The printing of the formal research conducted in Epigraphy by the Department was initiated with the first volume of the Epigraphia Zeylanica, published under the editorship of Dr. D. M. de Z. Wickramasinghe in 1912. Two volumes of the Epigraphia Zeylanica were edited by him and Professor S. Paranavitana brought out the next four volumes. Altogether seven volumes of this journal have been published, the final volume being the Ph. D. thesis of Dr. Saddhamangala Karunaratne on early Brahmi inscriptions.
“In addition to the Epigraphia Zeylanica, the compilation of a Corpus of Inscriptions of Sri Lanka under the title of Brahmi Inscriptions of Ceylon’ was mooted by Prof. Paranavitana in 1936. The first volume containing the cave inscriptions from the third century B.C. to the first century A.D. and other inscriptions in the early Brahmi script was published by him in 1970. The second volume consisting of the rock inscriptions of the second century A.D. was also compiled by him prior to his death in 1972. Many an obstacle had to be removed before Part 1 of the second volume was published eleven years after the author’s demise. Part 2 of this volume is now being processed in the Government Printing Press and is in its final proof stage.
In 1972, the Epigraphical bulletin of the Department titled “Epigraphical Notes” was launched with a view to decipher and interpret at least ten inscriptions a month. This programme was initiated by the then Secretary of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Dr. Nissanka Wijayaratne. The first installment of ten inscriptions with the texts and the translations was cyclostyled for distribution among the scholars.
The first issue of the Epigraphical Notes was released in April 1972 with a brief survey of Epigraphy in Sri Lanka, provided by Dr. R. H. de Silva, the Archaeological Commissioner in his introductory note. There he has recorded as follows:
“A monthly bulletin called the ‘Epigraphical Notes’ will be issued giving the text, translation and other details of about ten inscriptions, which have hitherto not been published. This bulletin will be issued to all the Universities in Ceylon as well as to the Museum Library. The present issue is the beginning of this venture”.
In view of this, the Department of Archaeology deciphered the inscriptions as and when they were discovered and published them periodically in the Epigraphical Notes. These issues were sent to the libraries to provide first-hand knowledge of the recent discoveries in Epigraphy which would have been useful to those involved in conducting research in History and Archaeology.
With the publication of twenty such issues, there was a general request that the Epigraphical Notes should be compiled in book form with the photographs of inscriptions. It is indeed the fruits of such a venture that we see in this book.
The preface written by Dr. Saddhamangala Karunaratne which appeared in the 13th issue of the Epigraphical Notes served as a reply to an article that appeared in the Ceylon Daily News. An earnest appeal that was made in the article is here fulfilled with the Epigraphical Notes compiled into one book and presented as the epigraphical bulletin of the department with the relevent photographs included.
With the advancement of research in Epigraphy, we have had the opportunity to revise certain interpretations put forward by scholars. For example, the phrase ‘vaharala cidavi’, interpreted as manumission of slaves by Prof. Paranavitana is interpreted by us as ‘was made free from compulsory service in the monastery’. All these revisions are included in the new text.
We are thankful to Dr. Saddhamangala Karunaratne for his contributions in Nos. 4, 9 and 11 and the advise given when the early issues were being compiled. We extend our sincere thanks to Dr. Roland Silva and Mr. M. H. Sirisoma, former Director-General and the present DirectorGeneral of Archaeology respectively, for their guidance in making this a success. Our gratitude extends to the Government Printer and the staff of the Government Press.
Dept. of Archaeology, Sir Marcus Fernando Mawatha, Colombo 7, Sri Lanka