Below the Girnar Rock Edict (inscription) of Mauryan Emperor Ashoka (r. 269 – 232 BCE) in Gujarat’s Junagadh, five and a half feet tall and 11 feet long, and written in 2nd century CE Brahmi characters, is a fascinating record dating to the time of Mahakshatrapa Rudradaman I (reigned c. 130 CE), grandson of Kshatrapa Chashtana. Here, among other things, Rudradaman talks about repairing the embankments of the great Sudarshana Lake built by the local governor, Vaishya Pushyagupta, during the reign of Chandragupta Maurya (r. 321 – 297 BCE) in the 3rd century BCE.
So who was this Rudradaman, grandson of Chashtana, and where did he come from? Rudradaman was a Kshatrapa, a dynasty often called the Western Kshatrapas to differentiate them from the Northern Kshatrapas like Rujuvula (most probably governors of the Kushanas). The Western Kshatrapas ruled Kutch, Saurashtra, mainland Gujarat, parts of Madhya Pradesh and parts of Western Maharashtra at their peak. The empire of the Kshatrapas lasted from the first half of the 1st century CE all the way to 405 CE, when they fell to the Gupta expansions under Chandra Gupta II (reigned c. 380 – 415 CE).
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