One of the earliest hero-stones of Pandya country, with Tamil vatteluttu script datable to eighth century CE, has been found in a village called Vellalankottai in Tuticorin district, Tamil Nadu. It was erected in the memory of father and son who killed a tiger. The hero-stone has the carvings of the father and son, standing on either side of the tiger armed with weapons. There is a three-line inscription in Tamil vatteluttu above the figures. G. Paul Durai, research scholar, Department of History, Pondicherry University, found the hero-stone at Vellalankottai on the Kayattar-Kazhugumalai Road, about eight km from Kayattar.
The 2.5-feet tall hero-stone is locally called kaduvakkal meaning a “tiger stone.” The script reads “Peruraaliyar Sentan-Kannan Kannan-Kovanun thozha-i-puli kalaaitu-p-pattar (the two heroes, Senthan Kannan and his son Kannan Kovan, residents of Peruraali village, killed the tiger). Epigraphists S. Rajagopal, C. Santhalingam and R. Pungundran helped in deciphering the inscription.
“This is one of the earliest hero-stones of the Pandya Naadu, with vatteluttu script. The Peruraali village mentioned in the inscription is probably the Perali located near Virudhunagar. Such stones erected to celebrate heroes who killed tigers have been found at Mottakkal in the Chengam region” in northern Tamil Nadu, said K. Rajan, Professor of History, Pondicherry University.
Dr. Rajan, who explained the origin of hero-stones, said erecting memorial stones was a custom in south India since the Iron Age (circa 1000 BCE to circa 600 BCE). Tamil Nadu witnessed a proliferation of such monuments during the Iron Age. These monuments included menhirs. (Menhirs are tall, majestic monolithic stone slabs planted in memory of the dead).
Hero-stones with Tamil-Brahmi script of the fourth century BCE, said Dr. Rajan, have been found at Pulimaankombai and Thathapatti villages, near Batlagundu town. “However, memorial stones are more visible in the Dharmapuri and Chengam regions from fifth century CE,” he added.