Nestled quietly in a roundabout in the Allahabad Fort at Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh is a slender, polished Chunar sandstone column. Terminating abruptly without any capital, it is still immediately identified as an Ashokan Pillar, much like the ones at Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi or at Rampurva in Uttar Pradesh.
But this pillar is much more than just an inscribed Ashokan column. This pillar also carries an inscription by Samudra Gupta (reign. c. 330 – 375 CE), the great Emperor of the Gupta Dynasty, whose capital was Pataliputra, in present-day Bihar. The inscription which is famous as the Prayag Prashasti of Samudra Gupta (‘prashasti’ meaning ‘eulogy’), is the single most important document for students of the Gupta Empire.
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