the office of the mahāmātra Suvarchasa of Puṇḍravardhana. The general procedure followed in ancient Bengal for purchasing State fallow land by private persons as laid down in this grant is identical with that given in the Dāmodarpur grants or in the Pahāṛpur copper-plate inscription of the Gupta period.

King Vainyagupta, who succeeded the Gupta king Budhagupta (CE 476-77 to CE 499-500), was known from his Nālandā seal and his Guṇaighar (Comilla district, Bangladesh) copper-plate grant of Gupta Era 188 (CE 506-07). Two more copper-plates of the king have also come to light; one, unpublished and too corroded to be read, in the Mainamati Site Museum (Morrison 1974: 98) and another of Gupta Era 184 edited by Ryosuke Furui (2014) to be published soon. That Budhagupta ascended the throne in Gupta Era 157 is undisputed, but his last date has been speculative because the date read as 180 on one of his coins is doubtful (Thaplyal 2012: 286). This inscription under publication shows that Budhagupta was dead well before Jyeṣṭha month in Gupta Era 180.

This is the only inscription or source referring to deterioration in administration (apaśāsana) in the time of a Gupta king in the empire, particularly, in north Bengal (modern Bangladesh) from Gupta Era 157 onwards. What were the causes responsible for such a sorry state of affairs in the administration there? The answer to it is not easy to find. The Allahabad pillar inscription of Samudragupta records the submission of the states of Samataṭa (Comilla, Noākhālī and Chittagāon districts) and Ḍavāka (Kachhār district including the north Kachhār hills and the Kopili valley) and others to king Samudragupta (Sircar 1965: 265, line 22). Both Samataṭa and Ḍavāka were in Bengal. From the Meharauli iron pillar inscription it appears that the different parts of Bengal were ruled by many independent kings who took up arms against the Gupta king (Sircar 1965: 283, line 1). They were duly defeated by king Chandragupta II. The Dhānāidaha copper-plate (Basak 1923-24: 345-49), the two Dāmodarpur copper-plates of Kumāragupta I and the Baigrām copper-plate of Gupta Era 128/CE 448-49 signify that king Kumāragupta I had very strong hold over his Bengal provinces. The Puṇḍravardhana bhukti was the unit of his administration. No inscription has been found from Bengal during the reign of king Skandagupta; but inscriptions of his successors—Budhagupta, Vainyagupta—have been found from Bengal. As he was ‘one of the great Gupta rulers by all standards of judgment’, his hold over Bengal would have remained intact. It appears that the Gupta rule in Bengal would have become slack during the reign of weak kings Purugupta and Kumāragupta II who ruled between Gupta Era  148/CE 467-68, the last known date of king Skandagupta and Gupta Era 157/CE 476-77, the first known date of king Budhagupta. Taking advantage of the weakness of the central authority the provincial officers in Bengal would have become lax in the discharge of their administrative duties. King Budhagupta would have taken some time to make the administration in Bengal effective and responsible.

The governor of the Puṇḍravardhana bhukti during the reign of king Kumāragupta I was designated uparika and in the time of Budhagupta as uparika-mahārāja. The Guṇaighar plate of king Vainyagupta, dated Gupta Era 188, informs the existence of pāṭyuparika (President of a Board) and purapāloparika (President of City governors]. This inscription reveals that in Gupta Era 157 (CE 476-77) Suvarchasa was the governor entitled mahāmātra of Puṇḍravardhana, but in Gupta Era 180 Svāmichandra was deś-oparika and in between Brahmadatta figures as uparika of that province (deśa). The high provincial officer named mahāmātra was not heard of after the Maurya rule in Indian history. For the first time in the Gupta history, his existence is now known again, otherwise, he is unknown in the Gupta history. The two Dāmodarpur plates of king Budhagupta’s reign, one dated Gupta Era 163 (CE 482), the date portion in the other being lost, refer to his governors of Puṇḍravardhana, uparika-mahārājas, Brahmadatta and Jayadatta, respectively, who are supposed to have governed that province one after the other (Thaplyal 2012: 289, 341). But the combined testimony of the Dāmodarpur inscription of Gupta Era 163 and the present inscription reveals that Brahmadatta was uparika of Puṇḍravardhana province after Jayadatta who would have occupied that post between Gupta Era 160 and Gupta Era 162, for the Dāmodarpur grant of Budhagupta of Gupta Era 159 referring to āyuktaka (governor of a district, viaya) in that province does not name him.

In the seal inscription king Vainyagupta is referred as parama-bhaṭṭāraka, a title used for mahārājādhirāja in the Gupta period. In the Guṇaighar plate of Gupta Era 188, the seal attached to the Mainamati plate and Furui’s plate of Gupta Era 184, he is mentioned as mahārāja, but in the Nālandā seal (Bhandarkar 1981: 319, pl. XXXIII) he is given the title of mahārājādhirāja. Some historians consider mahārājādhirāja Vainyagupta of the Nālandā seal and the homonym of the Guṇaighar plate mentioned as mahārāja, as two different persons. But many historians think that Vainyagupta of the Guṇaighar grant and the Nālandā seal are identical (Thaplyal 2012: 294-95). The evidence from the present inscription may put this controversy at rest.

Of the places mentioned in the grant, Puṇḍravardhana is well-known as a bigger territorial unit comprising of Bogrā-Rājshāhī-Dinājpur region of north Bengal and its headquarters of the same name has been identified with the extensive ruins known as Mahāsthān, 12.8 km north of the town of Bogrā in Bangladesh. It was frequently mentioned as a bhukti in the Gupta epigraphs. It was divided into a number of smaller territorial divisions and R.C. Majumdar has listed as many as twenty-four of them in the inscriptions of the Pālas of Bengal (1971: 319-20). Kuddāla-khāta/-khātika, a district in the Puṇḍravardhana bhukti, may be identified with Kunda-khali in the district of South Twenty-four Parganā. The reference to this territorial division in the present record is significant in the sense that this is the earliest inscription to mention it. Of the other places, Govardhanaka may be identified with Godabar close to Kunda-khali in the district of South Twenty-four Parganā, while the rest of the places like Raktamāla, Raktamālikā and Puśvotika are not traceable. The identification of these villages is now impossible, because of the large scale Islamization of place-names during medieval period in what is now known as Bangladesh.



1. Svasti [||*] Mahati-Raktamāl-āgrahārāt-paramabhaṭṭāraka-pād-ānudhyātaḥ kumārāmātya-yūthapatir-adhikaraṇañ=cha

2. Khaḍḍi-Raktamālikāyāṁ brāhmaṇ-ottarān-sa-kṣudra-pradhān-ādi-kuṭumbino bodhyanti [|*] Kuddāla-khāt-ādhivāsāty-antara-

3. Mahati-Raktamāl-āgrahara(re) chātur-vvidy-ādhya[ya*]na-ra[ta*] Kautsa-sagotra Vājasaneya-brāhmaṇa-Nandabhūti[ḥ*] vijñāpayati ya-

4. t-pūjyair-mma(ma)ma tāta(tātaiḥ) sapta-pañchāśad-uttare śata-sambatsare Govarddhanaka-grāme yathā na(ni)vṛitta-vikraya-krameṇa Puṇḍra-

5. varddhane ya(yaḥ) mahāmātra-Suvarchchasa(se) datto(tta) ddi(dī)nārān-upasa(saṅ)gṛihya samudaya-vāhy-āpratikara-khila-kṣetra-kulyavā-

6. pa-dvayam-akṣaya-nīvī-dharmmeṇa śaśvat-kāl-opabhogya(gyaṁ) dattaka[ṁ*] tad-adhun-aikāntam-asy(aśīty)-uttara-śata-sambatsare para-

7. ma-devair-Puśvotika-vāstavya-brāhmaṇānś=cha puṇy-ābhivṛiddhaye Govarddhanaka-grāmo Guu(Gu)pt-āpaśāsanen-ati(ani)ṣṭaṁ

8. tasya ya (yaḥ) pūjy-oparika-Brahmadatta adhikaraṇa[ṁ*] vijñāpita[ḥ*] mama Govarddhanaka-grāme Puṇḍravarddhaneya ma-

9. hāmātra-Suvarchchasa-dattena pañchamahāyajña-pravartanāya mātā-pitror-anugraheṇa samudaya-vāhy-āprati-

10. kara-khila-kṣetra-kulyavāpa-dvayam-akṣaya-nīvī-dharmmeṇa dattaka[ṁ*] sarvva[ṁ*] Govarddhanaka-grāma(me) parama-devaiś=cha

11. puṇy-ābhivṛiddhaye Puśvotika-vāstavya-brāhmaṇānāṁ Guu(Gu)pt-āpaśāsanen-ātisraṣṭuṁ tanma--- 

12. kṣetra---sa vinas(ś)yeta tathā bhūmi(ī)daṁ kriyatām-iti yataḥ evaṁ vijñāpa[ya*]to---  


13. ādeś-odakam-atra-yuktam-iti tad-adhika bhavāna1 jñāpita[ṁ*] evaṁ bhūkṣetra-parivartana[ṁ*] nānya[ṁ*] grāmodāyakam-atayata------


14. deś-oparika Svāmichandra(ā)ryy-ādeśo dattaḥ tava madhyama--- karvandhana pratipratipādita[ṁ*] prativarṣaṁ pratyāya s-ādhunā ya sa

15. Kautsa-sagotra-Vājasaneya-brāhmaṇa-Nandabhūtisy-etat tāmrapaṭṭa-parivartan-anyatra-grāme viṣay-ādhikāriṇa[ḥ*]----------kṣetra[ṁ*] dāpayis(ṣ)ya[tha*]------yataḥ

16. etad-ādeśād-asmāka[ṁ*] pūjya-Svāmichandrasy-ādeśo dattaḥ mama  parama-daivat-oparika-pād-āsy-ājñā dattā Mahati-Raktamāl-āgrahārika-brāhmaṇa-Nandabhūti[ḥ*]

17. vijñāpayati [|*] s-ādhunā Govarddhanaka-grāmeya-samudaya-vāhy-āpratikara-khila-kṣetra[ṁ*] krītvā-yan-mama dattaka[ṁ*] tad-adhunā parama-devo ādeśa[ḥ*] datto

18. eṣāṁ Puśvotikāya-brāhmaṇān Govarddhanaka-grāme mayā ni[ḥ*]śulkaṁ tat-parivartana[ṁ*] yath-ānyatra-tāmrapaṭṭa-kṣetraṁ bhavet tathā prasādaḥ kriyatām-iti

19. yataḥ evaṁ vijñāpito pa-purasyatra grāme dāpayis(ṣ)yas-īti yataḥ evad(m)-ādeśād-asmā[d*] Govarddhanaka-grāmeya-akṣaya-nīvī-parivartana[ṁ*]

20. Khaḍḍi-Raktamālikāyāṁ samudaya-vāhy-āpratikara-khila-kṣetrasya kulyavāpa-dvayaṁ dataha (dattaṁ) ku 2 te yūyam-iti paladhautena (pustapālena?) preṣita[ḥ*] ken-āsma-

21. t-sa-viśvāsen-ādhikena viṣaya-kula-kupamiti(-kupena) sahaḥ (saha) Rabhonaivika[ḥ*] Kuddāla-khātika-ratny-āṣṭaka-navaka-nalābhyām-apaviñchhya pārineyasya(pāriṇāyyaṁ ?) cha dā-

22. syatha datvā cha śaśvat-kālam-akṣaya-nīvī-dharmeṇa bhūpālayi-smasoti(bhūpāle śāsati) [||*] Uktañ=cha Bhagavatā Vyāsena [|*]   ṣaṣṭiṁ variṣa (varṣa)-sahasrāṇi svargge vasati bhū-

23. midaḥ [|*] ākṣeptā ch=ānumantā cha tāny=eva narake vaset [||* 1] sva-dattāṁ para-dattāṁ vā yo hareta vasundharām [|*] sa viṣṭhāyāṁ kṛimir=bhūtvā pitṛibhi[ḥ*] saha pachya-

24. te [||* 2] pūrvva-dattā[ṁ*] dvijātibhyo yatnād-rakṣa Yudhiṣṭhira [|*] mahī[ṁ*] mahi(ī)matā[ṁ*] śreṣṭha-dānāch-chhreyo=nupālanam [||* 3] Yamo vudha[ḥ*] –suva---[śaniś=chaiva*] śakkraḥ śukkra[ḥ*]

25. vṛihaspati[ḥ |*] chandr-āditya- grahān(grahā) sarvve abhinandanti bhūmidam [||* 4] likhitaṁ kāyastha-Āryadāsena [|*] tāpitaṁ pustapāla-Mani(no)rathadāse-

26. na [|*] sam(ṁ)va[t*] 100 50 30 Jyeṣṭha di 9 [||*]               



1. This inscription is edited from the photographs and the underlined readings in the text are not final.


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Basak,   R. G.  1931-32. “Baigrām Copper-plate Inscription of the [Gupta] Year 128”, Epigraphia Indica, XXI: 78-83.

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Bhattacharya, D. C. 1930. “Guṇaighar Copper-plate Inscription of Vainyagupta”, Indian Historical Quarterly VI: 45-60.

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Fig. 1. Raktamāla plate of the [Gupta] year 180.

Fig. 2. Seal of the Raktamāla plate of the [Gupta] year 180.



Fig. 1. Raktamāla plate of the [Gupta] year 180.


Fig. 2. Seal of the Raktamāla plate of the [Gupta] year 180.