Ājīvikas in Malhār (south Kōśala)

malhar-starved-asceticsKathie Brobeck was kind enough to send this photo of a pillar inscribed with Ājīvika ascetics from the south Kōśala site of Mallar/Malhār in what used to be western Orissa and eastern Madhya Pradesh but which is now a part of the new state of Chhattisgarh.  (More on the enigmatic Ājīvikas previously and, much better, in Basham’s History and Doctrine of the Ājīvikas.)

I’d never heard of Malhār before, which goes to show you how much I know.   The site was excavated between 1975 and 1978, I think by the University of Sagar, but I haven’t found the excavation reports yet.  It’s clearly a large, important site; from the satellite imagery you can distinctly see several enormous circular moats surrounding large ruined structures.  The site may be synonymous with either or both of the ancient cities of Śarabhapura and Mallalapatana.  For more on this debate, see the Introduction to Ajay Mitra Shastri’s Inscriptions of the Śarabhapurīyas, Pāṇḍuvaṁśins, and Somavaṁśins, esp. p. 122 of the introduction, not the main volume.  (I’m still trying to get up to speed on my South Kōśala history, so please pardon the inevitable errors.)

Jitāmitra Prasāda Siṃhadeba’s Cultural Profile of South Kōśala mentions (p. 298)  ‘colossal’ images of the Jain Tirthankaras found there, and Byomakesh Tripathy’s survey article “Buddhist Remains in Western Orissa [.pdf] refers to images of the Buddha, Avalokitesvara, Manjusri, and Hevajra.  And Doris Meth Srinivasan, in her Many Heads, Arms and Eyes, describes a supposedly well-known large (5′) four-armed Vaisnava image found at Malhār.  So it shouldn’t be too surprising to find the Ājīvikas represented here, too.