Dr. Rupali Mokashi
The art of engraving inscriptions was popularised by the Mauryan Emperor Aśoka in India in 3rd century BCE and proliferated thereafter. A mammoth corpus of inscriptions engraved in different scripts and languages is available on a pan-India level covering a span of more than a millennium. Although Hinduism predates the period from which the inscriptions are available, especially the votive epigraphs constitute a significantly tangible source for reconstructing the history of women in India. The inscriptions were always a realm of the epigraphists. They preserve valuable data about women that is well-stacked in the milieu of time and space. Mostly votive, administrative, and eulogistic in nature they hold diverse information not only on the contemporary society and polity but also on the prevalent religious observances and the active involvement of women therein. However the inscriptions were never adequately sifted by historians in their quest for reconstruction of history of women in ancient India. The mythological characters restrained by the laws of thedharma-śāstrawere almost stereotyped as ‘the women of ancient India’. There has been a sustained and fruitful involvement of women in the growth and development of Hinduism in ancient India that was unfortunately never highlighted.