Dev Kumar Jhanjh in Conversation with Prof. K.K. Thaplyal: Seals and Sealings in Early India

Dev Kumar Jhanjh in Conversation with Prof. K.K. Thaplyal: Seals and Sealings in Early India

in Interview
Published on: 20 February 2020

Dev Kumar Jhanjh

Dev Kumar Jhanjh is a Doctoral Candidate at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His area of specialisation is Epigraphy and Numismatics. He is presently looking at the Political Processes in the Central Himalayan Region (From pre-State to State) (c. first century BCE-twelfth century CE).

Following is an edited interview of Professor K.K. Thaplyal with Dev Kumar Jhanjh on seals and sealings in early India.

Dev Kumar Jhanjh (DKJ): What is the difference between seals and sealings?

K.K. Thaplyal (KKT): A seal is a stamp bearing the device or legend or both pertaining to the ruler. Sealing is an impression of such a stamp. On the seal the device and the legend will be in negative which would come in the impression in positive. From a single dye one could make many impressions. Generally, a seal could be found where the owner was staying. Normally sealings will be found if they were affixed on letters and parcels to places where the owner dispatched them. So that is primarily the difference. More often than not scholars used [the term] seal for both artefacts but this is wrong.

DKJ: Sir, what were the materials used for the manufacture of seals?

KKT: For seals in ancient India, stones of various type, clay, copper, bronze, gold, ivory, silver, gold. These were the materials used for making seals in ancient India. But gold and silver being costly material could be afforded only by few and after the death of the owner of the seal, generally, the seals were melted for the value of its metal.

DKJ: So who owned the seals?

KKT: Seals were owned by kings and queens, by government offices and officials, by economic organisations, temples and monasteries, educational institutions, tribal republics and private individuals.

DKJ: Sir, could you please throw some light on the language, script and devices of the seals and sealings?

KKT: Two languages, Sanskrit and Prakrit have been used as legends on seals. So far as the scripts are concerned, two scripts, Brahmi and Kharosthi, were used. Brahmi seals have been found in large numbers whereas Kharosthi seals have been found in few numbers. There is only one seal, a unique one in which we find the name of the owner being given in Brahmi, Kharosthi and Greek in one seal. That is a unique seal. Otherwise, they were rather in Brahmi or in Kharosthi.

DKJ: How and for what the seals were used? I mean what were their applications?

KKT: Normally a seal was used like this. You have an envelope and you put a letter in the envelope and then close it. And when you close it you put a lump of moist clay and then stamp it. So long as the seal is intact you can be sure that nobody has read it. Similarly, if you have a parcel, you can bind it with a string and then where there is a knot you put a lump of moist clay and then stamp it. So long as the seal is intact you can be sure that it has not been tampered with. And then there are other uses also. Some clay tablets which were baked could be used as votive offerings or in temples they could be offered as prasad or memento to the visiting pilgrims.

DKJ: So those were also seals?

KKT: Yes, that was also a seal.

DKJ: How do you explain the presence of more than one impression on certain seals. 

KKT: Normally we have got only one impression but there are a few clay lumps which bear more than one impression. Now they can be because of different reasons. For example, there are certain clay lumps which bear the impression of Nalanda monastery side by side with village scenes. We know from the sources that Nalanda was granted a number of villages. That means the revenue that the villagers were paying to the state would be now paid to the monastery. So there must have been some transaction between the Nalanda monastery and the villages and because of that, we have got the seal of Nalanda monastery and the villages. We have got another case. We have got lumps where we have got the seal of an institution or economic corporation of the Sresthis, Sarthavahas and the Kulikas that is, the merchants, the caravan merchants and the artisans. And on those . . .

DKJ: So these are the different category of the merchants?

KKT: So we have got the seals, all bearing the stamp of this particular corporation and there will be one or more impression of other types. They may be either the people who borrowed money from the corporation or they might have been witnesses. Then there is a third category. If you find the impression of the same seal repeated several times, it may be possible that the maker of the seal was testing the seal. And then a fourth, we can talk about, there is one seal of a monastery called Ghoshitarama from Kaushambi on which there is another seal of Toramana. Toramana was an Huna king. So from this, we can understand that Toramana had come to Kaushambi, of course after conquering it. Isn’t it? So he puts his seal. This particular, both the impressions, could have been put only when the clay was moist. So that means Toramana was present there. So that shows clearly that his presence there means he had conquered that region. 

DKJ: Okay. On what aspects of history and culture do the seals and sealings throw light? 

KKT: Seals throw light on the political history, administration, region, and economy. They throw light on educational institutions. They tell us how the names were given in the ancient period, what are the criteria and like that. 

DKJ: So what you have stated shows that seals are an important source of various aspects of ancient Indian history and culture. I would like you to elucidate one by one, the different aspects of history and culture as seen from seals. You may proceed with the light the seals throw on the political history of ancient India. I mean, first, you throw light on the political history of ancient India as seen from the seals.

KKT: We know the seals of a large number of kings, can say belong to different dynasties and different regions. We know some seals bear the names of the father of the king. Some seals give genealogy right from the first king to the ruling king. So we know who succeeded whom. But in some cases, in those genealogies, collaterals are not mentioned. Meaning thereby, they mention only when the successor was father to son. If it was the brother to brother succession, they would eliminate that brother and mention that man will give only from father to him. If some brother had preceded, he may or he may not mention him. So that is interesting. From these seals, we get a number of kings were not known from other sources. That is interesting. 

DKJ: So can you throw some light on that?

KKT: Actually I will tell you that after the rule of Skandagupta in the Gupta dynasty, most of the genealogy and chronology of the Gupta kings are based on seals only. 

DKJ: What information do the seals provide regarding the administrative system in ancient India?

KKT: These seals give us the name of several administrative officers like Pratihara, Amatya, Mantrin, Ayuktaka, Pratiyuktaka, Viniyuktaka and so forth. They also give us an idea about the village assemblies. And that is very important. Because in ancient times, large empires such as the Mauryas or Guptas could only be sustained because of village assemblies because most of the judicial and administrative work on the local level was done by the heads of the villages with the help of the village assembly. And so that is why, we don’t find that type of problems that we have today when the means of communication and transport were not available as we have today, still large empires could be founded, it is because of this village assemblies. 

I would like to mention a few sealings which belong to army officers. They are those Asvaapati, that is cavalry official; Mahaasvapati, great cavalry official; Baladhikrita, that is general; Haihastadhyikari, an officer who is in charge of both horse, i.e. cavalry, and elephant corps. So we have got a large number of seals belonging to the military. 

We have got seals like that where the Uparika, an officer who is head of a province; Vishayapati who was an officer who is head of a district; there were also the officers who were head of sub-divisions of the state like Vithi. 

Now I would like to particularly mention two officers especially. I have kept them for the last. One is Dandanayaka. Danda means army, Danda means staff and Danda means punishment. Accordingly, this particular officer has been taken by some scholars as a general, by others as a police officer, and by still others as a judge. 

Now the last officer that I would like to mention is Kumaramatya. Now this Kumaramatya, for the first time we come across this particular officer in the Gupta period. Obviously the literal meaning of it is, can be literally translated as, Kumara as an amatya, that is a prince who is acting as a minister. Or it can be who became a minister. Kumara can also be a young man. 

But actually this should be translated or this should be understood as a prince, an amatya, who enjoyed certain privileges granted to the prince. Why do I say this? Because we had got on seals Kumaramatya who were district officers, who were provincial officers, who were attached to Yuvraja, who were attached to the king. So, in that way, they were like modern IAS officers. So this is what I have to talk about the administrative system.

DKJ: So you were saying that seals throw considerable light on the administrative tiers and also about the military organisations. 

Please tell us what light ancient seals throw on religion and iconography? 

KKT: I should say that most of the information that you get from seals is about religion and iconography. Even the seals belonging to these administrative officers are important from the point of view of religion and iconography because they were representing the deities towards the devotees. So even these seals, even kings were representing. For example, you will find the seals of the Maukharis representing the bull that is Shiva’s bull. And the Guptas will be representing say Garuda which is a vahana of Vishnu. So all sorts of . . .

DKJ: In copper plate charters also we find the seals with different kind of symbols.

KKT: Yes, different kinds of symbols. So like that, we find here that two religions were more important religions, that is, Hinduism and Buddhism were represented on the seals. But not Jainism. That is strange. We don’t have any seal belonging to the Jaina pantheon. 

Now as regards the Hinduism, we see that the most popular deity was Shiva who has been represented both in human form and also by symbols. The Shaiva symbols are Trishul, Parashu, Rusavi and Nandi, that is the vahana of Shiva. Now we have got several Shaiva seals with name ending Isvara. It has become a convention. Even today we find most of the Shaiva shrines have got Isvara ending name. So we have got names of several such seals as Bhringeshvara, Kalashesvara, Gavastisvara, Amratakesvara, Abhimuktesvara, Pitakesvara. So many shrines are mentioned on these seals. And what is interesting that some of these shrines find mention in the Puranas. For example, Amratakesvara shrine is mentioned in Matsya Purana.

DKJ: So, this is collaborated also by literary sources.

KKT: Yes, corroborated by the literary sources. And again it is interesting that the seal of Abhimuktesvara from Varanasi, we have got seals ranging from the fourth century to the tenth century, at least this shrine was in existence for about 600–700 years. And further what we know is that there is a shrine called Pitakesvara, a linga called Pitakesvara is still in Varanasi. So the tradition continues even today. That was the significance of Shaiva seals. 

As regards the Vaishnava seals, we have got lesser than what we have got Shaiva seals but we have got more varieties so far as symbols are concerned. Vishnu is represented in a human form very rarely on seals. But Vaishanava symbols like Shankha, Chakra, Gada, Padma, Srivatsa. These are Vaishnava symbols. They are very commonly represented on the seals. So that is the difference between the two. Now we have certain seals which give us an idea of how there were cooperation and cordial relations between different religions. For example, we have got Ardhanarisvara representation. This Ardhanarisvara representation, half Shiva and half Shakti (that is Parvati), gives us an idea of syncretism between Shaiva and Shaktakas. We have got legends like Shankara Narayana Shyama (Shaiva and Vaishnava symbols) meaning thereby that there were people who were worshipping both Vishnu and Shiva in the same temple just like we have Harihara type of images. 

DKJ: So the syncretism is also depicted on seals. 

KKT: We have got a seal on which there is written in Tokharin script, the names have been read as Shiva, Vishnu and Mihira. Mihira is the sun. So this particular seal shows the syncretic icon and the symbol are those of Shaivas, Vaishnavas and Sankhas. So this is again interesting evidence of that. We have got certain seals bearing fire altar. This is the influence of the Iranian cult on Indian solar cult.

DKJ: These are Yajnavedis? (Sacrificial fire altar)

KKT: The Magas who came here in first–second century CE and they influenced the solar cult. 

Now we have got the various representations of Durga. You have the representation of Lakshmi particularly in the form of Abhisheka Lakshmi or Gaja Lakshmi, Lakshmi being united by two elephants, one on either side and we have got many other such Yakasha and Nagas and other such deities. 

So far as Buddhist seals are concerned, we have got a number of monastic seals. A seal called Mulagandhakuti from Sarnath belonging to sixth century BCE is interesting. Because it is said that the kuti or the hut in which Buddha lived was called Mulagandhakuti. So it is generally believed that where this particular seal was found was perhaps the place where the original kuti of Buddha must have been there. 

Now we here got seals of so many monasteries. For example, that of Nalanda which is so important. Isn’t it? Now, this became a very important centre particularly after the post-Gupta period, sixth–seventh century onwards. And we know that not only Indians but foreigners from central Asia, from China and other countries used to come and study here. Even Xuanzang, the Chinese pilgrim came and studied here for many years. So we have got a number of seals of Nalanda monastery. 

DKJ: From their accounts also we come to know about this monastery. 

KKT: Yes. So we can say that, when Xuanzang, for example, says that a thousand teachers were there and ten thousand students, while this speaks volumes for this monastery and it became such a great centre. It has for its seal, the device of ‘wheel and deer’. The ‘wheel and deer’ device actually originally it was meant to just symbolise the first sermon of the Buddha at Sarnath. We were told that he delivered his first sermon in the Deer Park at Sarnath. So this is called technically as Dharmachakrapravartana or what we call in Sanskrit, turning the wheel of law. So this wheel represents the law. The two deer represent the Deer Park of Sarnath. But as time passed, this became popular for other monasteries and it came to symbolise Buddhist teaching, not Buddha’s teaching only but also Buddhist teaching. And so Nalanda which is the main centre of teaching the Buddhist studies and other studies adopted this wheel as their symbol. 

We have got a number of seals from Kushinagar and there were different monasteries but each one was a parinirvana monastery. And very clearly we know that Buddha’s parinirvana took place at Kushinagar. And so the monastery of the seal adopted two symbols. One is the ‘wheel and the deer’ which had become very popular at the time and the other is the ‘coffin between two sala trees’. We know from literary evidence that the Buddha died between the two sala trees near Kushinagar. So that symbol was chosen by these people. But generally in the Indian context, well, death, such type of scenes are not shown. So these people borrowed from Gandhara art in which we could see such representations. 

We have also got what we call Dharani mantra. Dharani mantra was Ye dhamma hetu prabhava

DKJ: This is Buddhist creed. You can briefly explain it.

KKT: ye dharmā hetu-prabhavā 
hetuṃ teṣāṃ tathāgato hy avadat, 
teṣāṃ ca yo nirodha 
evaṃ vādī mahāśramaṇa

Now in this particular which we are told from the literature that there was one Buddhist monk, Asvajit and Sariputta saw him and he was impressed by him. And he went to him and said, Sir, tell me who is your teacher? And what does he teach? And he told that my teacher is the Buddha and he has taught this. Which means that everything springs from cause and the Buddha has said how this pain and sorrow and suffering can be eliminated. This is the Dharani mantra. This became very popular and it has been found in hundreds from different monasteries, this Dharani mantra. This is one. 

Now I can also talk to you about one more monastery. And I may also tell you that one of the several pieces of evidence that have helped us in identifying Kushinagara with modern Kasia, the name has again become currently to Kushinagar now but Kasia was the popular name. These parinirvana seals, because they mention parinirvana, so parinirvana sealing will be for the monastery where Buddha, where Buddha’s parinirvana took place. Also, there is a very interesting thing. One, the inscription on the seal has the Raktamrittika Vihara. 

Now one inscription from Malaya peninsula gives us the information that there was one great Navika, Buddhagupta, who came from Raktmrittika. It was difficult for us, which place is Raktmrittika but this particular seal from Rangamati in Murshidabad district has finally settled the matter but we can identify that this is the place, Raktmrittika, from which this Buddhagupta hailed.

DKJ: Though Shaivas, Vaishnavas and the Buddhists used these seals, but strikingly enough, the Jains didn’t. 

KKT: We don’t know why but this is very strange because I will tell you, Jainism, Buddhism tried to spread, so also Hinduism. Jains, they are a little bit conservative. But, of course, they made a lot of movement, from Mathura, Kankalitila we have lot of Jain images but somehow they didn’t so much bother about showing this thing on seals. We do not know; it is not there.

DKJ: Do the seals and sealings throw light on economic life? 

KKT: We know that in ancient India the economic guilds played a very important part. We have got two types of guilds, the Shreni and Nigama. Shreni is a craft guild. But Nigama is a guild of merchants or a combined guild of merchants and artisans, that is kulikas. We have got 273 sealings found from a room at Vaishali belonging to a corporation on whose seal we find the legend ‘Sreshti Sarthava Kulika Nigama’. This is the legend on 273 seals found in one room at Vaishali. Now Sreshti is merchant cum banker. Sarthava is caravan merchant who sells his goods moving from one place to another place. And Kulika is artisans. So it is very important. We have got here, from Vaishali itself, we have got seals of Sreshti Nigama, that is the corporation of the guild of the Sreshtis. We have got also seals of Kulika Nigama, that is the guild of artisans. But we have got seals of all these combined. So this must have been a large economic corporation and must have played a very important part in the life of the people. So that is economic life particularly. Most of the people, we have got the Shrenis, three seals of the Shrenis, one is Kumbhkar Shreni, that is the guild of the potters. 

You know, these people what they did? They all combined together and see that the rights are preserved. Unity means that you have got the power. So different potters joined together and formed a guild and that became potters’ guild—fixing the price, quality and so many other things. 

We have got one sealing from Varanasi. It is Gavayika Shreni. That is a guild of milk sellers. So just like our dairies today, these people decide that this will be the price of the milk, this will be the quality of the milk, you will sell milk in that village, you will go to that village and sell and so forth, these types of things would have been maintained by them. But then we have one particular Shreni, Aranyaka Shreni, that is a guild of the foresters. So forests play a very vital part in ancient Indian history. 

We got what from there? We got hide, we got honey, we got wood, we got flowers, we got horns, we got ivory, I mean so many things from forests. So forest people had their own guild and this has been found at Varanasi. So we know that in literature, and particularly one particular inscription if you have heard about it, this is an inscription from Mandasor. That was the guild of silk weavers, Dashapura. And that silk weavers’ guild mentions that we prepare such good stuff, the silken clothes that women even though they are beautiful, even though they are wearing golden ornaments, even if they are decorated with flowers, they would feel confident that their lover would not like them unless and until they wear clothes manufactured from the cloth prepared by the guild. So these guilds played an important part. So this is about guilds or economic life.

DKJ: Sir, now can you tell us about the educational institutions, I mean did the educational institutions also have their own seals? 

KKT: We have got different types of institutions in ancient India. One, we have the seals from Varanasi, we have got Carana seal. Carana were the schools of the Vedic study. They were called Caranas.

DKJ: Are they bards?

KKT: Carana is a technical word meant for Vedic schools. Here people will come and study Vedas. Now we have got seals of Atharva Veda Carana. We have got seals of Sama Veda Carana. We have got seals of other Vedas also. And these seals are datable to Gupta period. This shows that in the Gupta period, Varanasi was very famous for Vedic studies. And these institutions must be corresponding with each other. There must have been the way it is going on, exchange of teachers and so on so forth. That they had seals is very important. And then we have got other kinds of seals relating to education like the Agrahara. Agrahara is a village which kings donated to brahmanas so that they can devote the time for learning, teaching and for performing religious rites without bothering for their livelihood. 

DKJ: The name of the village is Agrahara?

KKT: Any village which was granted to brahmanas was called Agrahara village. So the kings thought that the brahmanas should not bother doing this job and that job because their studies will be hampered. So they granted them villages and said that the income or the revenue of that village which previously was going to the state will now go to the brahmanas. So we have got several seals of Agrahara villages. 

Now we have got two more types of educational institutions which find mention in seals. And one of them is Trividya and the other is Caturvidya. Trividya, one can say that where the three types of vidyas were studied. We have got in ancient, Anvikshiki, Trayi and Vartha, these are the three most important types of Vidyas that are taught. 

And we have got Caturvidya where four vidyas were taught, Anvikshiki, Trayi, Vartha and Dandaniti. Dandaneethi is politics. Anvikshiki is dyadic. Now Trayi is the Vedas. And Vartha is economics. And Dandaneethi is politics. But most probably these were also schools of Vedic studies. Often Vidya and Veda mean the same. And that is why Sarasvati which is the goddess of learning is also called Vedamata. So most probably these Veda, the Trividya was an institution where three Vedas were taught. When Caturvidya would have been an institution where all the four Vedas were taught.

DKJ: Sir, the Harappan seals are known for artistry. Is this the case with the seals of the historical field also which you are talking about? 

KKT: Well historical seals, in general, do not show that sort of artistry that we find in the Harappan seals. But there are certain animals, particularly boar and lion, represented on seals which are quite artistic. And some of the female figures represented on seals can compare with any best piece of sculpture so far as the depiction of the female beauty is concerned. 

DKJ: What light do seals throw on the practice of name-giving in ancient India?

KKT: It will be quite interesting to know what type of names were being given in the ancient past. Maximum names are after the deities. Because of course Shiva and Vishnu were the most popular deities. Obviously then the various names of Shiva and various names of Vishnu were given to the people, ending in Dutta or something else, as name building. Normally we don’t call a child as Vishnu. But you can call him Vishnudutta. So most of these are after them but there are other deities also after which the names have been given. The names are also given after rivers, after animals, after trees, after nakshatras and so on, so forth. 

Quite interesting are the name endings. The Smritis tell us that for the four varnas, that is Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra, the name ending should be Sharman, Varman, Gupta and Das. Meaning that if the boy is Brahmin, his name should be ending Sharman. If he is a Kshatriya, his name should be ending with Varman, if he is Vaishya, his name should be Gupta, and if he is Shudra, his name should be ending with Das. But, in practice, this was not followed. 

DKJ: So it was in theory?

KKT: Why I say because we have got one great example which is that of Kalidasa. His name ending is that of a Shudra according to the Smritis but he was a Brahmin. So these are not followed. And quite interesting are certain names like Cucchar, Bhubbur… now as such these names mean nothing but why should such names be given. It is generally believed that in certain tribes particularly if the children are dying one after the other, the parents give such names to the newborn so that evil spirits will not harm him. So this can be a factor. 

DKJ: As you say that we are talking about the seals and sealings which are important sources for understanding or for reconstructing ancient India’s past. Another tool for understanding India’s past is the literary sources. So can you tell us whether these literary sources throw, I mean what kind of light these literary sources throw on the various aspects of the seals and sealings?

KKT: Two most important plays, that is, one is Kalidasa’s Abhigyana Shakuntalam and the other is Vishakhadatta’s Mudrarakshasa. These two plays are mainly hinging on mudra, that is seals. So the most important plays, you can understand now, were the part of these play. There are people who say that Dushyanta was wearing the ring which was meant to seal the documents. But this does not seem to be the case. For the simple reason that Kalidasa mentions that when Dushyanta was sitting, two friends of Shakuntala come and they just see the ring on the finger of Dushyant and instantly they read the name. Now, this could not have been possible if the name had been written in reverse order which must be there if it is meant for sealing. So that is my feeling about it. 

Now there are so many other references to seals, that seals were used as passcodes. This is very important but in ancient times just like in modern times, those elements which are bad for society, those which can create troubles, those which belong to enemy sides, their coming and going should be restricted. So in the Mahabharata we are told that when Shalvas seized the city of Dwarka, then the authority to the city announced that nobody who has not a valid pass should be given entry to or should be allowed to go from the city. So these passes were stamped, people were stamped and each one was given. If they had a valid pass, then he was allowed to go, otherwise not. Similarly in Mudrarakshasa, similar type in another context, the same thing has been said that only those with the valid pass are allowed to enter or to go out of the place. 

In ancient times, things were forged. Well, forgery is not confined to modern times only. So we have those kinds of examples. For example, there was a slave who wanted to marry the daughter of a merchant. So he forged a letter and after forging a letter he somehow obtained the seal of his master and sealed it with that seal. And sent that letter to a merchant saying that I am sending my son to you, you get your daughter married to him. And he got married to the daughter of that merchant. 

We have got another example, not a very healthy and happy one, and that is of the example of Tishyarakshita. We know that Tishyarakshita was the chief queen of Ashoka. And Tishyarakshita somehow, she forged a letter and stamped it with a seal of Ashoka which she had obtained and then sent a messenger with the letter conveying to Kunala that his eyes should be taken out because Kunala refused an amorous gesture. Kunala was her stepson and we are told that she succeeded in doing so. So such was the importance of seal stamp. 

Now the Arthashastra mentions that all the goods for export must be sealed properly. If they are not properly sealed, then the merchants were heavily fined. Well, Kamandaka also says that whenever anything for the toilet of the king is to be brought to the palace, first the seal has to be examined whether it has been properly sealed or not. 

Now Yagyavalkya, the author of Yagyavalkya Smriti, he says that copper plates must be stamped wherein the king grants land or village to the brahmanas. Then he used to also give them copper plate on which the record was there that so and so village or land in such and such place has been granted to him, this is the method and so on and so forth. Whenever there will be a dispute about the land, the brahmana could produce the copper plate, say this is the copper plate. But this is to be only valid when it has the seal of the king. So Yagyavalkya says that the copper plates which are granted to the brahmanas must be sealed by the king so that it has the authenticity. 

Now we have here, Katyayana says that the evidence of unsealed document is almost like the testimony of a dead man. Such importance this gave seals that every important document was to be sealed. Now in sealing, if you use the ink for sealing purposes as mostly it is done today, then it could be on paper, on parchment, on cloth, on Bhurjpatra, and Talapatra. And then this type of impression would serve two purposes. One is to authenticate it. Well, this is, I have seen it. The other is it could serve as a signature. The seal is there, the king need not sign now. That itself serves as a signature. 

So you are told that Katyayana even decided that ‘King, you cannot have allowed the unsealed documents and it cannot be accepted’. And Shukra goes further and says that a sealed document is, in fact, king. Meaning that what the king will say, well, that document has got the same validity. And it is also said that king’s seal, there was a special officer who used to keep the king’s seal. You can’t rely on anybody. Anybody, you cannot see it. There is a very responsible person who has great power. And that is why in Caryapada it is stated that there were people who wanted to become the seal keeper of kings and for that purpose they even bribed those persons whom they knew will be the appointing authorities. Now thus we see there are many other such instances. 

We have got an instance where a king orders that the relics which are kept in a monastery must be kept safely, they should not be stolen. And for that, he ordered that the doors should be sealed every night and should be properly guarded. And in the morning when the door is opened, before that the seal checked, whether it is intact or not. So we also know that Harsha, when Xuanzang was returning to his country China, he sent several letters to the different kings that Xuanzang would meet in his return journey with letters sealed so that those kings could help Xuanzang in his return journey. Thus, we find that there are so many references in literature from which we know that seals play a very important part in the life of the king. 

DKJ: Sir, this is my last question which actually I framed earlier. But after having looked at your book on your table, I thought I must ask this question to you. Sir, in your this book, Studies in Ancient Indian seals, you have dealt with the historical seals. I was just wondering why didn’t you deal with the Harappan seals which are so fascinating? Though they have not been deciphered yet can you tell . . .

KKT: The last word that you said, the last sentence is the reason for that. When you produce a thesis, you have to say something. You have to establish something. And you can only establish where sources are reliable. Isn’t it? The more reliable your source, the more reliable are the conclusions. Isn’t it? In the case of Harappan seals, since they have not been deciphered, so you don’t know what is written. So it will all be guesswork. So since it was a PhD thesis, we could only think of writing on seals of the period for which we have got legends that you can decipher, for which we can really build up the different aspects of society, history and culture of the people. That is the reason that I took up this subject.

The video interview can be found here: