The inscription is engraved on a copper plate, which was found in 1893 at the ruins of what was then believed to be the Abhayagiri Vihāra in Anuradhapura. This vihāra has since been correctly identified as the Jetavana vihāra. The text of the copper-plate inscription is written in the Nāgāri script. It was first edited in the first volume of Epigraphia Zeylanica (p. 40) by Wickremasinghe, who believed the language of the inscription to be mixed Sanskrit. However, Paranavitana recognised that the text was actually in Pāli and published a revised in the third volume of Epigraphia Zeylanica (p. 170). As Paranavitana noted, apart from one or two clerical errors, the verse is identical with the verse of the Vaṭṭaka Jātaka. The plate was the votive offering of a Buddhist pilgrim. However, it is not known whether the pilgrim was from North India or a Sri Lankan devotee who was acquainted with the Nāgāri script. Although this script is used in a number of other inscriptions from Sri Lanka, including some stone records, many clay votive tablets and certain coin legends from the tenth century, this copper plate is an unusual – and perhaps unique – example of the script being used for the Pāli language in medieval times. The peculiar formation of some of the letters was probably due to the scribe being somewhat unfamiliar with script, while the orthographical errors in the inscription may be due to the fact that the script was not generally used to write in Pāli.


The verse was uttered by the Bodhisattva, then born as a quail, when the jungle fire was advancing to swallow him, and when his father and mother had fled. As soon as the verse was uttered, the progress of the fire was checked and the surrounding area was rendered immune from fire for a whole aeon. The incident is counted as one of the five great miracles of the Bodhisattva’s career. It is therefore easy to understand that this stanza should have been considered a fitting subject to be engraved on copper and used as a votive offering. It may also have been used as a charm against fire.