Rare hero stone unearthed near Coimbatore

A hero stone found at Mopripalayam in Palladam taluk, near Coimbatore, recently.

A hero stone found at Mopripalayam in Palladam taluk, near Coimbatore, recently.  

Coimbatore Nov. 8. A rare and ancient hero stone has been unearthed at Mopripalayam, about 20 km from Coimbatore.

According to S. Ravi, a lecturer in PSG College of Arts and Science here and archaeologist the `Pulikuthikal' stone carved with brilliant craftsmanship, depicted a warrior fighting with a tiger. It also bore signs of damage caused by heat and thunder.

Tracing the history of hero stones, Dr. Ravi said a soldier who died confronting an enemy in a war or a braveman who lost his life fighting animals was honoured thus.

The stone erected in his memory was preserved as a monument.

Next to warriors, civilians, who died fighting elephants, wild boars and tigers in a bid to save the people and their cattle, had the highest number of hero stones.

These stones were considered honour, for their excellent craftmanship.

Men who fought tigers were found to be more, going by the number of stones found in Coimbatore district.

The biggest stone in Tamil Nadu was unearthed at Vadakkalur, near Annur in Coimbatore district.

A similar stone, found at Mothakkal in the Chengam region, was erected for one who lost his life fighting with tigers during the reign of Pallava King Mahendra I of AD 622. It is said to be the earliest hero stone for a warrior, who died in an encounter with a beast.

The stone unearthed at Mopripalayam is about 100 cm in height and 40 cm in width and going by the style, might belong to the 17th century art of the Modalnayaka period.

It showed a soldier standing to the right of a ferocious tiger. The hero is seen with a turban (headgear), which has a bow and a garland in the back.

He is also sporting a "sadangai'' garland round the neck and a sword round his waist. Two rings on his shoulders and a bracelet resemble the seal of authority and importance accorded to him by the rulers.

The tail of the tiger is upright. The soldier holds the animal by the jaw, and the angry tiger with its mouth fully open depicts the valiant fight. The soldier is also holding one of the paws of the tiger and the other rests on his thigh.

There are two versions of the story of the hero. One of them was that a groom died fighting the tiger and the villagers erected the stone, while the other account was of a soldier guarding the village.

Such monumental stones are largely found only in the Kongu region, where tigers were found in adjoining mountains and jungles.

In pastoral regions, people possessed cattle and protection of animals was vested with warriors and brave men.

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