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Current Affairs

Shankhalipi script

Date: 18 September 2021 Tags: Miscellaneous


Archaeologists have discovered ‘shankhalipi’ inscriptions in a 5th century Gupta-era temple in Uttar Pradesh.



The script was inscribed on the stairs of the temple that mentions ‘Sri Mahendraditya’, the title of Kumaragupta-I of the Gupta dynasty.



  • The site was ‘protected’ in 1928. The stairs were discovered accidentally while conducting the annual scrubbing exercise.

  • The discovery is significant due to that fact that only two other structural temples from the Gupta age have been found so far — Dashavatara Temple (Deogarh) and Bhitargaon Temple (Kanpur Dehat).


The script

  • Shankhalipi or shell script is a form of Brahmi derivatives that look like conch shells or shankhas. They date between 4th and 8th centuries and majorly found across north-central India.

  • It consists of a small number of characters that are names or auspicious symbols or a combination of the two.



The script was discovered in 1836 on a brass trident in Uttarakhand’s Barahat by English scholar James Princep.


Other locations

  • Nagarjuna group of caves in the Barabar Hills

  • Mundeshwari Temple in Bihar

  • Udayagiri Caves in Madhya Pradesh

  • Mansar in Maharashtra

  • Indonesia’s Java and Borneo islands


Deciphering the script

Professor Richard Salomon of the University of Washington had conducted a detailed study on the script, which was a first such study. He also tentatively assigned sounds to some of the characters.


Age of script

The script is majorly found engraved on temple pillars, columns and rock surfaces. There is no mention of time but age can be found out by the objects on which they are written.



Kumaragupta-I was a 5th century king who ruled for 40 years over north-central India. Guptas were the first to build structural temples which were different from rock-cut temples.