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2,300-year-old hero stones found in Theni district

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POINTER TO THE PAST: Hero stones of the Sangam era found at Puliyamkombai in Andipatti taluk of Theni district. Photo: M. Srinath
POINTER TO THE PAST: Hero stones of the Sangam era found at Puliyamkombai in Andipatti taluk of Theni district. Photo: M. Srinath

Special Correspondent

These are inscribed with Tamil Brahmi script

Stones found on the banks of the Vaigai, about 19 km south of Vattalakundu The three-foot high stones seem to be a part of urn burials found in the areaThe research was part of a project on the archaeology of the Vaigai valley

THANJAVUR: Hero stones over 2,300 years old and inscribed with the Tamil Brahmi script have been discovered, for the first time, at Puliyamkombai in Andipatti taluk of Theni district.

V.P.Yatheeskumar and S.Selvakumar of the Department of Epigraphy and Archaeology of Tamil University, Thanjavur, found the stones on March 23 and 25 on the banks of the Vaigai, about 19 km south of Vattalakundu. They are functioning under the department head K.Rajan.

"These are the oldest among the hero stones in India so far," Vice-Chancellor C.Subramaniam told reporters here on Tuesday. "... They will pose new challenges to archaeologists of Tamil Nadu."

Position changed

The three-foot high stones seem to be a part of urn burials found in large numbers in the area. In recent years, they were removed from their original position when the ground was levelled for cultivation. The area is known as Veppamarattukadu.

Dr.Rajan said the research was part of a project on the archaeology of the Vaigai valley, funded by the University Grants Commission and a project on the historical atlas of South India, funded by the Ford Foundation.

The first hero stone has three lines that read, "Kal pedu tiyan antavan kudal ur akol," which means it has been put up in memory of Tiyan Antavan of pedu village, who died in a cattle raid at Kudalur. The second stone is partly broken. The inscription says it is in memory of Atan. The full name of the village and the man could not be ascertained as the stone has been damaged. The inscription on the third stone reveals that it is in memory of Patavan Avvan of Velur.

The last two inscriptions can be dated to the third century BC.

The first inscription seems to be older than the other two.

According to Iravatham Mahadevan, an expert in the Tamil Brahmi script, the writings and orthography are similar to the cave inscriptions of Mangulam. This is the earliest inscription found so far in Tamil Nadu.

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