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Halmidi inscription

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A replica of the original Halmidi inscription at Halmidi village
A replica of the original Halmidi inscription at Halmidi village

The Halmidi inscription is the oldest known Kannada language inscription in the Kadamba script. While estimates vary slightly, the inscription is often dated to between 450 CE - 500 CE. The inscription was discovered in 1936 by Dr. M. H. Krishna, the Director of Archaeology of the (princely) State of Mysore (present-day Karnataka region of India), in Halmidi, a village in the Hassan district.

The original inscription is kept in the Office of the Director of Archaeology and Museums, Govt. of Karnataka, Mysore,[1] and a fibreglass replica has been installed in Halmidi.

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Kadamba script

Kadamba script

The Kadamba script is the first writing system devised specifically for writing Kannada and Telugu. It is a descendant of the Brahmi script. The Kadamba script is also known as Pre-Old-Kannada script.

M. H. Krishna

M. H. Krishna

Mysore Hatti Krishna Iyengar was an Indian historian, archaeologist, epigraphist and authority in Indian numismatics. He pioneered the new field of Indology involving the study of Indian culture, history, music and traditions from a historical perspective. He is credited with the discovery of one of the oldest Kannada inscriptions, the Halmidi inscription, dating back to 350 A. D. He also discovered the remains of the city of Isila near Brahmagiri during his excavations at Chandravalli, Chitradurga. The forgotten tomb of Shahaji was traced by M. H. Krishna during his years at the Mysore Archaeological Department. His years at the Archaeology Department saw him churn out many of excavation reports and these were later published in successive volumes of Epigraphia Carnatica. During Krishna's tenure at Bangalore, he was instrumental in cataloguing close to 6000 coins in the archives of the archaeology department there. He was trained at the University College, London under Ernest Arthur Gardner. and would later accompany Sir Flinders Petrie in his excavations in Egypt.



Karnataka, formerly Mysore State, is a state in the southwestern region of India. It was formed as Mysore State on 1 November 1956, with the passage of the States Reorganisation Act and renamed Karnataka in 1973. The state corresponds to the Carnatic region. Its capital and largest city is Bengaluru.



Halmidi is a small village in the Hassan district of Karnataka state, India, near the temple town of Belur. Halmidi is best known as the place where the oldest known inscription exclusively in Kannada language, the Halmidi inscription, was discovered. Anterior to this, many inscriptions with Kannada words have been discovered, such as Brahmagiri edict of 230 BCE of Emperor Ashoka. However, this is the first full length inscription in Kannada. This inscription is generally known as the Halmidi inscription and consists of sixteen lines carved on a sandstone slab. It has been dated to 450 CE and demonstrates that Kannada was used as a language of administration at that time. The inscription is in primitive Kannada with distinctive characteristics attributed to those of Proto-Kannada and uses Kannada script similar to Brahmi characters.

Hassan, Karnataka

Hassan, Karnataka

Hassan is a city in Hassan taluk and headquarters of Hassan district, in southern part of Karnataka.

Discovery and dating

In a report published in a Mysore Archaeological Department Report (MAR) in 1936, Krishna dated the inscription to 450 AD, on paleographical grounds.[1][2] Later scholars have variously dated the inscription to 450 AD,[3] 470 AD,[4] 500 AD,[5] "about 500",[6] and "end of the fifth century A. D. or the beginning of the 6th century A.D."[7] Epigraphist, D. C. Sircar has dated the inscription to "about the end of the 6th century."[8]

Epigraphist, K. V. Ramesh has written about the differing estimates:

And I attribute the origin of this doubt in their minds to the fact that scholars, even the reputed ones, have held differing views, mostly to prop up their preconceived notions, on the palaeographical dating of any given undated or insufficiently dated inscriptions. ... The undated Halmidi (Hassan District, Karnataka) inscription, allegedly written during the reign of Kadamba Kakusthavarman, is taken by some scholars to belong, on palaeographical grounds, to the middle of the 5th century AD, while a few other scholars have held, on the same grounds of palaeography, that it is as late as the second half of the 6th century A.D.

— K. V. Ramesh[9]

He also hypothesized that, compared to possibly contemporaneous Sanskrit inscriptions, "Halmidi inscription has letters which are unsettled and uncultivated, no doubt giving an impression, or rather an illusion, even to the trained eye, that it is, in date, later than the period to which it really belongs, namely the fifth century A.D."[10]

Epigraphist G. S. Gai however disagrees with the view that Halmidi is a record of the Kadamba dynasty identified with King Kadamba Kakusthavarman. According to (Gai 1992), the inscription, which is dedicated to, "Kadambapan Kakustha-Bhaṭṭōran," refers to another ruler, Kakustha of the Bhaṭāri family, who is explicitly identified in line 13, "baṭāri-kuladōn=āḷu-kadamban;" in addition, the inscription does not "include any of the epithets like Mānavya-gōtra, Hāritī-putra, and most important Dharma-maharājā"[11] that are a part of all Kadamba inscriptions.

Textual analysis

The replica of the Halmidi inscription mounted on a pedestal
The replica of the Halmidi inscription mounted on a pedestal

The inscription is in verse form indicating the authors of the inscription had a good sense of the language structure.[12] The inscription is written in pre-old Kannada (Puruvada-hala Kannada), which later evolved into old Kannada, middle Kannada and eventually modern Kannada.[13] The Halmidi inscription is the earliest evidence of the usage of Kannada as an administrative language.[14]


The Halmidi inscription transliterated into modern Kannada script
The Halmidi inscription transliterated into modern Kannada script
The Halmidi inscription translated into modern Kannada language
The Halmidi inscription translated into modern Kannada language

The pillar on which the inscription was written stands around 4 feet (1.2 m) high. The following lines are carved on the front of the pillar:

1. jayati śri-pariṣvāṅga-śārṅga vyānatir-acytāḥ dānav-akṣṇōr-yugānt-āgniḥ śiṣṭānān=tu sudarśanaḥ
2. namaḥ śrīmat=kadaṁbapan=tyāga-saṁpannan kalabhōranā ari ka-
3. kustha-bhaṭṭōran=āḷe naridāviḷe-nāḍuḷ mṛgēśa-nā-
4. gēndr-ābhiḷar=bhbhaṭahar=appor śrī mṛgēśa-nāgāhvaya-
5. r=irrvar=ā baṭari-kul-āmala-vyōma-tārādhi-nāthann=aḷapa-
6. gaṇa-paśupatiy=ā dakṣiṇāpatha-bahu-śata-havan=ā-
7. havuduḷ paśupradāna-śauryyōdyama-bharitōn=dāna pa-
8. śupatiyendu pogaḷeppoṭṭaṇa paśupati-
9. nāmadhēyan=āsarakk=ella-bhaṭariyā prēmālaya-
10. sutange sēndraka-bāṇ=ōbhayadēśad=ā vīra-puruṣa-samakṣa-
11. de kēkaya-pallavaraṁ kād=eṟidu pettajayan=ā vija
12. arasange bāḷgaḻcu palmaḍiuṁ mūḷivaḷuṁ ko-
13. ṭṭār baṭāri-kuladōn=āḷa-kadamban kaḷadōn mahāpātakan
14. irvvaruṁ saḻbaṅgadar vijārasaruṁ palmaḍige kuṟu-
15. mbiḍi viṭṭār adān aḻivornge mahāpatakam svasti

The following line is carved on the pillar's left face:

16. bhaṭṭarg=ī gaḻde oḍḍali ā pattondi viṭṭārakara

Source: "Halmidi inscription", Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, (2023, January 26th),

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  1. ^ a b Gai 1992, p. 297
  2. ^ M. A. R. 1936, pp. 72–81
  3. ^ Ramesh 1984b, pp. 55–58
  4. ^ Master 1944, pp. 297–307
  5. ^ Mugali 1975, p. 2
  6. ^ Pollock 2006, pp. 331–332
  7. ^ Gai 1992, pp. 300–301
  8. ^ Sircar 1965, p. 48
  9. ^ Ramesh 1984b, p. 55
  10. ^ Ramesh 1984b, p. 58
  11. ^ Gai 1996, p. 26
  12. ^ Datta 1988, p. 1474
  13. ^ M. Chidananda Murthy, Inscriptions (Kannada) in Datta 1988, p. 1717
  14. ^ Sahitya Akademi (1988), p. 1717
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  • Habib, Irfan (2000), "India", in Al-Bhakhit, M. A.; Bazin, L. A.; Cissoko, S. M. (eds.), History of Humanity, Volume IV: from the Seventh to the Sixteenth century, Paris: UNESCO and London: Routledge. Pp. xxiii, 682, 44 maps, 138 plates, pp. 398–410, ISBN 0-415-09308-2
  • Master, Alfred (1944), "Indo-Aryan and Dravidian", Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 11 (2): 297–307, doi:10.1017/s0041977x00072487, S2CID 170552998
  • M. A. R. (1937), Mysore Archaeological Department, Annual Report-1936 (MAR 1936), Bangalore: Government Press, pp. 73–80
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