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Issue No. 29

இதழ் 29 [ நவம்பர் 16 - டிசம்பர் 15, 2006 ]
ஓவியர் சில்பி சிறப்பிதழ் ]


இந்த இதழில்..
In this Issue..

மறக்கப்பட்ட மாகலைஞன்
கதை 9 - ஆலங்காரி
திரும்பிப் பார்க்கிறோம் - 1
பிரான்மலைக் குடைவரை
வேண்டாத வதந்திகள்
சில்பியே சிகரம்
Some portions of Early Tamil Epigraphy
தேவை வாசகர்கள் சேவை
Master’s Strokes
Links of the Month
Issue No. 29 > Airavati Special Section
Some portions of Early Tamil Epigraphy
ஐராவதம் மகாதேவன்

This article is an extraction of few pages from Iyravatham Mahadevan's monumental work on Early Tamil Epigraphy - Published by Harward University Press and Kriya.

Page 21

Recent Discoveries (1981 - 2000)

During the last two decades, eleven more cave inscriptions have been discovered, out of which eight are from six new sites (6) and three from two known sites (7). Many of the recent discoveries have been made by the younger epigraphists of the TNSA, who are familiar with the terrain and have acquired remarkable proficiency in reading the Tamil-Brahmi script (8). Only one of the inscriptions has been illustrated with estampage in the ARE (9). However, estampages of all other newly discovered inscriptions have been promptly published by the scholars who made the discoveries or who have read the inscriptions - a welcome new development in the field.

Footnotes:

6. Jambai: R. Nagaswamy 1981 a&b (No. 59). Tirumalai:kalvettu, No.24, 1989 (Nos. 51 & 52). Tondur: Dinamani, Chennai, October 20, 1991 (No.776). Nekanurpatti: Dinamani, Chennai, March 26, 1992 (No.83). Kudimiyamalai: C. Santhalingam 1999a (No.77). Mannarkoil: The New Indian Express, Chennai, December 21, 2000 (No.s 88 & 89).
7. Mettuppatti: ARE B.373/1985-86 (No.24). Edakal - A: I. Mahadevan & S. Swaminathan 1998 (Nos. 79 & 80).
8. Jambai was discovered by K.Selvaraj; Tirumalai by C. Santhalingam and V. Vedachalam; Tondur by M. Chandiramurthy; and Kudumiyamalai by P. Rajendran and C. Santhalingam. Nekanurpatti was discovered by S. Rajavelu (ASI) and C. Viraraghavan and Mannarkoil by Manohari, research scholar, Parasakthi College, Courtallam. The additional inscription at Mettupatti was discovered by E. Jebarajan, American College, Madurai, and those at Edakal-A by S. Swaminathan (ASI), a member of the team led by I. Mahadevan.
9. Mettupatti in ARE 1985-86 (B.373) = No.24.

Page 23

1.6.1 Jambai: inscriptions of Atiyan Netuman Anci

The most outstanding discovery in this period comes from Jambai (1), a small village on the north bank of the south pennar river near the town of Tirukkoyilur in Viluppuram District. There are two caves on the hill (Fig.1.11) to the east of the village, one of them (Fig 1.12) with a Tamil-Brahmi inscription, which is exceptionally well preserved as it is engraved on the rear rock wall deep inside the cave. Selvaraj, a young trainee student in the TNSA, stumbled on the inscription in October 1981 during a routine field survey. He informed Nagaswamy, Director of Archeology, who deciphered the inscription and announced the discovery through a couple of newspaper articles (2).

The Jambai inscription records the grant of the cave shelter by atiyan netuman anci who has the title satiyaputo. The record can be dated to ca. 1st century A.D. on paleographic grounds. The donor of the grant has been identified by nagaswamy as Atiyaman Netuman Anci, the famous chieftain of Takatur (modern Dhharmapuri), celebrated in the Cankam classic, Purananuru. The title satiyaputo occurs in Asoka's Second Rock Edict along with the names identified as Ceras, Colas and Pantiyas. It has been suspected earlier on linguistic grounds that satiyaputo is connected etymologically to atiyaman. The Jambai inscription which provides conclusive evidence in support of the identification has been aptly described by Nagaswamy as a 'new link' between Asoka and Tamil country.

Jambai ranks with the Mangulam, Pugalur and Edakal cave inscriptions as a historical record of exceptional importance. One would have thought, therefore, that the discovery would have been hailed. That was not what happened. The 'authenticity' of the inscription was called into question by some scholars on two grounds, namely, that a Prakrit expression like satiyaputo cannot occur in a Tamil inscription and that the dental n was employed in the inscription in the place of the correct alveolar (3). Neither objection can stand scrutiny. Numerous Prakrit loanwords occur in Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions; it is indeed this feature which sets apart the Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions from the later Tamil inscriptions. For example, compare satiyaputo at Jambai with kaummiputa at Edakal (4), utayanasa of Utayanan at Mettuppatti (5) and sapamita (name of a Jaina nun) at Alagarmalai (6). As regards the second objection, Tamil epigraphists know only too well that the use of dental n for alveolar n is the commonest scribal error in Tamil inscriptions, and the Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions are no exception to this general trend (7). Neither the paleography, nor the general appearance of the inscription, nor the circumstances of the discovery give rise to the slightest suspicion about the authenticity of the record confirmed by numerous scholars who have visited the cave since the discovery.

Footnotes:

1. No. 59. See also Fig. 8.27 (tracing) and P1. 26A (estampage).
2. R. Nagaswamy 1981a & b. I. Mahadevan 1994a: pp. 123 - 127. See also section 4.5.1.
3. E.g., K.V. Ramesh 1985: pp. 3-4.
4. No. 80.
5. No. 24.
6. No. 41.
7. E.g., Nos. 20 & 70 for other examples.

Page 24

I became concerned about the controversy and decided to conduct an investigation in situ. With the co-operation of the District Collector and the Revenue authorities, I convened a meeting at Jambai on 14th December 1991, which was attended by Revenue officials and the village elders. Appavu, the village talayari who along with two cowherds of the village had guided Selvaraj to the cave, testified at the meeting that that had known about the inscription since their boyhood as they used to rest in the cave when grazing their cattle nearby. And then clinching evidence turned up. Koduumudi Shanmugam, a senior engineer of the Public Works Department and noted Tamil scholar, who attended the meeting, arranged to have the topsoil removed from the floor of both the caves. Two stone beds of the usual description associated with Tamil-Brahmi cave inscriptions elsewhere, were discovered in the cave just opposite to the one with the inscription. The discovery put an end to the needless controversy (1). Jambai is also known to have been a flourishing Jaina centre in later historical times (2).

1.6.2 Mannarkoil: the earliest reference to a katikai (ghatika)

This account of the discovery of the Tamil-Brahmi cave inscriptions concludes with a brief note on the most recent and southernmost of these records discovered in the closing days of the 20th century at Mannarkoil, a village near Ambasamudram in Tirunelveli District. A pair of Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions (3), one on the ceiling inside a cave and the other on a stone bed at the summit of a bare rock outside, are located near the foothills of the famed Potikai mountain, the legendary abode of Akattiyar (Agastya), the Tamil sage. The inscriptions are dated to ca. 2nd century A.D. on paleographic grounds. One of them (4) contains the earliest epigraphic reference to a katikai (ghatika) 'assembly of learned persons, institution of higher learning or place of the assembly'. The place may plausibly be identified with the modern village of Kadayam near the site.

It is a measure of the progress made in understanding Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions that while the earliest discoveries made around the beginning of the century baffled the most experienced epigraphists of the day, the Mannarkoil inscriptions discovered at the end of the century were immediately deciphered by the TNSA, and the estampages were published with full and accurate translation of the texts in the local newspapers within days of the discovery (5). My personal voyage of discovery of the Tamil-Brahmi cave inscriptions which began on 11th February 1962 at Marukaltalai ended 38 years later on 30th December 2000 at Mannarkoil, the two southernmost sites both in Tirunelveli District. (6)

Footnotes:

1. See also the earlier account of this episode in my Foreward in R. Nagaswamy 1995.
2. See remarks on Jambai in Mayilai Seeni Venkataswamy 1954 (1980 reprint): pp. 42 & 122.
3. Nos. 88 & 89. See also Figs. 8.42 & 8.43 (tracings) and Pl.42 (estampages). As the inscriptions were discovered after the manuscript of the present volume was got ready for the press, they had to be places at the end of the section on Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions in the present Corpus, and not in the proper chronological order after Anaimalai (No. 60) and before Pugalur (Nos. 61-72).
4. No.88.
5. The inscriptions have been read by M. Senthil Selvakumaran and C. Chandiravanan of the TNSA.
6. I spent the next two days at Kanyakumari to watch the last sunset of the old millennium and the first sunrise of the new millennium.
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இப்படைப்பு குறித்த தங்கள் கருத்துக்கள் வரவேற்கப்படுகின்றன. கீழுள்ள படிவத்தில் தமிழிலோ ஆங்கிலத்திலோ பின்னூட்டமிடலாம். தமிழில் பின்னூட்டமிட ஏதேனும் ஒரு தமிழ்ச் செயலி பின்னணி செயல்பாட்டில் இருக்க வேண்டும்.
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