Over 85 copper plates and twelve bronze icons were found in the Kailasanathar temple in Kazhukanni Muttam in Tiruindalur village here on Thursday in a first-of-its-kind archaeological discovery in Tamil Nadu.

The copper plates — 45-cm long and 20-cm broad — were strung around a two-foot diameter copper ring and forged with the Chola emblem.

Earlier, 20 copper plates were found in Villupuram, says an official of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments. The emblem with two fishes fringed by a seated tiger to its left and a bow and arrow to its right and an umbrella indicated that the plates belonged to the Cholas.

The bronze icons include Ganapathy, Appar, Manikavasagar, Thirugnyanasambandhar, Rishabandagar with Amman, Sandikeshwarar, Chandrashekarar with Ammam, Karaikal Ammaiyar with a cymbal, Somaskandar (Lord Shiva with his consort and son), and Valli. The find points to the Chola period of 11th or 12th century AD, says Bala Padhmanaban, special Revenue Inspector, HR&CE. According to him, the Skandha Maalai (the garland over the shoulder of Lord Shiva) pointed to the middle Chola period. Further, the Perumal temple at half a km vicinity of Kailasanathar temple was built in the 11th century and is inscribed to be the contemporary of this temple.

Along with these were worship artefacts such as a guindy, thiruchanam and asaradevar. The rationale for the presence of a Nataraja icon amid the above pantheon was strengthened further with the pieces of broken Thiruvasi (found behind Nataraja idols) being part of the find.

Tamil inscriptions

The copper plates found here are inscribed in Grindam script. Epigraphical study was still under way to trace out Tamil inscriptions in this copper plate ring. According to Mr.Padhmanaban, the earlier discovery of copper plates usually carried grindam inscriptions in the beginning and the end, eulogising the endowing king. They would later carry Tamil inscriptions.

“The area must have been a sathurvedhimangalam (place where learned brahmans were settled by the king) and consequently huge endownments had to be made to support the temple upon which the brahmans depended,” says Mr.Padmanaban. The practice of settling brahmans started with the Pallava period and it continued with the Cholas. The temple falls under the Parimalaranganathar Devasthanam of the HR&CE and the find came through during excavation works for the construction of the ‘muga mandapam' carried out as part of the temple restoration works. According to archaeologists, the find of 85 copper plates attached to one ring with a two feet diameter is a treasured discovery, both for the temple and archaeology.

“Fantastic discovery”

Speaking to The Hindu over phone, R.Nagaswamy, ex-director, Department of Archeology, Tamil Nadu, termed it as a “fantastic discovery and the find of the century.”

The site of excavation was 10 feet from the Ardha Mandapam, and was found at a depth of 10 feet. This signifies ‘deliberate burial' to escape invasion, he said. The same view was echoed by Mr.Padhmanaban. According to Mr.Nagaswamy, an earlier discovery at this site of Thiruilandhur was in 1925 at the Ponmeenda Perumal Temple, where inscriptions pointed to the period of Sundara Pandya and referred to the settlement of Battas.

A study of the ring would throw light on the extent of endowments to the Kailasanathar temple, patron of the endowment, the exact year and the extent of benefaction for the Sathurvedhimangalam.

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