Noted epigraphist Iravatham Mahadevan on Sunday reiterated the earlier arguments that literacy prevailed widely in Tamil society and that the Tamil script was older than the Sanskrit script.

Addressing a function organised to confer the Iyal Awards of the Canada-based “Tamil Literary Garden,” he said the potsherds obtained through archaeological excavations across the State clearly proved that even the ordinary people were literate.

For example, a potsherd bearing the word “Nagan Ooral” showed even a toddy tapper in those times was educated enough to read and write.

The authors of Sangam literature were from all walks of life and they were goldsmiths, textile merchants and from other professions.

He pointed out how cave inscriptions bearing the names of ancient Tamil kings in different parts of Tamil Nadu have shed new light on the Sangam age and proved the antiquity and the authenticity of Sangam literature.

Subsequently discovered coins also supported this argument.As for the proposition that Tamil script existed before Sanskrit, he said inscriptions in Tamil were available from the 3{+r}{+d} century BC, but Sanskrit inscriptions were only available from the 2{+n}{+d} century AD.

A palm leaf found in Sri Lanka contained the words “Thirali Muri,” signifying an agreement between traders.

The history of the Tamil language should be rewritten in the wake of these new findings, he said.

Kovai Gnani, another recipient of the award, said he had brought Tamilology and Marxism together.

A comprehensive and in-depth study of Tamil would be possible only using a Marxian approach, he said.

Chelva Kanaganaykan of “Tamil Literary Garden” welcomed the gathering. V. Arasu, Head of the Tamil Department, University of Madras, A.R. Venkatachalapathy of the Madras Institute of Development Studies, and writers Jeyamohan and Tamilavan spoke. The awards include a citation and a cash prize of $1,500.

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