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Arittapatti inscription throws light on Jainism

By Our Special Correspondent

MADURAI SEPT.14. A rare 3rd century B.C. Tamil Brahmi inscription found near Madurai recently has brought to light the fact that not only Pandyas and Cheras but the chiefs of the coastal region in the State also patronised Jainism in the early period.

The discovery by a team of epigraphists, who undertook a survey at Arittapatti in Melur taluk, is a remarkable evidence of history of early Tamil politics, culture and language, State Archaeology department sources said here recently.

The inscription was found engraved in a cave of a hillock, where early Jain monks stayed and preached their faith.

It is just four feet away from another Brahmi inscription discovered by some scholars in 1971.

"Since this new inscription is carved with very thin strokes and illegible, it had not attracted the attention of the scholars so far in spite of their frequent visits to this cave," say the sources.

The inscription, engraved as a single line with 33 letters and running for 3.10 metres, reads as follows: ilanjiy vel mapparavan makan emayavan nalmuzhaukai kotupithavan.

It means, "Emayavan, son of Mapparavan, chief of Ilanji, has caused the carving of this auspicious cave."

It has been written in the Bhattiprolu (Andhra Pradesh) casket inscription method and so all short consonants have long strokes. As the orthography of this inscription resembles that of Mangulam inscriptions (also in Madurai district), its date may be assigned to 3rd century B.C., say the sources.

`Ilanji' denotes the name of a place, while `Vel' means chieftain. Ilanji Vel might have been a ruler of a small territory around Ilanji. There is also a village near Courtallam with the same name.

Emayavan, chief of Ilanji, was the son of Mapparavan. `Paravar' denotes the people of coastal region settled in southern districts of Tamil Nadu. `Muzhaukai' means the cave in which the inscription is found and the prefix, `nal' auspiciousness.

The same word, `Nalmuzhaukai' occurs in Varichiyur Brahmi inscription also. The previous inscription found at Arittapatti also bears the word `Muzhagai', which also means cave. One of the Sangam works, `Madurai Kanchi' refers to the Paravar defeated by Padyan Nedunchezhian. Even the Velvikudi copper plate speaks of the defeat suffered by Tenparavar at the hands of a Pandya king, the sources point out.

All this evidence makes clear that the Paravars were the chiefs of the coastal region and they ruled their areas as subordinates of the Pandyas of the Sangam age. The previously discovered Brahmi inscription at Arittapatti also mentions about a chief from Nelveli (now Tirunelveli region). The inscription throws light on the proximity the chiefs of Nelveli to the Pandyas of Madurai in the Sangam age.

As many as 60 Tamil Brahmi inscriptions were found during the past over 100 years from 15 villages including, Mangualm, Anaimalai, Azhagarmalai, Tiruvadavur, Keezhavalavu, Tirupparankundram and Varichiyur.

The epigraphists, comprising P. Rajendran, V. Vedachalam, C. Santhalingam and R. Jayaraman, as per directions of the Commissioner of Archaeology, R. Kannan, undertook the survey.

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