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1000-year-old, long Tamil inscription found

By T.S. Subramanian

Photo: K. Pichumani

The basement of the temple at Ennayiram in Tamil Nadu, where a 1,000-year-old inscription has been found by the ASI.

CHENNAI NOV. 6. <150>A long inscription in Tamil, running to 28 lines and about 1,000 years old, has been discovered at a temple in Ennayiram village, 18 km from Villupuram town in Tamil Nadu.

The Archaeological Survey of India, Chennai Circle, found the inscription at Alagiya Narasingaperumal temple, when the floor of the "mukhamantapa" (entrance hall) was being removed to re-erect dangerously tilted pillars there.

The inscription, running from the 53rd line to the 80th line, was found at the basement ("adhishtana") of the entrance hall. It contains the longest "meikeerthi" (various titles and exploits) of a Chola king. The inscription actually runs to 80 lines, but lines one to 53 are yet to be located.

The discovery was made in March last. In fact, the temple, originally called Raja Raja Vinnagar Alwar, has a surfeit of inscriptions in Tamil. They belong to the Chola and Vijayanagar dynasties. The earliest of these inscriptions belong to the reign of Chola Rajendra I (1012 -1044 A.D.)

The inscription was issued by the Chola king Rajadhi Raja I (A.D. 1018 - 1054) in the 25th year of his reign. It records the gift of land by a chieftain named Raja Narayana Muvenda Velaan during the period of Rajadhi Raja I for the maintenance of a Vishnu temple at a village called Singapuram which is in the nearby town of Gingee.

The inscription says that the chieftain sat in the entrance hall ("thirumutram") of the temple at Ennayiram and announced the gift of land for the Singapuram temple. The village assembly ("oor vaariya perumakkal") was present then.

The inscription mentions the gift of land by the chieftain, but it was issued in the name of the king.

According to G. Thirumoorthy, Assistant Archaeologist, ASI, the discovery was "important because it has the longest `meikeerthi' of a Chola king." This "meikeerthi/prasasthi" talks about the titles and heroic deeds of Rajadhi Raja I — how he defeated the Chalukyas; how he demolished a Chalukya palace at Kambili (in present-day Karnataka); his relationship with the Sinhalas; the "aswamedha yaga" that he performed and so on. It mentions that Ennayiram was called Raja Raja Chaturvedimangalam and that it was a "thaniyur" (independent village) directly coming under the control of the king and falling in Panaiyur Nadu of Chola Nadu.

It also talks about "Singapura nadu" which can be identified with Gingee of today.

Dr. T. Satyamurthy, Superintending Archaeologist, ASI, Chennai Circle, said Ennayiram was a flourishing educational centre during the Chola period. It had a university for teaching the Vedas. For instance, inscriptions record that there were 25 pupils ("ketpar") learning the "Vyakarana", 35 learning "Prabhakara", etc. There were 10 professors to teach the Vedas. The teachers who taught the Rupavatara received three "kuruni" of paddy a day.

The name "Ennayiram" has an interesting etymology. In Tamil, it means "eight thousand". According to local belief, 8,000 Jainas were executed here. There is another story that the Jainas were not executed and that they embraced Brahmanism. The Tamil poet, Kalamegam, famous for his puns, belonged to Ennayiram.

The temple was in ruins when the ASI took up its conservation less than two years ago. A team led by G. Saravanan, Conservation Assistant, ASI, Mamallapuram, has restored the "vimana" which had collapsed. Even a tree had grown over the vimana.

The team has restored the cloistered "mantapa" to its original beauty. While removing the floor of the entrance hall, the ASI also discovered a well with utensils lying in it.

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