VELLORE: Five hero-stones believed to have belonged to the Pallava period, dating back nearly 1,400 years, were discovered in Puliyanur village (bordering Vellore, Tiruvannamalai and Krishnagiri districts) by Professor Appasamy Murugaiyan of Paris University and R Poongundran, a retired assistant director of State Department of Archeology.
Two of the five stones discovered were damaged while three had inscriptions and pictorial depictions.
Over 1,000 hero-stones have been discovered in the Thenpennai river basin so far, especially in Tirupattur, Tiruvannamalai and Dharmapuri belt. Tamil literature cites worship of these hero-stones by the villagers of the time and this practice has waned over time, he added.
According to Professor Mohan Gandhi, head of department of Tamil attached to the Sacred Heart College, the Thenpennai river basin in Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts during the Pallava period would have been land fit for cattle-grazing and it was common for villagers and small kingdoms to fight over cattle ownership. Those who fought and died protecting cattle were treated as heroes and memorial-stones in their honour were erected during the time.
Poongundran cites the reason for there being more hero-stones in the northern districts as the northern region had vast stretches of land suitable for cattle-grazing and people depended on cattle for their survival. In the south, agriculture was more developed due to the availability of abundant water resource.
Some villagers have destroyed these hero-stones when untoward incidents or natural calamities occurred. Superstitions and a lack of awareness are the cause of a wealth of information about the ancient people being lost, Poongundran lamented. The team appealed to the State government, to take steps to protect these hero-stones and document their historical importance as artefact. Saravanan, the Vellore government museum curator said, around 22 hero stones unearthed in Vellore and Tiruvannamalai districts were preserved in the museum. These stones belong to Pallava and Naickar periods and are believed to be 400 years to 1,400 years old. Some of these stones have inscriptions on how the heroes were killed in battle.
Gandhi said Murugaiyan has been studying hero-stones for ten years and Poongundran too has been at the forefront of this research. Students and faculty members of Sacred Heart College in Tirupattur were also part of the archaeological team.