The Hatigumpha Inscription of Kharavela is one of the few notable inscriptions which throw much light on ancient Indian history.
It is comparable only to the inscriptions of Asoka and Samudragupta in respect of its historical significance.
No other inscription of India presents the details of the year-wise achievements of a ruler as does the Hatigumpha Inscription.
The location of this inscription is noteworthy. Near Bhubaneswar, there stand the twin hills of Udayagiri and Khandagiri, famous in ancient times as the Kumari Parvata and the Kumara Parvata respectively for their religious sanctity. According to Jaina tradition, Mahavira Jina came to the Kumari hill from where he preached his doctrines. Ever since that time, the hill had been venerated as a sacred centre of Jainism.
Kharavela selected that place to record both his political and religious activities. Interestingly enough, Kharavela’s inscription describing his great victory over Magadha, and his other conquests stands within a visible distance from Asoka’s Inscription at the Dhauli hill. From the top of the Udayagiri-Khandagiri hills one can see the Dhauli hill and vice-versa to remember the achievements of the two great monarchs, both conquerors as well as patrons of their respective religions.
The Hatigumpha Inscription was first discovered in recent times by the historian A. Stirling soon after the British conquest of Orissa in the early years of the 19th century. Since then the Udayagiri-Khandagiri hills became a place of pilgrimage for historians, archaeologists and epigraphists who came to study the Inscriptions and the caves for purpose of history. Many centuries of time as well as the ravages of Nature had done much damage to the inscription to create problems for the scholars. But, yet, as a piece of historical evidence, it revealed many aspects of that remote time for the knowledge of the present and the future.
Among the scholars who studied the Hatigumpha Inscription, the names of A. Stirling, Colonel Mackenzie, James Prinsep, Lieutenant Kittoe, H. Locke, Alexander Cunningham, R.L. Mitra, Bhagawan Lai Indraji, George Buhler, Sten Konow, V. Smith, J.F. Fleet, K.P. Jayaswal, R.D. Benerji, R.P. Chanda, B.M. Barua. D.C. Sircar and N.K. Sahu stand prominent. Even though some of these scholars differed in their readings of the inscription, and in interpretation of some of the words because of their damaged condition, yet the general history of Kharavela conies to light from their hard researches.
The contents of the Hatigumpha Inscriptions are taken as true records of Kharavela’s reign for the fact that, his inscription contained Jaina religious symbols on the side to prove that nothing but truth had been mentioned in it. Moreover, Kharavela begins his inscription with salutation to the Arhatas, and to all the Siddhas. An ancient monarch as he was, and a man of deep religious faith, he could not have mentioned anything which he did not perform.
The inscription records the historical events of the reign in a chronological order. It throws light not only on political episodes, but also on religious, cultural and social condition of Kalinga during that glorious period. It is presented in Kavya style, and in the language Brahmi, which is very much like Pali. The Hatigumpha Inscription is like the history of Kharavela as a king, a conqueror, a patron of culture and a champion of Jainism. The accounts are corroborated by other historical evidences relating to contemporary times.