An insight to ancient scripts

Most Pallava inscriptions are in English, and G Sankaranarayanan, a history enthusiast, wants to make it available in vernacular languages.

Published: 03rd January 2017 06:32 AM  |   Last Updated: 03rd January 2017 06:32 AM   |  A+A-


Express News Service

Most Pallava inscriptions are in English, and G Sankaranarayanan, a history enthusiast, wants to make it available in vernacular languages.The future of manuscriptology is bleak, he says

CHENNAI: Just like modern day citations and records, the kings who ruled erstwhile dynasties made sure that their success, triumph, valour and richness of their heritage and culture were well-documented. To decipher these scripts, one needs to have an aptitude to learn and understand new languages and G Sankaranarayanan is one such expert. City Express caught up with the polymath and scholar who was part of Tamil Heritage Trusts’ Pallava Malai.

Sankaranarayanan, who had always been linguistically inclined, claims that the craving to learn more about languages and inscriptions came naturally.  “I studied in Sankaramatam’s University in Kanchipuram and the vice chancellor, Nagaswamy, took me to Kailashanathar temple and showed me the inscriptions there. Also,

Sunish P Surendran

Kalki’s novel was another big inspiration for me to get into the field,” he shares.

After his first brush with the age old inscriptions in the temple, he says that the rest happened organically.

Everything fell into place and I knew that this is what I wanted to do. My interest in the subject grew and I started learning everything by myself. I didn’t go for workshops or anything. Everything was self-taught…with guidance from my mentors, off course!” he shares.

A heritage enthusiast and a history buff, he says that his knowledge about historical events came handy and gave him the push to understand the nuances of such inscriptions. “I knew Sanskrit very well and also knew Tamil literature. It was a rather easy process for me to understand these inscriptions. But documenting the constant updates and new findings in these inscriptions is a tough task,” opines the assistant professor at Sri Chandrasekara Saraswathi Vishwa Mahavidyalaya, Kanchipuram, who teaches Sahitya, Indian History and Epigraphy.

With expertise in history, epigraphy, silpa sastras, agamas, Tamil and Sanskrit literature, Sankaranarayanan is also versatile in various subjects like art and architecture, music and dance, history and Hindology and drama. “I can almost understand all inscriptions. In fact, I started my work in the field by studying the palm leaves manuscripts and then came to rock inscriptions. Did you know that almost four inscriptions are not even in ASI records, but can be found in palm leave manuscripts in a few places?” he shared.

Pointing to one of the oldest inscriptions of Rajasimha Pallava, he explains, “The sea shore temple at Mahabalipuram has an inscription of Rajasimha Pallava, the builder of the temple. The inscriptions run around the plinth of the temple. It’s in Sanskrit and written in grantha letters. The verses attribute to the qualities of the king.” Discovered in 1912, the inscription helped in identifying the builder and gives various titles of the king, some of which are not found in other inscriptions.

Talking about his extensive research on the Pallava inscriptions in Mamallapuram, and on making the ‘Sanskritised’ text understandable to everyone, he explained, “It’s important to make these inscriptions accessible to everyone. And today most descriptions of such texts are given in English, which do not help those who speak Tamil or other vernacular languages. I am looking to change that.”

So, how does the future look for manuscriptology? “It’s quiet bleak. There are about 30 takers in the university…you need a lot of patience and also have to study a lot. With constant updates, each day is a new learning process here and we want more youngsters to come forward. The central and state archaeology units are running short of people because of lack of eligible candidates. We are looking for a change soon,” he added.

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