History & Culture

Written for posterity

Carnelian beads collected from the burial cyst  at Kodumanal. Photo: K. Ananthan

Carnelian beads collected from the burial cyst at Kodumanal. Photo: K. Ananthan

About two thousand five hundred years ago, a farmer near Palani harvested his bountiful produce of paddy and set aside the best grains for next year’s sowing. Two years ago, during excavation, Dr. K. Rajan from Pondicherry University discovered the grains and a mud pot with the inscription ‘Vaira’, inside a burial chamber in Porunthal near Palani. Some of the grains were near-intact. Carbon dating was used to arrive at the age of the grains.

In Arachalur near Erode, music notations carved inside a cave centuries ago, suggest a society rich in culture and the arts. “Tha thai tha thai”… a teacher must have taught some willing student.

Besides providing a peephole into life all those hundreds of years ago, these inscriptions are also a tangible link to our forefathers, said Dr. S. Rajavelu, head, Underwater Archaeology, Tamil University, Thanjavur. He was speaking about ancient inscriptions found in the Kongu region at the 14th monthly lecture arranged by The Vanavarayar Foundation.

Haul of beads

Rajavelu spoke extensively about the finds at Kodumanal in Erode district, excavated by Prof. Y. Subbarayalu of Tamil University. The site was an archaeologist’s dream, and threw up Carnelian beads, bauxite beads, instruments, ivory…. And many pot shards with inscriptions. Dolmen cysts, which find a mention in Sangam literature, were also found, Rajavelu said. “These were sophisticated and scientifically constructed chambers to keep alive a person’s memory. They were like a pyramid and contained used and new pots, and offerings, to possibly sustain them in the afterlife,” he suggested.

So, why is the Kongu region rich in inscriptions and finds? “Because, it was a vital cog in the trade route,” explained Rajavelu. He cited the example of Roman gold coins found in Vellalore. “The epics mention that traders came with gold, to exchange it for pepper. When you see the excavations and the finds, the past come alive, in a very real way.”

Stories in the seas

India’s vast coastal belt hides many treasures from the past, such as the town of Kaveripoompattinam, which finds mention in the Silappadhikaaram and Manimekalai. “Since it was trade route, the seas will contain the wrecks of ships that traded in the area, says Dr. Rajavelu. But, underwater archaeology calls for man and money power. Till then, the seas will keep their secrets.

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Printable version | Sep 16, 2022 6:29:00 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/history-and-culture/written-for-posterity/article4846596.ece